Collegian Volunteer Groups Confront Hurricane Michael’s Aftermath

GenSend students from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Southern Arkansas University installed new flooring at First Baptist Church in Mexico Beach, Fla., during their spring break. The Florida Panhandle continues to recover from Hurricane Michael, which devastated the region in October 2018. Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board, enabled college students to serve the area through GenSend. Photo by Todd Stone/NAMB

“Awesome, raw power. Wind and flying debris and trees coming down.”

Jean Bartlett remembers the fury of Hurricane Michael like it was yesterday. The devastating storm devoured much of the Florida Panhandle in October 2018. “Some of the time, it was like white-out conditions. You couldn’t see because the wind and the rain were so strong.”

“Awesome, raw power. Wind and flying debris and trees coming down.”

Jean Bartlett remembers the fury of Hurricane Michael like it was yesterday. The devastating storm devoured much of the Florida Panhandle in October 2018. “Some of the time, it was like white-out conditions. You couldn’t see because the wind and the rain were so strong.”

GenSend, a Send Relief ministry of the North American Mission Board, hosted teams of college students throughout the month of March. In Panama City, Fla., students accomplished crisis response tasks for communities still reeling from October 2018’s Hurricane Michael. A team from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Southern Arkansas University installed new flooring in First Baptist Church in Mexico Beach, Fla., during their spring break. Photo by Todd Stone/NAMB

Five months after Bartlett and thousands of other residents endured Michael’s onslaught, dozens of college students, serving through GenSend, descended on Florida. The students came alongside residents like Bartlett, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Panama City, who rode out the storm from her home.

GenSend is a collegiate mobilization ministry operated by Send Relief, the compassion ministry arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). During the month of March, GenSend held 22 events across nine cities in North America, hosting 42 groups encompassing 567 college students and leaders.

Students participated in a range of activities in March — from disaster relief, to serving refugees, to assisting recently launched churches.

In Panama City, students helped clear Bartlett’s yard of downed trees that “came down like dominoes” during the storm and repair storm-damaged parts of her home.

One homeowner in Mexico Beach, one of the Florida cities the storm hit hardest, described the GenSend students as an “unbelievable, saving grace” for people like her.

“A lot of people are like me with no insurance,” she said, asking to remain anonymous for the sake of privacy. “Then, I’m a senior citizen, by myself. So, with no resources what do you do?”

Her mobile home remained on its foundation, but a pine tree fell through the roof. GenSend teams replaced the entire roof of the house and reinstalled and painted the drywall once the gaping hole was repaired.

“The kids that have given up their spring break to come here are just a miracle, and without them I couldn’t have made it. I am more appreciative than words can express,” she said through tears.

Disaster relief groups, like Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and others, were a key source of help to Mexico Beach in the immediate aftermath of the storm, she said.

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Source: Baptist Press