3,000 students, adults hit Gulf Coast for ongoing Ike relief

BOLIVAR PENINSULA?As many as 3,000 students and adults, about one third from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches, gave up their spring break vacations?camping, visiting theme parks, relaxing from school work, or sunning on the beach?to work at the beach, or, at least, what’s left of it on Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County.

Homes in the communities along this barrier island are still in desperate need of repair from the ravages of Hurricane Ike last fall, with many homeowners feeling forgotten.

The remainder of volunteers traveled with churches and organizations from across the country, with one couple traveling from Alaska to help with the rebuild efforts coordinated by the SBTC and Nehemiah’s Vision.

Volunteers from the SBTC Disaster Relief (DR) teams and Nehemiah’s Vision were among the first crews to arrive in southeast Texas in the wake of the category 2 hurricane that brought wind and flood damage to a large swath of the region last Sept. 13. Hardest hit was the 27-mile stretch of land on Bolivar Peninsula with the tidal surge reaching its apex at 27 feet, wiping away entire communities.

Of the homes that remained, some were built according to new storm codes and withstood the wind and water. Others, not completely submerged, were damaged beyond repair while still others were salvageable but their owners needed more help than an insurance check or government relief funds could provide.

That, said Gordon Knight, is where the SBTC and Nehemiah’s Vision partnership can help. Knight, SBTC rebuild director and convention liaison for the Nehemiah’s Vision ministry based in Vidor, said the convention’s DR crews worked into November of last year. By partnering with Nehemiah’s Vision?a ministry that repaired about 630 homes and 38 churches and built 10 new homes in the months after Hurricane Rita in 2005?Knight said the convention is able to prolong its ministry to the community long after the DR teams move on.

Today the ministry works to rebuild homes and churches, stepping into action when the clean-up crews have completed their jobs.

STUDENTS UNLEASHED

First Baptist Church of Crystal Beach was the command site for the spring break work crews. Built up on a 25-foot manmade knoll, the church still took on about two feet of water during the storm. Repairs are being made to the building but enough has been completed for the church to play host to the students.

SBTC feeding units were set up at the Crystal Beach site and First Baptist Church of Galveston and churches as far away as Texas City housed the students each night. Shower and laundry units were also made available at the varying locations.

Knight said the volunteers come to the project with varying degrees of abilities, expectations, and spiritual maturity. One student, Jordan Vaught, a high school senior from Glenview Baptist Church in Haltom City, had spent last year’s spring break doing relief work in New Orleans.

“I just loved that so much,” he said, noting that being able to meet the people whose homes he had been working on and see the expressions of gratitude on their faces made all of his work worth the sacrifice. For Vaught ministry work won’t end after spring break. He said he wants to major in nursing so he can continue to help people in need.

Also considering work in the mission field is Chris Morrill, another high school senior. He took a break from hanging drywall at a home to tell about how his experiences with disaster relief and the rebuild efforts are leading him to a lifetime of service.

“I feel like God’s calling me into the mission field,” he said.

Working in dis

TEXAN Correspondent
Bonnie Pritchett
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