Life-saving Salvation Army cares for body, mind and spirit in wake of hurricanes
13 September 2017
More than half a million meals have now been served by The Salvation Army to people who have been displaced or have had their homes damaged by Hurricane Irma in south-eastern states of the USA. This is in addition to the church and charity’s ongoing emergency response in many of the Caribbean islands and in reaction to Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Captain Derick Miller, officer-in-charge of operations on the Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean, reports that The Salvation Army’s facilities there have been badly damaged, and most corps (church) members have lost their homes. Meanwhile, The Salvation Army in the Bahamas is responding in both Freeport and Nassau. The divisional headquarters had pre-emptively restocked its food pantry with emergency supplies in order to effect a rapid response to communities impacted by the hurricane. The Salvation Army’s Haiti Division is also mobilising in areas affected by flooding and storm surges.
In Antigua, Salvationists continue to offer food, water and other practical support to people from nearby Barbuda, which has been almost completely evacuated.
The ministry to help people affected by Hurricane Irma is still in its early stages, and the loss of power across much of Florida means that information is slow in coming out. But as the multifaceted disaster response continues, inspiring testimonies are emerging from the Hurricane Harvey response of the timeliness and effectiveness of The Salvation Army’s unprecedented relief efforts:
Homeless again, but Salvation Army brings comfort
Anita Phillips, a single mother of five, is one of countless people who have lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Anita and her three youngest children are sleeping in a hotel in San Antonio, more than two and a half hours away from where her home once stood in Rockport, Texas. “I feel lost. I feel like I have no security,” Anita told The Salvation Army, as she broke down in tears.
Anita struggled with homelessness back in 2005, when she was pregnant with her youngest child. That was when she first received support from The Salvation Army, which was there again for Anita when she became homeless once more in 2012.
Having been forced from her home by Hurricane Harvey, Anita was driving round San Antonio with her two youngest children when she came across the welcome sight of the familiar red shield on the side of the mobile feeding unit, where volunteers gave the family hot meals and cold water.
With the last of her possessions now stored in her car, one thing Anita salvaged from the debris is her faith. Just days before the hurricane struck, Anita accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. Her baptismal certificate is one of the few items she has kept safe from the floodwaters. She proudly presented it – in mint condition – to The Salvation Army’s Major Nettie Morton, who was glad to provide emotional support and spiritual comfort.
“Thank you guys for being here,” Anita told the major. “It makes me feel better knowing that somebody is here.”
Orange juice saves life in Orange County
Nancy Moore, from Orange County, Texas, says The Salvation Army saved her life in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over her neighbourhood and caused extensive flooding. “It rained and rained,” she says, “The water came up fast. I’ve never seen water rise so fast.”
Like most of her neighbours, Nancy lost power in her one-storey home, which was inundated with about a half-metre of water. “I was moving as fast as I could to put up important things. You know, stuff I really care about, like family photos.”
As the water receded, leaving ruin in its place, Nancy believes she saved “the most important things. I’m a lucky one, so many lost everything.”
Dealing with the dual issues of filthy floodwater and a loss of electricity, there wasn’t much food left in Nancy's house after a couple of days. Nearly impassable roads meant that grocery stores weren’t getting restocked very well, if at all. This made the hot, nutritious meals served from The Salvation Army emergency unit deployed to her community even more important.
But it was the accompanying drink that Nancy is most grateful for. “The food was great, but it was the bottle of orange juice that saved my life,” she told The Salvation Army’s leader in Orange.
“I am diabetic. That night, I had a low-sugar event. That orange juice saved my life. Thank you very much for the help.”
From Hiroshima to Houston
Major Jamie Pennington and Major Sujung Na are among dozens of Salvation Army officers despatched to the hardest-hit areas of Houston, Texas, where the streets are lined with piles of junk – waterlogged mattresses, floorboards, building materials, appliances, furniture and clothing. During one neighbourhood visit the officers met the Black family.
“They had all their earthly possessions scattered out on the curb,” recounts Major Pennington. “[Their] two vehicles … were destroyed. They had no transportation. They couldn’t get out.”
The family included a 10-month-old child – the baby was sleeping in the cot and the five adults were on the floor. They had no pillows or clean bedding. Their single-storey brick home had been flooded with two feet of water during the storm.
“We gave them a food box to start,” says the major, “[and] I knew back at the warehouse there was a crib and a playpen.”
The Salvation Army team returned to the Black family, not just with these, but also with nappies (diapers), pillows and sleeping bags. The family was overwhelmed with joy.
That’s when the 75-year-old grandmother, Akiko, a native of Japan, opened up to Major Na, who is of Korean descent and speaks Japanese. Akiko was just two years old, living in Hiroshima, when the USA dropped the atomic bomb. She survived unscathed and moved to the USA 30 years later.
Major Na told Akiko: “God is in control of your life and everybody’s life. We all die one time, but God has spared your life.” She prayed in Japanese and Akiko repeated her words.
“Akiko told me ‘I know who I have in my heart now’. She was ready. God spoke to her heart.”
Report courtesy of International Headquarters