When natural disasters leave horrible damage in their wake, helping disaster relief victims offers the young men of Youth-Reach Gulf Coast (YRGC) an opportunity to give back.
“Overall, it’s really an opportunity for the residents to experience a new thing and see firsthand a Christlike response through servanthood and camaraderie,” says Operations Coordinator Jackson Bentley. He also explained that working side-by-side in rough conditions is great for staff and resident bonding.
“There’s long hours and lots of sweat, getting kinda beat up, at night being on a sleeping pad on the concrete… It’s a cool, stretching experience. Through the challenges, it builds brotherhood.“
When Hurricane Ida smacked into the New Orleans area this summer, YRGC jumped into action …with three trips to the area.
Trip One — Clearing
For the first trip, all staff and residents traveled to Hammond, Louisiana. Paris Ace Hardware in Gulf Shores donated some supplies for us, and we arrived within a couple of days after the first responders and stayed for about four nights.
“There, we helped the pastor of Calvary Christian Center clean up around the church, cleared roads and served the community. We brought a lot of water and tarps to distribute, but as part of ‘The Chainsaw Army,’ our main goal was clearing trees. With power tools and a lot of work, we removed trees from houses, yards and streets.”
“You don’t always just get to grab a chainsaw and hammer and change someone’s life,” Jackson says.
Through a connection in Pensacola, Florida, we made contact with Brandon Langley, another pastor in the area in a city called St. Rose. He has a real heart for the community, and we were able to gut out a multi-purpose building for them. That building became a depot for supplies, a hub for food distribution, and a place where residents could put their names on a list for specific help needs.
Trip Two — Tarping
Because New Orleans is only about a three-hour drive from the YRGC campus, a handful of guys made a second trip. As is typical for the second stage of disaster relief, the mission of this trip was largely for tarping roofs.
A lot of roofs needed a lot of patching. Thankfully by this time, our pastor friends had lists of the highest priority jobs that needed to be completed. Highest on the list were homes for the elderly, widows and disabled. Together, we got a good system going and knocked out a bunch of them in the two days we were there.
Jackson remembers what it was like to see churches and other faith-based organizations also helping bring restoration to the area: “It’s cool to see other organizations, others who love God, serving. It’s the Church being the Church.”
Trip Three — Mucking
For the YRGC men who made a third trip, they focused on mucking: ripping out everything that got soaked and can’t be salvaged.
Jackson relished seeing the progression of one particular lady. “After our Hammond and St. Rose trip, she got her name on the list to be tarped. We interacted with her every trip we made and we built a relationship with her.”
These service trips were really good for the guys. Some guys are workhorses who love getting super sweaty and serving their hearts out. (Jackson says some guys “catch the bug” and work harder than in ordinary jobs.) Others like the ministry aspect of it and thrive when they can turn to the evangelistic side of the trip.
Ultimately, it’s a blessing to be able to lend their strength to society and do it in loving service. Jackson points out that not everyone in disaster areas is doing it benevolently. “The scalpers are charging crazy prices for the stuff we do. We do it for free. The communities grill hot dogs for us and we end up hanging out, building relationships and giving glory to Jesus.”
By offering relief services when disaster strikes, we show our young men a unique and practical way to be “the hands and feet of Jesus.” To help provide us with fuel for vehicles and chainsaws, food for our teams, and additional disaster relief items, please consider supporting our disaster relief efforts on our Giving Page.
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