Students answer call to serve Sandy victimsby C. Walter Overman
Although Mollie Jones hasn’t decided on a career just yet, she knows she wants to devote her life to helping others and she isn’t wasting any time.
Jones, a sophomore at Appalachian State University, was one of 42 college students from several North Carolina universities who volunteered to serve one week in New Jersey during Christmas break with North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) disaster relief ministry.
The students divided into six teams and spent the week removing molded walls, flooring, insulation and ruined appliances from homes that were flooded when Hurricane Sandy made landfall last October.
“I keep hearing the adults say it’s such a sacrifice for us to be here, but I don’t see it as a sacrifice,” Jones said. “I would do this all the time if I could.”
Jones responded to a call for volunteers from Gaylon Moss, NCBM volunteerism coordinator, who asked Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) ministers to organize student volunteers to help with recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey between the fall and spring semesters.
“There is a great need for volunteers to assist us in our efforts to help the people who are hurting in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” Moss said. “The students who volunteered were a tremendous asset to what we are doing in the area and we pray that more students will volunteer in the future.”
“We are making plans to assist the victims of Hurricane Sandy in that area for the next 12 months,” Moss said. “We will need additional skilled and unskilled volunteers to help us finish the work.”
When Jones heard about the opportunity to serve with NCBM she quickly volunteered and recruited five of her fellow students to join her. The students departed for New Jersey within hours of their final exams with one goal in mind – to help people in Jesus’ name.
“We have four weeks off for Christmas and I wanted to use that time not just lounging around but doing something good,” Jones said. “A lot of the people here are confused about why we are doing this and we get to tell them that it’s because we love Jesus, and Jesus loves them and so do we.”Most of the homes in the neighborhood where the students worked were flooded and have been condemned until the proper repairs can be made. Jones said that without the help of volunteers many residents would be displaced for a long time.
“The need is great,” she said.
The work was hard, but rewarding, and Jones is planning to volunteer again during spring break.
“The people here have been really appreciative,” said Dan McClintock, Baptist campus minister at UNC-Charlotte. “It’s good for the students to hear that kind of affirmation and positive reinforcement from people who really appreciate what we are doing.”
McClintock has led students on several disaster relief trips in the past, but said this trip was different.
“We’ve never completely gutted a house like we have this one,” he said. “It’s been more extensive this time for sure.”
Elijah Jesalva, a freshman at UNC-Charlotte, was glad he volunteered because the trip gave him a fresh perspective on life.
“Seeing the need that people have here gives you a greater appreciation for what you have,” he said. “God can bless us and give us good things, but ultimately it is God’s and He can take it away, too.”
Jesalva also discovered the importance of participating in missions and learned that anyone can find a place to serve.
“I think [disaster relief] is something that everyone should do at least once,” he said. “God gives each of us a calling and different gifts and abilities. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, all can help.”
McClintock agreed. “I always tell students that being involved in missions is one of the best things they can do,” he said.
McClintock leads an annual mission trip for students each year during spring break. The trip to New Jersey was so positive, and the level of need so great, that he is planning to use this year’s annual trip to connect his students with NCBM volunteer opportunities in New York and New Jersey.
“It’s been great to see how an experience like this can really bring students closer together and create bonds among the group like that,” McClintock said.
“They really want to serve the Lord and are doing it with a lot of enthusiasm. It’s been a great thing.”
For more information about how you can volunteer with NCBM relief efforts in New York and New Jersey, visit www.baptistsonmission.org/sandy or contact Gaylon Moss at (800) 395-5102 ext. 5605, or [email protected].