A week after Hurricane Michael roared ashore along the Florida Panhandle, residents are still very early in the recovery and clean-up phases, but help is already there to meet every need in the devastated communities.
Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian relief organization founded by Rev. Franklin Graham, is on scene. It’s program director for U.S. Disaster Response, Tim Haas, says the hurricane left a trail of destruction he’s rarely seen in his years of ministering to communities suffering from natural disasters.
“It’s vast. It’s very widespread,” said Haas, who says he encountered a lot of damage while still hours away from where the storm came ashore.
He says the hardest hit areas are reeling.
“It’s a lot of houses that have trees all over the place in the yard. Many of the trees are still on the homes. Power outage is widespread. Services are down and are trying to come down as soon as possible,” said Haas.
“There’s still active search and rescue. There are still numbers of people who have not been accounted for. Pray for those who are missing. Pray for those who are waiting to hear word,” said Haas.
Samaritan’s Purse is already busy helping residents clean out debris and protect their homes from further damage.
“With many house and with many roofs , they’re not structurally sound. They’re not weatherproof. So we’re endeavoring to tarp as many roofs as we can before we we have the next rain.
“And as we get closer to the water and closer to areas where surge and/or flood is the issue, we will be mudding those houses out and helping to dry them out so that at some point in the future they can rebuild and get back in their homes,” said Haas.
Haas says is blown away by how thankful people are for the help.
“They’re quick to give a hug and express how deeply they appreciate the fact they are not forgotten. Even if we were just to pick up one stick, it’s one stick that they don’t have to pick up. The people here are so appreciative. This is a hard-working community,” said Haas.
Cleanup in northern Florida and even in Georgia is going to take a long time. Haas invites any Americans who are handy and have a desire to serve to go to spvolunteer.org to schedule a time to come and help, whether that is soon or even weeks or months from now.
But he says the greatest need is for Americans to pray for the people impacted by the storms.
“The people that have been affected by this storm, they need prayer support. We need prayer support for safety. We need prayers that god would move in such a way that the hopelessness of people is found with the hope of Christ,” said Haas.
While Samaritan’s Purse is fully committed to helping people rebuild their homes and communities, Haas says there’s an even higher calling.
“Our goal is to share hope through the gospel and to tell people that Jesus loves them, to tell people that Jesus has not forgotten them, and to be able to point them to churches that are shining brightly in these communities.
“People who don’t come to churches are coming to churches are coming to churches. Churches are stepping up to be the beacon of hope and to be those places people go [to have] questions answered. Samaritan’s Purse sees ourselves, humbly, as the ability to support these churches, to support those who are already ministering in this area,” said Haas.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Haas describe the decimated town of Mexico Beach and a powerful encounter he had with one of the residents.