LAUDERDALE – Anne’s home in the Ocean Waterway Mobile Home Park neighborhood of Ft. Lauderdale was hit by a tornado earlier this month after record-setting rainstorms. The home, which Anne’s family has lived in since the ‘70s, suffered roof damage that produced a leak inside in one of the rooms, and the covered Florida room that she had installed some years ago was ripped off.
Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers traveled from as far away as Pensacola to help Anne and others whose homes flooded when the torrential storms dumped 25 inches of rain on Wednesday-Thursday, April 14-15.
“When people see their homes have been flooded and their belongings soaked, they feel their whole world caving in. It’s hard for them to know how to start to pick up the pieces,” said FLDR volunteer Richard Gilbert, member of Orange Hill Baptist Church in Chipley. “We come in and help them take that first step.”
As of Monday, May 1, volunteers have completed 17 jobs, with six more left to complete. Five people have made professions of faith after gospel conversations with FLDR volunteers and chaplains.
Randy and Dianne Bondurant, members of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, worked on an elderly couple’s home that had sustained flood damage. The Bondurants and their team prayed with the couple and helped them set up a futon so the husband, who has cancer, could sleep in a room of the home with less damage.
On Sunday, April 30, the Bondurants and their team spent the better part of the day cutting drywall, ripping floors, and sanitizing a flooded home.
“Sometimes you get to a place and realize that the work that has to be done is more than what was assessed at first, but we do it because these people need our help,” said Randy Bondurant.
In another neighborhood, volunteers worked in the home of a young mom who soon told all her neighbors about the help she received from FLDR, providing opportunities for the team to help and pray with more people in that neighborhood.
Ismo Guzman, FLDR chaplain, said his priority is to connect with those affected by the storm.
“While the team assesses the physical damage done to homes, I assess how the people are doing spiritually and emotionally,” said Guzman. As volunteers worked on fixing the leak in Anne’s home, Guzman listened to her story and prayed with her.
“She is very kind, and I think she was very happy to have people who were helping her and who she could talk to,” he said.
“People keep asking us how much we charge and have a hard time believing us when we tell them it’s free,” said Dianne Bondurant.
At every stage of their service, volunteers seek opportunities to engage the people they are helping with the gospel.
‘You get close to the people you’re helping because you are in their space, going through their house, and they are trusting you to help them. … It can be a source of strength for their faith if they are believers and a testimony of Jesus’ love for those who aren’t.’
“I make it intentional to ask people about their relationship with Jesus Christ, even in the assessment stage,” said Gilbert. “You get close to the people you’re helping because you are in their space, going through their house, and they are trusting you to help them. … It can be a source of strength for their faith if they are believers and a testimony of Jesus’ love for those who aren’t.”
Florida Baptists wishing to make a financial gift to FLDR may do so here.