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April 18, 2013

Press Photo

BCF New York Disaster Relief Team, Fred Hess, Teri Lott, Blake Williams, Lisa Dukes, Ms. Patricia, Patricia Peaden, Sarah Staley, Justin Sikes, Ashlee Watts, and Patty Lally.

Restoring hope is not always easy but that does not mean it is impossible! Students from The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) found this to be true when they used their spring break to journey to Staten Island, NY and work with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in the collegiate response. This is the second time that a group of BCF students have used their break from classes to respond to the needs of those who were hit by Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island. A group of students used part of their Christmas break in December and this group traveled to Staten Island and worked March 23-30 -- spring break.

In December, BCF students were busy doing mud out work on homes that had been flooded in the hurricane. Many residents had waited months for the assistance that seemed as if it would never come. Help did come when almost 500 college students responded and spent part of their Christmas break doing mud out and flood recovery work. But that was just the first step in getting families restored in their homes. Unfortunately, for many of those students, they only got an opportunity to see that first step. For many families, that first step of recovery is still a long way from being realized. But it is not only their homes that are in need of being restored; it is their hope and their faith that is in need of restoration. This is one of the many stories that the students from BCF, many of them veterans on their second tour of duty, got an opportunity to hear firsthand.

"I had lost all faith and any hope of getting my home repaired and rebuilt," were some of the first words one group of students heard from Patricia (pictured with students). Patricia is a high school librarian who has lived all of her life on Staten Island. Her son is a New York City police officer who was new on the job when Hurricane Sandy struck. Patricia's basement apartment is where her son was living when the storm hit. From the moment the team arrived at her home to work, they made it very clear why they were there. When asked, the team gave testimony that they were there to help her get her home back, but more importantly, they were there because they are followers of Jesus Christ who loves her and they loved her and wanted to show that love to her. The team spent four days insulating and hanging sheetrock to get Patricia's basement one step closer to being restored. The most important thing is that Patricia's hope was restored. She said, "Even though I had lost hope and faith, that has been restored and I know that I will be able to have my home back very soon. I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for me." Patricia was at home each day while the students worked, so they had plenty of opportunities to spend time talking with her about her life and faith. Patricia is a Catholic, very involved in her church. The students shared their testimony, had spiritual conversations with Patricia and continued to show her the love of Christ during the week. An open door was found and help and hope were given.

The students were divided into two teams, giving them the opportunity to serve many families. A second team worked with a family whose home had been flooded. The couple had lived in their home for 52 years and lost everything that they had, "At first we were devastated, but we are grateful that we have our family and our lives. Things we can replace. We are more fortunate than many people were." The team worked on insulating and hanging sheetrock in this home. They were also able to work with a resident on a third home. Frank is battling stage 3 cancer and his elderly mother lives with him. The team was able to insulate the crawlspace under his home and insulate and hang sheetrock in the remainder of the house. One of the crew leaders from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief that was working with the BCF team led Frank to faith in Christ after spending the week with the students sharing Christ's love with him.

BCF Professor David Coggins was the leader for both of the student groups working with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on Staten Island. "I could not have been any more pleased in the experiences with these two groups of students and the work and service they provided. Each group was unique. It was very obvious that God brought the groups together for such a time as this. There was such a diversity and uniqueness in each group, but they learned how to work together doing something they had never done before. I was also very pleased that this second group of our students was able to be involved in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and what we are trying to do in getting college students involved in disaster relief in a more substantial, long term commitment."

One of the BCF students, Justin Sikes, had the opportunity to be part of both teams. "I went in December and March to Staten Island NY to help with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts. The two weeks that I spent in NY was a blessing. In December, we helped with tearing out floors and sheetrock. The damage from the storm was still there. The home owner we helped was in need of hope. In March, it was a little different. There was a lot more joy and hope in the people. I saw a lot more smiles this time. I could see that God had started working in people's lives. People went from hopelessness to having hope. God is really at work in New York."

The trip was the first experience for BCF student Teri Lott, "I had such a wonderful time with disaster relief. I knew that we were doing what God wanted us to do because the enemy seemed to be attacking everyone. I praise God that He gave us the strength to push through sickness, discomfort, and lack of sleep to help the wonderful people on Staten Island. The people that we met truly have a special place in my heart. It was a great thrill to see hope on their faces when they didn't feel like there was any left."

"The opportunities that these students have had to be part of disaster relief efforts reinforces the fact that being involved in ministry and bringing hope to people's lives can happen in many different ways," stated Coggins. "This is one very tangible way, when students give their spring break; that gets the attention of those being helped. Conversations and relationships are begun, and when that happens, we have the opportunity to share the true hope of Jesus Christ. That is what these students and others we will get involved in Southern Baptist Disaster Relief have learned and will learn."

According to Coggins, BCF students had the opportunity to work and learn from veteran Disaster Relief volunteers and leaders who continue to say, "Send us more. Send the next generation of servant leaders to work alongside us so the ministry of disaster relief can continue to grow and have the impact for the kingdom that it has had and will continue to have." Coggins stated, "I am grateful as a professor at BCF to have the chance in my own life to work with these students and help to equip them for this kind of kingdom service. We helped to bring hope to Staten Island."

For more information on the The Baptist College of Florida, please call (800) 328-2660 ext. 460 or access website at baptistcollege.edu.