Even after an EF-3 tornado — one of 13 tornadoes to strike northern Alabama March 19 — ripped through their college campus, tearing roofs off dorms, downing trees and damaging cars, Jacksonville State University students elected to remain in Houston to help hurricane victims rather than returning to assess their own damaged living spaces.
It was not the spring break most expected. Then again, perhaps it was, at least in terms of mission and camaraderie.
The 28 JSU students and sponsors deployed to Houston with the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief/GenSend initiative. They joined 320 college students from across the nation to spend one of three spring break weeks in Texas rebuilding neighborhoods devastated last September by Hurricane Harvey.
While Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency back home, the JSU students learned of their state’s plight. Gary Brittain, JSU Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) director, asked the group what they wanted to do.
They voted to stay in Houston, while Brittain and three students returned to Alabama to check on the college.
Peggy Colbert of Calhoun, Ga., marveled at the students’ determination to finish the job. She served as NAMB site director at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Northwest Houston where the GenSend volunteers were housed.
“Some had lost everything in their dorm rooms. Most knew nothing about their cars from the hailstorm, and they stayed working every day,” Colbert said.
Their work involved replacing sheetrock, and taping and mudding seams. Few students had prior construction experience, but they learned on the job, supervised by experienced disaster relief (DR) construction crew chiefs.
“They don’t know what they are going back to,” Colbert said of the group’s scheduled March 23 departure.
The students’ story has not gone unnoticed, Colbert added, noting that members of the group had been interviewed by local news outlets.
“They are an incredible group of students, committed to God,” she said.
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Source: Baptist Press