USA (MNN) — What are you doing during this winter break? Some may be taking vacations, some visiting family, others might be putting in extra hours at work, or just relaxing at home.
For 325 college students, they are working with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) efforts in New York. They will be spending their winter break making homes livable again for residents spending Christmas in homes damaged by superstorm Sandy.
There will be least 27 groups of students which will gut homes, haul debris, and minister while living in a tent village at Staten Island's Zion Lutheran Church.
Patricia Lally, a student from Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, was part of an early-arriving group of students who built living quarters for subsequent groups and began mud-out efforts with Alabama disaster relief volunteers. "I love helping people," Lally says, "and telling them about Jesus."
This group of students represents a new level of student involvement in SBDR efforts. "College students have a strong desire to be involved in these types of opportunities," says Fritz Wilson, NAMB's SBDR executive director. "And it's a way for us to invest in students and get them interested in disaster relief for the rest of their lives."
The college students are providing a much-needed crew of volunteers during the holidays. With service opportunities lasting a week, students will fill a need left by traditional Disaster Relief volunteers who have spent more than a month in the area. The students will be helping SBDR until January 22.
"Many of our regular volunteers who've been responding for over a month simply have used up a lot of their [vacation] time," Wilson explains. "The college students are willing to say, 'I can carve out this week' during their winter breaks and still spend the holidays with their families."
Many of the groups will receive training before or even during their journeys to the area. On-site they will be guided by experienced SBDR mud-out leaders.
The needs that resulted from Sandy continues to grow. Residents are beginning to recover their belongings and resume their lives in the midst of still-visible devastation.
"What the college students are doing in this case is providing us with a big presence in an area where, quite honestly, we haven't historically had a lot of Southern Baptist work," Wilson says.
Since Sandy hit, SBDR volunteers have served 1.75 million meals, cleaned debris from nearly 900 homes, and made over 4,300 ministry contacts. The volunteers have also shared the Gospel with over 775 people, resulting in more than 80 professions of faith.
"The response of these student volunteers to the Northeast not only is building our ability to respond to disaster, but it's also building in these younger volunteers a greater understanding of mission work in North America," affirms NAMB President Kevin Ezell.
Pray for the students traveling to volunteer in New York. Pray for many opportunities to share the Gospel. Ask God to give the volunteers strength and endurance as they continue to clean up after superstorm Sandy.