“As I reflect on fall break, I am overwhelmed with so much joy. Through serving others in St. Augustine, Florida, I’ve found a home in The House and the incredible individuals within it.”
– Ally Collins, UTC student
Forty-two college students and campus ministry leaders from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga spent their four-day October fall break clearing debris in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville, FL areas, serving victims of Hurricane Irma. The students are all involved in The House, a campus ministry connected with The Mission Chattanooga through Deacon Jason Leonard, which organized the trip.
“I got to help a 69-year-old woman named Bonnie and her 73-year-old friend Alicia. Bonnie has been working on her yard every day since the hurricane despite her health problems,” said student Keren Trevino. “When we finished up with her house and prayed over her, she thanked us and said, ‘God really does take care of His people.’ In that moment I couldn’t help but cry because it doesn’t matter what situation you are in, good or bad, God will never leave you.”
The House partnered with the Gulf Atlantic Diocese for the cleanup work as part of a larger outreach weekend for hurricane victims – helping more than 100 families clear limbs, fallen trees, and debris from flood damage. Additionally, volunteers during the weekend distributed care bags for families that provided needed supplies for up to 1,500 people.
“I have found so much joy this week on the fall break mission trip using my heart to serve to brighten the world around me, and especially in the lives of the victims from Hurricane Irma,” said student DeMarco Gatti. “It was a beautiful experience to be a part of the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Many students joined The House trip knowing only one or two friends, but quickly bonded with other students and The House staff while working full days in the hot Florida weather.
“I walked into this community not knowing what to expect, but immediately felt so loved, known, and accepted,” said student Criston Jones, who felt most impacted by the love the House interns showed while leading the service trip. “They set the tone very well even when working in hot conditions, with little sleep, mosquito bites, and in worship at nights… I learned a lot about what genuine friendships, love, and grace looked like through their interactions with one another.”
Student Katlyn Ryan said taking a trip like this was out of her comfort zone, since she only knew one person in the group. “I was naturally scared at first, but God covered me with his love, gave me the courage to share His truth with complete strangers, and blessed me with so many new friendships.”
“It was incredible to see how many friendships I made that were rooted in Christ in only four days,” said student Elizabeth Holiday. “Seeing how grateful the people we helped [were] was so humbling, and I could see Christ through each and every person we met.”
Student Robert Harris says that after praying with hurricane victim Bonnie, she voiced how thankful she was to see God working through college students. “This encouraged me to look around and see Jesus in my peers,” he said. “The way they loved each other, served each other, and joyfully labored in the midst of humidity and mosquito bites, unveiled how each one of my fellow students were truly co-image bearers with Christ.”
You can learn more about ACNA collaborative relief efforts and donate to continued Hurricane Irma relief at Irmarelief.faith., or donate to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund – which is providing relief through local parishes – and read updates about the multiple hurricane relief events on their blog.