Volunteer Vouchers Extend Reach of Disaster Relief in Florida

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Disaster Relief, Southeast

By Carl Stagner

When a desire to serve is matched with the means to serve, incredible things are sure to happen. That’s how it works with the Volunteer Voucher Program, just one part of a multi-prong approach part and parcel to the vital ministries of Church of God Disaster Relief and Restoration. Such was the case this summer when students and creative pastor Rachel Jacobs felt led to go and help in the aftermath of a particularly potent hurricane season in Florida.

“Our goal was to help develop a heart of service in our young people,” Pastor Rachel, of Grace Place in Nashville, Tennessee, reflects. “We’ve been working on intentionally serving in our local community, but wanted to serve beyond our local community. As we were looking for places to serve, I came across the Disaster Relief ministry of the Church of God and noticed they were offering vouchers to help offset the cost to serve in Daytona Beach. I personally had no idea there was still relief work to be done in Daytona Beach and it seemed like a doable trip for our group.”

Indeed, much relief work was yet to be done. The National Hurricane Center reported that last year’s Hurricane Ian, for instance, “was responsible for over 150 direct and indirect deaths and over $112 billion in damage, making it the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history and the third-costliest in United States history.” In light of such sobering statistics, it’s no wonder the need for more than cleanup was more apparent than ever. That’s what’s uniquely impactful about the approach of Church of God Ministries. Disaster relief also means disaster recovery and disaster restoration.

Hard at work in Florida!

“This was a new experience for most of our group,” Rachel admits. “It was very shocking to see the damage that still existed almost a year after the initial [especially severe] hurricane. We were also surprised to find out how helpful it was to local residents to have people from outside the community come in to help clean up the damage. A lot of the local nonprofits and churches had been maxed out in helping residents. The need was much greater than the local infrastructure could support. Our crew was able to come in fresh and ready to serve.”

Some of the personal anecdotes from their work trip offer a glimpse of just how meaningful this kind of ministry—made possible by volunteer vouchers—can be.

“We worked at the house of a woman named Rustee,” Rachel remembers. “She had just moved from Nashville a couple of weeks before Hurricane Ian hit and didn’t have flood insurance. Her entire home was destroyed by the floodwaters. She had been out of her home for a year at this point and was told by local churches/nonprofits that they were unable to help her. She cried out to God for help and the organization we went with (Mission Discovery) reached out to her almost immediately after that prayer. We were able to be a part of multiple Mission Discovery teams that had been sent to her home over the course of that year to help get her home back in a livable state. Our students helped install drywall, kitchen cabinets, redo her patio space outside that had been washed away by floodwaters, move furniture, and help paint. She just texted us the other week that she was back in her home! Our students really connected with her and invited her to join us for supper one night.”

The work team assembled together!

Only God! Thank God for orchestrating moments like that, making a difference in everyday people’s lives simply through acts of obedient service. The interaction made an indelible mark on the group, inspiring them to want to check in with her down the road.

“We actually are hoping to visit her next summer as we’re heading to IYC,” she explains. “This story sticks out to me because I’m reminded how God doesn’t overlook us—or anyone. Rustee cried out for help and God answered her prayer—through a bunch of middle schoolers from Nashville, Tennessee, following God’s direction in our lives to serve those in need. I’m just impressed and in awe of how God moves!”

Rachel thanks God and the Church of God for the chance to go and serve in Florida. She credits the Volunteer Voucher Program with the affordability of the experience, calling the program “impressive.”

Church of God Ministries is only able to respond swiftly when disaster strikes because it maintains a disaster relief fund. In crises where an immediate response is critical for relief, Church of God Ministries advances funds in anticipation of a gracious outpouring of donations from churches and individuals. 100 percent of Disaster Relief contributions are utilized to bring relief to those affected by disasters worldwide.

For more information about the Volunteer Voucher Program, contact Michaela Urban at MUrban@chog.org. Donate today, and learn more about the numerous efforts of Church of God Disaster Relief and Restoration, at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief-and-restoration/.

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