Baylor Students Use Fall Break to Help with Hurricane ReliefNov. 1, 2005
by Allison R. Deily, Student Newswriter
Instead of sleeping in or taking a short vacation over their fall break, a group of Baylor University students traveled to southeast Texas to assist in relief work related to Hurricane Rita. The powerful storm struck the Gulf coast on Sept. 24, causing extensive damage in the coastal areas in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas.
The group consisted of freshmen Angel Rasco, Emily Hinkle and Emily Davis; sophomores Caroline Nelson and Pablo Mares; and senior Andrea Carver. The students represented Baptist Student Ministries and Baylor Student Activities and were under the direction of graduate student Carrie Powell.
"Life was back to normal for the most part; the businesses were back open, but many of the homes were still destroyed," Powell said.
The Baylor group teamed up with such organizations as Texas Baptist Men, First Baptist Church of Vidor, and FEMA to help clear the area of fallen tree limbs.
"We cleared four to five properties a day," Powell said, "and we really feel like we made a difference."
The tasks came from a prioritized list of about 600 work requests from residents in the area. Through the work of several groups, the list had decreased to about 350 by the time the Baylor group went to help.
"We were up at 6 a.m. and got back at 6 p.m. We did break for lunch," Powell said, "It was pretty awesome to see a huge tree that had fallen and destroyed a home or mobile home, and then after a morning or afternoon of very hard teamwork, seeing that same house and yard with no tree pressing down or covering it."
"It was really humbling," Angel Rasco said. "It was an incredible reminder of how things like this can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. The devastation was so vast, and we only saw a small section. It's hard to imagine all of the damage together."
Rasco said she was most impacted by the people of First Baptist Church in Vidor, who ran a hurricane relief center set up the day of the storm.
"The conditions are hard, and yet, these men and women of the church continue to work every day in the name of Jesus to serve those around them. It is an incredible witness not only for the community around them, but to us as volunteers," Rasco said.
Pablo Mares said he learned that the Lord uses anyone who is open and willing to further His kingdom.
"I may never see the person whose house we worked all day long on, but I have faith that they will see the Lord in the work we did," he said. "Rita destroyed many things but it has created so much more: a Christian out pouring of God's love."
Mares said the hard work with fellow Baylor students strengthened relationships and faith. "Here at Baylor I find it hard to make it to my 9 a.m. class but getting up at 6 every day was no chore at all. Everything in my mind told me I was going to be sore in the morning, yet I awoke every day refreshed after only six hours of sleep. Something that I know was impossible with out the Lord."
The fall break trip also has inspired Mares to seek work in the mission field, using the skills he is learning at Baylor in video production courses.
"During one of the luncheons the topic of my major came up and I said that I wasn't sure how I could use my degree for a job in the mission field. [The missionary] said they are always looking for people to document missions and spread the word on film and other mediums. I never thought of that before and said to myself, that would be an awesome job," Mares said.
"I then heard about the mission trip. I felt God placed it in my path. The day of the trip, our BSM director had a family emergency and could not make it. He was going to be responsible for gathering footage of the trip. He asked me if I would be willing to do this in his absence. The very thing I was contemplating doing the Lord put it in to action," Mares said.
The Fall Break trip was originally scheduled for New Orleans, but a change was made after contact with First Baptist, Vidor.
Karin Klinger, assistant director of student activities and student organization development, said additional relief trips to hurricane-affected areas are in the planning stages.
"We are working to develop a Spring Break Relief trip as a follow-up to the Fall Break Relief trip," Klinger said. "We are working to secure worksites through Habitat for Humanity and hope to complete at least one structure during our week-long service trip. While we hope to get into New Orleans, we have indicated to the volunteer coordinators with Habitat that we are willing and able to go where they need us most."
Part of the lingering reality facing areas impacted by the hurricanes, Klinger said, is that many communities were hit just as hard as, or in some cases, harder than New Orleans but have not received as media attention. Less coverage means fewer volunteers, aid and assistance in the effort to rebuild.
"I think we can make a world of difference in a small community, but where we serve will ultimately be determined by Habitat for Humanity," Klinger said. "I'm really excited about our Spring Break Relief trip because we'll have the time and resources to plan it well and recruit a larger team."