“There was just devastation everywhere. It’s going to take years to get their lives back together” said Monte Confer of the destruction from Hurricane Michael.
Monte, along with Rodney Butler, Allan Abner, Dan Glesener, and Jimmy Knight drove to Panama City earlier this week to help with relief efforts. The guys said the reality of what they saw was terrible. Rodney, who lived in Panama City for 37 years before moving to Jacksonville, shared with the guys how everything used to be before the hurricane.
“Imagine the thickest forest you can and not being able to see anything through it and then imagine driving by later and being able to clearly see from one side to the other because every tree was down” said Dan.
“It was the worst destruction I’ve ever seen” said Jimmy. At one of their first sites, it took the team nearly 15 minutes before they found the house. “There was kind of a driveway, but the entire house was buried in trees” said Jimmy. The team cut down the trees and cleared the driveway, so a crane operator could come in and get the trees off the house.
Looking at the house, the men were surprised to hear that the homeowner had stayed through the storm. He told them that when it got really bad, he just put another mattress on top of himself. He wasn’t the only one they met who stayed through the storm. Many like him had major structural damage and couldn’t repair the damage on their own.
The guys were happy to help however they could whether that meant cutting up giant trees or tarping roofs. “Whatever they needed us to do, we figured out how” said Jimmy. “It’s pretty humbling and the people we met were so appreciative.”
While working they were able to connect with the homeowners as they were trying to put their lives back together. “In a small way we were able to make a positive impact on our neighbors” said Allan. It wasn’t just about meeting the physical needs of people but meeting their spiritual needs too. They got to tell people the reason they were there was because of the love of Christ.
“Seeing the outreach of the community around them” was one of the things Monte said touched him the most. On their drive to a work site, a woman they passed gave them a big hearty wave. The team stopped at her house and learned her name was Ginny. Her home had weathered the storm, and she lived alone, so she was welcoming those who’d been displaced into her home. She waved at them to let them know she was appreciative of the work they were doing. The team was able to do some work in her yard and clear out some trees for her. “She was helping her neighbors. We felt blessed to be able to help her so she could continue helping others” said Jimmy.
Allan said seeing the devastation in Panama City gave him a greater appreciation for the small things. “If everybody could see what we saw this weekend, I bet they’d have a much more grateful heart.”
The team was thankful to be used by God. “There’s years more work to be done up there. We only saw about a 3-mile-wide area of the destruction. It’s so much bigger than we even saw” said Dan.
Here are a few ways you can help with Hurricane Michael relief:
Prayer should be our first response to any situation. Pray for those who have lost loved ones, homes, businesses, and more. And for those who are responding to the storm.
You can make a financial donation online or by designating a gift for “disaster relief” on a giving envelope.
We are also collecting items that will be given to our partners in the panhandle for distribution. Click here for the most recent list of items requested and drop off locations/hours.
Our second team leaves this Sunday, October 28, to help tarp houses, do chainsaw work, assist with mud out, and other debris removal. Click here to learn more about our relief teams.