Samaritan's Purse deploys 1,000 volunteers to Florida to help residents recover after Hurricane Ian
The Evangelical Christian charity Samaritan's Purse has deployed 1,000 volunteers on the ground in southwest Florida to help residents recover from Hurricane Ian and to make it clear that God loves them.
Samaritan’s Purse CEO, the Rev. Franklin Graham, told The Christian Post that around 1,000 volunteers were deployed to southwest Florida, specifically in Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Englewood, the areas hit hardest by the hurricane.
According to the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fort Myers had a record storm surge of 7.26 feet above ground level.
“The response has been pretty strong and we just hope that it will hold up,” Graham said, warning that “if there’s another news event and then people quit talking about Florida, then it gets even tougher to try to find volunteers to come.”
“I think right now, we’ll be there through the winter and possibly through the spring. ... There’s just that much need right now.”
“Everything that we do, we want to do it in the name of Jesus Christ,” he stressed. “I want people to know that God loves them, he hasn’t forgotten them. Many times in storms like this, people think that maybe God’s mad at them and he’s judging them. No, I want them to know God loves us.”
“I want them to know that the anchor that we can hang on to in these storms is Jesus Christ, who will take us not only through this storm and the next storm but it will take us through the storms of life that all the way until we get to heaven and I want people to put their faith and trust in him.”
Graham reflected on the devastation he witnessed when visiting southwest Florida earlier this week: “People in these homes lost everything they owned, all of their furniture, their bedding, their pillows, their clothing, everything was soaked in this salt water and just ruined and so the only thing they can do is take it out to the street and the federal government comes in, FEMA, and they’ll haul that stuff out.”
On Sept. 28, Ian made landfall as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour near Cayo Costa, Florida.
The National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service categorized it as “the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States” and the "strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Michael in 2018."
Graham said what Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are doing at this stage is “helping people put their roofs back on” and to get “mud out their homes.”
“In that mud out process, you have to take the sheetrock off the wall so that air can get through the studs and then electrical wiring is going to have to be replaced, especially those sockets that got soaked in salt water, those wires are going to have to be pulled out,” Graham said.
“It’s just going to take time, we’re not going to be able to fix it right away but our volunteers are there to help these families as much as we possibly can so we can help them get back on their feet.”
Graham also praised Citygate Ministries, a church in Fort Myers, for providing assistance to Samaritan’s Purse as the organization works to minister to those impacted by the hurricane.
“They have allowed Samaritan’s Purse to park their trucks and all of their equipment there. They took half their church, their Sunday school rooms and stuff and made that available for volunteers to sleep in,” Graham said, expressing gratitude that the church allowed Samaritan’s Purse to use its kitchen “so that we could cook and feed volunteers.”
Graham recalled a conversation he had with the pastor of the church, who saw the devastating storm as “an opportunity just to love people and to share with them God’s love.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org