by Joshua Easters from Tampa, FL (used with permission)
One hundred excuses and reasons not to go is what I started with when originally asked if I wanted to participate in a disaster relief trip up to Panama City over the new year. With many pending projects at work, I just didn’t think the timing was right, but I decided a few days before that I really felt like I needed to go, and I am so glad that I did.
I arrived on the first of the year to a team from my church that had been there since Sunday assisting Samaritan’s Purse with recovery efforts in the area. Samaritan’s Purse has been stationed in Panama City since November and will continue to be there until at least mid-March. I was in shock after arriving at just how much damage remains. Streets are lined with piles of debris and trash, businesses throughout the area are in ruins, and buildings all around are completely flattened. The fact that this much destruction remains just hours north of us in Tampa was eye-opening and shocking.
I was quickly integrated into one of the teams upon my arrival where we spent the day removing trees from the home of a man who weathered the storm on his property. The team was able to remove the trees from his home, remove countless loads of debris from his yard, and make the property a much safer place to reside. Days 2 and 3 contained more inside work where we removed walls and ceilings from homes that had been badly damaged and treated the homes for mold where the contamination had rendered the homes uninhabitable. The renewed hope on the faces of these homeowners as they saw the work that had been completed was humbling and empowering.
Serving does something within us that is hard to articulate with words. It grants new perspective and clarity not necessarily expected when deciding to go serve. Serving helps remove focus from our own work, our own problems, our own insufficiencies. It gives a greater view of the big picture, the significance that kindness and compassion can have, and the importance of loving people well. I came back tired and sore, but also refreshed and empowered. I returned to my own work with a renewed sense of vision, and a desire to find ways we can serve better in our own business. I highly recommend going and serving. You will have an impact that will change lives, and you might be surprised at how much it changes your life as a result.
Lastly, serving alongside other people, whether you know them or not, will result in new friendships made and old friendships strengthened. I cannot say enough what an incredible organization Samaritan’s Purse is. Samaritan’s Purse is providing hope to thousands of families throughout Panama City and the world by providing disaster relief completely free of charge. Their organization operates with the utmost of integrity, and their leaders are filled with love and compassion. Our team from Fishhawk Fellowship developed great friendships with the Samaritan’s Purse team, and other volunteers that joined from across the country.
There is much work to be done in Panama City, but there is hope in the midst of ruin. Seeing that hope gave me hope for 2019, and there is no place I would have rather been to start off the new year.