Youth Give Up Christmas Vacation to Serve Survivors of the Gulf Coast Hurricanes
Three months after the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Gulf States are still in chaos. Despite efforts of Federal Emergency Management Agency, local governments, and countless volunteers, the amount of work that needs to be done is still staggering.
The Center for Youth Evangelism at Andrews University, working under funding from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, is actively coordinating groups of young people from all over the country to travel to the Gulf area and assist with disaster relief. In December 2005, a group of 28 individuals from all over the Upper Columbia Conference gathered together and traveled across the country to spend their Christmas break working and witnessing for God.
On the site each day, CYE workers coordinated groups to do debris removal, demolition in New Orleans, and supply distribution. Participants were given many opportunities to witness first-hand the destruction and the ensuing struggles of the residents of the affected areas.
On Friday, for an activity called “Random Acts of Kindness,” the group went to Wal-Mart and purchased an assortment of Christmas gifts and then went out into several communities to meet the people and bring them a little Christmas cheer. For many families, living in FEMA trailers while trying to salvage and rebuild their lives, the gifts came as a surprise and a blessing. The youth and their gifts were accepted with open arms. Residents were eager to share their experiences from the hurricanes. Many of them, despite their disasters and personal tragedies, exhibited a strong faith in God and a determination to rebuild what was lost.
To many, it seemed strange that young people would be willing to give up their Christmas break to serve in such a distasteful setting. But the experiences and blessings were very real. Even while the youth were touching others for God, their lives were being touched as well.