On Monday of Easter break, a busload of forty-five volunteers from Kingswood University and Sussex Wesleyan Church traveled to Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, to help with clean-up efforts after the Saint John River overflowed its banks. The overflow created the worst flood in Perth-Andover’s recent history. Over 500 residents were evacuated from their homes at the end of March, and approximately $25 million worth of damages occurred.
Rev. Kirk Sabine of Kingswood University and Rev. Rob MacCallum, lead pastor of Sussex Wesleyan, organized the event and worked with personnel from Samaritan’s Purse to coordinate the relief efforts of their volunteers.
MacCallum, who had been encouraging church members to act on what God compels them to do, said that the response to help was spontaneous. “We saw a need, had the opportunity to respond, and we did. It was a wonderful, engaging opportunity to love people.”
The Sussex volunteers were sent out as nine teams to eight different locations throughout the community. They tackled the massive challenge of removing drywall, wet carpet, and destroyed personal belongings. Several streets had been evacuated and approximately twenty homes were totally destroyed.
“I was surprised at how much we had to tear out of the building,” said Kingswood University student Shaine Evans.
Perth-Andover Wesleyan Church, one of the buildings damaged in the flood, was filled with over eight feet of water. Although the sanctuary was not affected, senior pastor, Rev. Reg Thomas, and church members have completely gutted the basement.
“There is over $500,000 worth of work to be done, and we are in the process of making decisions for our next steps,” said Thomas. “Our people are in good spirits and are looking forward to returning to the church for services.”
Dr. Stephen Elliott from Kingswood University helped to oversee two teams which worked at the local senior citizens home. “When the evacuation notice was issued, the seniors had only fifteen minutes advance notice, just enough time to grab their personal medications and one or two personal items,” Elliott reported. “Discouraged and overwhelmed by the extent of their losses and the incredible amount of work that it will take to rebuild, the owner and her parents repeatedly expressed appreciation to the university students for their willingness to help with the clean up.”
Other teams of students, staff, and church volunteers worked in two local businesses and a number of personal homes. The amount of 'cleaned-out' items overflowed into the front yards of homes. Students reported seeing dump truck after dump truck, carting away furniture, beds, papers, electronics, etc.
“The Lord really worked in my life during this project,” said Natasha Davidson, a fourth year student from Kingswood. “He taught me that our worldly possessions are not something that we should put emphasis on because they are only in our earthly lives. I need to find my riches in Christ alone and not in my worldly possessions as I have in the past.”