When disaster strikes, heroes emerge out of the chaos, shedding the light of hope to a world darkened by a storm.
Like most of you, beginning Saturday morning, August 26, I watched the news reports as stories unraveled of the $180 billion of destruction, 13 million people negatively impacted, and 70 deaths as Hurricane Harvey unleashed its power of high winds, historic rainfall, and high storm surges.
A pervasive question was running through our campus; “How can we help?” With a tagline of “Knowledge, Faith, Service,” we all knew we needed to do something. Having lived in Florida for 25 years, I was familiar with hurricane clean-up and know it is a hard call to know just when and how to be helpful in such a disaster. Over the next few days, I had many conversations with colleagues and students anxious to begin efforts to help our neighbors to the south.
We established a Hurricane Task Force led by Vice-President for Spiritual Development Russ Laughlin. They sprang into high gear. Dr. Jared Wood, biology professor at Southwestern Adventist University with years of experience navigating waterways as a field biologist, immediately felt the call to help. Understanding he had to use his skills and abilities intelligently, he did not leave his driveway until he received word from officials that his skills and supplies were needed. But just as soon as he was given the green light, he joined the rescue efforts in a flat bottom boat. After a couple of grueling days rescuing many stranded families, Jared headed for home, as experts arrived to continue the efforts.
Once the rescue response was over and the water had receded, 26 of our faculty, students, and staff arrived in Houston for the weekend to assist in repairing the damage to one of the local Christian schools. Our alumni in the area also joined in this task. Very soon, a second team will head down to continue the reconstruction project at this school.
More groups on our campus sprang into action. Our national award-winning Enactus team partnered with the local Harvest House to gather diapers and baby essentials, laundry detergent, new packs of socks and underwear, and gift cards for restaurants along I-35 for displaced families relocating to Johnson County. A sophomore nursing major immediately contacted fellow students to help collect supplies for residents in her hometown of Victoria, Texas. Over 100 students, faculty, and community members helped assemble disaster relief kits at the Adventist Community Services chapter in Keene, sorting clothes, and loading semi-trucks with supplies.
Under the leadership of Laughlin and Professor Bill Kilgore, the Christian Ethics and Christian Beliefs classes helped load a plane at the Cleburne airport with supplies headed for South Texas. Students organized a blood drive on campus with Carter Blood Care. And following an urgent call for assistance, eight of our students dashed to a drop-off center to unload a semi-truck full of supplies in a matter of minutes.
These past few weeks it has been incredible to watch everyday people emerge as heroes, not only from our school but from our community, as many have done what they could to provide relief to those impacted by the storm. I feel privileged to live and work in such a giving community.
I am also proud of our faculty, staff, and students who care so much about people they have never met, interrupting their busy schedules to do what they can to help relieve some of the suffering and the loss. I am thankful that our faculty, staff, and students have as part of their DNA the desire to be of service to those in need!!
This article is an opinion piece written by President Shaw for the Cleburne Times Review.