Students spend spring break helping storm victims
A group of Illinois College students traveled to Texas this week to join ongoing efforts to clean and repair damage left by Hurricane Harvey.
Story by Nick Draper, Jacksonville Journal Courier
Six months following the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey, the city of Port Aransas, Texas, is still cleaning debris and repairing damage to return to normalcy.
This week, Illinois College students affiliated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and BASIC, or Brothers and Sisters in Christ, are helping to heal those wounds.
Fourteen Illinois College students and four chaperones from Jacksonville landed in Texas on Saturday to begin their mission of assisting in ongoing repairs of hurricane damage.
Jacob Nunez, president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Illinois College, said the group had taken part in a mission trip to South Carolina in the past and wanted to help another community this year.
When the group heard about Port Aransas’ need from Pastor John Hume and Paige Hume from Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church, it seemed like a good opportunity for the next mission.
There’s been a lot of destruction. About 50 percent of people haven’t been able to return to their homes because they still need work. After we get [First Baptist Church] completed, we’re going to start working with community members to see what we can do.
The city’s First Baptist Church has an adjacent outreach center and community building. Nunez said the front of the building was in rough shape so the group got to work putting new flashing and fascia up. Since then, the students have been taking care of tile, caulking, painting and scraping.
Hurricane Harvey ripped through Texas and other states in late August, causing $125 billion damage.
Illinois College BASIC President Jonathan Miller said that when the group came in for Sunday service, it had to move out immediately afterward to make room for another service from a church that had been destroyed.
“It’s surprising to see how much left there is to be done,” Miller said. “You see a bunch of buildings and stores that were either in the process of being repaired or were totally destroyed and not being used. It’s been half a year and there’s still so much to be done.”
Illinois College director of community engagement Lori Oldenettel, who is a chaperone along with IC professor Abby Musgrove, John Hume and Paige Hume, said that not only is the trip giving the students a chance to engage with another community, but it is also teaching them valuable life skills for when they own their own homes.
“They’re learning new skills that maybe they’ve never done before,” Oldenettel said. “We’ve had students that have never tiled before learning how to cut and lay tile. These are life experiences that they’ll be able to utilize when they’re out of college and in their own homes.”
The trip is also providing students a chance to grow spiritually and connect with their faith, Nunez said.
“We’re coming down here not really knowing what the culture is like, we’re in the United States but in a different region,” Nunez said. “It’s awesome to be able to share your the love and hope of Jesus, to get to meet new people and be a ray of sunshine to them. This world may throw a bunch of curve balls at us but, in the end, we have each other and Christ.”
Work will continue on until the end of the week, after which students from Quincy University will assist for a week, followed by students from MacMurray College. Oldenettel said Todd Sweatman, chaplain at MacMurray College and director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Jacksonville, was instrumental in putting the mission trips together.
Miller said he knows that only so much can be accomplished in a week, but he hopes the connections and the impact the group makes will provide the community with encouragement.
“This trip has been very cool so far to see not only the physical work we’re doing, but the spiritual work and the impact we’re leaving behind,” Miller said. “While we’re here this week, we have the special opportunity to give those believers in this community encouragement and hope. … It’s a powerful message to take home with us to our homes, churches and our school.”