Students in the Baptist Campus Ministry at Morehead State saw with their own eyes the heartbreak and destruction that came with the horrific eastern Kentucky flooding.
Twenty-eight Morehead State BCM members and a handful more from another on-campus ministry took the trek to Whitesburg and worked the entire day at the direction of the Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers.
They cleaned out a house that hadn’t been touched since the floodwaters gushed more than 13 feet of water inside it. The owner was a 78-year-old widow who had never lived anywhere else in her life. Her parents had built the home and she inherited it after they died. She was rescued from the floodwater, went to a local hospital and contracted COVID-19. She also has other health issues.
But the home had been untouched since no one was living there.
“Everything was still as it was after the flooding,” said Rachel Rodgers, a BCM member from Danville.
“We were standing in water up to our ankles in the kitchen area,” he said. “The fridge was still full of things and the smell was overwhelming. Black mold covered the ceiling and walls.”
Rodgers said they carried everything out of the house and made a pile. “It was hard seeing all these items that belonged to a person and throwing them in a giant pile of trash.”
That’s when compassion kicked in, she said. They began stepping aside a pile of items that may have personal value to the homeowner.
“The woman lost her son when she was younger and we found a teddy bear that had been holding a photo of her and her son,” Rodgers said. “It was underneath some things and still in good shape. We found a plastic zip-lock with ‘Mom-made’ written on it. It was a homemade knitted piece of something.”
The students, led by Morehead BCM Director Matthew Mofield, took every piece of furniture out of the house along with piles of trash during a seven-hour stay. It gave them a snapshot of what the Kentucky Disaster Relief workers have been doing for about a month.
“I love seeing college students join us on a disaster response,” said KBDR Director Ron Crow. “They bring such life, energy and excitement as they just want to serve.
“It also exposes them to missions in a very real way with a heart like Jesus who cared for those who are hurting,” he noted. “Their time is limited, but I’m so grateful to have their help, and to plant the seed in the heart for the disaster relief ministry.”
Mofield had worked a week in Hazard and knew there was so much more needed to be done. Instead of taking the weekend for a leadership retreat, he turned it into a mission trip that included the BCM students and leaders.
He was proud of the attitude and work ethic of the students who hardly stopped for seven hours on a hot afternoon.
“They didn’t bat an eye,” he said. “We opened the door (of the house) and went in. They were hoping we could get the contents and furniture and stuff out but by 4:30 we had gutted it to the studs.”
The BCM brought 25 students and three leaders and Morehead Crew of the Campus Crusade brought another seven workers.
Ready to serve
Rodgers said it put into perspective what the Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteers do for “weeks and months at a time.”
“It’s easy for us to pick up and go for a day. It shows how hard these people work. Seeing their setup with all the tents, supplies and food was something else,” she said.
Rodgers said the drive to Whitesburg was heartbreaking with the piles of debris that “used to be somebody’s life.” They saw the tents and campers where people were living because they had been displaced from their home by the flood.
“We talked a lot about how these are just material things, understanding in the big scheme of things you have an eternal perspective,” Mofield said. “But if that was your entire house sitting in the front yard and none of it could be used again, much of that being personal items, how do you feel? Imagine how devastating that would be. I think that hit most of them pretty hard, as it did me.”
Some of the BCM leadership was able to have a gospel conversation that led to a salvation with a neighbor where they were working, Mofield said.