U.S. Disaster Relief Begins—and Keeps Growing

April 23, 2020 • United States
Samaritan's Purse outfitted its original Disaster Relief Unit in 1998 to assist in the response to flooding in Texas.

1998-Present: Samaritan’s Purse first deployed a disaster relief unit to help staff and volunteers as they assisted homeowners with flooding in Texas. The work has expanded to 39 states and continues today.

Volunteers in orange T-shirts running chainsaws and tarping roofs have become icons of the U.S. Disaster Relief projects of Samaritan’s Purse. Yet it took many years for this aspect of the ministry to develop.

Luther Harrison, current vice president of North American Ministries, presents a Bible to a flood victim in Victoria, Texas in 1998.

The first U.S. Disaster Relief Unit was a converted tractor-trailer that deployed for the first time in 1998 to help victims of flooding in Victoria, Texas. Fifty volunteers (half of them traveling over a thousand miles from North Carolina) helped clean mud and debris out of 19 flooded houses. As that project was wrapping up, Hurricane Mitch hit Central America. We loaded the trailer onto a Navy barge and ferried it to Honduras, where it became a portable headquarters for Samaritan’s Purse.

In 1999, the trailer came back stateside, and our team restocked it overnight to respond to tornadoes in Oklahoma. One of our volunteers recognized the value of this specialized U.S. Disaster Relief Unit and helped Samaritan’s Purse buy a NASCAR-type hauler, so we were prepared to respond in multiple locations in 2004 when four hurricanes hit Florida. As our U.S. Disaster Relief program grew, God blessed us with two more trailers. This equipped us for an even greater response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where we rebuilt over 980 houses and helped 5,124 families.

Since 1998, Samaritan’s Purse has responded to disasters in 39 states, including Alaska and Hawaii (not shown).

Samaritan’s Purse now has eight Disaster Relief Units ready to respond in the U.S., plus three in Canada (including the 1998 original) and one in Australia. Four units are currently deployed to help tornado victims in Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Reconstruction projects are also underway in Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas.

Since 1998, our U.S. Disaster Relief Units have deployed to 247 locations in 39 states. More than 174,000 individuals have volunteered, helping more than 50,000 families.

In just the last four years, over 2,600 individuals have made decisions for Christ through the witness of our disaster volunteers, Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains, and church partners.

Please pray for our North American Ministries teams, including U.S. Disaster Relief, and for those who need physical and spiritual aid in the midst of difficulty.

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