Influencing and Celebrating Lives

by Maritime

Personal account shared by Louise Armstrong, Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Coordinator for The Salvation Army Saint John, New Brunswick.

In September, I found myself on a plane, representing The Salvation Army’s EDS, headed for Houston, Texas. All I knew for certain was that I would be working alongside two other Canadians in Corpus Christi for two weeks to respond to the needs of survivors and emergency responders in the after math of hurricane Harvey. In the days to follow, I would learn the importance of teamwork and rolling out a large scale operation to feed thousands each day.

When people got news I was going to Texas, the most common response I would hear is, “what an opportunity” or “you’re so lucky.” While these were well meaning statements, volunteering with disaster relief is both emotionally and physically draining. It is a privilege and a duty that only those who have the heart for could return to another disaster site.

We worked 10 to 14 hour days in 100F weather with 90 per cent humidity; as Canadians, we are not acclimatized to these weather conditions. Most days, we were required to lift hundreds of pounds in supplies and make our way through debris to reach residents with much needed meals. I think that the true test of whether or not someone can volunteer for disaster relief is how they reconcile the after effects of the stress and emotions that this work involves. All the training in the world couldn’t have prepared me for this intense work, but remembering that my mission was about helping others whose lives had just been pulled out from under them gave me the fuel I needed to keep going.

During my service in Corpus Christi, I met those who had no insurance wondering how they would ever rebuild, those who were elderly and felt they were too old to handle with the after math of this hurricane, and those who had already been through three hurricanes who decided to accept their loss and move. Perhaps what impacted me most was the importance of meeting the immediate need of those we served with a hot meal and at times offering spiritual care and experiencing the freedom to pray with people.

My experience working with The Salvation Army to respond to this disaster, reminded me of how God can touch lives in a way that produces faith and hope. Much like being missionaries in our own communities, we can be a transforming influence at home and around the world when we are called. I am very proud to work for an organization whose motivation is driven by the love of Jesus Christ.