“First of all, you’re numb,” said Pam Edwards, 85, of Fort Myers Beach. Hurricane Ian flooded the home that she and her husband have lived in for 35 years. The water reached the ceilings. Virtually everything inside was lost. “You really believe it’s happening to somebody else. At least that is how I felt.”
Edwards and her daughter waded through mud over their ankles to try and salvage what they could–which wasn’t much because of the threat of mold. “I would not wish this on anyone.”
Despite the shock of such a devastating loss, Edwards received help from people she had never even met. Enter Ginger Gurko, a 19-year-old volunteer disaster relief worker from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She was just one of the hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses who traveled from as far away as Alaska to give of their time and energy to help stabilize homes damaged by Hurricane Ian.
“It's difficult knowing what these people are going through,” said Gurko. “When we were on Fort Myers Beach, we knew where people had died.”
In spite of the sorrow and destruction around her, Gurko observed that there were many happy moments, both among the volunteers and those who lost everything. That might seem unusual after a disaster of this magnitude, but Jehovah’s Witnesses consider helping others during times of disaster an important part of their ministry and it brings them joy. Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for the Witnesses, stated: “We view what the Bible refers to as the ‘relief ministry’ as vital a part of our worship as our hallmark door-to-door ministry and our Bible education programs. Really, the primary motivation is love, which Jesus said would identify his followers. When members of our brotherhood are affected when disaster strikes, we organize our efforts to provide relief to them, not only materially, but primarily spiritually and emotionally.”
Many, like the Edwards, are grateful for such support and the love that motivates their fellow Witnesses to action in times of disaster. Edwards deeply appreciated the help. “It’s like somebody knocked ten tons off my shoulders because we were doing what we could, but we couldn’t possibly do this.”
You can learn more about the disaster relief efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses at www.jw.org. Search “relief” to find articles and videos related to relief efforts worldwide.