Samaritan’s Purse leaves Melville Friends
When flooding devastated communities in southern Saskatchewan in 2014, Samaritan’s Purse was there to help homeowners in need.
We “need to draw a line in the sand,” says Stephen Joudry, who is coordinating the Samaritan’s Purse flood response in Melville, Saskatchewan. For the past month, Stephen, his wife Mae, and more than 340 volunteers have been busy helping residents recover from the worst flood they’ve experienced in recent history. After seriously considering a lot of variables, it’s time to wind down and move on.
“You become part of the fabric of a community,” says Stephen. “We’re there to walk beside these people for a period of time.” He smiles as he recalls a time when their work in another town coincided with a municipal election. A town official remarked, “You’re the most popular guy in town—you could run for mayor right now.”
Stephen never stops reminding his team that the people they serve are not statistics. As a result, many relationships develop between the server and the served during the course of a disaster relief deployment. Now it’s time to say goodbye and God bless. “You become attached in different ways, but you have to move on,” says Stephen.
“When you ramp up, it’s quite demanding. Then it levels off, and when you finish there are all these things you have to consider,” says Stephen. Stephen’s wife Mae is the office manager at the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Unit and she keeps all their ‘ducks in a row’—remembering to send thank you notes, close off accounts, disconnect communications networks, log statistics, and file reports. It is important to recognize and thank those ‘invisible’ helpers, including churches, electricians, restaurant servers, and many others who are “part of our team,” says Stephen.
The number of work orders coming in has been steadily declining and stopped completely at 135 a few days ago. Stephen wants to make sure all the work orders have been taken care of. “If someone needs help that didn’t get in when we were here, we may call a local church and say, ‘Can you take care of this?’”
“We like to leave a property in better shape than we found it,” he adds as he surveys the trucks, trailers, Bobcat, generator, and other equipment surrounding the 75-foot-long Disaster Relief Unit parked in a lot at the edge of town. Getting equipment back to the Samaritan’s Purse Canada head office in Calgary sets the stage for the next phase of demobilization. Stephen uses the following analogy: “When the fire truck returns to the station, if it’s not re-stocked you’re going to have a problem at the next fire.”
The rest of his staff are getting ready to return home, and Stephen reminds them, “When we walk through the door of a house, we don’t know where that journey will end.” He goes on to tell the story of how he reconnected with a family he met during the Calgary flood in 2013 when he returned as part of the Samaritan’s Purse Southern Alberta Restoration Project.
As for Stephen and Mae, they will return to their home in New Brunswick and await the next call to respond. Stephen leans back in his chair as if to relax—“Then away you go again, just like a fire truck.”
Samaritan's Purse moves the Banerds Forward
The Melville, Saskatchewan flood hit Allan and Florence Banerd from the top and the bottom. Six inches of flood water seeped up through the basement floor into their house. And water poured in from the roof.
“We noticed there was a problem because there was water dripping onto the dining room table,” Al said. “And a little drip by my chair.” They didn’t have a sump pump so they used a shop vac and a broom to take care of the water. Their neighbor helped out.
Al has a lung condition and Flo just finished cancer surgery on her face. With these issues, the doctor told Al and Flo they couldn’t live in their home.
They weren’t allowed to work on or enter the home, either. Their daughter Denise, drove in from Lloydminster to help empty the home’s contents into sheds in the backyard. Their son Gary drove in from Saskatoon to move the furniture out.
The Banerds looked around and found a home—the only available rental in town—and moved in. But it’s expensive. “It’s $2,000 a month,” Flo said. “It’s beyond our reach.” They’ll be able to handle a couple of months’ rent, but they can’t hang on for long.
A Samaritan’s Purse crew came in to work on their basement and ceiling. And while they were solving roof issues, they discovered vermiculite, which often contains some asbestos. The work crew took a sample for testing. It contained six percent asbestos, “Which is high,” Stephen Joudry said. Stephen is an Operations Coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse domestic disaster relief and he’s called in to assess the tricky construction issues that sometimes confront volunteer work crews.
“If we can’t do something about this asbestos, these folks would have to call in specialists,” Stephen said. “If we can’t figure out a way to handle the asbestos, they won’t be able to move forward. They’ll get stuck.”
This morning, Al and Flo are in their backyard sorting through belongings. Flo is picking through a box of memories, photos, and newspaper clippings, holding each one to her nose to see if it smells. “If it’s moldy,” she says, “I have to throw it out.” She pauses on an article featuring her daughter, and her eyes tear up. “I guess I’m still in shock,” she says. “I wasn’t ready to move.”
Stephen meets them on the back porch. He’s here with his flashlight to poke around. He leaves the couple on the deck to assess the home. When he returns, he grins. “I think we can help you guys out. I think we can handle it without calling in the army,” Stephen says. Al and Flo are relieved.
A few moments later, their daughter Denise calls Stephen on the phone, and together, they discuss the situation and the way forward from here. After his call, Stephen promises to return and finish the work so their renovations can proceed. “That’s good news,” Stephen says. “They need the help.”
You can’t buy it in the tourist shops like you can Yukon Air or Newfoundland Screech. And who would want it anyway? It’s called black mold—and it’s a common ‘souvenir’ inside buildings that have been flooded. Carol Kosedy took one look and said, “I just got kinda scared.”
Carol and her husband Hugh were busy helping others after Melville, Saskatchewan’s early-summer flood, and thought their own water problems were relatively minor. After all, Carol said, “We’re fortunate because we live on a hill,” while others experienced so much damage to their homes that, “Life came to an end as they know it.”
Carol thought things were fine in her home until, “All of a sudden I went there (to the basement) two weeks ago and I noticed this black mold,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do.”
Black mold is a type of fungus that loves warm, damp places where it can grow rapidly. As it matures, it produces microscopic spores that become airborne. Health Canada recognizes that: “People respond to mold in different ways, depending upon the amount of exposure and the person’s overall health. Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of mold than others. This includes children, the elderly, and those with a weakened immune system or other medical condition(s), such as asthma, severe allergies, or other respiratory conditions.” The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety notes that: “For some people the inhalation of the mold, fragments of the molds, or spores can lead to health problems or make certain health conditions worse.” Damp wood, drywall, and paper products promote rapid growth and spreading of the mold.
Carol had seen the specially equipped Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Unit trailer on her way to and from work at the hospital in Melville. She thought, “We are so fortunate that Samaritan’s Purse is here for people who need help.” Then it hit her, “I need help! I need these people! I need somebody!”
“I stopped in and I said, ‘This is my problem. I really don’t know what to do. I’m scared. I’m wearing a mask but you know this stuff is moving and it’s moving bad.”
Stephen Joudry (pictured right), who coordinated the Samaritan’s Purse flood response in Melville and area, immediately arranged to inspect her home. Then a team of volunteers arrived with protective gear and began gutting the basement room full of mold (and mice). Before the team left, they set up electric fans to help dry out the basement and recommended that Carol install a dehumidifier to hasten the drying process.
A few days later, Stephen returned to assess the progress and spray the infected areas with a special disinfectant that kills any residual mold and guards against its return. Carol is relieved—her fears are gone just in time to host family that is visiting over the long weekend. “I was feeling so lost and I am so glad I talked to you guys…I’m feeling so much better now.”
Samaritan's Purse Helps Karen Daunheimer
Karen Daunheimer lives in the small town of Neudorf, Saskatchewan. She’s endured a lot of hardship during her lifetime.
The latest setback was the early-summer flood that hit Melville and also several homes in Neudorf, including Daunheimer’s. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers cleaned out her basement and tarped her roof. Tonight, volunteer Ted Redekop has returned to spray her basement and eliminate any remaining mold.
Karen threads through the crowd of furniture in her living room to a small open space in her kitchen around the table. She’s grateful to Samaritan’s Purse because their efforts enabled her to live in her home again. She’d been forced to sleep in a motel for a several nights because she suffers with an auto-immune deficiency, and the mold interfered with her health.
“I came home about halfway through the rain,” she says. When I came home my son said to me, ‘The basement’s flooding.’ I looked downstairs and I could see the water was even with the bottom step already. What can you do? I didn’t know what to do.
“I did have a sump pump, but it quit. I kept looking down and it kept rising. I could see things starting to float and I could hear things falling over. I had nothing on the floor. Everything was up, but when the shelves and furniture started floating, things started tipping over.
“I was very upset at first. It was four o’clock in the morning and I was still looking down the stairs. I shut the door and let what happened happen. I don’t have a lot of energy. So I thought, ‘Save your energy for what you need. You’re going to need a lot for the clean-up afterwards.’”
The next day, she called the manager of the Neudorf Co-op. “I said, ‘I’ve got four feet of water in my basement. Do you have any submergible sump pumps?’ He told me he had one left, but no hose for it.” She bought it.
Karen, her youngest son, and a friend improvised a hose from duct tape and a vacuum cleaner hose so the new pump could begin its work.
“We pumped from 1 p.m. Sunday ‘til 8 p.m. Monday,” she says.
Once the water was out, Karen assessed the damage. “The basement was filled with soaking wet stuff. It was already starting to smell after just one day. You could see the white foamy mold already forming all along the wall where the water had been.”
“When the water was gone, I had my little cry,” she recalls. “We lost the baby pictures, the kids’ report cards. My Grade 12 diploma was down there, my social work diploma. Things like that. They were in sealed plastic containers, but when they started to float and bump into other things, they leaked. Only two of them made it. The photos were moldy and gobbed together. When you tried to pull them apart they just ripped.
“My water heater and furnace were out,” she says. “My washer and dryer were gone. I don’t have any way to wash anything. I don’t have hot water. I don’t have heat. We couldn’t get out of town for the first three-and-a-half days. We were blocked in because every road was washed out.”
Finally, she was able to make it to the disaster center at the Horizon Credit Union Center. Because of Karen’s medical condition, she was given a room in a motel in Melville. While she was there, Neudorf was hit with another calamity.
“Exactly a week after the flood, we had a hail storm. That’s what ruined my roof. Golf ball-sized hail. Some softball-sized. Some football,” Karen says. “There was one guy who had a hails stone smash out his back window, bounce through his windshield, and smash a dent in the middle of his hood. All from the same hail stone.” The hail damaged her roof so badly that it began to leak—meaning more water inside her home.
The flood and hail were another in a long list of difficulties Karen has suffered.
“I used to be a person who could hold a grudge over the littlest things. Then things started happening. My dad and my seven-year-old son were at a football game, and my dad had a heart attack and died. I had had an argument with my dad a couple of days before that. It was over something stupid. What if I had not cleared it up? About then, I decided life is too short. I got over grudges, and started living as though each day might be my last.
“I also lost a set of twin girls,” she adds. “They were three days old. They were fine. We dressed them to come home. We went away to sign papers and when we came back, they were dead. They put it down to crib death.”
“Two years later, my husband Mark died,” she recalls. “I just thought, I can’t go on. It’s too much. I was like that for a couple of days. But I knew my youngest son needed me. We were living in my husband’s house, which belonged to my in-laws. After Mark died, my in-laws kicked me off the family farm.” Despite all of the sorrow, Karen remains upbeat.
“Samaritan’s Purse cleaned up the basement,” she says. “They took the wall board off. They hauled the appliances out. They tarped the roof for me. The reason I could get home was because of Samaritan’s Purse.”
Melville Chainsaw Team
The team in Melville, Saskatchewan has been helping residents clean up after the worst flood the city has ever experienced. As if that wasn’t enough, overnight a severe storm blew through the region carrying heavy rains and high winds. The next morning saw branches littered across lawns and downed trees along the streets.
During the day, a homeowner who lives just a few blocks from where our Disaster Relief Unit is set up arrived asking for help to clear a 40-foot-tall poplar that the storm had blown over in her backyard. After supper and share-time, nine volunteers decided to give up the rest of their evening to clear this tree from the yard.
Armed with chainsaws and a bobcat, the team from both Manitoba and Ontario made short work of the project, cutting, limbing, and clearing the massive tree in about 90 minutes to the relief and delight of the homeowner.
We never know what needs we will be able to meet when we’re out on a disaster response, which is why our Disaster Relief Units are fully-stocked every time we roll out to a storm. God has blessed us with the resources to help the residents of Melville—whether mudding out a flooded home or clearing a 40-foot poplar from the backyard.
Melville Mayor appreciates Samaritan's Purse
Dr. Walter Streelasky is the mayor of Melville. Two-and-a-half weeks after early-summer floodwaters receded in Melville, Saskatchewan, he is in his office writing thank you notes to groups and individuals who helped his city during its crisis.
Of Samaritan’s Purse, he says: “Here’s a group who came to our city and said, ‘Let’s take the burden off the shoulders of some of these people.’ I’m so grateful for that.”
“A lot of our structures are prepared for a one-in-50-year flood, whether it’s a dam site or a reservoir, and other infrastructure,” he adds. “This flood was probably a one-in-150-year flood. The rain, the wet, and so on—we coped with that as best we could. But then when we had to evacuate the hospital and Saint Paul’s Home, our senior’s residence facility, there was certainly a lot of concern, almost a panic.”
Fortunately, Streelasky says there was also a very strong response from local volunteers who helped to pile up protective sandbags around various buildings, including the hospital and senior’s home. “Many people were manning the sandbags, and running back home to check on their sump pumps and running back to help again.” Melville’s citizens packed and piled 35,000 sandbags.
“The flood waters started to subside, and the smiles started to return to our faces,” he says. “We wondered if there were 500 homes affected. We still don’t know.”
Why don’t they know? Because not everyone who suffered damage has reported it, and much of it is not easily recognizable.
“I was talking to some people from Samaritan’s Purse and they used the term ‘invisible flood,’” Streelasky said. “At this stage, that’s what it is. There aren’t many outward signs, but there’s still a lot of work left to do in basements and family rooms.”
“Samaritan’s Purse set up its specially equipped Disaster Relief Unit at the Horizon Credit Union Center and are doing a tremendous job of assisting those who can’t care for themselves—the elderly, the widow, the widower. They still have their homes. They love where they live and their neighbors.” “I know that some of our community members are working to assist Samaritan’s Purse,” continues Streelasky. “But I know that more are required. We hope our residents do come forward. I also know that our residents are probably weary. That might affect the numbers of volunteers. I know there have been food and monetary donations to Samaritan’s Purse. And we hope this continues.”
“We very much appreciate this organization coming to our community, rolling up their sleeves, and getting to work,” Streelasky says. “You see the very best of human beings when you see a group like Samaritan’s Purse.”
“There are some here from Moncton, New Brunswick, and Calgary,” he notes. “It overwhelms us with gratitude. They’re so considerate of people in need, and at this point in time, our community is a community in need.”
“I’ve been the mayor of this community for eight years, going on nine,” he adds. “I’ve known it to be a welcoming and supportive community. But this flood called for a different kind of support. But our people came out. They were patient. They were considerate. It’s made us weary, but it’s bonded us. We’re called to care for our neighbor, to love our neighbor. This flood called us to tighten our bonds.”
“It was a stressful and expensive event,” he notes. “There’s no doubt there will be economic loss and hardship. But Samaritan’s Purse is trying to help, to overcome this gap.”
The Melville Flood's Christmas Connection
For 84-year-old Helen Ward, the Melville flood in late June and early July connects to Christmas. Why? Because it’s Samaritan’s Purse volunteers who are cleaning up the flood damage in her basement, while she’s been a consistent volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift program for decades.
Helen’s “flood story” begins in the fall of 1961—with a hail storm, and the response of some generous strangers that taught her the impact giving can have.
“We had a beautiful crop coming up,” she recalls. “And we had little wee kids. My husband went to buy a binder for the harvest. By the time he got home, we were hailed out—nothing to harvest.”
“We were counting on that crop,” she continues. “And we had to buy feed for our animals. To make a long story short, Christmas was right around the corner. We had little kids. How do we tell them they get nothing for Christmas? We were very upset about the whole thing. And we didn’t know what to do. We had nothing to sell.”
“The minister from the church phoned my husband and wanted to see him,” she says. “And some church in Toronto sent all these Christmas supplies out here to be distributed. There were lots of families that got hailed out.”
“That was the best Christmas we ever had in our lives,” she notes. “We got nuts, candy, apples, oranges, gifts from Santa Claus, gifts from each other. Food. A turkey. Everything. You couldn’t have asked for anything more. Christmas got into my heart.”
So years later, when Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child program first came to Melville, Helen jumped on it. She remembered how people had been generous when her family was struggling, and she saw an opportunity to be generous to struggling children and their families in the developing world.
“I’ve been doing the shoeboxes ever since. Maybe 20 years. At first I did only about 20 boxes, because I really didn’t know what I was doing.”
“Samaritan’s Purse didn’t supply us with boxes at first,” she recalls. “I bought a lot of shoes, too. I also went to the Melville shoe store and asked him to save the shoe boxes. ‘How many do you need?’ he’d ask me. ‘Well, I’d say 20 or whatever. When I asked for 30, he said ‘Helen, how am I supposed to get that many?’ I said, ‘Just do the best you can.’ He helped out a lot. If I went to pick them up and he didn’t have enough boxes, he’d pull shoes out of boxes and set them on the shelf."
“Every year, I packed a few more,” Helen says. “Last year, I did 117. I was only aiming to do 100, but I had enough stuff left over, so I did 117. I’ve got six or eight of those blue totes filled with stuff for this year already.”
“I buy everything, and I pick up the shoeboxes,” she explains. “When I get everything ready, I phone 10 relatives. They come. We have dinner. After dinner we pack shoeboxes. Then I phone my son or my nephew to come and take them to town.”
“Because I’m 84, one of these days I won’t be here to do the shoeboxes,” she says. “I don’t know when of course. My granddaughter in Regina’s going to do it when I can’t. And so is my niece.”
This year, the flood that visited Melville brought several centimeters of water into Helen Ward’s basement. “When the flood first happened, I didn’t know if I wanted to be alive the next morning,” she says. “I was so depressed. We had just been through a flood. I worked day and night vacuuming the water up,” she says. It was so much work getting my basement back to what it was. Now it’s happened again. I can’t afford to spend as much this time around as I did last time.”
Mold quickly began to crawl up her basement wall. “I couldn’t believe the mold on my drywall,” Helen says. “My breathing has been affected.”
Her family members did what they could. “They took the rugs out of the basement, and hauled a lot of stuff out,” she says. Helen’s son signed her up to be helped by Samaritan’s Purse. She shakes her head. “When somebody said Samaritan’s Purse was here to help after the flood, I said, ‘Are you crazy or what?’ I never heard of this part of Samaritan’s Purse before.”
Samaritan’s Purse has helped victims of many natural disasters in Canada—including floods in almost every Canadian province, fires in Alberta, and a tornado in Ontario. We’ve also responded to many disasters abroad—including the enormous earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the devastating earthquake/tsunami in Japan in 2011, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.
Chaplain's View of a Flood
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada is providing volunteer Rapid Response Team chaplains to work alongside Samaritan’s Purse volunteers at the disaster sites.
Victims of a flood—like the one that hit Melville and other parts of Saskatchewan recently—struggle with the obvious aspects of the disaster. They have to clean up and sometimes rebuild. But the physical damage often becomes a window into emotional and spiritual struggles.
That’s why the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada (BGEAC) provides volunteer Rapid Response Team chaplains to work alongside Samaritan’s Purse volunteers at disaster sites. The chaplains support the victims, the clean-up volunteers, and even Samaritan’s Purse staff. In Melville, Rapid Response Team chaplains visit flood-damaged homes while the clean-up work is underway—talking and praying with the homeowners and volunteers. When the clean-up is complete, the chaplains follow up again with the homeowners to offer more support and prayer.
“The primary thing we do is comfort the human spirit on both a humanitarian and spiritual level,” says Mike Voth of Calgary. Mike and his wife Janet are serving in Melville as chaplains. “We come into a home following an assessor (from Samaritan’s Purse, who determines what clean-up is necessary) or following the work orders while they’re doing the mud-outs. We bring comfort.”
Don and Judy Prince of Waterloo, Ontario, serve as chaplains, too. The Melville flood response is the sixth flood to which they’ve been deployed by BGEAC. “Some (victims) are able to grasp that we’re doing this in the Name of our Lord,” Don says. “Some can’t understand why were doing it, and why we don’t charge. Some can’t grasp it, but they know it’s a religious group.”
“People are in a state where what’s happened to them really hasn’t sunk in,” Mike Voth says. “When we walk in the door, it gives them an opportunity to step away from what’s happening and tell their story. We let them tell their stories, and we listen. When they begin to tell their story, that’s the start of healing.”
“There’s often layers to the story,” Janet Voth adds. “I was talking to a woman recently about her flood damage only to discover she was still grieving the loss of her husband.”
“Most families have existing traumas going on,” Judy says. “There are already things that people are worried about whether its family relationships, or finances, that sort of thing. And then the flood comes along. For some, it’s the last straw. The majority of people still have a home, they’re still positive, but it’s not like they’ve had a carefree life—and suddenly there’s a flood.”
“Sometimes, we were dealing with people who haven’t eaten for days,” Janet says. “Though people come around with food, sometimes victims won’t take it. You’ve got to take them aside and pass them a sandwich and a bottle of water. They feel like they can’t stop working. They’ve got to keep going. We watch for signs of people at the end of their rope. Grief and trauma, suicide prevention.”
“Many times we’re the first time that they let the tears fall,” Janet continues. “Victims often feel that they have to stay strong for the people around them. It’s feels like we give them permission to grieve, to feel the pain. So many times they feel guilty. Someone always has it worse than they do.”
“Sometimes men have trouble letting go,” Mike notes. “They feel they have to stay strong for their family. And they often feel totally helpless. They feel sometimes they haven’t been able to keep the family safe. A lot of these men are in huge crisis, but they don’t want to let it show.”
In some instances it’s appropriate to bring up spiritual things. “If the Spirit leads and the people are open, we can bring the spiritual aspect into it,” Mike says. “I would say 90 percent want prayer. Even if they don’t understand it or practice it, it’s like ‘what can it hurt?’”
“Whenever we’ve been able to pray with someone, when the prayer is over, you see this whole change in their demeanor,” he adds. “From their head to their toes, it lets them breathe. God brings peace into chaos.”
Chaplains have also provided support to Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and staff too. “Sometimes (volunteer) workers are not believers,” Janet says. “Sometimes disasters are like a war zone. What they see sometimes is overwhelming to them. We help them work through what they are feeling. They are blown away by what is happening to these victims. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the sights and smells.”
One of the most amazing things Don has seen is hope. “In the midst of their tears, and sorrow, and their grief and losing everything, I see hope,” he says. “I see these people and I ask myself: ‘Wow. Could I be that strong? Could I be that hopeful?’ Yeah, it gets emotional. That’s the kind of hope I think I see. People with tears in their eyes, but feeling good, despite the loss.”
“The big question people ask is ‘where was God when the disaster happened?’” Mike notes. Samaritan’s Purse can serve as the answer to that question. “When you go in and start meeting physical needs, then they want to know more.”
“Sometimes people know who Billy Graham is and Samaritan’s Purse is,” Janet says. “Other houses I walk in and they ask: ‘Are you Billy?’”
“It’s the model that Christ gave us,” Mike concludes. “Christ came to serve. That’s what Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association both do. Samaritan’s Purse walks through the door to serve. We (from the Billy Graham Association) follow through with comforting and spiritual support. Without the serving, the Gospel doesn’t spread. We need to earn the right to speak.”
Mae's Double Blessing
For Mae Joudry, office manager for Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s flood response operations base in Melville, Saskatchewan, Trevor Dumalski is her own personal “double blessing.”
Mae and her husband Stephen, the flood response coordinator, arrived in Melville two days after the flood struck in late June. They set up Samaritan’s Purse’s specially equipped tractor trailer called a Disaster Relief Unit, but two major problems immediately confronted them.
“When we arrived here, the first thing was to get the Internet connected,” Mae says. “We need it for our computers; our phones (also) run off the Internet. Usually we hook into the wifi of a facility. However, it wouldn’t work. We tried hooking up on Tuesday, and by Friday it still wouldn’t work.”
The second problem was where they would sleep. Stephen and Mae could check into a hotel when they first arrived on a Tuesday. But they were told they’d have to move out by Thursday because all of Melville’s hotels and motels were completely booked months in advance for a baseball tournament. No room at the inn.
“Trevor showed up on Wednesday,” Mae says. “He dropped by because his church mentioned we were coming. He worked (full-time) and wouldn’t be able to help (by volunteering), so he wanted to donate. Then he came by Wednesday night with his family. We showed them the trailer. We were starting with volunteers the next day.
“He asked, ‘Is there anything else I can do for you?’” she recalls. “I said, ‘You can pray for lodging. As of tomorrow, we don’t have a hotel because they’re booked solid for a ball tournament.’
“The next morning, when we checked out of the hotel, I prayed, ‘Lord, I’ll give you till three o’clock. If the problem isn’t solved by three o’clock, then I’ll know you want me to go to Yorkton,’” a 45-minute drive from Melville. “Thursday morning, about 10 o’clock, Trevor shows up,” Mae recalls. “He said, ‘My wife and I have talked. We’ve just finished our basement. It’s not all done, but it’s 1,600 square feet, and it has a kitchen area and a family room, and two bedrooms. Would that be helpful?’ That was the first blessing, right there.
“Then Stephen asked Trevor where he worked. Trevor told us he was in charge of technology for Horizons Credit Union. So Stephen asked if he knew anything about our Internet situation. He said, ‘Yes.’
He spent hours getting our Internet up and running. Thanks to him, we have phones and Internet. So he’s our double blessing—lodging and Internet. Two critical things.”
“God’s been working on me,” Mae says. “(He’s been telling me), ‘If you’ve got faith, just leave it with me. Don’t try and do it for me. Leave it with me.’ So by 10 o’clock, He had answered prayer. It gives me goose bumps. Every year I pray, ‘Lord, stretch me. Lord, teach me.’ The Lord’s teaching me about faith. I have a hard time letting Him take control.”
“Steve, Mae, (and chaplains) Judy and Don are staying at my house,” Trevor notes. “We’re taking care of them there. So we talk about God Moments. You really don’t realize how many there are in a day until you start noticing them. There are so many.”
“In this community, we have a lot of elderly people 75, 85 years old,” he says. “They can’t help themselves. So someone like Samaritan’s Purse comes in. I’ve been aware of Samaritan’s Purse for a while now. I knew they did relief work overseas, but didn’t realize they help here at home. When the truck pulled up, we came to see how we could help.”
When Trevor discovers he’s been the answer to Mae’s prayers, he gets excited. “God’s work is awesome,” he says. “I’ve been involved with Samaritan’s Purse here since last Thursday. “I helped with odd bits of technology work and stuff. Everything has just lined up. It’s all God’s doing.”
A Day Volunteering
A day spent as a volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse is a day well spent. But exactly what does that kind of day look like?
Stephen and Mae Joudry are at the Samaritan’s Purse operations base by 7:30 a.m. to prepare for the day’s work. Mae unlocks the door to the specially equipped Disaster Relief Unit tractor trailer and dives into administrative work in the office. Stephen and team leaders, Ted Redekop and Greg Schmidt, discuss what flood clean-up is scheduled for the day, develop plans, and select equipment. A chaplain, Judy Prince, sets up the volunteer sign-up table and stocks it with baked goods.
By 8 a.m., volunteers begin to arrive. They sign in, each gets his or her trademark orange Samaritan’s Purse t-shirt, and is assigned to a work team.
All of the jobs are assigned, final bits of equipment are loaded onto the trucks, and then the teams gather as one large group. Stephen reminds the group of our purpose, which is “to be there for the homeowner. Listen,” he reminds them. “Productivity is not the most important thing.” Then group members join hands while chaplain Don Prince briefly prays.
The work teams disperse to their vehicles and drive to each job site. They work until about 11:45 a.m., then hop back into the trucks and return to the base for lunch cooked and served by the Salvation Army’s Glenna and Keith Cryderman.
Lunch today is sloppy-joes, salad, vegetables, and fresh watermelon. Everyone digs in. Volunteers from Spiritwood and Leoville have been moving appliances all morning, so they’re especially hungry and go back for seconds. One volunteer’s boss drops by. He gave her the day off so she could help. The rest of the volunteers trade jokes and stories with their new friends. After a good break, it’s back to the trucks for an afternoon of helping. By then, a few additional volunteers have arrived to provide more assistance.
The work teams finish around 5:00 p.m. and drive back to the base.
After everyone’s had a chance to reconnect, the big group disperses. Some head back to their homes in Melville or nearby. Others go to hotels or billets. Others are back on the road, often after having driven for hours to reach Melville to provide help to families hurting from the flood. Each volunteer leaves a little richer than when he or she came.
The Carrot River Crew helps a Melville Resident
Four young men from Carrot River in northern Saskatchewan have just driven south for five hours to volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse and help Melville’s flood victims.
The road-weary crew meets Todd Hutchinson, a local resident, in front of his father’s home. The green grass is cut and trimmed, the bungalow neat and well maintained.
Todd’s dad isn’t in his home at the moment. He’s in Regina getting chemotherapy. Todd has been doing what he can, but he’s torn between supporting his father in his treatments, and repairing the family home. Todd also has a full-time job, but fortunately, he was able to use vacation time to help manage.
The crew heads into the basement to take a look. Todd has already moved furniture and ripped out part of the soggy, smelly carpet. Now some piled up furniture and shelving, plus his father’s workbench, need to be moved to gain access to the remaining carpet. On the workbench, every tool is in its place and the surface is clear and neat.
The Carrot River volunteers are Dwayne Dyck, Bobby Isaac, Quinton Isaac, and Brandon Reimer. They left home at 4 a.m., and reported for work at the Samaritan’s Purse operations base in Melville at 9 a.m. Dwayne didn’t even bother to sleep after finishing his night shift.
Greg Schmidt, their team leader, describes the work that needs to be done at the father’s home, and the Carrot River crew flies into action. A very grateful Todd leaves them so he can be with his father.
Dwayne opens the windows for ventilation. Brandon pries off the water-damaged door trim and baseboards. Quinton pushes furniture aside and begins to rip out more carpet. Bobby snaps a chalk line so the soggy drywall can be cut and removed. There’s talking, jokes, and singing tossed back and forth between the men as they work.
It’s difficult to find a place to stand as the busy crew moves around the small basement. They push themselves throughout the day, and finish the basement clean-up by dinner time. But while other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers on other job sites dig into some supper, the tired four from Carrot River skip the meal so they can begin the long drive home. Todd is still at the hospital with his dad.
“I didn’t think we were going to finish,” says Greg, their supervisor for the day. “But they worked hard. I’m going to sleep well tonight.”
Melville residents help their neighbors
If the Melville flood is a question, volunteers are the answer! Melville residents need help with the flood clean-up. Volunteers are here to answer the need. Some volunteers are coming from Melville itself.
Heidi Schulz’s day job is as a funeral director for one of the two funeral homes in Melville. She’s here to give back to her community and help those who need a hand. She bounces up to the volunteer desk to the cheers of other volunteers who know her.
“I’m here because I love to be here,” she says. “I like the physical work. It gives my brain a rest.”
Today she’s preparing to work with three other volunteers in the flood-damaged basement of a Melville home owned by Karen. Heidi’s team loads supplies into a Samaritan’s Purse truck, climbs aboard, and heads to the job site. Her team members include Cheryl Trafanako, who works at a local bank, and Keegan Braun, the son of a Melville pastor (Keegan, pictured right).
Volunteers arrive in Melville at Samaritan’s Purse operations base—with its specially equipped Disaster Relief Unit transport truck—from all over western Canada. This week, crews have driven in from Manitoba and Alberta. Local residents jump into the mix too.
“Volunteers are the heartbeat of the work,” says Stephen Joudry, a project manager with Samaritan’s Purse. “Without volunteers, we’re just a big box of tools. The job can only be done with their help.”
When the crew arrives at Karen's home and everyone dons protective masks to avoid inhaling mold spores, she's already wearing a mask of her own. Karen has been up all night because the mold interferes with her sleep. She’s in her basement washing laundry, trying to get rid of mold in anything she can wash.
As the team starts to work, Karen seems relieved. “I couldn’t keep up with the wet and the mold coming up,” Karen says. “I couldn’t get it all. I’m on my own. It keeps coming back until you get it all.”
Adding to her frustration is the fact the flood also destroyed many personal items.
“I lost all the kids stuff that was in a box,” Karen says. “All the stuff I was going to put in a scrap book for them. That was probably the worst part. The rest can be replaced.”
Karen’s basement filled with 20 centimeters of water that mixed with a septic tank back-up to create an orange-yellow mix of disgusting fluid. She took photos, and is sharing them with the volunteers.
The water soaked into the basement drywall and insulation: a perfect environment for mold. The volunteers begin ripping out the drywall and insulation. The flooring has already been removed.
Ted Redekop, a volunteer from Calgary, guides the crew’s work. They snap a chalk line parallel to the basement floor, about 1.3 meters up, and begin cutting the drywall. Heidi is operating the reciprocating saw, while Keegan removes the cut pieces of drywall, and Cheryl pulls out the wet insulation.
The crew hauls the contaminated waste to the street edge where the City of Melville will pick it up and haul it away. The volunteers move to another flood-damaged home to repeat the clean-up process. Meanwhile, Samaritan’s Purse prepares to send a separate team to Karen’s home to spray the entire basement to ensure the mold doesn’t reappear. Only then can the rebuilding of her basement begin.
We love our volunteers!
Samaritan's Purse helps the Camerons
“Samaritan’s Purse are angels in disguise,” Valerie Cameron says. “You just can’t see their wings.”
She and her husband Rod and their son Matthew live in yellow bungalow with brown trim on Melville’s Main Street. The grass is a brilliant green, and well trimmed. To anyone driving by, things look fine.
But the Camerons were hit hard by the Melville flood. It began with what felt like a spring rain storm. The rain never let up. “We had nine inches of rain in 24 hours,” Valerie says.
While it was still raining, water started to seep up through the floor of the basement. The family began to frantically pack boxes up the stairs and prepared to pump water out of the basement to try to limit the damage.
“We can lose everything but don’t lose the Christmas decorations,” Valerie says.
“I helped bring boxes up from the basement,” Matthew says.
“Melville had a warning that the dam might break,” Rod adds. “We had 10 minutes to get out of here if it did. We didn’t know where we were going to go. Both main roads were blocked off so we couldn’t go to Regina or Yorkton, unless you took the back roads, but those were often blocked, too.”
“We were pushing four days of water and pushing brooms of water,” Valerie says. “For four days and four nights. The more we pushed water, the more came in. You’d be down there 15 hours. One time Matthew came down and asked: ‘Are you going to be making dinner?’ It was 8 o’clock.”
“It was just clear water—thank God for that,” Rod says. “But it was a foot deep. The mold smell was terrible.”
In the middle of it all, Rod’s heart condition began to act up. “We couldn’t do any more,” he said. “I wound up in the hospital. My heart went crazy on me.” He points to Valerie. “She just got out of the hospital for back surgery.”
Once the water receded, the dampness and mold in their basement set in, so they relocated for a few days to a hotel. “Then we went down to the ice rink,” Valerie said. “The Red Cross was there. Hydro was there. You people were there. It went so smoothly.”
A Samaritan’s Purse volunteer talked to the family while they were at the rink. “Rod signed up,” Valerie says. “Then Samaritan’s Purse contacted us. I think we were the first family they helped.”
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains contacted them before the clean-up and mold removal work began. “Don and Judy stopped by, first,” Valerie recalls. “We were still in shock. Where do we start? They had such a calming effect on Matthew. They gave him a book written by Franklin Graham.”
Then the work crew arrived. “They were in the whole day Thursday and finished on the Friday,” she says. “And they came to spray (to prevent against future mold) at the end of the day.”
The volunteer crew worked hard. “They slushed through everything,” Valerie says. “They were unstoppable. Nothing seemed like it was too much trouble.”
“We don’t know many people,” Valerie says. “We couldn’t get anyone to help us. And we knew we couldn’t do it on our own. If it hadn’t had been for Samaritan’s Purse, I don’t know where we’d be.”
Melville: The Invisible Flood
“Melville’s flood caused damage that’s difficult to see,” notes Greg Schmidt, a retired firefighter who is waiting for other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers to arrive and help clean up a flood-damaged home in the Saskatchewan community 150 kilometers northeast of Regina.
Because the flood damage in Melville is difficult to see, it can be equally difficult for Canadians to realize how great a need there is for volunteers to help with the clean-up.
Schmidt, from Calgary, also served with Samaritan’s Purse a year ago in High River, after mammoth floods throughout southern Alberta.
“When you drove down the streets of High River, you could see where the damage was,” he said. “The river moved in and brought the mud with it. It was more like a lava flow of mud.”
The Melville flood, which happened in early July, was different.
“You don’t see the damage,” Schmidt says. “The water came and sunk back down. There’s no mud around anywhere. People’s lawns are green. As you drive around town here, you don’t see much. You see the occasional pile of furniture and belongings in peoples’ yards. Everything looks like it’s back to normal.”
But appearances are deceiving. Though the water didn’t carry a payload of mud, it brought mold, rot, and messy sewer back-ups to many houses. You aren’t aware of it until you walk through the doors.
“You can’t see it until you actually go in a house,” Schmidt says. “You smell the mold and mildew growing in there.”
He is itching to get the work done, and wants more people to sign on as volunteers.
“The longer it goes, the worse it’s going to get,” Schmidt says. “It’s been over two weeks now. Homes are starting to get pretty stinky and smelly.”
Saskatchewan Flood Response
Samaritan's Purse has deployed a Disaster Relief Unit and is recruiting local volunteers to devastating flooding in the Melville area.
Samaritan’s Purse's specially-equipped Disaster Relief Units has arrived in Melville, Saskatchewan, in response to flooding that has damaged more than 500 homes in the region. We are recruiting volunteers to clean up homes in Melville and nearby Yorkton.
“People in these communities are struggling,” said Darren Tosh, Samaritan’s Purse Canada’s projects director. “We’ve been monitoring the situation to gather information about the damage, and we are in contact with churches and other non-government partners in the area to provide a coordinated response.”
Our Disaster Relief Units are specially equipped tractor trailers stocked with generators, pumps, hand tools, and safety gear for staff and volunteers to clean up homes—and in doing so, share God's love in a tangible way with hurting people. The units also serve as volunteer coordination centers, and are equipped with self-contained offices and communications systems in order to best carry out our Canadian disaster responses.
“We want to thank Samaritan’s Purse Canada for their aid during this unprecedented flood in southeastern Saskatchewan,” said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. “Organizations like yours make a real difference to people who desperately need help.”
Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief staff Wanda and Claus Burchert assessed the flood damage, and their reports were dire: “The area that is flooding is the whole southeast corner of Saskatchewan—it’s quite extensive,” said Wanda. “We were north of Regina, and it goes all the way down south, all the way to the US border…A lot of the side roads have been washed out and there’s water running like rapids over where there’s supposed to be a road.”
The Burcherts heard the stories of many flooded homeowners while representing Samaritan’s Purse at Melville’s recovery center. “When I explained what we do and then added, ‘And it’s free’—tears came, because they just don’t know how they’re going to cope with it,” said Wanda. “So immediately there’s some hope and relief.”
We worked directly with Provincial Disaster Assistance Program officials. 135 work orders were completed (89 of those have been completed by Samaritan's Purse volunteers). The work orders were to clean out and sanitize homes that were filled with anywhere from four inches to four feet of floodwater. The community is largely seniors and many do not have family support locally. Samaritan’s Purse is also partnering with Rapid Response Team chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to help meet the emotional and spiritual needs of flood survivors and volunteers.
In total, 348 volunteers served with Samaritan's Purse, contributing 2,789 hours. Churches and partner agencies helped to mobilize people.
Ways you can help
Please pray that the Lord would comfort and strengthen victims of disaster, domestically and worldwide. Also lift up our Disaster Relief team; may they respond wisely and efficiently when disaster strikes, so that countless people may receive help in Jesus’ Name.
Your financial gifts of any amount are needed to bring relief to Canadian families affected by severe flooding and other disasters. Please give generously today. Donate Here