Samaritan's Purse Volunteer: I Was 'Floored' By Tornado Devastation

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:49 PM

By Greg Richter and Kathleen Walter

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Jim Ault, a volunteer with the Samaritan's Purse Christian international relief organization run by the Rev. Franklin Graham, tells Newsmax TV he was "floored" by the destruction he's seen in tornado-ravaged Moore, Okla.

"It really is a shocker," said Ault, a former firefighter who has seen 26 years of rescues, but no community as devastated as Moore.

"I've never seen the enormity of destruction in such a modern-built area. You have modern buildings with steel and concrete construction just taken to the ground . . . moving through a modern shopping center, IMAX theater, pretty much buildings leveled."

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Still, Ault said, the residents have been amazingly upbeat and hopeful, considering what they've just been through. "Even though there's enormous grief behind the scenes, they're putting on a face forward to try and have a positive attitude to get a rebuild going."

Samaritan’s Purse has deployed tractor-trailers filled with tools to assist in the recovery as well as a program manager and assessors like Ault. The group works with public safety and law enforcement officials as well as local churches to find the hardest hit areas, where people are having the most difficulty getting back on their feet.

Volunteers are also brought in from throughout the country to help with the work getting "roofs tarped, windows closed up, debris picked up, whatever it takes."

Homeowners who have lost entire households can get help retrieving their belongings from the rubble and getting them packed. "And then we have chaplains who are coming alongside of us to minister to their hearts," Ault said.

Ault praised public safety officials in Oklahoma, who have helped the organization hit the ground running. As someone with a background in public safety, Ault said he understands the need to maintain public safety.

"Their public safety people have been very receptive," Ault said. "They're opening the doors. They're getting us in there right away to get our hands on."

Most of the tornado victims are struggling to understand the tragedy, according to Ault. "It's just been so quick, so soon."

While some victims do not have any insurance at all, many others who have insurance haven't yet had the opportunity to file claims, he said.

"The short-term needs are just getting people to some sort of life again by getting where there's potential for stabilizing a house that isn’t completely destroyed," he said. "We want to get what's there stabilized and under cover for rain, getting people's personal belongings and their most valuable possessions recovered. Those are probably the immediate needs right as well as administering to some broken hearts."

The toughest question after such tragedies is how God can let bad things happen to good people, Ault explains.

"But the truth of the matter is, in the six years that I've been volunteering with Samaritan's Purse, what I've seen in these tragedies . . . I can give you testimony after testimony of where God has been in the midst of the fire with them," Ault said. "He grieves right along with them. And, at the end of the day, He sent his son to die to stand in the gap as a ladder out of this grief. We're already hearing testimonies here of how people should be dead and they're not."

Volunteers are needed, Ault said.

"We have a tractor trailer full of tools and supplies, and without people coming out and stepping up to volunteer with us, it's a big, glorified toolbox," he said. "So they can contact us and we'll put them to work . . . They can minister directly to the homeowner and effect change for them in a positive way.

Volunteers can sign up at spvolunteernetwork.org. Donations to help victims can be made at samaritanspurse.org. For more information on how Samaritan's Purse is helping tornado victims in Oklahama visit the group's website.

Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers are also on the ground in Hood County, Texas, helping survivors of a tornado that struck there on May 15. The international relief and evangelism organization has helped more than 27,000 families in 31 states in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and ice storms.

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