They travelled here from many Midwestern states to help families in North Florida’s Jackson and Calhoun counties as this area continues in its long-term recovery from Hurricane Michael.
The Apostolic Christian Harvest Call team has been here three months, with 17 staying for the entire rebuilding mission and groups of 40 rotating in for a week at a time.
They stayed at the Blue Springs Christian Camp while they were in the area and on Thursday night, one of their last here, they gathered once again to dedicate their work and say goodbye to a community they praised for its welcoming spirit in receiving them and its organizational excellence in making their mission go smoothly.
The North Florida Inland Long Term Recovery Group’s leader, Kevin Yoder, and others in turn heaped words of praise on those visiting volunteers and on the Salvation Army, which helped fund the materials used on the project.
But most of the service, put on by Apostolic, was on the theme of thanking God for the opportunity to serve.
They sang many hymns echoing that focus, their voices rising together in harmony unaccompanied by other instruments except for the little pitch pipe that got them started together on the right note.
Some of the people they helped were there, too, offering thanks for all that had been done. One of those people, 96-year-old Campbellton resident Willie Bell Philyor, sang a hymn for the group called “You Blessed Me Still,” another God-glorifying song.
Her granddaughter, Lillie Clark, wasn’t sure whether Philyor would have the strength for the walk when they’d arrived at the camp last Thursday and saw that the service was a good distance from the parking area. But her grandmother insisted: The group’s work put three generations of her family back under a safe and secure roof after the storm forced the original one off and sent family scrambling for temporary shelter with others.
Philyor also spoke her thanks to the group, also, as did others.
Nell Roberts was among those who stood and delivered an impromptu message. The team repaired the home she was born in. Some people had suggested to her after the storm that she tear it down. “But I just couldn’t do it,” she recalled that night, going on to say that the team’s arrival and subsequent work was like a miracle in her life that left her beloved childhood home in better shape than she could have imagined.
Jimmie and Brandi Phillips were there, too, sharing their gratitude for the new home that Harvest Call built for themselves and their three young children in Calhoun County’s Mossy Pond community. Theirs had been completely destroyed in the storm and they’ll be moving in to the new one any day now. The group also helped their boys learn or hone some basic skills, like painting.
Jimmie Phillips said he didn’t really let himself believe it was coming to pass until they poured the foundation. “It makes you know Somebody’s listening,” he said at the ceremony. “To say this is a blessing is a bit of an understatement.”
Willie Nix Jr. and his son, Trey Nix, were also there to give their thanks for the help they received and to show a large card that many of the volunteers had signed in remembering their time together, acknowledging his abundant faith in the midst of much hardship, and wishing the family well.
This is the 22nd year that Harvest Call teams have wintered down south in service to it. A group representative said 16 states were represented on this project with a total of 485 people rotating in and out through the three months. Together they logged some 38,000 volunteer hours.
They remodeled 17 homes and built five new from the ground up. Most are retirees or career construction professionals idled by their severe winters at home.
However, there were also a good number of young people on the team as well, children or grandchildren of the veteran rebuilders. They learn construction skills from their skilled elders and experience the giving along with them.
The group brushed or rolled on 680 gallons of paint, installed 2/3 of a mile in baseboard, 1.5 miles of door and window casings, and their other statistics speak of much other work done.
They ate 12,600 meals prepared by their kitchen crew, drank way more than 9,000 cups of coffee, consumed 696-dozen eggs for a total of 8,352 eaten by the group over all their time here.