October 28, 2005
Fall Break for most college students is usually a time of relaxation after experiencing the rigors of mid-term exams. For a group of Oklahoma Baptist University students, however, it was a time of service in helping victims recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.
A team of 11 from OBU journeyed to Orange, Texas, on Oct. 19, and provided relief for homes in the southeast corner of the Lone Star State. They joined volunteers from FEMA, Red Cross and Texas Baptist Men in the relief project.
“The majority of our time was spent clearing away trees,” said Elizabeth Finch, OBU’s community ministry coordinator, who grew up in Orange, and led the team. “If we weren’t eating or sleeping, we were out in yards removing tree limbs, and these were not average trees we removed. These were enormous cedar and pine trees that occupied the majority of the yards and landed on houses.”
Six freshmen, one sophomore, one junior and two seniors comprised the group that represented a wide array of OBU majors, including art, education, ministry, music, nursing and psychology. The team included the following:
Dustin Davis, a senior psychology major from Tulsa, Okla.; Stacy Miller, a senior piano performance major from Plains, Kan.; Annie Lewis, a junior education major from Tulsa, Okla.; Mike Ehrsam, a sophomore youth ministry major from Ada, Okla.; Kelly Gardner, a freshman art education major from Kansas City, Mo.; Laura Ingram, a freshman music major from Kansas City, Mo.; Tabitha Jones, a freshman nursing major from Tulsa, Okla.; Rachel Owens, a freshman nursing major from Kennewick, Washington; Tara Ryan, a freshman cross cultural ministries major from Tulsa, Okla.; and Whitney Shaw, a freshman cross cultural ministries major from St. Louis, Mo.
“I never have seen so many trees in my life,” said Jones, who spent her birthday clearing out yards in Orange. “My favorite experience of the trip was when we were moving the trees out of this elderly lady’s house. She was just coming back and did not expect to see us. She was so shocked that we were there to help, and she just cried when she saw how much we cleared away.”
The team stayed in the family life center at First Baptist Church of Orange, which represented more than 200 homes needing assistance. The OBU team directly assisted 12 of the houses.
The students had the opportunity to share stories at dinner time, when all of the volunteers met together each evening. They also participated in Sunday worship at the church, and Miller offered her musical talents by playing the piano during the morning service.
“That service was a great way to end our trip,” said Finch. “It was exciting because three of the FEMA workers came that morning, and it was encouraging to see that we had an influence in their coming.”