Regent Students Travel to Florida for Spring Break to Help Hurricane Victims
Most college students who travel to Florida this time of year head there to party. But Regent students and staff members spent their spring break in Panama City for a different reason: To serve thousands of Hurricane Michael victims who were still suffering five months after the storm hit.
On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael became the most powerful storm in history to strike the Florida Panhandle. A deadly and devastating Category 5, Michael was unprecedented in the region for its size, strength and destructive force. The massive hurricane caused more than $25 billion in damage, killed 57 people in the U.S., and wiped out entire communities.
“Our team of 11 (nine students and two staff members) took the 15-hour drive to Florida to serve hot meals to storm victims, pray over families and the homeless, and clean up debris in some of the worst-hit parts of the city,” explained Liz Montgomery, manager of marketing projects for Regent’s Office of Alumni Relations & Events.
During much of their eight-day mission trip, the team partnered with disaster relief organization Mercy Chefs. This frontline ministry, founded by Gary LeBlanc (husband of Ann LeBlanc, Regent’s vice president of Alumni Relations & Events), has been serving hot, chef-prepared meals in devastated communities since 2006.
“They were amazing, walking out the gospel,” Ann said. “Hurting people need to see God’s love, not just hear about it; and they were definitely the hands and feet of Jesus that week, showing God’s love to everyone they met.”
When the team hit the ground in Panama City, they saw a community that, Montgomery said, was “moving and alive, but still surrounded by so much damage and debris.” Over the next five days, the students handed out meals to hurricane victims in a FEMA trailer park, in destroyed homes, and at a local church. They also cleared debris from yards, cleaned out homes, prayed with people, and shared the love and hope of Jesus Christ.
Brenna McCormick (CAS ’20) attended the mission trip with the goal of helping a community that had experienced a natural disaster. “I wanted to be able to serve,” she said. “These types of trips are vital for college students, especially because we can get so caught up in our own problems and forget to look at the world outside of our dorm room.”
“This trip is important for students because it really highlights what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus,” Ashli Hill (CAS ’19) explained. “We should love and serve others with an open, humble heart. These trips make you see the big picture, that all we do for one another is for the cause of Christ.”
“Trips like this stretch us,” insisted student Patrick Rizzi (CAS ’20). “They pull us from our comfort zones, the bubbles we want to stay in. God uses these trips to break our hearts for those in suffering … to open our eyes to how we can serve. And how meeting people’s basic needs, like a hot meal, can open the door for ministry and the gospel.”
“Panama City is not forgotten by Regent University,” Montgomery said. “So many people are still getting back on their feet. They need help. But more than anything, they need hope and support from their fellow Americans.”
To learn about enrolling in an online or on-campus degree program at Regent, visit regent.edu/apply or call 888.718.1222.