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Huntington University student group helps with rebuilding in flood-ravaged Missouri town

Friday, November 1, 2013 - 6:50 am

Every morning, before the break of dawn, a man rises. He wakes and drives two and a half hours to the small town of Piedmont, Mo., to rebuild houses destroyed by flooding. A job that is not even his own to do, but every morning he rises just the same. Now, time is running short.

A group of six Huntington University students traveled to Piedmont from Oct. 11-15 to work with World Renew Disaster Response to provide the region with disaster relief efforts after a 2008 flood decimated the town.

The Fall Break trip to the town of fewer than 2,000 residents was led by Friesen Center volunteer coordinator, Jacob Cross, and Grace McBrayer, director of volunteer service and outreach ministry.

Each morning, the team woke and met the worker at the construction site. This man who drove such as a long way to do this work — only introduced to the team as Billy — helped the team become a force of good that Piedmont would not soon forget.

“Billy wasn't even supposed to be working on the houses. He was only supposed to direct us, but he has been working on the houses because of a lack of volunteers,” Cross said. “Billy said that the houses needed to be done soon to meet a deadline, and they wouldn't have been finished in time if we didn't come. He told us that we were a godsend and arrived at the perfect time.”

Three days were spent leveling and evening out landscapes as well as installing insulation, painting, digging holes for plumbing and cleaning wreckage from the destroyed houses. A total of 140 hours were spent by the team throughout the week. Each night, the team would close the day with reflection and a time of devotionals.

“It really put in perspective why we were there doing the work we were doing,” said freshman Craig Campbell, a team member on the trip. “It really helped to see how we were glorifying God doing something even in a small town.”

Piedmont is located at the base of the Ozark Foothills in Missouri, and when the nearby hills and mountains experience rain, the town does as well. Flooding is a notorious foe to this region. Being so sparsely populated, the area is hardly even considered for disaster relief efforts. But for Billy and the HU students, that made this location even more special.

This was the first Fall Break trip for the newly named Friesen Center for Volunteer Services. Though small in participants and location size, the journey left a big impact for those who now will have houses to call home after two years. After so much hard work, Billy's project has been finished and the town of Piedmont will never be the same.

“I was proud to witness these students do some of the hardest and dirtiest work I've seen our volunteers ever be asked to do on any trip,” McBrayer said. “Advising these trips continues to be the best part of my job.”

Micah Christensen is senior public relations and communication studies major at Huntington University in Huntington. He is a native of Winamac.