by Nikki Roberti Miller, a Samaritan’s Purse staff writer who covered our response to a winter storm in Augusta, Georgia
“No, Tom. I’m really OK on the ground.”
“But you can take much better pictures up here!”
“And how will I get down?” I nervously laughed, staring up at the chainsaw-wielding volunteer above me.
“We’ll discuss that later. Just grab my hand.”
I don’t know why I went on the roof. I don’t even know why they wanted me up there to begin with. After all, I was pretty sure I would just be in the way. Standing there, inches from a chainsaw that was cutting pieces off the tree I was instructed to hold on to for support while snapping pictures, I couldn’t help but think: Wow. How did I get here?
And I don’t mean taking that first step on the ladder or that dizzying feeling that makes you black out those terrifying memories.
I mean being here and willing to be on a roof when just a year ago, I was almost too afraid to drive to my first disaster.
Last February when a tornado hit a small town in Georgia, I just happened to be the only available writer—the writer who actually didn’t go on trips because I mostly wrote titles and descriptions for videos.
But I went, even though I was freaking out because little, scaredy-cat me hadn’t driven farther than an hour and a half by myself before, and this time I had to drive more than five hours for my job. I remember finally getting to that little church in Calhoun and wanting to kiss the ground before all the lady volunteers embraced me and said, “Oh, you poor thing. We hate driving too.”
Now a year later, I was back in Georgia and on a roof— a roof that later proved to be an important icebreaker for the homeowner who struck up a conversation as soon as I got safely back down about how she was “shaking” for me.
Instead of just an interview like some apprehensive homeowners tend to treat them, being on her roof somehow opened up the door for a friendship to form. We spent the next four hours chatting about God, life, and everything in between.
Would that have happened if I hadn’t gone on the roof?
But the experience didn’t just remind me of my own growth from this past year. I couldn’t help but think of all the people I had met on these disaster relief trips who also had that moment of doubt when taking a first step.
I thought about the volunteer cook who told me she never imagined she’d be able to travel so far away from home by herself. But as she began to make sandwiches for the volunteers’ lunches, she couldn’t help but smile. “I’m so glad my friend talked me into this. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
I thought about the 87-year-old widow who was so grateful to finally have help with her damaged yard that she drove by herself clear across the city to a side of town she said she “usually had no business being” just so she could have dinner with our volunteers. She wanted to serve them by throwing away paper plates and wiping down the tables.
I thought about the Army Captain who typically worked in an office and admitted he was afraid of heights and sharp things. But while volunteering, he learned how to chop wood and haul it away for homeowners in Jesus’ Name.
And I thought about the volunteer who arrived for her first disaster relief response ever and said, “Thank you for having an organization that lets a middle-aged, over-weight lady with no skills come out and help.”
I watched as she was immediately welcomed into the Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief family and told that she was exactly what we needed, and we couldn’t wait to see how God would use her in a mighty way.
So often people feel limited by the things they think they can’t do that they never bother taking that first step to see where God will take them. It can be frightening to face whatever fear may be holding you back—like the self-employed business owner who closed his shop to take unpaid time off so he could volunteer during a disaster even though he sometimes stresses about finances.
But he told me that he’s so glad he took that first big step because he’s been hooked ever since and has seen God work in ways he can’t even begin to describe.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life with backgrounds that go from skilled landscaper to retiree to stay-at-home mom. God uses all of them in a ministry that touches lives in a way that our country needs more than ever before.
Time and time again, homeowners are moved to tears by the average, everyday volunteers they meet who make sacrifices in order to serve them in Jesus’ Name.
But it started with that first little step of going outside their comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be that first step onto a ladder that leads to a roof. It could just be hopping in your car and driving farther than you ever drove before.
Whatever your first step may be, pray for direction and take it. There are many opportunities waiting for people just like you on our volunteer network, and we need your help.