In the Aftermath: Answering the Call to Help

by Rebekah Bruckner ’18

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the nation struggles to respond, recognizing the long road ahead as well as the immediate needs. Azusa Pacific University is answering the call to help, raising funds and mobilizing teams through the Center for Student Action (CSA) to assist with disaster relief. Two teams travel to Houston in late September, comprised of nearly 100 APU students, to assist residents in clearing water from their homes. The first team departed September 21.

When Hurricane Irma made landfall in the United States on September 10, 2017, it made history. Never before had two Atlantic category four hurricanes hit the continental U.S. in a single year, much less within two weeks of one another. Both storms arrived with incredible force: Harvey marked by record-breaking levels of rain and Irma with sustained high-speed winds.

Irma destroyed the island of Barbuda, ruining nearly every structure and forcing the entire population to evacuate, before arriving in the U.S. Currently, more than 350,000 people remain without electricity in Florida, resulting in the deaths of 10 nursing home residents due to loss of air conditioning. Scarcity of gas, food, and clean water puts more at risk as people attempt to move back home. The death toll in Florida from Irma stands at 42.

Harvey’s impact will likely last decades due to the extreme flooding. In Houston, water sits stagnant, a breeding place for bacteria and disease, already testing positive for E.Coli and carrying the potential for MRSA and cellulitis, two bacterial diseases. Hurricane Harvey took 82 lives.

Nicholas Chera ’18, Honors College student, recently returned from Houston, where he served with his church, Epicentre Pasadena, in the town of Rosharon. The volunteers extracted water from people’s homes, tore out walls, and removed furniture to stave off encroaching mold. In Rosharon, approximately 80 percent of the residents lack any type of flood insurance.

“I believe that the Church is supposed to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and this was a way to live out that calling,” said Chera. “Giving money and supplies is easy, and we tend to believe that is the best way to contribute. Most of the country is thinking that way right now. While we were there we heard of donation centers that stopped accepting supplies because they were so full. The problem isn't a lack of raw materials, it's not enough people to make use of them.”

Chera encourages students to go and make a difference. “Pack bug spray, snacks, clothes you can throw away, and a resilient, positive attitude. Things will be challenging, but the reality is that you will lay the foundation for the process of rebuilding, which is critical to the success of everything that comes after it. It's not going to be easy, but it will be good.”

As a Christian university, APU’s commitment to helping those in need is central to its mission. “One of the hallmarks of a Christ-follower is the willingness to help others in need,” said Matt Browning, Ed.D., associate vice president for internationalization in the Center for Student Action. “That means giving time, money, energy, ideas, and whatever else we can to our neighbors. A primary tenant within the Center for Student Action is responsible community development,” said Browning. He stresses that APU’s response must be strategic, relational, and specific. “We ask the community of their needs rather than assuming that we know how to solve the problem.” CSA is partnering with APU alumni and churches in Houston and Florida.

Browning encourages the APU community to support the victims and volunteers through prayer. “Pray for those impacted. Pray for the families, and pray for those who are working there. Pray for divine appointments.”

If you desire to assist those affected by the storms, CSA is continuing to take donations that will be sent directly to trusted organizations. If you are interested in helping, you can find more information at

Rebekah Bruckner ’18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a English major and a graphic design minor.