by Gloria Welton
Samaritan’s Purse (SP) was deployed to PEI for the first time after Hurricane Dorian, which hit hard in 2019 and then again in 2022 after the devastating effects of Hurricane Fiona.
Sarah MacPhee was hired in April of this year as a Recovery Specialist. This role was established in 2019 and is the first of its kind on PEI.
Immediately following hurricane Fiona, SP assessment teams were on the ground surveying the damage on PEI. Those teams coordinated with authorities and partner churches to determine areas of greatest need.
One of their Disaster Relief Units—a specialized tractor trailer equipped with safety equipment, chain saws, tarps, and clean-up equipment—was transported to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Stratford. After setting up, SP equipped teams of volunteers to help families in need.
The teams cut and removed fallen trees, cleaned up debris, and put tarps on damaged roofs and windows. They also prepared flooded homes for rebuilding.
SP’s sister organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada, worked alongside SP, providing crisis-trained volunteer chaplains to comfort and pray with volunteers, first responders, and people impacted by the disaster.
SP is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to people around the world. Since 1970, SP has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Under the leadership of Franklin Graham, President and Chairman of the Board of SP since 1978, the ministry has provided critical relief, including food, medicine, clothing, and clean water, to millions of suffering people in over 160 countries, always in Jesus’ name.
It has volunteer and paid staff around the globe, serving in projects such as international and domestic disaster relief, Operation Christmas Child, and World Medical Mission.
“There are four phases of SP emergency management: prevention, preparedness, and response when disaster relief comes to affected locations,” says Sarah. “Then there is recovery, where my job comes into play.
“Recovery is the longest phase, and it gets mixed in with prevention and preparedness as we work with communities to help prepare for future disasters.
“Sometimes when SP does a response, there is a deeper need depending on a lot of factors. We often work closely with communities and government to determine if SP should be part of the recovery for the longer term. We don’t want to leave the disaster area without deciding if a longer-term intervention would be of help.”
What is the role of Samaritan’s Purse Recovery Specialists?
The Recovery Specialist role remains active long after the disaster relief takes place. “The role is about coming alongside the people who we helped on PEI during the Dorian and Fiona disaster relief,” Sarah explains.
“It could also be with people who need help navigating through their rebuild or repair, and dealing with the overall trauma by making sure they are connected to resources in the community.
“I have a list of homeowners that SP did relief work with this past year, and I am connecting with each little by little to see if we can still be of service in some way. I ask how their recovery journey is going and listen. There has been so much positive feedback, and a lot of gratitude for what was done for them.
“I also connect with churches by working with elders and staff to determine if they could offer help when the next disaster comes. Could they offer a place for community members to have a shower or a meal, recharge their devices, help the community establish emergency plans, have 72-hour emergency kits on hand, and the list goes on. We want to make sure the community knows the wealth of resources the church can offer.
“One of the organizations I connected with right away was the Summerside & Area Christian Council Association Inc.
“I was asked by an MLA to connect with a family who needed help cleaning up their yard after Fiona hit, and was able to organize a cleanup with the help of the council and volunteers.
“I visited them and took photos of their property and went back to the council. Within a week, we established a team of volunteers to go to this couple’s home and do the clean-up. In the months following the cleanup, I’ve continued to touch base with the family. I wanted to hear their story. I realized they were experiencing more gaps, and I have kept in touch.
“A big part of my role is to walk alongside people in need after facing the last two disasters. I don’t have all the answers, but I can help sort through what might still be a very stressful situation. I have a team of people behind me, and God will see it through.
“I am also in a position to help the community prepare for the next natural disaster by drawing on the resources of Samaritan’s Purse and all of our connections, which are many.”
How Sarah was led to this profession
“A year ago, if I thought I would be in this job I wouldn’t have believed it possible,” says Sarah. “I just love what I do and what it represents. Yes, it is challenging, and I have to be open to this new change in my work life, but it completely fits what I have been doing up until this point.
“The majority of my career path has been in the non-profit world. A few years ago, I met Heidi Hunt, who was doing recovery work in Summerside for Samaratin’s Purse after hurricane Dorian. We got connected through mutual friends.
“I asked her about her work, but I really wasn’t thinking of a career change at that time because I had a steady job in Charlottetown. We became good friends, and she moved off-Island part way through COVID-19. We stayed in touch as she continues to work with SP.
“When Fiona hit, it was very overwhelming. That storm was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. However, I felt encouraged when SP came to PEI.
“When I learned they were coming in response to the devastation, I was driving through Stratford, and I was thinking about getting a new job. It was a feeling of unsettledness, and I said it out loud: I think I want a new job!
“That night I got a phone call from Heidi asking me what I was doing for work,” laughs Sarah. “I met with her and another SP staff member from Alberta in October of 2022. They explained what the recovery side of their mission looked like and what the role would entail.
“They asked if I would consider the position if SP decided they would move forward with a contract position on PEI.
“I felt that God opened the door, and I had the choice of whether I wanted to walk through this door of opportunity. It was not something that I sought out. It just came – God brought it to me.”
Sara has previous experience working with vulnerable populations. “I worked at a pregnancy centre, summer camps, and in theatre. I was developing skills such as communication, conflict resolution, problem-solving, decision making, and other skills needed to build relationships with people.”
Sarah says those experiences shaped her as a person and helped her develop compassion and empathy. “When I look back, I can see how God used each encounter to cultivate my heart for people. I don’t fully understand this, but as I follow God’s lead, I am learning how to see each opportunity in life as a chance to love people well in the name of Jesus.
“All these experiences have led me to where I am today, and I am sure they will continue to lead me to where God would have me next. Samaritan’s Purse is now my place of learning, growing, and being supported by the amazing staff in other provinces as we establish the position here.
“I am learning it is about a willingness to step forward. To step into where God is calling me even though it may not make sense to me. To have that faith to trust that He has gone before me, and He will give me what I need. This has exercised my faith and trust in the Lord.
“When they offered me the position, the biggest thing they were looking for was someone who loved God and loved working to help people. They wanted someone who could talk with people in very troublesome situations and listen well. Heidi has said that she saw those qualities in me, which was why she mentioned the position to me in the first place. She believed in my ability to do this job well.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To connect with Sarah MacPhee, email email@example.com
For more about the work of Samaritan’s Purse and to apply, visit www.samaritanspurse.ca/getinvolved/employment-opportunities