Carolyn Hughes said she wanted to do something besides grow old when she retired.
But Hughes never envisioned being 74 years old and hammering roofs on houses in typhoon-torn Saipan. “I was the oldest one up there,” she said with a twinkle of pride.
Say hello to the world of the Kentucky Disaster Relief worker, where age is only a number.
“I was one of the few who worked on all four roofs,” said Hughes. “I was really blessed. I live out in the country and I’ve been on my roof many times patching and repairing.”
Hughes, a spry senior citizen, said she learned about Kentucky Disaster Relief through her church, First Baptist Church of Somerset, and it has been a rewarding experience that gets better and better with each adventure.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind and my husband’s when he was living, that when we retired, we needed to do something with our life rather than grow old.”
Hughes is the perfect example of not acting your age. She was climbing on concrete buildings that had no roofs because of a typhoon that swept through Saipan last October. Many of the residents there were living in Army tents.
An 11-member team of Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief workers had the roof duty. Dave and Susan Hampton, members of Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin, headed up the group.
“The minute I saw Dave and Susan were going to put roofs on, I said ‘This is for me!’’’ Hughes said.
Hughes’ husband passed away not long after retiring, but she wanted to make the most of the life that God had given her the best it could be for however long it lasted.
Since signing up and taking Disaster Relief training two years ago, she has been on several missions. Her first was in Jacksonville, Florida, cooking for students helping in Panama City.
“I’ve never seen so much disaster since I joined Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief,” she said. “I’m doing things that I feel I’m called to do. The Lord has blessed me with good health and I’ll do this as long as I’m able.
“I’ve met so many people, made so many good Christian friends. Dave and Susan Hampton are two of the top-notch people. This is a well-managed and well-run program.”
Dave Hampton said the Kentucky Disaster Relief teams were invited by FEMA to work on attaching the metal roofs to the concrete buildings in Saipan, still reeling from the results of the devastating typhoon nearly six months ago.
The typhoon shattered homes and lives. But piece by piece, it’s coming back together, Hampton said.
“We want to get as many people back under roof before rainy season arrives,” he said.
Hampton’s family is heavily involved in Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. His wife and daughter, Krista Sawyers, joined him in Saipan and they will be headed to Fremont, Nebraska, this weekend to help those who are recovering from heavy flooding. They been home less than two weeks but already have itchy feet to be back on the mission field.
“It is something you either really love or don’t go back the second time,” Hampton said. “Three of our grandchildren had training and so did our daughter and grand son-in-law. We go out as much as we can.”
Hampton said they led one person to salvation in Jesus Christ and touched many others with gospel conversations that may lead to eventual eternal decisions.
“I think we made a big impact in Saipan,” he said. “They weren’t used to Southern Baptists talking to them. We wore our yellow shirts everywhere we went.”
The Saipan area is 85 percent Catholic, he said. They were able to connect several Buddhists to Baptist churches. Translators were necessary to speak with some Chinese who were going back to China.
Hughes said one family that stuck in our mind was a grandmother raising three grandchildren and they helped connect her to a Baptist church in Saipan. “She was so happy to get the roof back on her home. I think we were able to lay some seeds for God in Saipan.”
Hughes said some family obligations is all that’s keeping her from making the trip to Nebraska.
“After I get some of these family matters behind me, I will go out on the first call after June,” she said. “They value my time and my efforts. It has been a blessing.”