Pictured are the author in center, flanked on the right by Innovairrians Cass Clark (NJ) and Linda Lockett (VA), and on the left by Samaritan’s Purse Team Lead Gary Anderson and new friends/fellow volunteers Donna and Frank.

By definition a Samaritan is a charitable or helpful person, but what does that mean exactly? Seven of us Innovairrians discovered the true meaning of the word this past week.

Five months ago I was selected to help represent Innovairre on a week-long project coordinated with one of our clients, Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian nonprofit organization that provides disaster relief and aid worldwide. At the time I had no idea where I’d be going, only that I needed to pack my work boots and prepare myself for what I would soon find out to be a life-changing week.

Fast forward to a week ago Sunday, and I was en route to Baton Rouge, LA, with six cohorts to help rebuild homes damaged after disastrous and deadly flooding that occurred in August 2016. Over 100,000 homes were flooded after a storm dropped a torrential 20+ inches of rain in less than 24 hours. At this point, feelings of anxiety and nervousness were starting to sink in. What would the week bring? Who would we be working with? Would Baton Rouge look like a war-torn battlefield when we arrived? Little did we know our fears would be calmed on the first day of work.

Throughout the week, our group of seven Innovairrians was split between three home rebuilds and paired with other volunteers from across the country. We acquired skills we never knew we could possess, from laying tile floors to installing cement boards to exterior painting, and even replacing and wiring light fixtures. But beyond our newfound skills, I believe we learned something much greater: that we had a God-given purpose to be there, and even if we didn’t see it at the beginning, we were in the right place at the right time. By the end of the week, all of our feelings of fear and anxiety were replaced with feelings of hope, togetherness, and joy.

After toiling side-by-side, day after day for a week straight with people who were complete strangers at the beginning of our trip, they ended up feeling like family I’d known my entire life. So much so that on the day of our departure, tears were shed by many, and none of us wanted to say goodbye to one another.

An adventure that I was nervous to embark on turned out to be one of the most rewarding and humbling weeks of my entire life. I didn’t leave with a single regret; I was able to share my own experiences with others, as well as the mission and story of Innovairre, and to me that was priceless. For those pondering the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, I urge you to step outside of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith – I promise you won’t regret it, and you, too, will learn the true meaning of what it means to be a good Samaritan.

To stay updated on volunteer opportunities with Samaritan’s Purse, please text SPVOL to 51555, or visit samaritanspurse.org.

Jesse Aynes is an Outsourcing Manager at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofits worldwide. Contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com; and follow us on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.