Regent Students Lend Hand in Irene Clean Up

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Operation Blessing International with the help of students from Regent University is trying to speed up the recovery for victims of Hurricane Irene.

The sound of a chainsaw's buzz was an answered prayer for 75-year-old Rosetta Johnson.
 
"The tree was over top the house. But when God got ready for it, he busted that tree right open and put it into an 'l,'" she told CBN News.
 
Irene's winds split a massive tree in her backyard and she had no idea how she was going to move it until an Operation Blessing volunteer team came calling.

"God blessed me. He answered my prayer. I will tell anybody, God will answer your prayer and I know that," she said.
 
It would have cost Johnson at least $1,000 to get the tree moved, even with insurance.

"The resources that Operation Blessing offers for free is so substantial and helps people in a big way. So why are you looking at chainsaws and wondering, is that substantial?  Yes, it is substantial if people have to take that out of their bank account," said Jody Herrington-Gettys, director of U.S. Disaster Relief for the charity aid organization.

Virginia Beach is home base for Operation Blessing, so its staff didn't have to travel far to answer the calls from people needing help after Irene.

They also didn't have to look far from to find volunteers willing to help.

Hurricane Irene forced Regent University to close its doors for an extended weekend. Some of the school's students like Timothy Chaisson decided to serve others instead of sleeping in.

The first year law student from Florida has first-hand hurricane experience.

"I've been through storms myself in Florida. I've been through Ivan. I helped out with Katrina in New Orleans," he explained.

"I know what it's like to have tree damage, to have flooding damage. I have all that and I figured that there are people that needed help," he said.

It doesn't take experience to have a heart to serve. Andreas Bienert is an international student.
 
"I'm from Austria. I am here as an international student. We don't have hurricanes or other natural disasters where I am from," he said.

"I am blessed because I had no damage," Bienert added. "It is a blessing to serve others who have damage and just help them out and make the best out of it."

While one of group of students helped chop a massive tree down to size, others fed people in need at a church pantry across town.

"I just think it is pretty awesome that Regent University students, instead of sleeping in or vegging out or going to the beach, they decided to come and help people, starting at eight this morning,"H errington-Gettys said.

"So they are giving back to their community. And I think it says a lot about the heart of the students and the heart of the school," she said.
 
The assistance is an unforgettable gift for Johnson, who has survived Hurricane Irene and the storm that killed her father in 1942, when she was only 6 years old. 
 
"My father died. My uncle got hurt real bad and his sister, she was shook up. My brother didn't get a scratch. He was on a pillow and he went down the road on a pillow, had it in his hand. I know God is good," she said.

And He is at work in Johnson's back yard.

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.