April 19, 2023
MDS “like an angel army” for family in Cape Breton
“That little house will always be special because God restored it, using his hand-picked team.”
“As I sit here composing this e-mail, I am asking God to give me the words to adequately express our gratitude for all the help that your organization has provided. What you have done to help is so big, we do not have words available.”
That’s how a note from Caroline Purnell of Cape Breton began.
It was sent to Roman Heuft, Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Cape Breton Response Coordinator to express gratitude for how the organization had come alongside her daughter, Rosalyn Purnell, whose house in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, was damaged last fall by Hurricane Fiona.
The past few years had been challenging for Rosalyn, who works hard as a nurse and is a single mother to her four boys. Money was always in short supply.
Then came the hurricane—“the final straw,” as Caroline, put it.
The hurricane damaged the roof, causing rain to leak in every time a new storm came along. For Rosalyn, who couldn’t afford to fix it, the situation seemed hopeless.
The situation worsened when her insurance company gave her a deadline of the end of April to fix the roof or they would cancel her homeowner’s policy.
“I went to see Rosalyn after she received the e-mail from the insurance company,” Caroline said. “She was sitting on the floor crying. She thought she should just give up her job and kids and go on welfare. She thought her children would be better off in care with some stability—if she lost the house, she didn’t know how she would look after them.”
For Caroline, it was heartbreaking to watch. “All I could do was pray,” she said.
That’s when they reached out to MDS. Hueft readily agreed to provide Rosalyn with a new metal roof, along with fixing some damaged windows and porch railings.
When Caroline received that news, everything changed.
"You were changing the outcome of an entire family's life,”
— Caroline Purnell
“When you said you would do the repairs, not only were you helping someone with a leaking roof, you were changing the outcome of an entire family’s life,” she said.
“I have seen my daughter go from hopelessness and despair to gratitude and hopefulness for her future,” she said, adding Rosalyn is in “disbelief for the help from MDS in getting a new roof.”
What MDS did “was a miraculous answer to prayer and a source of encouragement to everyone who hears how you answered God’s call,” Caroline added. “Please thank everyone who has been involved in this process, let them know how grateful we are.”
She concluded: “Chris Tomlin’s song ‘Whom shall I fear,’ has a line about “God’s angel armies.” It has been running through my mind and bringing me to tears. I truly believe God sent his angel army through MDS as an answer to our prayers . . . That little house will always be special because God restored it, using his hand-picked team.”
For Heuft, Caroline’s e-mail brought him to tears, too.
“MDS doesn’t just clean out, repair and rebuild homes,” he said. “We want to also bring hope to those who have lost all hope and support to those who need it most.”
He recalled when he met Rosalyn for the first time. “I could feel her desperation and instantly knew God wanted MDS to help her,” he said.
Of the project itself, and the difference it made in so many lives, all he could say was: “Praise the Lord!”
MDS began its 2023 response in Cape Breton in March; currently, there are about 30 homes on the list for repair from Hurricane Fiona damage. MDS expects to end its response there in August.
John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications