Mexico Beach, FL (October 28, 2018) - Paulina (Bella) and Jacques (Jack) Sebastiao closed on their home in Mexico Beach on August 10. Jack retired in May after serving in the Army for 20 years and teaching 8th-grade science for 17 years. They saved for years for their retirement home. On October 10, their home was so severely damaged from Hurricane Michael it will have to be completely rebuilt. Most of the homes surrounding them were washed away or blown away. The Salvation Army has had a location serving meals less than a block away from their home since shortly after the storm fostering a continued relationship with the couple.
Since Hurricane Michael hit, Bella and Jack have been living in their van. Their home is on stilts located very close to the beach. They work every day to clean up and search for items in the rubble. Bella had a collection of crosses and statues important to their Catholic faith. She has found one rosary and continues to search for one she has from the Vatican. By accident, she found the wedding photo of her parents by kicking it, which flipped the photo over during her search.
In all the devastation when they returned, a closet with the train set Jack’s father gave him in the 60’s as well as the village pieces they display for Christmas was standing. All were untouched by the storm – even the glass ornaments. Jack shared he has put out the village for Christmas over many years.
As Jack and Bella share their experience, Bella states “If it hadn’t been for The Salvation Army, I don’t know what we would have done. They have provided every meal for us since we have been back two days after the hurricane hit.” When asked what The Salvation Army means to Jack, he said “They bring a sense of normalcy to us. With no neighbors left, as their homes are gone completely, it’s nice to have a conversation with others and to have friends come to check on us every day.”
Bella has even offered to host many of the Salvation Army friends she has made to dinner in the future. She says, “I would love to cook for you-you have provided so many meals for me!” They both talk about how faith continues to get them through the long days. Both Jack and Bella believe God is present as they find a piece of their lives and memories each day.
As the relationship continued with Jack and Bella, The Salvation Army showed them an app on their phone which allows documents to be scanned and turned into PDFs. This enabled them to send necessary documentation to FEMA and will continue to help them as they work through the lengthy process of rebuilding.
Salvation Army leaders, Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell along with other Salvation Army relief workers stood with Bella and Jack on their roof, which is no longer where it should be, talking and sharing. Then, together they prayed. The Salvation Army’s faith-based mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. In times of disaster, the Army serves the whole person-physically, emotionally and spiritually.About The Salvation Army