GATLINBURG, Tennessee — Camon Landry of Nashville and five other Vincennes University students chose a Tennessee mission trip over spring break beaches. Instead of lounging they dug holes and carried heavy construction materials.

The students answered a call by the VU Christian Campus Fellowship to head to Gatlinburg, where they began work to rebuild a home that was lost in the Nov. 28 wildfires. The effort was coordinated by Helping His Hands Disaster Relief in Vincennes.

“Using unskilled labor, the group completed a project that was supposed to take several weeks and finished it in less than six days. They worked from sun up to sun down,” said Preston Ratliff, campus minister of CCF.

The homeowner told Ratliff that she saw the fire coming by the time firefighters ordered her to evacuate, leaving little time for her and her son to grab a few items before they left. Their home, along with her neighbors’, were totally destroyed. They moved to a small trailer.

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Landry, a freshman law enforcement major, said this was his first mission trip but it will not be his last.

“It was awesome to help her, to be able to see her face light up when she first got there to see this actually happening. It is one thing to hear about it and another thing to see it. There aren’t any words to describe it,” Landry said.

“I was an all-hands-on-deck kind of worker. Anything they needed help with I was willing to jump in, such as digging, carrying the heavy stuff, and setting up the forms for the flooring and walls,” he said.

The volunteer group stayed at a nearby church during the week.

Helping His Hands is organizing additional mission trips this summer to help complete this home, with church groups helping during the interval. The goal is to complete the home in August.

Landry said he has family members living near Gatlinburg, making this mission trip even more personal.