Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Portrait of Lt. Matthew Beatty

Disaster worker served amid horrific conditions

Added on Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lt. Matthew Beatty has a good idea of what people and families affected by Hurricane Florence are going through. In addition to his job as co-leader of The Salvation Army in Grand Forks, N.D., Beatty is an experienced Salvation Army disaster worker who served in the aftermath of two cataclysmic storms: Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Lt. Matthew Beatty shares a light moment with Filipino children“Being there for all of those people who’d lost everything, and to be that ray of hope for them, was something I’ll never forget,” Beatty said.

Below, Beatty reflects on the time he spent serving at both disasters and the unthinkable circumstances he witnessed.

As you read his stories, remember that hundreds of thousands of Americans have had their lives turned upside down by Hurricane Florence. You can help them by making a donation.

Typhoon Yolanda

In late 2013, Beatty spent two months in the Philippines serving survivors of Typhoon Yolanda – one of the deadliest and most powerful storms ever recorded, with sustained winds of almost 200 miles per hour. At least 6,300 people died.

“There were mass grave sites,” Beatty recalled, somberly. “Serving there wasn’t for the weak of heart. Some of the doctors had breakdowns and had to leave.”

Tanker ships that have run agroundBeatty and three International Salvation Army disaster workers spent long days distributing food and water to the masses. At night, they slept inside an abandoned apartment with half its roof torn off.

“We had to sleep with our shoes on because the rats liked to nibble toes,” Beatty said. “There was no electricity or running water.”

In seven weeks, Beatty and his small team alone distributed 1.2 million meals. Most of the meals came in 70-pound packs filled with rice, noodles, canned meat, and other food. Each pack included 105 meals.

“One day, our little team distributed 1,500 packs in just four hours – that’s enough food for 162,000 meals,” Beatty said.

Beatty was proud to serve survivors of Typhoon Yolanda on behalf of The Salvation Army.

“I loved the Filipino people,” he said. “They were incredible. Almost immediately after the typhoon stopped, they had their hammers and nails going already. One guy I met had lost his entire family, but he still managed to smile; he said he was just thankful to God for the time he’d had with them.”

Hurricane Maria

Four years later, in fall 2017, Beatty spent two weeks leading The Salvation Army’s humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria – the deadliest U.S.-based natural disaster in a century.

Lt. Matthew Beatty in the mountains for Puerto RicoBeatty served as the leader of 35 Salvation Army disaster staff and volunteers. His main duties included managing a warehouse filled with provisions and leading expeditions into the mountains to find villages in need of food and water.

“Getting food to the villages was a logistical nightmare,” Beatty said. “Roads were blocked by debris or washed away. There was no cell phone or internet coverage. To go 100 miles took 10 hours.”

During one expedition, Beatty traveled four hours into the mountains via truck convoy, escorted by military personnel who were carrying machine guns.

“We needed the protection – there were roving gangs that could bust out of the shadows and rob you blind,” Beatty said.

When Beatty and his team finally arrived at their destination, they discovered several hundred villagers who’d been surviving on rain water and whatever wild game they could capture.

“The people were scared – they had no idea what was going on,” Beatty said.

His team was able to deliver 3,500 meals for the villagers, along with enough portable water purifiers to treat up to 54,000 gallons of water (read story). All of the villagers were grateful for The Salvation Army’s help.

“I enjoyed serving in Puerto Rico,” Beatty said. “I enjoy showing God’s love in those situations that are the worst of the worst. The harder the disaster, the better I like it.”

Help Hurricane Florence survivors

Hundreds of expert Salvation Army disaster volunteers and staff members are on site in North and South Carolina providing food, water, and emotional support to those impacted by Hurricane Florence (learn more). You can support these efforts by donating now:

  • Give online at
  • Donate by phone: 1-800-SAL-ARMY
  • Text STORM to 51555 to receive a donation link for easy mobile giving
  • Mail a check designated “2018 Hurricane Season” to The Salvation Army, PO BOX 1959, Atlanta, GA 30301