LUMBERTON, NC —- North Carolina Conference Bishop Hope Morgan Ward stepped out of a van into the devastation left in eastern North Carolina by Hurricane Matthew. Hurricane Matthew came ashore into North Carolina on October 8 and continued through October 9, drifting further inland and dumping more rain than forecasters had predicted for the state. In the aftermath, rivers and creeks overflowed and flooded many towns including Fayetteville, Kinston, Goldsboro, Lumberton, and Princeville.
Accompanying Ward was Catherine Earl, the Executive Secretary, U.S. Disaster Response for UMCOR, Steve Taylor, Conference Connectional Ministries Director, Jaye White, Conference Outreach Team Coordinator, Kenneth Locklear, Gateway District Superintendent, and other disaster recovery personnel in the conference.
The day began in the Hollywood Heights section of Fayetteville, where Bishop Ward met and prayed with sisters, Helen and Pauline, who live next door to each other. Both homes were flooded. They each expressed thanks for the church and the assistance they had received in cleaning out their houses.
The next stops were in Lumberton, one of the hardest hit areas. Pastor Doug Locklear showed the group Branch Street UMC. Except for a piano and a set of drums, Branch Street lost all the furnishings in the sanctuary and surrounding rooms. Ruined pews and soiled carpet lay discarded on the front sidewalk.
Robeson County Church and Community Center is a ministry in a multicultural community which offers literacy tutoring, home repairs, a food pantry, a baby closet, medical supplies and a thrift store. Darlene Jacobs, Center director, says that in 2015, 44,000 persons received assistance from the Center. All the contents were ruined when four feet of water came rushing in from the Lumber River. The building, a former auto dealership, also sustained structural damage.
“This Center has been a lifeline to so many people in this county [Robeson] since 1969. God has blessed it in so many ways, and God’s going to continue to open doors more than we can even think or ask. We are trusting and believing in that,” said Jacobs.
Other stops included Chestnut Street UMC in Lumberton and a warehouse in Fairmont, which has been offered for storing supplies and possibly housing work teams.
Bishop Ward continued touring affected areas, traveling to the Harbor District and visiting Fair Bluff, Whiteville, Lake Waccamaw, and areas in Pender County.
Government officials have estimated damages in North Carolina will top $1.5 billion in homes and businesses, and government buildings. This does not include the repair of roads and bridges nor the loss of income while businesses are shut down. The storm contributed to 25 deaths, and 35 counties have been approved for federal public assistance.
While touring his hometown of Lumberton, Taylor said, “This is going to be a long disaster and we [United Methodists] will be in place until it’s over.”
The NC Conference of The United Methodist Church has a Disaster Response Call Center open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to receive requests for assistance, make referrals and match volunteers to fill needs. Contact the call center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888-440-9167.
Monetary donations, cleaning buckets and health kits are needed. 100% of monetary donations go straight to NC Storm Response. Find out more at https://nccumc.org/hurricane-matthew/.