Last Monday, about 28 staff members and spouses of the NC Conference in Garner traveled to Lumberton to join other volunteers helping those affected by Hurricane Matthew. Those 28 included staff from conference offices, UM Foundation, ZOE, Gateway District, and Disaster Recovery. Staff worked at three sites: two locations of Robeson County Church & Community Center (RCCCC) and Mt. Olive UMC.
RCCCC’s Home Store (original site on 5th Street) suffered extensive flood damage – it was basically underwater. All contents and donations were drenched and displaced, and the facility itself needed gutting. Conference staffers followed in the steps of earlier volunteers, pulling out insulation and old wiring, and cleaning the outside area. For Jill Murphy, recent hire at the Conference, the day was not only a day to help others, it was a day to bond with new coworkers. “We were working in unity as one person, and as a first-time staff person, that felt good,” she smiled.
At RCCCC’s temporary warehouse location on Starlite Drive, Katherine Wilder and her coworkers sorted through mounds of donated clothing and food. As they worked, area residents selected needed items for their families. Katherine described the experience as “heartwarming.” To her, “seeing the needs of those affected by the flooding being met right in front of us was humbling.”
Ivana Cole believes “there was great progress” at Mt. Olive UMC where she worked alongside Bishop Hope and coworkers. Together, they tore down moldy walls and hauled debris to the street. The church’s basement had been heavily flooded, ruining walls and filling boxes of church files with water.
To staffers, the day was meaningful, and gave them all a chance to see firsthand the devastation their neighbors faced. “We have been told about the vast flood damage in Lumberton but you don’t comprehend how far reaching it is until you see it,” reflected Christine Dodson. “The hopelessness is not felt until you see home after home, empty, with all of the family’s belongings in a trash pile at the street.”
Every bit of time – whether weeks, days, or hours – can make a difference to our ministry response. The Conference office is planning more mission days and more ways to continue engaging hands-on with the recovery efforts.