John’s house on Martin Luther King Drive in Lumberton had been growing mold since Hurricane Matthew flooded the area in October. Water had breached the house up to waist high and left a nice layer of moisture to help the mold spread from floor to ceiling.
Saturday, January 21st, a volunteer team of 25 from Saint Andrews United Methodist Church (SAUMC) in Garner arrived at the site. A caravan of vehicles including the church bus, two trucks, two SUVs, and a tool trailer pulled up in front of John’s house. In a little over six hours, these youth and adults tore out all that mold and essentially deconstructed John’s house so it could be rebuilt and John could eventually return. Layers of sheet rock, flooring, and ceilings were removed and, by day’s end, John’s house was down to studs and most of the interior was on the curb.
Gary Locklear, UMC Home Missioner, said he hesitated to give this job to this team since the condition of the house was so bad, but he was greatly pleased that the team accomplished so much. The team’s leader, Jeff Cope, said his goal was “to have everyone working hard, working safely, and enabling the youth of the church (and their parents and relatives) to do something meaningful for others.” Grayson, 16, said she came “to see the other side of the Matthew disaster because for us the disaster was over in October.”
A few blocks over from the SAUMC’s action at MLK Drive, a team of three from Southern Pines was deconstructing another house. The leader of the Fight Club (men’s ministry) from Grace Church said they almost did not come that Saturday because many of his volunteers cancelled and he was concerned about what three men could accomplish. However, a third team arrived from University City United Methodist in Charlotte with a team of six, and they too were wondering how much six volunteers could accomplish. The three plus the six linked up and were making great progress on another family residence similar to John’s. Marcia and Dave Hostetler said this was their group’s second trip to the area, and they were so pleased to work with the Fight Club members.
Meanwhile, at the pop-up location on Starlite Drive to replace the flooded Robeson County Church and Community Center, a team from a church in Fuquay Varina was sorting donations that had been received from all over the state. At another location, a breakout team of four from the MLK site volunteered to crawl under a house on their hands and knees to remove wet insulation that was hazardous to the health of the elderly woman trying to live there. Wearing HAZMAT suits and powdered down with baby powder on bare skin, five braved the challenge. Seeing the tiny space, however, only three decided to venture under the house, including Lizzie Rabon, the new SAUMC Youth Leader. Sarah (adult) and Spence, 17, deserve medals for their valor in this limited, wet, hot space. No one mentioned the black snake supervising their work in those close quarters until the two-hour job was done.
The Matthew disaster is not over by any means. Much more restoration work is needed, and it will take years to rebuild portions of the area to make it livable again.
On that Saturday in January, four individual church teams were putting an end to Matthew’s destruction and working to help restore homes for displaced residents. Many more families are still living in motels, waiting for opportunities to find new residences to call home — and many more volunteer teams from all over the country are scheduled for continuous relief work throughout the flooded areas of the state.
And on that Saturday in January, everyone seemed to be enjoying their hard work. To Sam, 15, swinging a big sledge hammer at a wall was “better than yard work.” Abby, 16, said boldly, “I came to knock out walls.” (She did knock down walls as well as some upper kitchen cabinets – OOPS!)
Before each group began their assignment, prayer was offered for safety and blessings. After each assignment, additional prayers of thanks were offered. Bryant Dodson, UMC District Disaster Response Coordinator, thanked the SAUMC in prayer for their “radiant hands and feet” that showed the love of God and love of neighbor. On the long journey home on the church bus, the youth were asked if they would be willing to return. Despite the sore fingers, sore muscles, blisters, aching backs and dirty clothes, all hands went up and “SURE!” was soundly heard. The bus driver, Greg Reinhart, then reminded the group that “it’s one thing to donate money, but another to help.”
Amen to that.
By Nancy Cope
Call 1-888-440-9167 to volunteer. Whether it’s a team of 1 or 100, miracles can happen.