The main room of the trailer was dark and dusty with old towels covering dirty windows. The darker kitchen had broken drawer fronts and needed a real scouring. There were two fair-sized bedrooms and two very small bathrooms, yet quite a few storage closets. There were appliances that the mom was pleased to have: a stove, refrigerator, washer, and dryer. The yard was large and well-groomed with flowers ready to bloom in full array.
Our Hurricane Matthew adopted family was finally moving out of the motel room where they had been since October, 2016, funded by FEMA. They lost everything in the flooding. For months, they filed and refiled paperwork to find a place to move their family of six, including four teenagers. With vouchers from the State of NC for relocating thousands of homeless families, they finally found this trailer. Although not to their liking, it was acceptable – the owner accepted the voucher, it was a palace compared to one motel room, and it had appliances.
Last Christmas, our neighborhood team of retired senior citizens from the Village of Aversboro in Garner provided gifts for this family and made the three teen girls a promise: once they had a home, we would take them to buy the comforters they requested on their Christmas wish list. The middle teen, 15, had also written on that list her special wish – a house to call home.
Today, our neighborhood team went into action again and made a pilgrimage to Lumberton to help the family move into this house to call home. We had collected enough household items to fill three SUVs and prayed that the weather and I-95 would not stop our plan. A pastor recently wrote that for a pilgrimage to be transforming, persons must leave the routine of home and launch out to places where they experience an epiphany or the awareness of God’s presence. Where we would find that epiphany surprised even us.
It happened in a big-box store.
As promised, we took the girls to buy their comforters. Though hesitant at first, with encouragement they chose sets in their favorite colors. The younger daughter, 11, was looking for pillows when she stopped in an aisle and called to her older sister to “come see.” In a shaky voice she said to her, “We used to have a rug like this one,” and began to wrap herself in the fluffy turquoise fur. The moment was noisy with everyone’s silence.
Of course, that moment was not just about a rug. It was about a life she and her sisters had lost. It was about a future they were trying to envision. It was about the wonderful pieces of familiarity that make home home. “Let’s get that too,” we whispered with tear-choked voices.
We do not have to travel far to encounter “thin places” – places that move us and make us blessed and thankful – places where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. God does not reside only in holy places; God is at the big-box store, too. God is with us as we help our neighbors who have lost hope.
The dark trailer may be old and in need of attention but now the family – once again – has a home of their own. It is a place to begin recovery from the tragedies and losses they have faced since October and hopefully move forward. They were certainly smiling as we left them and we senior citizen pilgrims, although overcome by what we experienced, will continue to stay in touch and pray for their recovery. (written by Nancy Cope)
Many more NC neighbors, like this family, are in need. Churches interested in longer-term family adoptions (1 year), please contact Jan Thornton-Irvine @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Jan is a retired deacon in full connection who, along with her husband, is a regular volunteer at the NCCUMC Disaster Response Call Center in Garner.