”Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” 1 Peter 4:10 (NSRV)
Our neighbors in Eastern North Carolina are still hurting from recent hurricanes. As you may have seen, Hurricane Dorian devastated Ocracoke island with a storm surge of over 7 feet. Because the surge was so high, this resulted in flooding into houses that have withstood the many previous hurricane surges from the last 70 years. But did you know thousands of families in Eastern North Carolina are still seeking help from hurricanes of previous years? The need for help is great, both immediately and in the long term.
Right now, the situation on Ocracoke is urgent, and Good Shepherd has been asked to step up and help with ready volunteers to begin the repair process. We have responded and made a commitment with trips to Ocracoke island on November 13-17 and December 4-8. We also have plans for continued response trips through 2020 at sites throughoutEastern NC, wherever the need is greatest. We hope you will consider joining one of our teams.
Under guidance from the NC Synod and our pastors, Good Shepherd is partnering with the North Carolina Conference United Methodist Disaster Response team (NCCUMDR). In our previous trips last spring and summer, we established a great relationship with NCCUMDR, and found that we work very well together sharing a common bond in Christ.
It’s important to know that our relief efforts are a partnership with the homeowners. The NCCUMDR case managers work closely with each homeowner to determine need and ability to partner in their recovery. I recently worked with two families and came back changed for the better from their witness.
Mr. Al built his own home in 1963 over the span of a year, primarily with his own hands. He and his wife are now 90, and he has some breathing difficulties. Hurricane Florence damaged his roof, windows and siding. His insurance company, however, would only support roof and siding repair. Mr. Al felt the settlement wouldn’t fully make their house whole, with a clean enough environment for his breathing, so they’ve been living with their daughter since the hurricane. Working with Mr. Al, the case managers agreed to accept the settlement and make the house whole by leveraging our volunteer labor and doing a bit more than insurance would allow. Volunteers not only replaced the siding: they also installed new windows, repaired some drywall, and installed a brand new vinyl floor to help keep the dust to a minimum. I’ll always carry in my heart the afternoon we finished the floor when Mr. Al and his wife, upon seeing the completed job, gathered us around on his deck and lead a prayer of thanks with us. There wasn’t a dry eye that day.
Miss Christina is a hard working single mother who was affected by Hurricane Florence. Her house never flooded before, but this time it had what looked to be a minor flood of only 1” of water. Since the flooding was minor, a contractor simply installed drywall over the old. Unfortunately, mold continued to grow in the walls and this became a problem for her and her daughter. She had to move out while Methodist Disaster Response tore the walls down to the studs, treated for mold, and reinstalled new drywall, doors and floors. A team of youth painted most of the walls and put their handprints on the floor before the final layer was installed. Through tears of gratitude, she showed me the handprint picture and explained how she still communicates progress on the project to them. Last month, she was finally back in her home and I was privileged to be there for the final touch ups. As we were leaving, she shared with us a paraphrase of various bible verses: “He will hold you together. He will keep you. Jesus loves you. He is not punishing you. He is not pleased by watching you suffer. When you suffer He suffers. He will keep you. He will pull you through. He won’t allow you to fall apart.” We all hugged and shed some tears as we said goodbyes.
How does our part in disaster response work?
We assemble a team and travel to one of the sites, usually a church, where we stay a few days, sharing meals and fellowship in off times. With the exception of Ocracoke, there can be some flexibility in the number of days you stay or work. The construction managers from NCCUMDR brief us on our project, supply materials and some tools, and we go to work. Common projects include siding, flooring and painting, although we may be called to do many different types of work. Previous skills are a plus, but if you don’t have the skills, we’ll get you up to speed and teach you. All are welcome! You’ll come back having learned new skills, and I promise your heart will grow bigger. I know mine has.
The immediate need at Ocracoke will be the focus of our November and December trips. This will be the initial push to assist in the very early recovery of needy residents on Ocracoke island. There is a population of working people there to service the tourist needs, including many hidden immigrant families not well connected enough to ask for help. Many of them live in the older, more affordable homes which were most vulnerable during Dorian. There is an immediate need to repair at least enough of each home to give these residents a portion of their home that is safe and livable.
The Ocracoke trips will require a commitment because it is only accessible by a long vehicle ferry ride that requires special permission. We ferry out Wednesday, and return Sunday. The island is still under evacuation rules, which means that services on the island are sparse, so we’ll have to be mostly self-sufficient. The first week of October I joined a group of 10 others from North Raleigh UMC and Open Door Church, and I promise you that every single one of us came back changed for the better, ready to do this again. Our team formed a strong bond as brothers and sisters in service through Christ.
Here’s an informative web page produced by the NC UMC about the Ocracoke effort so far, and the need for more volunteers moving forward. It is worth a look. Make sure to watch the short embedded videos: https://nccumc.org/disaster/2019/10/ocracoke-one-day/
Please prayerfully consider joining one of our teams, and, if possible, our Ocracoke response teams.
If you feel a call to use your “home improvement” type skills, consider using that God-given gift as a steward of God’s amazing grace. Now is the time; the need is great. NCCUMCOR says they need double the number of volunteers that have helped the last year. Come join our GSLC team and let’s live up the ELCA service motto of “God’s Work, Our Hands”!
If you have questions, please contact the church office.
Thank you to Ray Prill for sharing this reflection of his experiences with the hurricane relief efforts.