Now that more than a month has passed since Hurricane Matthew, “most people are over the initial shock,” said Alan Taylor.
“With any disaster, it always hits the people who are least able to handle it,” he said. “Robeson County is already a poor county. These folks don’t have anything.”
Chainsaw teams are still being used in some areas across the state even though a shift is being made to finish tearout and begin reconstruction. See story on page 6 about a fundraiser.
Taylor, director of missions for Robeson Baptist Association in Lumberton, said about 20 percent of students aren’t in the school system there anymore. Another 20 percent are in a different school.
“It’s a long-term challenge and a long-term opportunity for the church to do what the church is supposed to do,” he said.
While some people’s lives are returning to normal, leaders are saying recovery in some areas is going to last at least three years. Manna One, Baptists on Mission’s largest feeding unit, shut down its service Nov. 9 as leaders shift focus to the recovery process.
Taylor said the area of west Lumberton was the most affected by the flooding. West Lumberton Baptist Church lost two buildings. In his association, Taylor said only one pastor has to rebuild after the damage.
One of the most discouraging and shocking events for Taylor was the unexpected death of a 33-year-old pastor from Fairmont First Baptist Church. “He got that church focused on reaching people and doing ministry,” Taylor said.
He has been encouraged by the aggressive response of some of the churches to the needs in their area.
“None of these people had flood insurance because they couldn’t afford it,” he said. “With some of the people, you’re meeting needs of ongoing poverty. If it had happened in an upscale area of Raleigh, the feeding unit might have been there for a few days, but they would have handled the issue and moved on. So many people lost everything they have.”
The flooding destroyed “a chunk of Section 8 housing,” Taylor said, “on top of everything else.”
Prayer, like from this First Baptist Church in Hendersonville team, is most needed, said Alan Taylor, director of missions for Robeson Baptist Association. While this team was serving in Eastern Baptist Association, more volunteers are needed throughout the state for tearout and recovery efforts after the devastation left by Hurricane Matthew.
Taylor said they have seen salvations occurring when they have done distribution and elsewhere.
“Churches are getting desperately involved in their communities,” he said. “They are really touching people’s lives … people who are helpless, and who are, unfortunately without Christ, hopeless.”
Dating back to the first century, Taylor said Christians respond to crisis. “We do our best work in the middle of a crisis,” he stressed.
“We eat crisis for breakfast.”
Baptists on Mission, also known as North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), is looking at opening a site in Lumberton that could house up to 100 people.
Even though Red Springs Mission Camp is located in Robeson County, the commute to Lumberton takes teams anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. The county is the largest – measured by land area – in North Carolina. That site would then be sending teams to help in Bladen County.
“I don’t think enough people know the valuable resources that we have … and [are being] used for the Kingdom of God through North Carolina Baptist Men.”
Taylor mentioned that workers there were mainly hourly and had not worked for three or more weeks. Any money the association has received has been converted into store gift cards so people can take care of daily needs.
“The most traumatic thing is taking the van and driving through some areas that I hadn’t seen yet and, block after block after block, everyone’s world piled up next to the road to be picked up and thrown away,” Taylor said.
“You know from the house, they don’t have anything else. Their whole life has been there. That’s discouraging. We better figure out a way to help them.”
According to Gaylon Moss, NCBM disaster relief coordinator, more than 700 people were expected Nov. 11-12 to provide tearout teams and chainsaw work across 12 locations: Kelly, Elizabethtown, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Hope Mills, Kinston, Lumberton, Fair Bluff, Red Springs, Tarboro, Warsaw and Windsor.
The work in North Carolina has drawn in other states to volunteer as well. He said teams from Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia are currently providing tearout and chainsaw teams.
As of Nov. 10, Moss estimated 84,000 volunteer hours; 440,000 hot meals produced; 1,900 laundry loads; 5,000 showers; and 536 recovery jobs completed.
Paul Langston, NCBM mission mobilization consultant, expressed his appreciation for Richard Weeks. Weeks serves as the director of missions in Eastern Baptist Association, where Langston previously worked.
“Cashie Baptist Church in Windsor was a recovery site before Matthew,” Langston said. After Matthew, there was 14 inches of water in the fellowship hall. Church members and volunteers cleaned it up the Oct. 16 weekend so the church could reopen as a Baptists on Mission recovery site.
In an Oct. 30 email from Richard Brunson, NCBM executive director, said a small church in West Virginia recently donated $15,000 to the organization.
“I was so touched to think about how churches and Christians give sacrificially to help hurting people in Jesus’ name,” Brunson said. “I am so thankful for this and other churches and individuals who pray, give and go.”
Brunson posted the news on Facebook, and he was contacted by a woman who grew up in that church in Mt. Nebo, W.Va.
The people there were impressed with a group who responded to their flooding devastation earlier this year.
Taylor requested prayer before anything else.
He also encouraged groups to come help. Teams are needed to remove furniture, floors, walls and more. Some sites are providing meals lodging and meals free to those who volunteer. Youth are also welcome. Call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5596, or visit baptistsonmission.org/HurricaneMatthew.
Partnerships with flood-affected families or churches are available. Contact Kailyn Eskridge at [email protected].
Send money to NCBM, P.O. Box 1107, Cary, NC 27512. Designate for Hurricane Matthew. For online donation go to: baptistsonmission.org.