North Carolina continues to reel from the after effects of Hurricane Matthew.
As rising rivers have yet to crest in many areas, North Carolina Baptists are responding where they can.
North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), also known as Baptists on Mission, is the disaster relief ministry of North Carolina Baptists. Executive Director Richard Brunson said they are responding to the crisis as quickly as conditions will allow.
Manna One, a 30,000 meal-per-day unit, is moving from Jacksonville, Fla., today (Oct. 10). “It was assigned there because we didn’t think North Carolina was going to get hit as hard as it did,” Brunson said. “Turns out North Carolina probably got hit harder than any other state. We got another state (Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief) to take our place in Florida.”
Baptists on Mission photo
A team of North Carolina Baptists on Mission serves its first meal today (Oct. 10) at Cedar Falls Baptist Church in Fayetteville. Electrical power is coming from the kitchen trailer’s on-board generator. A tanker truck is supplying potable water for cooking, cleaning and showers. The church and surrounding community do not have power or drinking water.
The unit served lunch in Jacksonville before heading to Lumberton, N.C., where volunteers plan to begin serving meals Tuesday (Oct. 11) at Hyde Park Baptist Church. The primary service areas are Robeson and Columbus counties, where flooding is severe.
Unit Two, another 30,000 meal-per-day unit, is set up at Cedar Falls Baptist Church on the north side of Fayetteville. Volunteers began serving meals for three counties with lunch today (Oct. 10).
The Red Springs Mission Camp, operated by NCBM, is serving Robeson and surrounding counties, “We’ll probably send a lot of volunteers there for mud-out and tear-out once all of the water goes down,” Brunson said. “The water hasn’t even crested.”
Virginia Baptist Disaster Response has been asked to set up at Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount. “They’ll probably be set up and running by Wednesday,” said Brunson.
“We’ve asked Arkansas (Baptist State Convention Disaster Relief) to go to Oakmont Baptist in Greenville,” he continued. “We’re moving our Unit Three, which is a 20,000 meal-per-day unit, to First Baptist in Kinston. The water hasn’t crested yet in Kinston, either.”
Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief is setting up at Western Prong Baptist Church in Whiteville.
First Baptist Church in Wallace will also be serving as a host site.
Brunson said the areas encompassing Rocky Mount, Greenville, Fayetteville, Kinston, Clinton, Lumberton and Whiteville appear to have the greatest damage and power outage at this point. Power is not expected to be restored for four to seven days in some counties.
A site is available in Williamston if needed. All feeding stations are coordinated with Red Cross, so some decisions are pending.
Brunson emphasized, “This is going to be a long [process]. We could very well be working on homes and churches a year or two from now because of this flood. In places it’s going to be comparable to Floyd; in some places it’ll be worse than Floyd.”
Hurricane Floyd, the sixth named storm and fourth hurricane in 1999, followed a similar path along the eastern seaboard as Matthew did but struck North Carolina when it was a Category 2 hurricane. Floyd was a Category 4 hurricane when it struck the Bahamas and turned up the eastern side of Florida, hugging the coast similar to the way Matthew did.
Hurricane Dennis had brought about 15 inches of rain a few weeks earlier. Nearly every river basin in the eastern part of North Carolina exceeded 500-year flood levels. Floyd was responsible for 57 fatalities (35 in N.C.) and $6.9 billion in damage. (That figure would be $9.8 billion in 2016 monetary listings.) The World Meteorological Organization retired the name Floyd after the massive destruction caused.
Hurricane Irene hit about a month later dropping an additional six inches of rain.
In an email Brunson asked N.C Baptists to “pray for people who were affected by Hurricane Matthew. [It] is a very big disaster that will affect our state for a long time. We plan to be involved in helping people for many days, weeks and even years to come and we welcome you and your church to be a part of these efforts.”
NCBM is also responding to the damage from Matthew in the Caribbean. Paul Langston, NCBM missions mobilization consultant, leaves Tuesday (Oct. 11) for Cuba. “We have a large water purification unit that delivers 2,500 gallons a day, and we’ve given it to the Eastern Baptist Convention in Cuba,” Brunson said. “They’re in desperate need of clean water. We have partners in Haiti that we’re working with as well.”
N.C. Baptists’ popular retreat center at Fort Caswell took a direct hit from Matthew but suffered little damage according to John Butler, executive leader of business services for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Baptists on Mission photo
Vaughn Brown is training Peter Dyson on how to use the large water purification unit. This unit can produce over 2,500 gallons of clean water everyday. This unit is going to Cuba this week to assist towns affected by Hurricane Matthew.
“At Caswell the biggest issue is beach erosion,” he said. “A lot of the beach washed out; there was a little damage to the pier … we really faired very well.”
The buildings have no damage of consequence according to Butler.
Butler said Caswell’s director Richard Holbrook reported that the direction of the wind favored the facilities and prevented serious flooding. Just across the river, the town of Southport experienced significant flooding.
On Cale: Camp and Conference Center’s Facebook page, there was a video posted Oct. 9 reporting that the camp in Hertford had minimal damage. Cale is owned by Chowan Baptist Association.
Robeson Baptist Association
Stuck without power in his home, Alan Taylor said he’s been trying to get in touch with churches in Robeson Baptist Association where he serves as director of missions.
Without power, and charging his phone in his car every few hours, Taylor said he’s “never seen anything like it.”
With the county getting about 10 inches of rain over two days last week and 17 inches on Saturday (Oct. 8), Taylor said Robeson County is going to need a lot of help.
“Places that have never flooded, have flooded,” Taylor said. “Obviously, there’s water everywhere.”
Taylor said the county, which is one of the poorest counties in the state, is just beginning to realize how much help will be needed.
The telephone connections have been sporadic.
Both East and West Lumberton Baptist churches experienced flood damage, Taylor said. Many of his pastors are stuck in their homes and not able to get to their churches to assess the damage.
Taylor said there have been a number of swift water rescue teams in the area, including some from as far away as New York.
“Once power gets restored, we’ll have a better idea of the situation and needs,” he said.
Eastern Baptist Association
According to the director of missions (DOM) for the Eastern Baptist Association, no churches in the area were able to hold Sunday services. Richard Weeks said few have electricity. The association includes churches in Clinton, Warsaw, Wallace, Beulaville, Mount Olive and Magnolia.
Photo by Rick Foreman
West Lumberton Baptist Church was flooded during Hurricane Matthew Oct. 8. Because of flooding not all North Carolina Baptist pastors have been able to assess the damage at their churches or their homes.
Weeks said he knows of one loss of life. Solomon Lewis, who Weeks coached in high school football, drowned when his vehicle was caught in a washout. The Garland resident was 29.
In Duplin County, evacuations have been ordered for the town of Chinquapin. The nearby Cape Fear River is expected to exceed the high water mark of hurricane Floyd by two feet. Five churches in that area will be affected according to Weeks.
Center Baptist Church’s facilities in Garland are a total loss, according to reports. It was completely submerged in water. The facilities were also destroyed during Hurricane Floyd. Weeks began his first pastorate at the church soon after the devastation of Floyd.
Siloam Baptist Church in Harrells also reported floodwaters rising and evacuations escalating. Water is expected to crest Tuesday or Wednesday.
“Wind damage is minimal, but I’m afraid the flood damage is going to be catastrophic,” Weeks said.
Chowan Baptist Association
James Harrington, interim DOM of the Chowan Baptist Association and pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Moyock, sent an email statement to the Biblical Recorder. Monday morning he reported that his neighborhood was flooded. There was more than a foot of water in his yard and six inches in his garage. Some water receded but, “The entrance to our neighborhood is still covered. I haven't been able to get out there but have received reports from some churches,” he said. No major damage to churches has been reported.
“Moyock still has large pockets without power as do other outlying areas. Over all, flooding and downed trees presented the biggest issues. It could have been much worse. But with a little clean up, we are good,” Harrington added.
Chowan association covers 10 counties in the northeastern part of the state.
Red Springs and Shelby Mission camps will be taking donations to the areas where it is most needed.
Visit baptistsonmission.org to sign up or donate.