The wind was bad, but the water was worse. In a television interview, the police chief in Wilmington, North Carolina feared this would be a storm of biblical proportions!
At least 36 people killed with well over a million homes without power. Thousands are homeless still in emergency shelters. Over 1,500 roads throughout the state are flooded including parts of interstates 95 and 40. It would be safe to say that millions of people have been impacted by the destruction of this storm, the worst to ever hit the Carolinas.
Storms have a way of bringing out the best as well as the worst in us. The Kentucky Baptist Relief organization hauled in their own equipment, food, and supplies to feed thousands of people.
One volunteer says, “Once we do this, it’s just a bond that’s unbelievable and we don’t want to quit when we probably should, because we would miss out on our family.” They’re part of a team of 60 from all over Kentucky that have the ability to feed 30,000 a day. Another volunteer says, “I’m serving food, but it’s also to have people feel the arms of love around them.” – WITN TV
At RDU International Airport, “Operation AirDrop” has more than 150 private pilots donating time and aircraft to fly relief supplies into the Hurricane Florence flood zone. – WTVD News
The people of Lumberton, North Carolina are the latest to be helped by the Cajun Navy. This group of volunteers runs to natural disasters to save lives. Founder Jon Bridgers is known for leading the roundup of trucks and boats. “We’re going to meet up and convoy to wherever we’re headed to. Everyday joes, just get out there, make a difference.” With boats, coolers, life jackets and gallons upon gallons of gas they’ve made some rescues but have really helped those who came back get their belongings. Putting faith first, the team plans to stay making their next move based on where they’re needed most. -WMBF News
The prevailing issue is the flooding which will continue for some time to come. But the underlying problem is more complicated as Gwen Frisbie-Fulton reminds us in her blog: “North Carolina’s Problem isn’t Florence, It’s Poverty.” “Everyone I know is riding it out. For a few it’s bravado, but for most of them, it’s just that they can’t go. There aren’t enough seats in the car, or the car is busted, or there’s no car at all. There are too many babies or too many old folks. There are jobs that won’t be there for them if they miss a few days. There are paychecks that haven’t yet cleared. There are food stamps that ran out last week. And there isn’t enough money in anyone’s damn bank account.”
After all, as terrifying as it is, we know it’s not Florence that wreaks havoc on North Carolina. It’s everything that comes after the storm and everything that came before. We try not to speak of it. The smeared red clay on living room walls. Stalled out Buicks getting their last rust. Somebody’s work tools sinking into the river. Humid air plastering an old Myrtle Beach t-shirt onto a body as it shovels filthy toys into trash bags. It is mud and muck and poverty. Mud and muck and poverty. That is our ultimate challenge as we seek to provide help.
In the Letter of James in the Bible, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’ — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (2:14-17)
What good is faith without action? What good is faith if you ignore someone in need? Faith without good deeds is dead and useless. The tragedy of Hurricane Florence is one we cannot ignore. If we are to take the letter of James seriously, churches and individuals must respond. But how? What should we do? How can we help? Next Week: Answers.
REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at email@example.com.