After Florence: Conclusion
“When the river peaked at 3 feet above major flood levels, the mayor, who had not left his house, sat stranded on his front porch where Main and Easy streets meet. He eyed a ripped plastic bag of kitchen trash bobbing in the murky torrents whooshing by, a two-feet-deep brew of urban waste and everything else the river picks up as it wends past hog farms and chicken houses on its 275-mile journey through North Carolina. This is the real disaster, just like before, with Matthew in 2016, Floyd in 1999 and Fran in 1996. It comes on a time-delay, long after the winds and the rains have dissipated, and attention has been diverted. The original assault over, the river completes a stealth attack, rising relentlessly out of its banks, lapping over curbs, inching its way onto porches and through doorways.” – The Washington Post.
The damage continues to worsen in the Carolina’s from Hurricane Florence as the floodwaters rise. The death toll is over 40 with hundreds of rescues ongoing throughout the two states. Thousands of homes and businesses are saturated with water and still without power. Many roads are impassable.
The Letter of James reminds us: “What good is faith without action? What good is faith if you ignore someone in need? Faith without good deeds is dead and useless.” (James 2:14-17)
The tragedy of Hurricane Florence is one we cannot ignore. If we take James seriously, churches and individuals must respond.
Susan Kim, a writer for the United Methodist Church suggests ways not to respond:
• Don’t jump from your couch and drive to the site unless you have experience or skills needed.
• Don’t give the shirt off your back. Old clothes are seldom needed and often become a problem.
• Don’t believe that recovery only takes a few days. This will be an ongoing effort for years.
After participating in several disaster relief missions and leading our church through others, here is my top 10 list:
Pray strategically individually and through a group or church. It will be a few weeks before most people can enter the area. Use that time to seek God’s guidance.
Give generously or set aside funds as part of your preparation. These funds can either go to an established charity or set aside for a special project. Contact leaders to see what’s being organized either through your denomination or other connections. For United Methodists there is UMCOR and Annual Conference.
Research organizations to see what’s needed and what others are doing. An individual could join a group or church already experienced in disaster relief and offer valuable assistance.
Assess resources: what talents and skills can be utilized? You may have an experienced plumber or electrician in your group or church who could be a critical part of your team.
Choose something whether a project or organization or group that you want to support. Then communicate information about your choice.
Promote creatively through every available communication channel including social media to allow other people outside your group or church an opportunity to participate. Provide updates whenever possible. Frequent communication is a vital part of maintaining the enthusiasm and morale of everyone as well as recruiting new volunteers.
Build relationships with those you are helping. Learn their story and maintain contact so that progress can be reported and celebrated.
Think long-term as well as short-term when it comes to providing resources and help. Short-term provides needed emergency aid while long-term helps with the difficult process of rebuilding.
Melissa Crutchfield a disaster response leader for the United Methodist Church writes: “Disaster is an issue of poverty because disasters tend to impact poverty-stricken communities the most. The reason people rebuild their houses along the coastline in poor fishing communities may be because they aren’t able to afford any other option. Accompanying a community through all the phases of disaster recovery requires a long-term commitment. It is only after the injured have been treated, the hungry fed, and the thirsty provided with clean, potable water that recovery begins. Long after the rubble-strewn streets have been cleared and houses rebuilt, we may still be called to walk side-by-side with disaster survivors while they make their communities stronger and better prepared for the next calamity.”
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward oversees much of North Carolina and is actively involved with helping churches and communities recover. She recently wrote a prayer for those in the damaged areas: “Loving God, the source of strength and restoration and healing, we pray together for all who suffer in our communities today. In the wake of wind and waves, destruction and flooding, make your presence known through our generosity to our neighbors, near and far. Give us the vision and patience to live and labor faithfully through this season of response and recovery. As we clean up and rebuild, give us your joy and peace. Give us above all the love for one another that is your best gift always. In the name of the Triune God, we pray. Amen.”
REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@sowingseedsoffaith. com.