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The good neighbor …

Friends, I composed this article on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 11, prior to the devastating afternoon wind and rains that hit our region. I share it with a big thank you to the heroes in hardhats who have worked so hard to get our community back up and running:

A tornado watch covers our area this afternoon. Once again, we lie under the cloud-cover of a massive regional storm. Millions have been cast under its shadow, and untold numbers lie elsewhere under wreckage and debris, without immediate help or means to communicate. Hurricane Michael came ashore with speed and force. First responders, state resources, FEMA and volunteer groups are wading through rising waters and rubble to reach people and restore life in its wake.

From Farmville, we have neighbors who have responded to such moments, sharing professional help to restore power, to transport fuel, water and food. Area stores have offered resources and technical expertise. Neighbors have been on rapid-response teams to help affected communities. They help families dry-out, get the mud out, clear out the soaked contents of homes, and tear-out the very walls themselves to help people start over. Following Hurricane Florence, our town and area churches have been directly connected to the town of Lumberton, North Carolina, to provide support as they continue to find a path to recovery.

When an event like this happens, the crisis itself hits like a shock-wave. To help people address what has happened first requires an emergency response. After that comes a period of providing basic elements of immediate relief. Once immediate needs are met, a season of recovery follows which can stretch out in time for months and years. Continuing to support and encourage communities that have experienced such trauma takes time and dedication. In the wake of numerous such major events, this can feel overwhelming.

It is physically impossible for one person to help in every location. However, we can be used somehow to offer grace and tender mercy. God would have us notice the needs of those around us, be moved by compassion, and be stirred to action. I am reminded of the story Jesus told, when asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10). Jesus told of a person who was laid low on the side of the road. Left for dead, the person was seen but then avoided by two other travelers. A third traveler sees him and responds, tending to his wounds, getting him out of danger, and providing for his recovery.

Lord, I pray I can be one who responds. Show me what part I can play as I see the needs of my neighbors. Use me well as an agent of your mercy and grace. Amen.

REV. MICHAEL KENDALL can be reached at kendallmp@aol.com.