By Jessica Brodie
Across South Carolina, United Methodist churches small and large are stepping up to be the hands and feet of Christ in the aftermath of the flood. And whether serving as Red Cross shelters, collecting money or mobilizing money and volunteers, they are heeding God’s call to help.
Here are their stories in random order:
- North Charleston UMC, North Charleston, served as a Red Cross emergency shelter after the flood, hosting dozens of residents in their fellowship hall. The Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby said the area around the church had very little flooding, but just a couple of miles away, roads were washed out, and many people have been restricted to their subdivisions because major thoroughfares are closed. “We just want to be the hands and feet of Christ to people who are most in need,” Hudson-Jacoby said. “We want to offer the ultimate levels of Christian hospitality to people no matter what.”
- At Platt Springs UMC, Columbia, one of their members drove a bus to a nearby flooded apartment building and transported the evacuees to the church until they could find permanent shelter. “Jesus’ example guides us to love our neighbor and comfort the afflicted, and today has given us a terrific opportunity to do just that,” the Rev. Michael Hood said.
- Little River UMC, on the coast, received a great deal of rain. Senior Pastor the Rev. Kevin Gorry said road closures made it difficult to get around, but their Dignity Ministry continued to operate. ”We have been open to provide a dry place to go, meals for the homeless and anyone else who was in need. We are providing facilities for showers, and the washing and drying of clothes,” Gorry said. “We have also been providing clothing for those who have appeared at our doors soaking wet and with little or nothing but the clothes they were wearing.”
- Duncan UMC, Duncan, was designated a temporary shelter for flood victims.
- Jacksons Grove UMC, Landrum, pastor the Rev. Mike Bowers said not only is his church praying and collecting funds, but also led a team of ERT volunteers to join with another church, New Beginnings UMC, to deploy to one of the hardest-hit areas. The church also collected cleaning equipment and supplies to send with the team.
- Wesley Memorial UMC, Chester, took up a love offering to make flood buckets. One member agreed to pay for the buckets for whatever amount of supplies were funded. “I think it’s great what folks are doing and trying to do to help,” said the Rev. Dan Sullivan. “It shows that they are being the hands and feet of Christ.”
- Langley UMC, Langley, used its church facility to accept donations of cases of bottled water to help the flood victims. “Langley UMC is located in the center of the Horse Creek Valley between Aiken and Augusta, and so we feel blessed to be able to serve as the local drop off area in helping to provide fresh water,” said the Rev. Randall Haase, who noted people were at the church during several hours of the day and evening to accept donations, and they made several trips with bottled water to communities in South Carolina.
- First UMC, Conway, has been an American Red Cross Evacuation Center and hosted the Red Cross the week of Oct. 19 as they work with residents in Conway to provide financial aid. They have also volunteered to host ERTs. On the Sunday following the flood, Trinity UMC, Conway, joined First for worship, as Trinity was unable to use its building. “This was a bit of a historic first—First UMC gave birth to Trinity 58 years ago as a daughter congregation,” the Rev. Kyle Randle said. ”While we have shared many mutual services and ministries, we believe this may have been the first time the two congregations worshipped as one on a Sunday morning since the beginning of Trinity.”
- St. John’s UMC, Lugoff’s, Cub Scout Pack 316 held a Hygiene Product Drive-Thru Drop Off for flood victims, and people donated washcloths, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and other toiletries. They also held a sock drive, collecting new packs of socks for flood victims.
- Aldersgate UMC Cub Scouts, Greenville, collected a great many items that they transported to Columbia to help with water and supply needs.
- Mount Hebron UMC, West Columbia, offered their church as a shelter.
- Bethel UMC, Pelion, has been in phone contact, checking on persons who live alone. They have put together 52 hygiene kits and distributed 10 to the local fire station, 10 to the local food pantry and 32 to Harvest Hope for distribution to those in need. “We will continue to monitor needs and respond,” said the Rev. Kathryn Scarborough, who noted some of their ERT members are serving in other areas of the state, and the church is also collecting funds for the conference disaster fund and food items for Harvest Hope.
- Mount Horeb UMC, Lexington, held a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Team training after the storm to help people be able to respond in the aftermath of the disaster to help make structures safe, sanitary and secure, while providing a caring Christian presence. The training is an eight-hour course on the basic fundamentals of disaster response.
- Anderson District churches—Mount Zion UMC, Central; Clemson UMC, Clemson; Pendleton, Lawrence Chapel, Central and Bethel UMCs, Pendleton; and Liberty UMC, Liberty—teamed up to collect supplies for flood victims. The effort was coordinated by Rev. Gene Aiken, and supplies were dropped off at Mount Zion. Church members took two trailer loads to Trenholm Road UMC, Columbia. The Rev. Mike Smith at Trenholm Road provided the churches with a list of supplies needed, and the churches collected supplies for three days. In those three days, the churches were able to collect about four pallets of water, more than 40 boxes of diapers, a trailer-full of dry and canned goods, health supplies and clothes. “When we arrived, we were overwhelmed with both the number of volunteers at Trenholm Road and the amount of need,” Aiken said. ”We were happy that we were able to do something to meet the immediate need of the Columbia area, and are hoping to continue to participate in any ways needed to help with the recovery effort.”
- Moncks Corner UMC Fellowship Hall, Moncks Corner, was a temporary Red Cross shelter for about 60 flood victims arriving from the Upstate of South Carolina. Brittne’ Guerry, director of youth and communications at the church, said they were able to not only shelter, but minister to five men and three families throughout the week. “Our church was able to provide these things along with personal comfort kits, home cooked meals, hot showers and clothes,” Guerry said. ”Through the support of nine different churches in the Moncks Corner community, MCUMC was able to collect thousands of donations including toothpaste, toothbrushes, hygiene products, toiletries, diapers, foods, clothing and towels. Our facility became the distribution location for several days.” After flood victims were transferred out, the church was able to partner with Kingstree UMC and deliver all unused donations along with a hot meal. In addition, the Methodist Youth Fellowship was able to initiate and execute “The Little Brown Bag Project,” which consisted of families providing a brown bag with a complete casual outfit (shirt, pants, accessories), personal toiletry items and snacks. Each bag was labeled by gender and size and given to those who came in for assistance throughout the week. “This was an amazing ‘God moment’ for our community, as different denominations pitched in together to provide donations and hot meals through our church. It was evident in Moncks Corner that together through this disaster, we all truly believe that we are one church united together regardless of denomination.
The Advocate continues to collect stories of how churches and individuals stepped up to help after the flood. Email stories and high-resolution photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about flood relief and how to help: www.umcsc.org/screcovery.