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Church spreads Christmas cheer to storm victims

Church spreads Christmas cheer to storm victims
Volunteers stand with one of the pickup truck loads of Christmas decorations donated by Macedonia UMC and other area churches to flood and hurricane victims in Nichols, Sellers and elsewhere in Marion County.

By Jessica Brodie

MULLINS—Imagine losing almost everything and having to start over with just the essentials. Now imagine it’s Christmas, and the cheerful tree and festive decorations are absent, lost to mold and muck and other flood-related devastation.

You’re grateful to have a home, as so many are not so fortunate. And yet the thought of celebrating what many consider the most joyous time of year without the cozy, familiar memories and traditions is downright depressing.

For hundreds of South Carolina hurricane and flood victims, that’s exactly what happened. While some lost their homes entirely from the three-year storm whammy—the flood of 2015, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and the heavy hurricane season of fall 2017— those lucky enough to get needed repairs and return home are struggling with a new normal.

Members of Macedonia United Methodist Church, Mullins, saw this firsthand, especially in the nearby communities of Nichols and Sellers, which were extremely hard-hit. And this Christmas, they decided to pitch in and help make their neighbors’ holiday season a bit brighter by donating Christmas trees, garland, ornaments and other decorations.

While it was the brainchild of one elderly woman in the church (who wishes to remain anonymous), when she brought her God-inspired idea to fellow church members, they jumped on it immediately. The generous results, she and her pastor said, were staggering.

Three pickup truck loads have so far been distributed of new or gently used Christmas trees, ornaments, tree skirts, tree toppers, lights, garland, bows and much more, from Macedonia members as well as Christians from other denominations around the community.

“There are some beautiful things, and I don’t mean trash—really nice stuff,” she said. “I am stunned at what has come in; I really, really am.”

Her pastor, the Rev. David Inman, said he’s extremely impressed by the spirit of Christian love exhibited in his congregation.

“This perfectly illustrates how God uses us to present ideas that can make a difference in the world,” Inman said. “It’s an example to others about how we should give ‘to the least of these’ without receiving credit, for as Jesus says in Matthew 25:31-46, paraphrasing, when we do it for one of the least of these … it is the same as if you have done it for me.”

Already one of the poorest counties in the state, many Marion County residents could not afford flood insurance. Nichols’ Main Street remains boarded up, with only a few businesses open even after all this time. Macedonia members have struggled, too, but they wanted to do something to share the joy and giving spirit of the season.

Macedonia UMC is already preparing for next year; they are storing some decorations in their church library for neighbors not back in their homes yet, and they’re asking members that when it comes time to pack up their decorations for the season to instead set them aside for others and store them in the church for people to use next year.

“It’s a way for people to get rid of stuff and also spread holiday spirit to people who are in need,” said the anonymous member. “It’s been one of the most heartwarming things I’ve ever been involved with.

Anyone who has decorations they wish to donate can reach out to Macedonia UMC: 843-464-8127 or macedoniaum@bellsouth.net.

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