In October of this year, South Carolina received storms that caused enormous flooding, dams breaking, lives lost, homes destroyed and whole towns evacuated. Repairs and reconstruction will take years. The South Carolina Annual Conference Disaster Recovery Team has been leading much of the recovery efforts. See photos, updates and stories at South Carolina Conference Disaster Response and 2015 Flood Recovery on the conference's website.
Linworth work team in front of Eva Julius's house. L-R (front row) Jeff Thorn, Curnell Graham, Nancy McCoy; (back row) David Throndsen, Tod Powers, Art Roffe, Jon Pierce, Howard Baulch, Jim Rosing
Eva Julius in her home with David Throndsen, Jeff Thorn, Tod Powers and Nancy McCoy.
Asbury held a worship service for the team from Ohio.
Asbury United Methodist Church, Kingstree, South Carolina.
In Ohio, Rev. Curnell Graham, newly appointed to Linworth United Methodist Church, watched news reports and kept in touch with his family and friends in South Carolina. Kingstree, South Carolina is Curnell's home town and Asbury United Methodist Church in Kingstree is his boyhood church. On October 6 the entire town of Kingstree was shut down and under mandatory evacuation because the Black River had risen 10 ft over the weekend and flooded the area.
One of the things about Linworth is that it’s a church with a missional heart and when Curnell arrived last July, it was already an outwardly-focused congregation.
"As soon as they became aware that my home town needed help, church members began approaching me asking how they could help." says Curnell. "They saw how personal and emotional this was for me and sprung into action organizing a recovery team and collecting donations. To date, the congregation has raised over $9,000 to aid in the recovery effort. "
After first connecting with the South Carolina Conference and local church pastor, the nine-member Linworth work team arrived this week in Kingstree and began partering with church members from Asbury Church, pastored by Rev. Jerry Dicks who is also one of the local disaster coordinators for the conference. The South Carolina Conference disaster team had already done a great deal of work, cleaning, clearing, removing mold and tearing out damaged dry wall. Most houses had to be gutted and all furnishings thrown away.
Today they start on the home of Vera Harris. Vera and her sisters were burying their only brother the day of the storm. They were evacuated and are now staying in one of the sister's homes, 22 children and adults from three households living together until their homes can be restored.The team set to work first on the home of Eva Julius. Eva was Curnell's Sunday School teacher at Asbury. Her home was under six feet of water and she lost everything. (See photo of her home above.) Eva, her daughter and grandson were evacuated by boat and are now living elsewhere, hoping to get back in their home before Christmas. Like most flood victims, FEMA money covered only about one third of the value of their loss. They are incredibly grateful that the people of the South Carolina Conference and the West Ohio Conference were helping to fill the gap. By Tuesday Eva had new drywall in her home.
Asbury United Methodist Church is a small church of about 100 members. They'd been working on saving enough money in their building fund for a much needed new church for over 20 years. They has just started building on the new property when the storm hit. The new structure is fine, but the old church was damaged and they are trying to repair it enough to make it last until the new building is ready. Many of these same people, who sacrificed to give to the building fund, are now also having to rebuild their own homes
"This is the church where I was born and baptized and where I began the road to ordained ministry 36 years ago." says Curnell. "I believe that God placed me at Linworth for just such a time as this. I'm humbled to hear how grateful the people of Asbury United Methodist Church are for the outpouring of support from the people of Linworth."
More help and support will be needed for some time to come and other teams are encouraged to contact the South Carolina Conference to schedule work teams in the state. To register your team for future deployment, call 1-800-390-4911 or email screcovery [at] umcsc.org.