The rains came down
“No one ever imagined having this much rain, so people have been really devastated,” said Mike Hollis, preaching minister for the Palmetto Church of Christ in the state’s capital, Columbia.
“I took food to an apartment complex, and a lady receiving it was in tears, thanking us for it,” Hollis said. “Most of that apartment had been underwater.”
Church members help remove floodwater from a home in Columbia, S.C. — and leave drinking water behind. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY DISASTERASSISTANCECOC.COM) Five days of downpour, fueled by Hurricane Joaquin in the Atlantic, brought more than a foot of water upon the city. Across the state, storms claimed at least 19 lives.
Hollis and fellow church members delivered 600-plus meals to victims during their first day of relief work — and hundreds more in the days that followed.
Nashville, Tenn.-based Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort has delivered multiple truckloads of food, hygiene and infant care items, cleaning supplies and new clothing to the Palmetto church and 220-member St. Andrews Road Church of Christ in Columbia. Assisting is Texas-based Disaster Assistance CoC, which helps church members prepare meals and coordinate relief.
Members of the Gateway Disaster Response Team in New Jersey, who helped their community recover after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, traveled to Columbia to help, as did a church group from Lakeview, Texas. They plan to assist homeowners as they clean away storm debris and de-muck their houses. As homeowners rebuild, church members will help with carpentry, plumbing, electrical, masonry and painting needs.
“This is not going to be over in a week, two weeks or even a month,” Hollis said. “This is something we’ve never seen before. Even though we didn’t have all of the things that come with hurricanes, the effects of it have been just as devastating.”
NEW WOES AND HOPE FOR CHARLESTON
Unfortunately, receding floodwaters in Columbia mean more troubles for cities along South Carolina’s coast — including Charleston.
Johnson“All the water from (Columbia) is flowing down the rivers to us, so we’re not done,” said David Johnson, senior minister for Harvest Pointe Church of Christ in North Charleston. “I think the recovery in this area is going to take a while because some of the main roads have disappeared.”
The church launched “Operation Restore Hope” in partnership with congregations including the Summerville Church of Christ, about 30 minutes north of Charleston. Workers with Florida-based Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team are assisting.
In addition to food, relief teams provide counseling, temporary housing in hotels and work crews dedicated to cleaning and rebuilding houses. The Disaster Response Team’s mobile kitchen distributes hot meals to those without electricity.
Much of the flooding occurred in “non-flood zones” where residents don’t have flood insurance, Johnson said. Many families “lost everything they have,” he said, “and their regular insurance isn’t going to cover it, and they still have a mortgage to pay.”
Even those renting homes are struggling to replace their belongings, Johnson said. Church members hope to restore older homes in their community and transform them into affordable housing.
In Columbia, S.C., volunteers unload relief supplies. (DISASTERASSISTANCECOC.COM) People in the historic, colonial city already have endured a year of woes, the minister said. The April 4 shooting death of an apparently unarmed black man by a police officer in North Charleston sparked racial tension.
Then on June 17 a white gunman opened fire during a Wednesday night Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, killing nine people.
Add to that mix a devastating natural disaster, Johnson said, and “you’re going to have people who have emotional issues from this for a while.” The city’s tragedies emphasize the need for Christ followers to deliver more than just cleaning supplies and food, he added.
“This is the time for us to be the church, not just talk about it,” Johnson said. “If we can go into the communities and show love, then that is the best gospel sermon we’ll ever preach.”