Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and the extended Cabinet worked at four Disaster Recovery Ministries sites throughout the day April 25, 2018, helping South Carolina families who are still recovering in the wake of the 2015 floods and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Bishop Holston, several district superintendents, and the leaders of various conference ministries worked together in Hopkins and Santee for two purposes – to help restore some semblance of normalcy for four families, and to get the word out to laity and clergy across the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to be in mission and ministry together throughout South Carolina,” said Bishop Holston as he worked at a home in the Hopkins community southeast of Columbia. “Sometimes we forget that people are still in need.
“What our Cabinet has done on this day is put our hands, our hearts, our skills – everything we have – to work, and to remember that there are people who are still in need of assistance to those persons who might seem to have been forgotten.”
But these people are not forgotten. Thanks to grants from the United Methodist Committee on Relief and other relief agencies, funding is available to repair homes, and the Conference Disaster Recovery Ministries is coordinating the efforts of volunteers from across the state and nation.
And that’s where you come in.
“Fortunately, because we have good leadership on the conference Disaster Recovery staff, you don’t need to have a lot of construction or carpentry skills,” said the Rev. Joe Long, superintendent of the Rock Hill District. “All you need is a willingness to learn, to give some sweat and effort, and they will guide and coach you.”
The Rev. Cathy Mitchell, who will become the superintendent of the Spartanburg District in June, was moved to see the excitement in the eyes of the woman whose home she and others worked on. That inspired her to invite as many other volunteers as possible to come help.
“All you need is your heart and your hands,” said Rev. Mitchell, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church on Johns Island. “Bring what you have, and others will help you. It’s great to work as a team, helping a person and getting to know her, and through that, becoming a stronger community.”
The Rev. Terry Fleming, who will become the superintendent of the Florence District in June, admitted that the work day was an eye-opener for him.
“I’m very shocked and saddened in my personal response, because as soon as these disasters fell out of the headlines, they fell out of the front of my mind,” said Rev. Fleming, pastor of New Beginnings United Methodist Church in Boiling Springs. “But as we have worked here, I’ve seen the tremendous need – here and all through the community.
“I’m excited that the South Carolina Conference has not abandoned these people, and that clergy and laity continue to be involved in disaster recovery work – and that we’re going to go the distance until the job is done.”
The Rev. Thomas Pearson, superintendent of the Walterboro District, described the disaster recovery efforts of the Cabinet and other volunteers as “great work for the Lord.”
“I want you to know that these hands here,” Rev. Pearson said, extending his sawdust-covered palms, “have been working today, and even though you may not be able to do some of the work, there is always more help that is needed.”
The Rev. Kathy James, the conference director of Connectional Ministries, echoed Rev. Fleming’s sentiment.
“United Methodists take pride in being the first ones in, with our Early Response Teams, and the last ones to leave with our disaster recovery teams,” Rev. James said. “But that can only happen if our good United Methodists will take the time to step out of their comfort zones to make a difference.
“You do not have to be skilled or in shape; you just have to be willing to give a day or a couple of days or a week of your time to make a difference in the lives of people who are still trying to recover from the floods of 2015 and from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.”
The Rev. Robin Dease, superintendent of the Hartsville District, pointed to herself as an example of a volunteer without any special construction skills, and yet she was still able to contribute a full day of work.
“I am hanging sheetrock – sheetrock! I don’t even know what sheetrock is!” Rev. Dease said. “Come on out and help us. We’re doing floors, ceilings, walls, painting.
“We need your help in order to give people hope and the knowledge that the church is here for them.”
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