How can you help?
- Volunteers are desperately needed to serve on or with Early Response Teams at all times. For more information, contact Matt Brodie at 803-786-9486 Ext. 261 or email@example.com.
- Donate financially to the S.C. Conference’s disaster relief efforts and to UMCOR’s Advance U.S. Disaster Response, which allows the United Methodist Committee on Relief to respond quickly and appropriately to emergencies in the United States.
- Pray for the safety of those affected by the storm, emergency responders, Early Response Teams and others providing relief efforts.
NICHOLS – Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, resident bishop of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, spent Wednesday afternoon in Nichols, the town in the Marion District that was devastated by floodwaters last month in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
Bishop Haupert-Johnson wanted to see first-hand the damage inflicted on the tiny community – home to Nichols United Methodist Church – to get a better grasp on what members of her conference might be able to do to help.
“Any time you see devastation like that, you think about your own loved ones, your own neighborhood, your own city – and you realize this could happen to any of us,” she said. “When we consider disaster relief, we all too often think of being the knights in shining armor coming in on horses right after the tragedy and making ourselves feel better and feeling like the heroes.
“But the real heroes are the ones who come in week after week – when there’s not a lot of press and there’s not a lot of glory – and they’re there showing up for these folks.”
Numerous Early Response Teams and other volunteer groups coordinated by the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church have been working in Nichols since the floodwaters receded.
Almost 200 volunteers from United Methodist churches across the state, as well as a handful from neighboring states, will descend on Nichols on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, as part of the “Nichols Blitz” to continue that good work.
Bishop Haupert-Johnson visited with three families forced from their homes by the flooding, including the Rev. Eddie Collier, pastor at Nichols UMC.
She walked through the now-gutted parsonage – from which Rev. Collier and his wife had to be rescued by boat – and two other homes where United Methodist volunteers have been working over the past few weeks.
“In times like this, you need people,” Rev. Collier said, standing in the musty shell of his home across the street from his church. “When you say, ‘God, where are you?’ he says, ‘I’m all around you.’ The Bible says no one has seen his face, but I’ve gotten glimpses of his face many times, hundreds of times, in the past few weeks.
“When I see all of these people – and our own Bishop (L. Jonathan) Holston and a bishop all the way from North Georgia – it uplifts my spirit and helps me to be reassured that what I’m preaching is real.”
A few blocks away from Nichols UMC, Reina Flores and her family are still working to dry out their home, with the help of United Methodist volunteers. They’ve pulled up flooring, removed soaked drywall and have fans running non-stop throughout their neat brick home on Main Street.
The odor of the mixture of sewage, gasoline and chemicals from a nearby farm – all swept through their home in the rush of floodwaters – is still evident in the Flores home.
“We couldn’t do all of this without the help of family and the Methodist teams and others,” Flores said. “This is a ghost town right now. It’s really bad, but we want to come back.”
After visiting with each of the families, Bishop Haupert-Johnson prayed with them, asking God to watch over them and to help them see that “better times are ahead.”
“The message we need to get out is that disaster recovery goes on for days, months, years,” she said. “And the mental toll that is taken is much deeper. Those of us who are not directly affected, we forget, we go on with our lives, but these folks are still in the middle of this.”
When Bishop Haupert-Johnson and her staff return to North Georgia, they’ll work to get as many volunteers from their conference to some to South Carolina to help families like those she met in Nichols recover from the devastation.
“We’ve got resources and people to rally,” she said.