NICHOLS – More than 200 United Methodist volunteers traveled to Nichols on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3, in an effort to bring hope to the town still drying out from flooding more than a month after Hurricane Matthew struck.
In all, 236 people worked one or both days of the “Nichols Blitz,” “mucking out” 18 homes in the Marion County town overwhelmed by floodwaters from the nearby Lumber and Pee Dee rivers.
They removed moldy drywall, pulled up saturated flooring, sorted possessions and hauled waste out of the homes of grateful residents such as Margaret Tart, who has lived in her home on Pee Dee Island Road for 43 years.
“It’s been a rough month, but I still trust in God,” Tart said through tears as she watched a crew of United Methodist volunteers gut her home. “To the bishop and the United Methodist congregation, thank y’all from the bottom of my heart. I’m just so full of joy today.
“I’m like Job in the Bible. He lost everything, but then God blessed him. So I’m trusting God. That’s all I can say: Trust in God.”
Like many Nichols residents, Tart lost nearly all of her possessions to water damage or mold – or to floodwaters that carried them away to who-knows-where.
“I lost everything – all my furniture, clothes, everything is gone,” she said. “I want to rebuild here. After they finish gutting it out, I’m praying to God to lead, guide and direct me to make the right decisions.
“With you all here today, the Methodist group, I know God is on my side.”
L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church, visited several homes, offering comfort to the residents and thanks to the hard-working volunteers.
“You are doing what we all ought to do: to live our faith … and to put words into action,” Bishop Holston told volunteers. “Our message of transformation is going out into the countryside.
“Whenever we gather – whether with a hammer or a Bible, whether with a shovel or a hymnal – this should be a spiritual revival.”
While the work itself is important, the bishop said, “for them to see people from across the state giving of themselves and their time for them, it’s simply amazing.
“This is telling us that more events of this nature are needed. So I know that the United Methodist Church here in South Carolina will do its part to make a difference in the life of the people here in Nichols and across this state.”
Volunteers came from across the state – the Upstate, the Midlands, the Lowcountry – and from around the corner – Marion, Florence, Myrtle Beach. They came from neighboring states Georgia and North Carolina, and from not-so-nearby Texas. They came from big cities – Columbia, Charleston, Greenville – and from small towns – Ninety-Six, Honea Path, Waterloo, Clio.
Many took vacation time to be there. Pastors and laity, men and women, firefighters, cops, office workers, retirees, young people.
Regardless of their backgrounds or what was going on back home, they all came for one reason.
“We’re here to bring people hope,” said the Rev. Fred Buchanan, pastor of Barnwell United Methodist Church. “When you lose everything, it’s easy for a person to fall into a sense of despair and hopelessness.
“If we can bring some hope back into their lives, we’ve done something worthwhile.”
Marion District Lay Leader Becky Green, a member of Wayne United Methodist Church in Georgetown, said the flooding that hit her community and others across the state in October 2015 helped inspire her to come to Nichols.
“This house was three feet under water,” she said of the home she and a dozen other volunteers – strangers until they came together in common purpose last week – worked on. “I had a lot friends go through that last October in the flood in Georgetown. They lost everything.
“It makes you want to come in and help.”
Matt Brodie, disaster response coordinator for the S.C. Conference, said the success of the “Nichols Blitz” will lead to future relief work events.
“There is a lot more work to do,” he told volunteers on Friday. “We hope this inspires you to come back – and to bring some friends with you.”
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.
Here are more photos of United Methodist relief volunteers working during the “Nichols Blitz”: