- The damage in Fayetteville is not as “bad as other places,” according to First, Fayetteville pastor, Rob James. He said they are thinking long term for their community. Rob said emphatically that First Baptist needed to be a “hub” for services and if not then “they are doing a disservice to our neighbors.” Rob said that for so many years he has taken short-term mission teams to help other communities rebuild after disasters like Hurricane Matthew. “Now,” he said, “our mission trip is over there.” The goal for the recovery efforts in Fayetteville is to assess needs, find long-term solutions and build long term relationships. The storm has given them the unique opportunity to form relationships with their neighbors they wouldn’t have otherwise had. They are looking for ways to host volunteers in the future as they host “mission trips to our neighbors.”
- Who are you with?” The question stunned CBFNC Moderator, Lisa Rust. She and other volunteers from First, Lumberton, were trying to help a homeless gentleman get a bus ticket to the shelter in Raleigh. She inquired what he meant. He said that most people “don’t try this hard or care this much.” She responded that they “were with Jesus. My friends and I are helping in Jesus’ name.”
- Meeting a displaced couple in Lumberton, Larry Hovis and Lisa Rust listen intently as they share their story. They awoke to find fire trucks outside and two feet of water in their rental home. They are hard-working employees at a local fast food restaurant and have lost everything in the flooding following Hurricane Matthew. When asked what do you need most, they replied, “A bed.” Their current residence is shared by many other families and infested with bugs. They hope this will be a very temporary stay but FEMA paperwork requires a lot of time. In the meantime, they continue to walk the extra 20 minutes to work and stay in the substandard boarding house. Besides prayer and hugs from their visitors from CBFNC, this couple received a gift card to help buy a few groceries and personal hygiene items.
- First, Lumberton, never intended to become a distribution center for hurricane response according to Pastor David Elks. One woman and one van load changed that. She stood in the parking lot and simply said, “I have nothing. I just need food.” A van full of items had arrived earlier from First, Sanford, and they took their neighbor “shopping” in the back room where the contents had been unloaded in piles. They realized quickly they would need to get organized. With a temporary DSS intake area, a baby/family goods shop, and a Mennonite feeding station, David, his staff, and volunteers mobilized to help meet the needs of their neighbors. One volunteer commented that the supplies have been replenished “again and again” and often the shelf is re-stocked with an item that is “exactly what is needed at that moment.”
- Lumberton was one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Matthew. The storm hit all areas of the city, both lower-income and middle-class neighborhoods. Many supplies and volunteers are flocking to the city to help with the ongoing response efforts. Members of CBFNC churches have joined the efforts “on the ground” to extend the love of Christ to this devastated community. Like in other areas, the storm has brought the city together in friendship and generosity. One volunteer noted, “You know you are where you need to be when you can’t tell who’s giving and who’s receiving.” For Lumberton, there has been an increased sense of community and shared experience among those once divided.
- Billy Small is the chairman of the deacons at Fair Bluff Baptist Church. Fair Bluff is a small community that sits on the Lumber River. Billy shared that this was the worst flood since 1929. He said there was another bad storm in the late ’60s when he paddled a canoe down Main Street but that was “nothing like this.” He commented that they were “lucky to have had the North wind” or “nothing would be left.” In the background, chainsaws are working. He said, “That’s the sound you’ll hear for awhile” in his community. He joins pastor, Todd Padgett, in searching for ways to tear out their sanctuary and education building and to rebuild their community. “Honestly,” Todd said, “we just don’t have the bodies to help.”
- One of the lesser known areas hit by Hurricane Matthew is Fair Bluff. This small town sits directly on the Lumber River which crested its banks at 500-year flood-plain levels. The entire downtown was destroyed by the flooding, which includes most of the industry in the town. Fair Bluff Baptist Church sits across from what was the Historic Lumber River River Walk which is now in shambles. The church sanctuary, offices, and education buildings were consumed by rushing water. When Matthew passed, these buildings retained about 3′ of water for several days. The pastor, Todd Padgett, has served this church just over a year. He is a humble guy who is grieving himself but busy working to restore families within his congregation. He shared that on a pastoral visit with one of the flood victims, the parishioner said, “I just want normal.” Todd told us that he didn’t have the heart to tell him that he needed a new normal. The bright spot in this situation for Todd is that a few years ago they built a new fellowship building. They built it on the 500-year flood plain. The water reached the lip of the door but did not go in. He calls this building the “arc” and hopes to use it as such for his community. The water receded on Wednesday from Fair Bluff Baptist Church and they need help cleaning out all these buildings. They are ready to receive teams, but the infrastructure (both roads and sewer system were ruined) are hindering these efforts. Todd said that if he had showers and if folks didn’t mind “roughing it” on the floor of the fellowship building, they could start cleaning out. Larry Hovis and Todd discussed the cost for shower trailers (or make-shift showers) as well as the costs for feeding/housing volunteers. Todd’s greatest concerns were for the children of the church and for the future of the town. Larry said that if you are looking for a specific need related to CBFNC’s response efforts, Todd Padgett and Fair Bluff is near the top of our list.