My family and I watched the news for several days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. We had a vacation planned for Walt Disney World, beginning Saturday, October 8th.
From all accounts, it appeared that the worst of the storm would hit Florida on Thursday night into Friday morning. With a Saturday morning flight and a clear weather forecast, we thought we’d be all right. Always one to prepare, though, I set up a one way rental car for Friday, just in case our flight was cancelled.
Friday morning brought news of damage along Florida’s coast, but inland areas appeared to be spared. We thought our plans were safe, but by late afternoon, we got the call that our flight had been cancelled.
We picked up our rental car and hit the road that evening, driving through rainy weather until we were too tired to continue. We figured we’d get a hotel room and work on a travel plan in the morning, based on the weather.
The next day, we were tracking the storm as the morning progressed. Our route had us basically coming in behind Hurricane Matthew and took us through rural highways in South Carolina. As we proceeded, we quickly went from thinking things weren’t too bad, to realizing the devastation that people were facing in the aftermath of a hurricane.
We were travelling through some of South Carolina’s most depressed and poverty stricken areas. As we proceeded through small town after town, we saw people wandering around, seemingly in shock. They gathered together in front of local churches or stores, anywhere where they could find an open parking lot that wasn’t flooded or covered in downed trees.
Houses stood on the side of the road, with varying degrees of damage, but none really appeared to be spared. Some looked to just have cosmetic damage, while others had shingles missing from rooftops. Some of the more unlucky ones had large trees smashed right through the homes and some houses were completely destroyed. Most yards were completely flooded and for stretches of several hundred miles, nobody had power.
We were on what must have been considered to be a “main road” for the area. To say traveling on this road was difficult would be an understatement. In many spots, the trees were down, blocking one lane or the other and we moved along, weaving from lane to lane, dodging branches, trunks and scariest of all, low hanging power lines.
It was extremely humbling to realize that as I passed through with my family in a safe vehicle with a nice destination ahead of me, there were many parents out there with a much different outlook that afternoon. They were stuck, with no power and no transportation. Many likely had no money, no insurance, no food and water and no options. They would not be able to do anything that evening, except go back to those destroyed homes or hopefully shelters and try to put their children to bed. They had no way to feed those kids, bathe them and wish them sweet dreams.
As we maneuvered through these roads, my 8-year old daughter quietly said from the backseat “all I can think is that God will do something with all of this.” My wife and I looked at each other and just thought about this profound statement from our daughter. Her faith was unwavering. She knew that God would take care of everyone. She didn’t know exactly how, but she knew it would happen.
As we were going through South Carolina, my thoughts went to Mission Central. It’s easy to talk about the need for cleaning buckets or donations, but it’s an entirely different perspective when you see, first-hand, what the word “devastation” really means.
While personally only getting a small taste of what this hurricane did, this experience really brings new meaning to my work at Mission Central. I know that everything that’s done there helps people in some way. The clothing, the food, the medical supplies, even the pet food that we ship out makes a difference. God’s hands are at work through Mission Central. God is “doing something with all of this” through the ever faithful and dedicated volunteers, the staff, the people that bring donations in through our doors, our ministry partners, UMCOR and other organizations who will all band together to help assure that anyone who needs assistance is able to receive it. Yes, I thought to my daughter’s statement, “God will do something with all of this destruction” and Mission Central will be part of that response.
Mission Central Communications Coordinator