Hurricane Matthew Relief Trip Report

Our team of six Hope Force International (HFI) staff and reservists formed the initial response team to Hurricane Matthew. We met in Nashville and drove our equipment to Fayetteville, NC. The original plan was to head to Florida, but as Hurricane Matthew made its trip up the coast, it became apparent that we could do the most good in North Carolina. Additional reservists and volunteers joined us in the following days.
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Through a string of relationships (which is how most things get done!), we connected with city officials in Lumberton, NC. They were thrilled to have us involved, but we had to wait for the water to recede before we could get into the area to begin work. So we setup our initial base of operations in an empty house near Fayetteville (it was up for sale, owned by a friend of a friend…). 14670860_1187053201340489_7850694225780063080_nWe worked on eight homes in the Fayetteville area while waiting five days for the water level to go down in Lumberton.

Some of the homes in Fayetteville were owned by widows that we connected with through local churches. Fort Bragg is near Fayetteville, so we also had the privilege of helping the families of some military men stationed there.
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Lumberton is a city of about 21,000 people. It is an economically challenged area, and has been recognized as the “most dangerous city in NC”, “4th most dangerous city in the US”, home of the “worst NC drivers” (fatalities/capita), and the “6th worst place in NC to get a job”. Nevertheless, the city officials we engaged with were impressive, dedicated, hard working, caring people. They were excited to have HFI engaged as much for the emotional & spiritual care we brought as for the physical labor we provided. During the time I was there, HFI brought in three chaplains in response to the city’s requests for help.

Everyone we met in Lumberton defied the city’s negative reputation.

Woody’s a good example. When the levee was breached and water flooded into his neighborhood, sandWoody spent the night making trips into his neighborhood in a boat rescuing those who couldn’t get out. His own home was badly damaged and will require a lot of work to repair. Decades of remodels left multiple layers of drywall and paneling, and layers of flooring upon flooring – and the flood waters settled between each of those layers. It all needed to be removed so his home could dry out properly.

The hardest part of disaster relief deployments is having to leave knowing there’s still so much work to be done. It will be months or even years before some of these people recover from the physical and emotional trauma. It is our “terrible privilege” to be able to engage with a few and do what we wish we could do for all. But our belief and prayer is that some of those we meet will find the source of peace and joy in Christ that far surpasses the losses they’ve experienced.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support that made this effort possible. You can continue to support Hope Force International at http://www.hopeforce.org.

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Responding to Hurricane Matthew

If this seems like déjà vu, it was only seven weeks ago that I posted something similar as I prepared to leave for Louisiana.  It seems that disasters don’t submit themselves to our scheduling preferences…

matthew_mapHope Force International has asked me to join their initial assessment team in preparation for sending response teams to the East Coast.  Our initial connection is with a partner near Orlando, but we may move up the coast from there depending on the need and connections.  As of this writing, the deadly storm is just moving away from Florida as it moves up the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas.  So it’s still too soon to know where the worst damage will be and how bad it is. But this storm has left hundreds dead in Haiti and other Caribbean islands and has killed at least four in Florida so far.  About one million Floridians are without power.

Tomorrow morning I’ll fly to Nashville where I’ll join Hope Force staff to haul our tool trailer to Florida. I’ll be on the ground there, doing whatever needs done until I fly home on October 20.

I welcome your partnership in this ministry.  Here are a few things you can be praying for:

  • That beyond the physical repairs, we would be effective at bringing the message of hope, encouragement, and love to the survivors of this devastation.  Our work is more about people than it is about property.
  • Hope Force will keep their response effort going as long as three things are true: 1) the need continues; 2) funding is available; and 3) manpower is available.  The increased rate of disasters has drained the availability of Hope Force’s reservists in recent months.
  • Wisdom and safety for all involved.

I was incredibly blessed by the outpouring of support for my Louisiana trip.  Not everyone can be boots on the ground, but those of us who can couldn’t do it without the support of others who have the heart to pray and give towards this effort. The excess funds beyond my personal expenses go to Hope Force to help with the relief efforts.  You can provide financial support for me and the relief work by check or online through my church at https://graceorange.churchcenteronline.com/giving/donations. Select “3100 Hope Force Int’l Disaster Response – AW” in the “To” box.

A NOTE FROM GRACE CHURCH OF ORANGE:   We appreciate your financial support of our short-term mission projects.  Please make your check payable to Grace Church of Orange and send it to 2201 E. Fairhaven Ave. Orange, CA 92869.  On the memo line of your check, please specify that your donation is for HFI Disaster Response. Be aware that IRS regulations do not permit tax deductible donations for specific individuals, so indicating a person’s name may affect the deductibility of your donations.  (Please check with your tax advisor.)  If you would like for the person to know about your donation, you may include a note with your name on it.  If for any reason your donation is not needed for this project, (such as more funds received beyond what is needed), it will be applied to other missions efforts.  If you give $250 or more you will receive a statement of your donations in January of the following year.  Please contact the church office at 714-633-8867 if you have any questions.

Thank you for enabling me to represent you to those in need!