Waters Rising: Floods in South Carolina
Over the weekend, record rainfall in South Carolina has led to devastating floods. There are many communities and families hit by these floods, leaving them without important resources. Today on The Feed, we hear from South Carolina resident, Melanie C. Gordon, the director of Ministry with Children, Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Melanie wrote, What Every Child Should Experience: A Guide for Teachers and Leaders in United Methodist Congregations, and Children’s Ministry Guidelines for the 2013-16 Quadrennium. She also blogs at ministrywithchildren.com regularly on issues that impact how children grow in faith. She offers stories of those experiencing the flood and challenges us to get involved with the relief efforts. Click here to donate to UMC relief efforts in South Carolina.
By Melanie C. Gordon
When I was three years old, my parents, my older brother and I, moved from Greenville County in the Piedmont of South Carolina to Williamsburg County in the Low Country for my father to take the position of Director of Student Affairs at Williamsburg Technical College in Kingstree, South Carolina. He grew up in a tiny community called Cades, right outside Kingstree. I loved and continue to cherish that year in Kingstree as it informed the way that I engage in community. Each day after preschool, my Aunt Joyce would take care of me and we would walk to the store for Push-Ups Pops. Sometime during the week, my grandmother would take us along to visit those who were shut in. On Saturday mornings, I tagged along with my dad to see my great-grandfather Calvin “Papa” Cooper. We perched on the porch while my dad shaved him and I entertained him with all the songs I learned in preschool that week. Sundays were spent attending Bethesda UMC with my extended family where my favorite spot was on my grandfather’s lap during worship. Following worship, we gathered at my grandparents’ home for Sunday dinner. Due to unimaginable flooding, that same community finds itself physically isolated from the world today, and for many days to come.
Despite water all around these communities, there is no clean water to drink. In many places there is no water for bathing or flushing toilets.
Our little house in Kingstree is now in the middle of recent and ongoing flooding along with so many homes in the neighborhood. There are some homes with no damage, and others that took on five feet or more of water. A newly repaired bridge is now gone. Some businesses in this small town are complete losses. This becomes even more challenging when the next town is twenty miles away. Kingstree is not alone. The story is the same in numerous towns across the Midlands and Low Country in South Carolina. Despite water all around these communities, there is no clean water to drink. In many places there is no water for bathing or flushing toilets. One of the main roads into Kingstree crosses the Black River which crested above the bridge, and is impassable. In the words of my cousin, Reverend J. Jeanette Cooper, who is pastor of Mount Zion UMC that sits two streets over from our old house, “Kingstree is an island.”
This is what is means to be community. This is what it means to be the hands and feet of God in this world.
But Kingstree is not alone in this struggle. United Methodist Committee on Relief, The Red Cross, and other organizations are working diligently to serve those in need. People around South Carolina are praying and raising funds to support these efforts. People around the country are offering assistance and prayers. This is what is means to be community. This is what it means to be the hands and feet of God in this world. As in many of our counties impacted by the flood waters, religious leaders are coming together to respond to the needs of people in their communities. Reverend Cooper is heading up Ministerial Alliance, an interdenominational organization in Williamsburg County tasked with emergency management. She stresses the immediate need for water, diapers, and flood kits, and the continued need for clergy to provide physical, spiritual, and emotional guidance over the next several months. The people in Williamsburg County are offering hope to one another by checking on neighbors and homes. The congregation of Mount Zion UMC invited the neighborhood to a Fish Fry to fellowship and give thanks for no loss of life in their community. Stories of thankfulness and hope abound. It reminds me of hearing Mahalia Jackson singing from the stereo in our living room on Sunday mornings, “If I can help somebody along the way, my living shall not be in vain”.
My year in Kingstree, South Carolina offered me the first glimpses of what is meant by loving God and neighbor, and it is being lived out in the loving response to people in the path of the flood. In my early formation I learned that water is life and too much water devastates, but without water there is no life. In baptism, we are “given new birth by water and the Spirit” – perfect water that allows us to put our “whole trust” in God’s grace.