by Marie Hendrick
In November, June Yarboro shared the opportunity for our JOY Sunday school classmates to join her on a mission trip to assist Hurricane Matthew flood victims in Lumberton, NC. We were to work with the NC Baptist Men in recovery operations. God spoke to our hearts and cleared our calendars and Susan Beam, Susan Grose and I agreed we wanted to go with June. I prayed that we would be a witness to those we would serve.
Prepared to work hard and get dirty (and hopefully be so tired at the end of the day that sleeping on a one inch camping mat on the church floor would not be a problem) we left Shelby fully prepared to do any difficult job that needed be accomplished . After all, my husband Robin and I had done a lot of construction in our 38 years of marriage. We built a few homes from the ground up, and remodeled numerous rental properties. Working along side this expert laborer, I learned so much. I was trained well for this mission trip. I packed the leather working gloves, protective eye wear, good strong footwear. I was excited and ready to WORK! I had visions of wrangling with a crow bar and hauling heavy wet sheet rock and plywood to the street. I was prepared to pull wet insulation from crawlspaces and encounter any creepy crawly thing under there as well.
Upon our arrival about noon on that Tuesday, we met Mr. Gerald Williams, the NCBM site coordinator. It was obvious the other crews were already out on their jobs, because it was quiet except the volunteer workers in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. Gerald proceeded to explain to us our afternoon task, we were to spray and fog structures for black mold. He gave us an overview of instructions and furnished us with protective jumpsuits and masks. At this point, we transformed June Yarboro’s family SUV into a truck – loading a generator, drop cords, foggers, pump up sprayers and gallons and gallons of water in the back. Gerald lead the way to our first job site. This structure was a post clean out – meaning the hard working tear out team (my anticipated job) had already stripped the home to the bare stud walls and the exposed floor trusses allowed a complete view of the ground below. Our job was to spray with a hand held pump up sprayer the stud walls and floor plates about waist high and place the two mechanical foggers on the ground below, close the windows and doors and wait outside for 20 minutes. This was an easy and quick job. This home still had electricity, so we ran the drop cords and plugged in the foggers after the manual spraying was completed.
“Ok,” I said to myself, “This isn’t what I was expecting….. but I bet because we arrived mid-day, he will put us on a tear out crew tomorrow”. We had completed our first house and Gerald escorted us to next location. Job site number 2 was a true glimpse of what the homeowners were faced with after the flooding. Everything inside the house was piled up in the yard, some things salvageable, but not for long, if they remained outside. The tear out crew had been here, so again, we sprayed and fogged the bare bones house. We finished up two additional houses that afternoon. As we called it a day and returned to Hyde Park Baptist Church to shower and have supper, we had our first opportunity to meet the other volunteers, a Baptist Men’s group from Asheville, NC. They looked tired and weary from the tasks of their day. This is what I expected of our mission trip, ending a working day, so very tired with a feeling of true accomplishment ….. I quietly hoped we would all join the tear out team the next day.
So, Wednesday morning bright and early, after we were served a hearty and satisfying breakfast, we met with Gerald to get our assignment. “Ok girls” he said, “you’ve been trained, you are now qualified to fog and spray these 7 homes today.” I was disappointed, I tried not to show it … but I seized the moment to remind Gerald that we were able bodied women and we could help with the big jobs if needed. That’s when everything became perfectly clear for me ….. He quietly turned around in his swivel chair and with his gentle and caring voice said, “I have 24 homes that need to be fogged and sprayed, I’m running behind in this area, this important job has to be done. These homeowners can not get a building permit until it is certified that the structure has been treated for black mold. More importantly, we have many locations that the safety of our tear out crews depends on you spraying before they go in to haul out the soggy wet furnishings due to the dangerous mold growing inside.” There was my “God moment!” I finally understood the impact we could make on this mission trip!
We were needed, and our job was necessary, and on the ladder of progress that needed to be achieved, we were an important rung. I realized God had tapped us to do this job, granted it didn’t involve hammers, saws and muscle but it was equally important. That night after supper we had conversations with the tear out crew, they shared that they were envious of our ability to witness to the flood victims in a way that they could not, because the residents or homeowners were not around when they cleaned out the homes . That was true, we did get the opportunity to visit with some of the home owners that were on site when we worked spraying and fogging their homes and crawlspaces. Victims described the flood waters coming in so quickly, shared stories of fear, rescue and loss of so much. We heard stories of faith, hope and thankful hearts that God spared them from complete devastation. We hugged them, prayed with them and gave them new Bibles.
In the following days, we did work hard, setting up the generator, sealing up crawlspaces, spraying and fogging. We saw so much devastation, homes still soaked after 50 days that mushrooms were growing in the carpets. Treasured photos, personal belongings, every thing that a house would contain piled on the street to eventually be hauled away. Going in one home to fog, we saw a hospital bed inside, making me wonder how that person was evacuated. At another home we arrived to see a folded American flag in a memento case leaning against the front door, walking around to the back side we saw that the clean out was complete and I realized the tear out team just couldn’t throw out our American flag along with the entire contents of this home. Heartwarming and heartbreaking, the things we encountered.
On this mission trip, I had to be reminded that God will use us in our best capacity if we follow HIS path and allow our hands to do the work HE has planned for us. I am thankful I had this opportunity to serve with my sisters in Christ along side the NC Baptist Men Disaster Relief Team. Please continue to pray for the victims of the flooding, and consider volunteering, they still have so much work to complete.