Published October 16, 2018
NEW BERN, N.C.—When 89-year-old William Cunniff returned to his flood-damaged home in North Carolina, he found mold climbing the walls of every room, the remains of Hurricane Florence. Cunniff had evacuated and stayed out of the state with relatives until it was safe to return.
The widower and U.S. Marine Corps veteran found that his home of 20 years in New Bern's Fairfield Harbour community had taken on more than a foot of floodwater just as many other homes had in his neighborhood. Cunniff is staying with his next-door neighbor whose garage took on less than a foot of water.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are helping Cunniff and many other survivors return to their homes and restore their lives. The job is a dirty one as volunteers tear out sheetrock, pull up flooring and often help owners sort through flood-damaged items.
Many homeowners in the area lost almost all the contents of their homes. Damaged furniture, appliances and personal effects lay in piles in front of homes along street after street.
North Carolina Baptists On Mission have been responding since Hurricane Florence hit in September, operating out of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern. The site is one of several posts serving in the state in hard-hit areas along the coast from Wilmington and west to Lumberton. Hundreds of SBDR volunteers from multiple states have come to help.
SBDR volunteers have served 1.1 million meals to Hurricane Florence survivors. They have cleared downed trees and debris from more than 900 yards and completed more than 170 flood cleanup jobs in North and South Carolina.
Nearly 100 people have professed faith in Christ since SBDR volunteers began ministering to local communities.
In Jacksonville, Kentucky Baptist DR leader Coy Webb reported Oct. 8 that eight volunteer teams had been deployed. The 223 volunteers worked an equivalent of 1,822 days, made 2,571 ministry contacts, prepared 85,524 meals, distributed 39,332 bottles of water, gave out 180 crisis flood buckets, and completed 11 recovery, 69 chainsaw and 45 roof tarping jobs.
Webb also reported that Kentucky Baptist chaplains made 2,055 contacts, presented the gospel 56 times, gave away 875 Bibles and 282 tracts, and recorded 11 decisions for Christ.
At the New Bern site, command leader Jimmy Lawrence, of First Baptist Church in Mayodan, said the storm's damage across North Carolina has been devastating.
"The huge land mass affected and the potential for homelessness here may have an impact like nothing we've dealt with in North Carolina," Lawrence said.
An eight-member team worked two days to help Cunniff with his home. They ripped up flooring, emptied rooms full of damaged furniture, and helped Cunniff find items that could be salvaged.
"I couldn't have found a better group of people. It's just like friends doing things for one another. That's the Christian attitude," Cunniff said.
Another volunteer group worked for six days on a complete tear out of the first floor and basement of a flood-damaged home in Trenton, N.C.
The home of a Temple Baptist Church member took on three to four feet of floodwater when the Trent River overflowed its banks.
Six volunteers from Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., worked alongside four volunteers from North Carolina.
Crystal Rose Alford of Saddleback Church said what she cherishes about serving is getting to interact with the homeowners.
"Our prayer and our hope is to get to love on the homeowner," Alford said. "Pieces of our hearts are left here in the home that we have worked on. It's an indelible mark."
Senior pastor Jim Pennington and associate pastor Bennett Holloway of Temple Baptist Church thanked the volunteers for all their hard work for the community during a dinner that the church gave the volunteers.
"Seeing what you guys do, words cannot express the appreciation we have for you," Holloway said. (BP/WR)
Not a subscriber? Want to see more content like this article?
Please subscribe to the Western Recorder print or online edition.
Already a subscriber? Login here.