After the devastating floods in eastern Kentucky this month, many communities are just now able to see and assess the damage done to their homes and places of school or work. For families who were already living below the poverty line, this kind of disaster is especially earth-shattering, and the recovery will be strenuous.
“Unless you’ve done ministry in Appalachia, you probably have not seen poverty in the United States to the extent that it exists in eastern Kentucky. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching,” said South Carolina’s Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) Director Randy Creamer. “The flooding hit this population much harder than it did people in the middle or upper classes, and their road to recovery is going to be much more challenging.”
Currently, South Carolina’s SBDR volunteers are on their second week of conducting mud-out efforts in impoverished neighborhoods. Many low-income families have no choice but to stay in their damaged homes because they don’t have family or friends with extra resources to help. This is causing many families to fall ill due to the mold and mildew infestations, along with exposure to the elements. Knowing these health risks are growing, SBDR teams are doing all they can to help these families build community as they do recovery work.
One of these teams, sent from Utica Baptist Church, was working on a particularly dilapidated home when they asked the residents to join them for a simple sack lunch. After discussing their reasons for volunteering their time and energy to this cause, the team was able to share that their real motivation was sharing the love of Christ. The family’s 13-year-old daughter was listening intently to this conversation and approached a team leader after lunch, asking questions about what a relationship with God meant. After hearing the plan of salvation, she asked Jesus to come into her heart right in her back yard. Knowing that a partnering Red Cross team was staying at a hotel with a pool, the SBDR team was able to have a baptism ceremony that night in celebration with her family.
Another group of volunteers’ interacted with Michelle, a concerned daughter who was helping her parents with recovery and a flood survivor herself. Michelle’s father was extremely reluctant to accept any form of help from strangers and denied volunteers’ initial request to help him rebuild. However, after a longer conversation with a team lead about what was needed, he finally agreed and, in the end, what would have taken the family months to accomplish was completed in a few days, enabling them to keep their childhood home.
Michelle shared, “We were all blown away by the number of volunteers, their combined skill levels, the enthusiasm and various ages and the incredible endurance over multiple days of very hard work. When our SBDR friends arrived, my dad had already decided to sell the property because the work was too daunting for him, but after he accepted help, he’s optimistic about his future in the home he has shared with my mother for over 30 years.”
When asked what people can do to help families still walking through this tragedy, Creamer stated, “Give to Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief. Yes, we may be from South Carolina, but this month we are representing our brothers and sisters in Kentucky. It’s not about us—we get to go home after this, and these families do not. If you’re not able to go and serve in person, please consider giving.”
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Published March 23, 2021