It’s been just couple of days since my return from South Carolina. While watching the news coverage of Hurricane Florence, God gave me the idea to head down there with hurricane relief supplies. Tracy got home from work and I told her “What do you think about heading to South Carolina to help?”. She was all for it and so I rented a van (which we ended up not needing) and began to make preperations.
Since this was my first time assisting in hurricane relief, I thought I would share my observations. I have already known some of these things to be true and others I did not.
1. When God plants something in your mind, no matter how big it may seem…you have to go for it.
2. Overplanning will lead to it not getting done. I remember the WLUK Fox 11 reporter asking me what kind of preparations I made in order to make this trip possible. She meant well by asking and I so admire her boldness in wanting to do this story. It really turned out well and we gained a lot of exposure. I simply replied that I just pulled the trigger on it. In my mind I looked at what God has already equipped us with and that was church insurance for the vehicle, a van that was available to rent and a group of people willing to go not knowing the outcome. I have always been the type of person to jump first and then figure out how to land. I knew God planted this idea in my heart and so it was not going to fail.
3. It is always amazing to see where the donations come from. I was humbled when Pick N’ Save let us park our trailer in front of their store so patrons could donate supplies. So many area businesses gave. One of our biggest donations came in from K-Mart where we filled my car on the first pickup. Even more amazing were the people that randomly showed up at church and my house to donate supplies. I have always known this to be true but what was reiterated to me was that those who do not have a lot (by society’s standards not God’s) tend to give the most. Those who do have plenty, give little to nothing. I know this sounds bold but after one has planned a few benefits and now a hurricane relief trip, I find this to be even more true.
4. No matter how well intentioned you are with your endeavors there will always be naysayers. When the local newspaper published our story online, it was met with resistance from community members even former members of the church. One of the biggest responses we received was that we would be a burden to the people there. That we should just send a check. I wonder if those people leaving negative comments did anything at all to help. I can tell you thoughts and prayers help but I am glad God used us to deliver the answer to their prayers. Once we arrived, I asked the pastor about the benefits of simply sending a check. It would have been ok but the stores are empty in times like this. One of the church volunteers told us because of our donation, they now have more stuff to help their community then the local food line does. There are those that used to attend the church that sit back and look at what God has called us to do and simply brew about it.
5. Never underestimate who is watching you. The support we received from this trip by simply putting the need out there was overwhelming. Tracy and I are in a weekly ballroom dance class. In that class, two different couples saw the Fox 11 news story and gave us cash for the gas tank to get down there. This happened time and time again. What is even more amazing is that God knew how much we were going to need. We had just a little extra to cover extra costs.
6. Listening to God’s promptings is important. Shortly after I reserved our rental van I went for a drive around Waupaca. I tend to do this when I need to get out for a bit. I drove past Petersen auto and knew God was telling me to pull into the parking lot. I was a bit discouraged because I knew the rental van was going to eat up a lot of unnecessary funds. I called another large dealership in town and left a voicemail regarding borrowing a vehicle. The call was never returned. I pulled into Petersen auto and began looking around and I told God “I am not sure why you have me here…I don’t see a big van.” As I began to leave through the back of the lot, I saw just the van that would work for this. It was certainly large enough! I contacted the owner and he replied right away! Everything else fell into place and we were able to use that vehicle. I will ALWAYS refer people to this business because of their willingness to let us use their van which had only 700 some miles on it.
7. Churches need to help other churches more often. My original intent was to bring the supplies down to South Strand Assembly of God in South Carolina. A couple of days before we left the pastor of that church called me to say their church survived and the community is doing well. He did however refer me to another church in Loris, SC. I will never forget when I called the first church. The pastor was busy boarding up his house and his wife told me “We have never had another church help us out before”. I was so honored that God was using us to do this but I was also sad. Churches need to help out churches. Did I require the church we were assisting to fill out paperwork or want to meet with the board or anything like that? Absolutely not, it was all about love with no agenda. The church I pastor is not huge but it helps where we can. It goes back to my thought on those that do not have much helping out the most.
7. When you go to help out an area affected by a natural disaster, be good to the organizer. In this case the pastor was dealing with his own water damage at the church yet he was willing to let us come and drop off supplies. I have no doubt he has spent many hours wondering what the next steps would be with insurance, funds, cleaning, etc. When we were getting ready to leave I presented the pastor with a card. I told him pastor appreciation was a few weeks off but I want him to know how much we appreciate him and all he is doing. Inside the card was a generous gift. There was enough for him to take his family out to a restaurant and not have to add anything to it to cover the bill. Very few pastors make a handsome salary which is why I wanted to bless him with funds so his family could go out for a meal (maybe two) and take their minds off of what has happened.
8. Bob Evans restaurant is good!
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I am so thankful that my wife and two oldest kids were able to come. I was also so blessed to have another great couple from our church ride along with us. We can get such a narrow view of the world when all we know is our immediate area. It was crazy to think that just 17 hours one way we saw the National Guard blocking exits because entire neighborhoods were half under water. We saw homes that would not be livable in again. It’s important to gain a worldview by taking time out of our schedules to help, go or simply give.