One day last week, nearly two weeks after Hurricane Matthew blew through Wayne County short circuiting our power grid and crushing our houses with trees, a FEMA vehicle pulled into our front parking lot and four official looking people climbed out and stood looking around for a bit. The government had arrived. This is, I’m sure, what they found.
They found the people of Wayne County are self reliant, get ‘er done people. They found that people here don’t wait for the government to come help. They do it themselves. They solve their own problems. And then they pitch in and solve their neighbor’s too. By the time the FEMA people were standing on our front parking lot I’m betting they were wondering what was left for them to do. What needed to be done, we did ourselves.
It especially warmed my heart to see people from First Baptist Church out making a difference. That happened in many ways. As soon as the wind stopped blowing Christopher Thornton was out with his chain saw cutting up a downed tree that was blocking the road in front of his house. Speaking of downed trees Fred and Damon Fender were out using the big equipment their company owns getting trees off of people’s houses. And while we are on the Fender family Amy and her daughter, Sophie volunteered with Tabitha’s Place to make lunches for people who had no power and no food. Other efforts to feed people took place in which First Baptist people played big parts. Martha Rawls Smith Elementary opened its kitchen to the community. More FBC people than I can name stepped up there including Amanda Phelps and Lynice Jackson. When the community fed emergency workers Miki Thomaston and others played big roles in that effort.
A dozen or more people here cooked hamburgers, made sandwiches, and cooked spaghetti for the neighborhood around us. First people grilled hot dogs and fed hungry people in one of Jesup Housing Authority’s communities. Zach and a number of our teens connected with the kids there, playing games and sharing some love.
And that’s what all this was about. As big a problem as Matthew was, Matthew was also an opportunity. Matthew let us love on Jesup a little. Matthew let us get outside the walls of our church and go into neighborhoods, meet people, love people, pray for people. Matthew let us be what the church is supposed to be.
Maybe, even without a hurricane, we can find ways to continue to be a real church for Jesup and Wayne County.