The Mill has recently formed a new ministry within our missions efforts to address disaster relief. We have partnered with the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief organization.
I saw a Facebook post from The Mill on Mission saying that there was a GroupMe being setup for Disaster Relief in preparation for Hurricane Florence. God told me that I needed to be involved. I got on the GroupMe, was told about the training, signed up, and made myself available.
Most of the time, when I commit to doing something, I go all in. I have now attended two different trainings. I have been trained in mud-out, assessment, chainsaw, and rebuild so that I have many ways in which I can serve. One of those skill sets will always be needed. I just have to make myself available and be willing to go.
When we got the first call to go to Cheraw, SC, I decided that I needed to make this trip happen no matter what. We were called to Cheraw to help with the flood damage relief efforts, or mud-out. It was a little different than I thought it would be. Having worked in construction, I knew mud-out would be labor intensive, which I was okay with, but demolition work is not my favorite. I just planned to suck it up and sacrifice for these people who had lost so much.
I quickly learned that it only takes a little bit of water to cause a lot of damage and to change people’s lives. I also learned very quickly how much I actually liked mud-out. I liked the part in which we got to meet the homeowners and minister to them in their time of need. Many that we helped were already believers, so we were able to come alongside them and encourage them. Each story was unique, and I found my heart bleeding for each one.
The story that stood out the most to me was a widow that lived out in the middle of nowhere. We took two dirt roads just to reach her. Her basement was flooded by about 12 inches of water. She had a lot of books in the basement, and the water ruined all of the books on the bottom shelves. Thankfully, we were able to salvage a lot. While we went through her things to pack them up, we came across old photo albums, adoption papers, military records, and much more. We enjoyed seeing her face light up as she talked about all of the memories while we packed things away for safekeeping. I found an old letter, and she let me read it. It was from an old friend writing to her to let her know that someone close to the friend had passed. She started to cry and told me she remembered the day like it was yesterday. She immediately loaded up the kids and drove to her friend to be with her for support. I knew right away that this woman was someone special.
After talking more with her, we discovered that her husband had passed away 18 months earlier, the day before we came was his birthday, and the day we were there cleaning up was their anniversary. He was a cabinet maker, and she was a social worker. We found out that not only did she have biological and adoptive children who were all grown up, but she has also fostered kids through the years. She had such a good reputation of helping kids in need that the sheriff would just bring kids to her that needed immediate placement because he knew she would take them in no matter what. She told us that she currently has seven foster kids, five of which were brought to her while her basement was flooded. We were amazed and asked how many kids she has fostered. She said that with the last five, the total was brought to 90 children.
This woman is a hero. She’s had cancer twice and beat it both times. God has done so much in her life and has used her to touch so many lives. We told her that it was a blessing to us to come and to serve a saint like her. Meeting people like her — or people we might share the gospel with — makes any trip well worth it, no matter how hard the work.
Something that has stuck with me since my first training class is that Disaster Relief is a “Ministry of Inconvenience”. If you’re waiting for the perfect time to go, it is not going to happen. The people affected by a disaster never planned on it happening, and it is an inconvenience to them too. We have to be willing and ready to go serve others at any time. Not everyone can help every time something happens, but if our hearts are burdened for our neighbors — to help those in distress, and to see the gospel go forward — then we will make it happen. We need to roll up our sleeves and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
On every mission trip I go on, national or international, God always shows up and shows out, and this trip to little ol’ Cheraw, SC was no exception. I thank God for the opportunity to be used in His plan, and I look forward to seeing how He will grow our church in this new ministry.
Written by Brandon Laney