By Jessica Brodie
SELLERS—Two United Methodist churches in two parts of South Carolina came together in Christian love to grant one hurricane victim a wish beyond her wildest dreams: a fully rebuilt, refurnished home.
Vivian Durant, a native of Sellers, lost everything last fall when floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew swamped her entire town. Already poverty-stricken before the storm, Sellers was nearly leveled by the hurricane; most residents had nowhere else to go and were forced to live in mold-infested homes or with relatives while they waited desperately for help.
In January, help arrived in the form of 150 United Methodist volunteers from all over South Carolina, who pitched in through the conference’s weekend “hurricane relief blitz” to help Durant and 23 other homeowners in Sellers. Crews did everything from mold removal and drywall tearout to roof repairs and bathroom rebuilds. By the time they left, Durant’s home was down to the studs and ready for the next phase of repairs.
With little to no money or resources, Durant didn’t know how those repairs could possibly become a reality.
But God knew, and He’d already begun swaying the heart of one woman to get things started: Sue Miller, a member of New Beginnings UMC, Boiling Springs.
Miller and her husband, Jim, had been part of the team working on Durant’s home, and when they met Durant, they felt an immediate kinship.
The Monday after the blitz, Miller’s pastor, the Rev. Terry Fleming, said, “Sue Miller showed up in my office and said, ‘I think God is speaking to me! God is saying we need to do this house.’”
Something about Miller’s fervent passion for the project—and the “God call” she’d received—made Fleming take special notice. Inspired, he and the church agreed to help, teaming up with fellow United Methodists from Faith UMC, Lexington, whose members had also worked on Durant’s house.
Six months of hard work later, their Christian partnership paid off. On July 8, Durant, Fleming, Faith pastor the Rev. Mandy Young and dozens of New Beginnings and Faith members gathered in Sellers to turn over Durant’s keys and officially welcome her to her fully rebuilt and refurbished home.
When they’d left in January, the home was bare with no interior walls or flooring. Now, it had everything a home could need: freshly painted, mold-free walls; sturdy new floors; a fully equipped bathroom and kitchen; even brand-new furniture.
“I know God sent all of you here to help me,” a tearful Durant said, accepting the keys on the front porch of her home as applause—and plenty of sniffles—filled the air. “I can’t thank you all enough.”
Fleming said the experience humbled him and made him realize the importance of hearing—and heeding—God’s voice. Out of what he called “one of the worst disasters of our time in the Pee Dee area,” a blessing occurred, not only for Durant but for members of New Beginnings and Faith, whose lives have all been forever changed.
“If two churches can make this kind of impact, why can’t we all do the same?” Fleming said to a host of “amens.”
In addition to the work on her home, New Beginnings and Faith also gave Durant several housewarming gifts: a quilt and a prayer shawl, each crafted with love and prayer and blessed by the churches, as well as a cross and a sign that reads “grateful, thankful, blessed,” all so Durant can know she has friends, brothers and sisters all over the state.
“We give you all this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus,” Fleming told her with a hug. “We love you, our sister in Christ.”
“I’m never going to forget you,” Durant said, smiling though her tears.
Sellers Mayor Barbara Hopkins said the rebuild is a blessing to the community and this family.
“I know she’s glad to be home,” Hopkins said at the move-in, lifting up the generosity of the two churches.
Durant’s oldest brother, John Durant, came from Indianapolis with his wife, April, in honor of the opening. He said he was touched when he learned a church was going to take over repairs over the house where he grew up.
“She is just so thrilled and feels so blessed and happy about it. She just thanks God every night,” he said. “If not for the church doing this, it would not have gotten done.”
For more on disaster response, visit www.umcsc.org.