By Jessica Brodie
Two disaster response teams from South Carolina headed to the Alabama-West Florida Conference this and last week to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. A Category 2 hurricane when it hit the region, Sally brought disastrous wind and flooding there, particularly in Dauphin Island, Alabama, which still had some areas under water as of press time.
The Rev. Mike Evans led an Early Response Team there Sept. 21-25 from South Carolina’s Edgefield area, and Billy Robinson led a team on its heels Sept. 28-Oct. 2 from South Carolina’s North community.
Evans, who pastors Edgefield United Methodist Church, Edgefield, said his team did a lot of work on South Brookley UMC in Mobile, Alabama, and other churches and buildings on Dauphin Island. Theodore UMC, just outside Mobile, served as host church for the five-person team, which in addition to Evans included the Rev. John Elmore, Phil Griswold, Jill Evans and Bill Turner. They removed large trees, fixed a roof leak, did tarping and shingle repair, and more.
“It’s going good,” Evans told the Advocate from a worksite in Alabama. “Every time we go it’s a different story. We see the same devastation, but it’s always a different story, and just amazing how God puts people in the path of other people for strength.
“In a time of them being weak, He delivers strength, and the strength comes from Him, not from us.”
Robinson, who is also the coordinator for the South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission ERT program, said he and the others are feeling called by God to go and consider it a privilege to help.
“We with South Carolina ERT are very upbeat and energetic about our opportunity to respond to Alabama’s call for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. Before hurricanes Laura and Sally hit, our leaders were readying all equipment and trailers anticipating a call to aid our brothers and sisters in need. A good number of ERT personnel were calling me stating they were ready to go if needed,” Robinson said.
While Louisiana never called for help, South Carolina ERT was ready immediately when Alabama did. Robinson’s team, comprising about 12-15 people, plans to provide chainsaw and muck-out/cleanout work, plus offer training in those areas to some of the Alabama-West Florida Conference volunteers by ERT United Methodist Committee on Relief certified trainers.
“We don’t have to go—we ‘get’ to go and represent the love and caring heart of God to hurting and even devastated people,” Robinson said. “It is our honor and privilege to go and be used by God in such beautiful ways. Our people simply and wholeheartedly love God and thus love people, period. This is ‘our calling.’
“We always come back such better people spiritually than before we left, filled with God’s priceless gifts of love, joy, hope and compassion.”
Matt Brodie, South Carolina Conference disaster response coordinator, said he thinks the efforts of the ERT members are “really inspiring.”
“We have people in our church, men and women who have volunteered their time away from their families and their jobs, who are willing to give of their time and talents to go so far away to help complete strangers,” Brodie said.
“Our ERTs truly are the hands and feet of Christ.”
For more on South Carolina’s ERT program, visit https://www.umcsc.org/disaster-response.