Pictured, Billy Robinson helps cuts away a huge oak tree blocking access to Holly Hill UMC in the Orangeburg District. Photo by Dan O’Mara.
By Jessica Brodie
Eighteen South Carolina disaster missioners headed to South Georgia in early September in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia.
By then a Category 2 storm, torrential rains from the hurricane caused widespread flooding, uprooted trees and destroyed buildings in Valdosta, Georgia, prompting a call for assistance from South Georgia United Methodist Conference’s Disaster Response team.
Immediately, South Carolina’s United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Early Response Team got to work mobilizing people to help. Billy Robinson, South Carolina ERT coordinator, and the Rev. Mike Evans assembled a crew of 18 men and women spread from Charleston to Honea Path, calling them Team Alpha. They traveled to Valdosta Sept. 4-9 and spent long days helping people in need in the name of Jesus, doing chainsaw and tarp work as well as muck-outs.
Robinson shared that one of the most meaningful moments of the trip was when they had the opportunity to assist Darlene Ray. Ray, a disabled woman who lives alone near Valdosta, saw one of the South Carolina ERT disaster trailers and was desperate for help. She tracked down the phone number for the South Carolina Conference of the UMC, which put her in touch with the team on-site. They were able to come to her aid, removing a tree blocking access to her home and other downed trees in her yard.
“She needed a lot of help, and by God’s grace and mercy we were able to come to her aid—including standing back up one smaller tree that meant so much to her, since her mother planted it years ago,” Robinson said.
As of press time, a second team, Team Bravo, led by Chuck Marshall and Stephen Turner, was heading back to Valdosta the week of Sept. 10-14 with 10 volunteers.
While South Carolina’s damage from Idalia was relatively minor, ERT members also pitched in to help in Holly Hill, where a huge oak tree crashed to the ground in front of Holly Hill United Methodist Church, blocking some access to the church and the roadway. Robinson, the Rev. John Elmore and a few other ERT members cut the tree away and got word out that help was available if anyone needed it.
Hurricane season is always in need of ERT members who can help be the hands and feet of Christ after a storm. Anyone interested in serving as part of the ERT is encouraged to do a training. Three trainings are scheduled: Sept. 30 at Cornerstone UMC, Rock Hill; Oct. 21 at Edgefield UMC, Edgefield; and Nov. 18 at Faith UMC, Lexington. Register at https://www.umcsc.org/ertregistration, or contact Robinson at [email protected]