Lancaster church team helps after flood devastates Tennessee town

By Jessica Brodie

By all accounts, Waverly, Tennessee, is a small community. Located in the western portion of the state and established in the early 1800s as a stagecoach stop partway between Nashville and Memphis, only about 4,000 people live and work there. Pictures depict the community as an idyllic area, with a quaint main street and town square.

When devastating floodwaters from nearby Trace Creek ravaged the community last August, the natural disaster made headlines, but attention quickly moved on, and its people were left to pick up the pieces of their battered town with little outside help.

But thanks to the efforts of one South Carolina United Methodist congregation, Waverly residents got some much-needed assistance this spring—and a heavy dose of prayer.

A team from Grace-Lynnwood United Methodist Church, Lancaster, traveled to Waverly April 18-21, partnering with a church there to rebuild four homes, plus help with two wheelchair ramps.

The idea came from Grace-Lynnwood’s pastor, the Rev. Matthew Alexander, who served in Waverly before becoming a UMC pastor. Alexander served at Waverly Church of the Nazarene from 2012-2015, and he has maintained contact with a number of people there. When he learned the town experienced flooding, his heart tugged, and he shared the news with his congregation.

He expected the congregation would begin praying for Waverly and perhaps start a fundraising collection. But when he learned his people wanted to head to Tennessee for a hands-on mission trip to help his former neighbors, Alexander was overjoyed.

“You can imagine how hard it was,” Alexander said, noting that 500 homes were lost from the flood, along with the elementary and middle school—a huge impact on such a small community. Twenty people were killed in the surrounding county from the flooding, and news reports say many structures were flooded with up to four feet of water, with some homes washed entirely off their foundations.

But motivated with a strong desire to help, nine from Grace-Lynnwood—including Alexander—headed to the small community to do what they could. They partnered with Waverly Church of the Nazarene to do flooring, rebuilds and construction on two wheelchair ramps.

Their host church, led by the Rev. Daron Brown and his associate pastor Rev. Mary Forester, provided the South Carolina workers with meals, and the Grace-Lynnwood team stayed at the nearby Camp Garner Creek Retreat Center in Dickson, Tennessee.

Alexander said he was heartened to see his current congregation reach out in Christian love to care for a community he once served and loved.

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