Tales from the flood: Canaan UMC

‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us’

By Ebony Summers

RIDGEVILLE—In October 2015, the 1,000-year flood hit South Carolina mercilessly.

When the rain stopped, Canaan United Methodist Church, the Family Life Center and the graveyard were underwater. Two tombs had been displaced, and the church was almost completely destroyed.

The efforts of church members, community volunteers and the conference disaster team combined to clear out the church completely and get damaged items from the Family Life Center. However, during this time of tragedy and sadness, there was great fellowship. People of all ethnicities, races, denominations and genders came out and worked and ate together, laughed and cried together, thinking about what Canaan has meant to the community in the past, what she is doing for the community in the present and all that Canaan can be for the community and the creation of disciples for Jesus Christ in the future.

We were thankful for local pastors the Rev. Mark Mitchell and Rev. Jones, who came and worked with the other volunteers. Our pastor during that time, the Rev. Jack C. Washington, had only been with us since July 2015 but also worked tirelessly, rolling up his sleeves and working just as hard as Canaan members who have been here their whole lives. Many organizations and individuals thought it not robbery to contribute funding for our efforts, including a very generous check from the conference.

During the time from the flooding in October until our rededication on April 10, our sister church Sand Hill UMC opened its hearts and doors to us. The members of Canaan are eternally grateful for their generosity, prayers and fellowship during our time of displacement.

During that time, the Family Life Center was renovated. The kitchen and bathrooms were remodeled, the roof replaced, the floors taken up and replaced, the wallpaper removed and the walls repainted. The bottom few feet of the walls were cut out and replaced, adding a chair rail.

The April 10 rededication was a spirit-filled program that included many prayers, songs, and United Methodist rituals confirming that we were, indeed, back home. We have been worshiping and serving our community there since then.

Canaan has hosted a back-to-school fun day that served approximately 100 families with children from preschool to college by giving them school supplies, healthcare information and prayer. Additionally, Canaan hosted a summer feeding and enrichment program for children in the community. There have been a host of other programs, anniversaries and celebrations within the walls of our temporary home. Canaan has resumed her place as the epicenter of this community.

In June of this year, the Rev. Jeffrey Salley came to us as the shepherd of our flock, and he has been facilitating conversations about the future home of Canaan UMC. Whatever the plans may be, we are confident that we will continue to bloom where we are planted and make disciples for Christ.

We ask for your continued prayers and support as this journey is not yet complete, and we thank you for all you have done for us on this road to recovery.

Summers is communications coordinator for Canaan UMC, Ridgeville.

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