By OverlordQ – Created y OverlordQ using WikiProject Tropical cyclones/Tracks. The background image is from NASA. Tracking data is from NHC., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6208509
In early September Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, which at the time was the most powerful and destructive hurricane to hit the United States in recorded history. After Harvey came Hurricane Irma, bringing its destructive force to the western coast of Florida and traveling up the state of Florida into Georgia and Tennessee. Of course all of these hurricanes had devastated the Caribbean islands, leaving death and destruction in their wake. After Irma, Hurricane Lee devastated the coast of Mexico and Hurricane Jose traveled up the east coast, though not as destructive, leaving beach erosion and flooding in its wake. And now our eyes are focused are still on Hurricane Maria, which crossed the island of Española and after doing destruction to the Dominican Republic and Haiti and completely destroying Puerto Rico and now hitting the coast of North Carolina.
I spent the week of September 14-21 traveling from Sarasota, Florida to Key West, meeting with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters to hear their stories, to share our concerns, and to assure them that we will help them rebuild. Everywhere I have traveled, I have sung your praises, because not every pastor has a congregation who would allow them to do this work. Yet for the 14 plus years I have pastored this congregation, you have not only allowed me but encouraged me in my work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
I’ve also shared the story of visiting with Madge Chamness the Saturday before I was to leave and sharing with them her response when I told her that I’d been asked to go to Florida with the PDA National Response Team. I said, “Madge, I may not be with you when you die.” Her response was a typical Madge response, “Bill, you go to Florida, they need you worse than I do.” On Tuesday morning, September 12, 2017, when her daughter Susan called me and said, “Bill, mama died,” my initial response was, “I need to get out of my trip to Florida.” And Susan said, “No Bill, mama was very specific. You go to Florida and we’ll have the funeral when you get back.”
Madge is not atypical of the folks at First Presbyterian Church; you all have a heart for serving Christ and doing what is right.
I shared with you on Sunday September 24, the work that’s being done in Florida to aid the recovery and how great the needs are around our globe for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) to be actively involved in helping with these recoveries. Both the international arm and the domestic arm of PDA are actively involved in helping with the recovery.
I also shared with you that while I was deployed in Florida, I was asked if we could find cleanup buckets for our brothers and sisters at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Key West, Florida. The team with which I was deployed made a trip to Home Depot and purchased all of the needed items to fill 25 buckets and transport them to Key West. I also shared that just before leaving for Florida, I had emptied the account for PDA because we had been collecting money for cleanup buckets in Texas. Along with the cleanup buckets, I picked up lunch for about 30 people, members and friends of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, to be shared together with our team and those who traveled with us. The word spread quickly that there was food at the Presbyterian Church, so we had no surplus and the buckets were going out the door. I want to thank you for being the congregation you are, for your generous and loving spirit, and the fact that though I knew there was no money in the account at the time for disaster relief, I could count on you to replenish the account before the credit card bill arrived at the church.
Once again, you have exceeded my expectations, though I’m not surprised because from the time I first arrived at First Greenville, you have demonstrated your Christ-like concern and compassion for others. As of this writing, this congregation has given an additional $7000+ since Sunday morning for disaster relief.
Be assured that we do not hold on to this money but send it out quickly so that people’s lives can be put back in order. I count myself to be extremely blessed to be called your pastor. It is easy to pastor a people who have so much love and concern for others. Please pray for the people of Texas, Florida, Porto Rica, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
Thank you for allowing me to do this work and allowing me to be your pastor. May God continue to bless our work as we move forward, relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit to guide us.