Written by Carol Fouke-Mpoyo
From Florida to the Carolinas, Hurricane Matthew survivors in the United States are asking, "What do we do now?" United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries Is playing its part in helping them move toward recovery, most recently with deployment of two long-term recovery volunteers to Florida and training in long-term recovery basics in the Carolinas.
"So, now what, Lord? What DO we do now??? We're trusting in You. We're depending on You. Now what?"
That is how Gail McAfee of Shiloh United Church of Christ in Fayetteville, N.C., expressed her longing for recovery for people whose lives have been turned upside down by Hurricane Matthew, especially by the severe flooding in the storm's wake.
She and others from the UCC Southern Conference, which includes North Carolina, recently toured heavily impacted areas of Cumberland and Robeson counties, including Lumberton and Fayetteville.
"Words can't capture the anguish people are going through," McAfee said. "People commented that they hadn't expected the water to rise as it did."
Thousands of people are expected to have unmet needs that the voluntary sector, including the UCC, will be called upon to help meet - people like James E. Jones of Lumberton, a war hero and former Tuskegee Airman, "someone who had always helped others," she said.
"He had been on his own property until it was all washed away," McAfee said. "The lives of Mr. Jones and his wife Ernestine should be celebrated, not devastated."
Jones' words still haunt her. He told her, "Now I need someone to give me a bottle of water."
Within the last few days, UCC Disaster Ministries Executive Zach Wolgemuth shared long-term recovery basics in a webinar for UCC and other voluntary agencies in both South and North Carolina.
And within the next few days, UCC Disaster Ministries' long-term recovery volunteers Betzi Yungclas and Rich Tosh will arrive onsite in Volusia County, Fla., area where they will spend several months helping Volusia Interfaith/Agencies Networking in Disaster (VIND) set up an office and prepare to do casework with Hurricane Matthew survivors.
Most of the damage in Volusia County was due to wind that tore off roofs and siding. About 1,000 households in the county will have unmet needs, said David Heald, Disaster Coordinator for Northern Florida in the UCC's Florida Conference.