During our visit here at the Greenbrier, we have been absolutely taken with the grateful spirit the people of West Virginia have for one another. As we crossed the border into “wild and wonderful” West Virginia, we were immediately aware of the the billboards and signs proclaiming “West Virginians Helping West Virginians.”
You see, this past summer, the area of White Sulphur Springs was devastated by a horrific flood – some are calling it the worst flood in 1000 years. Creeks and rivers overflowed their banks and water came off the mountains in torrents – creating massive destruction of many things in the Greenbrier Valley… Many people had their homes destroyed – and some of those houses were actually washed away completely. That’s what happens when 13″ of rain happens in 3 hours or so…
Now this is a generally poor area. Coal mining is a big part of the economy and many of these folks live hand to mouth – never having known anything very different. There are pretty much two classes of people – those who are wealthy and can afford to live in the finest homes and enjoy the finest life has to offer – and then there are those who serve those who are wealthy.
This trip to the Greenbrier has been remarkable for several reasons but the biggest one is the grateful spirit of the people who work here. Most of them are local and have spent their lives working at the Greenbrier or other local businesses. During this recent natural disaster, when the Greenbrier sustained tremendous damage, Mr. Justice, owner of the Greenbrier, opened the resort as a haven for anyone who had been rendered homeless in the flood.
Our first night back, Ronnie, who has worked here for years, mentioned how grateful he was to only be gone from work for less than a month until the Greenbrier re-opened to the public. That same spirit of gratefulness permeated the entire organization, from the servers to the retail clerks to the folks behind the reservation desk. Rather than being bitter at their losses, people are quick to point out how thankful they are for the wages they were paid during the closure and for the chance to return to work so quickly.
I am certainly not here to politicize this tragedy, but there is an overwhelming spirit of appreciation for the way this who disaster was handled. And that’s wonderful to see… aside from the fact that almost everyone has thanked us for returning and helping the Greenbrier regain its footing – as well as securing their jobs after a tough summer.
Since the disaster, land has been donated and there is a summit in White Sulphur Springs called Hope City where homes are being built and given to those who lost their own places to live in the flood. This was made more real to us when we toured the area and saw thousands of tress that have been toppled and areas of the road that have been completely washed away. Roscoe, in the Greenbrier spa area, and many others lost everything but the clothes on their backs in the aftermath of the storm as they ran down the street in front of the wall of water as it broke over the banks of Howard’s Creek in downtown White Sulphur Springs.
One man donated many hundreds of thousands of dollars writing checks to people who had need. Whether a pair of shoes, or a new refrigerator, help was right there. The new Orleans Saints hold their summer camp here at the Greenbrier and they spent time serving the community also, as did large real estate companies and others who believe in a mission of service. People even declined checks when they saw a neighbor who had greater need than they did. Absolutely remarkable! Neighbors loving neighbors…
And you know what – that’s how God feels about us. Jesus intercedes with His Father on our behalf and loves us more than we can possibly understand. When we are down on our luck, Jesus is right there beside us – bringing the Kingdom of God to us in the form of friends and neighbors who come to our aid in times of need. And when others need our help, we are charged to be the hands and feet of Jesus to them.
Our verse for tonight is from the author of Hebrews. It reminds us to continue to help those who are in need and that our efforts will not be in vain. Because it is evident to me that while the people of this area may struggle from time to time, they are the first in line to assist others, even when they don’t have enough for themselves. It is inspiring to watch, and to be a part of… We are told, in Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”
Isn’t that what life is all about? Aren’t we to reach out to others? That’s my encouragement for each of us tonight. That even when it seems that we have greater need, we will reach out and do unto others what we would hope they would do for us. My prayer is that God will reward your effort through increased peace and understanding of how the Kingdom really works. Because the things of this world are usually in opposition to what Jesus expects from us – what we call the “upside down kingdom.” Real help, emulating the commands of Jesus, is something I want to be a part of – hopefully you do also… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…