We’re back at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV – no surprise to most of you, I’m sure. We were planning on returning this past January, but with Janet’s broken arm we just couldn’t get away until she was released by the surgeon and the physical therapy team. Since those things both happened last week, here we are!
We checked in and immediately starting asking around about the recovery from the flooding in the area last June 23rd. For those of you who are new to Transitions by The Book – or maybe don’t remember the devastation to this region last year, Greenbrier County suffered what has been referred to as the worst flood in a thousand years… Rain and water came running down the mountains in the area and the streets became instant rivers, destroying everything in their paths.
Many houses in this tiny town were literally swept away and countless cars and other valuable assets were destroyed or lost forever – some things traveling miles from where they came from. There is even the story of a tanker truck that was lifted by the water and travelled over a bridge without ever touching the pavement or guard rails. It was carried more than two miles downstream before it finally came to rest against a bank where the river changed course. Luckily for all parties involved, it did not rupture and further calamity was avoided…
We know several people here who lost their homes or had them flooded out. One of the room stewards told us this evening that within minutes his home had five feet of water throughout. He had a generator that the neighbors helped him lift on top of a van and it, along with one other generator, were the only sources of power the community had for more than 30 days after the flooding. Only two homes in the area had flood insurance – the rest of the families had their life savings wiped out in minutes.
And the two homes with insurance could not be touched until the adjusters came through – 21 days after the water damage. Mold and mildew were rampant and entire communities set up tent villages to at least have a roof over their heads. Through January, these tent villages were still being used. Incredible damage everywhere – one woman we know was swept away by the storm and was able to hang on to a tree limb for more than five hours as the water rushed around her. At one point, she was so cold and her feet were so intertwined in the rubble that she begged to let go and die. Of course, neighbors who were holding on to her the entire time continued to hang on and she was eventually rescued.
She had multiple contusions, a broken shoulder and numerous other injuries but she survived and is now back at work in the Greenbrier Gourmet Shop. Neighbors helping neighbors – that’s what got them through. And those who had minor damage have refused to have their homes fixed until the most serious damage is fixed and everyone has a roof over their head.
This evening I also heard stories about depression and anxiety – wondering if things will ever get back to normal. But as with most natural disasters, things eventually become normalized – even if it is a new “normal.” Hope Village is being built – providing homes for people who have lost their place to live. And even though this is already a tight knit community, adversity has even brought them closer together. And what’s more – they are grateful that things were not worse. What an attitude!
Help has come from every corner of the country. Yes, the Red Cross and National Guard have been involved, but money has flowed in to help buy water and food, as well as shelter, for the marginalized. It’s working. Things are getting back to normal. The verse for this evening is from Jesus as He was discussing helping those less fortunate. We are told, in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” In other words, whenever you help someone less fortunate, Jesus looks at this as if you helped Him directly.
My encouragement this evening is that no matter how strong or independent you are, there will come a time that you will need help and that is when the body of Christ, as a result of the teaching of Jesus, will surround you and help you back to “normal.” My prayer is that you will represent the kingdom by helping others and will also be humble enough to accept help when the time comes. And that could be more difficult than you think… In the meantime, our friends in White Sulphur Springs, WV are well on their way to recovery. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…