At this time last week, I was clueless…
I had no concept of what was to come.
At this time last week, life seemed complicated…
Little did I know how simple it would become the next day.
At this time last week, I was a simple United Methodist pastor…
I had no concept that in a week’s time I would be the relief volunteer coordinator for all of Southeast Nashville.
What a long, strange trip it’s been in a seven day period.
Here’s what happened–
On Saturday Mill Creek, located 600 yards from my church, and Whittemore Branch, located about half that distance at the bottom of the hill, flooded at historic proportions. My daughter Anna and I were at the church when the Lighthouse Church Hope House floated down I-24, and quickly reached out to our neighbors in need, opening the church and providing a dry space until the power went out and it was clear they needed to head to a shelter.
On Sunday the rains continued, and our church like many in the city canceled services because of continued flooding. Frankly, most folks couldn’t have gotten to the church, but that afternoon I started walking the streets Benzing Rd., which had severe flooding, checking on neighbors and offering support.
On Monday I went in early and again started reaching out to the neighbors. At noon several in my church gathered with Councilman Duane Dominy at the Antioch Church of Christ and started handing out flood buckets to folks in the Country Meadows trailer park. There were 44 homes damaged there alone, and the scope of the devastation was immense. The homes were so saturated that I ended up falling through the floor of one with a particle board floor that no longer had any strength. While there, the amazing Janie Patterson of our church suggested that we start collecting supplies and handing them out to our neighbors, and she organized a make-shift distribution center in our CLC lobby that handed out supplies to folks in need. After a full day of helping, Duane and I agreed that we needed to organize the pastors of area congregations and community groups to ensure that we were efficient in offering help. And on the spur of the moment, Janie organized dinner for area emergency workers.
On Tuesday we continued to hand out supplies and be in the surrounding community. We provided lunch and dinner for emergency workers and folks in need, and I spent some time assisting a man whose trailer had been destroyed and had no place to go. That night, some 40 pastors and community leaders gathered to organize, helped by Craig Snow and Jack Minton of Hopeforce International Ministries. After hearing what all had been doing, we agreed that we would centralize all distribution of supplies and provision of meals at the Antioch Church of Christ, and that we would setup a volunteer deployment center at Antioch UMC to send out volunteers in the community. We also agreed that our first task would be to assess the damage in our service area, and then begin to send teams to help. I was charged with setting up the center and creating a system.
After a very long night, we opened the center on Wednesday morning. I had organized the neighborhoods along Mill Creek and found myself at 9 a.m. with 75 volunteers ready to go. In the midst of sending teams out to assess the damage, a woman named Brenda Heath came up and said that I seem harried and that she had administrative skills. I turned out that she wasn’t working anywhere else, had the time to give, and became a major organizational cog in the wheel of our team. That team (the best in the world) was complimented by two good friends and colleagues from our Easter Event: Marie Ray from Lakeshore Christian, and Verna Coffee.
On Thursday Hands on Nashville (the official volunteer deployment agency) began to catch a whiff of what we were doing and asked us to take on coordinating volunteers for the region. That work was enhanced by the addition of our field coordinator, Melissa Thomas, who began to help us turn assessments into work orders so that we could deploy our volunteers. On Thursday we ended up sending out 100+ folks.
And today, the work continued on, with our sending out some 150 folks to tear out carpet, drywall, and all the other stuff that’s required in recovering from a flood.
This time last week, little did I know…
And tonight, with brain cells all a mush, I am in a very different place.