In April I had the privilege of visiting Hyde County, North Carolina, as World Renew DRS was finishing our work in the coastline communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011. We were hosted by our friends at the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) and had the opportunity to reminisce and celebrate the good work that has been accomplished over the last two years. There were multiple high points during my visit, including time spent with our volunteers and renewed relationships with our UMC friends. But the most memorable highlight, by far, was visiting a hurricane survivor named Joyce whose home we had the privilege of restoring.
Joyce is a single woman who works as a bank teller and lives in an older, run-down mobile home. She is raising two of her grandkids on her own and helping out her daughter wherever she can. At first, Joyce’s circumstances reminded me of other survivors I have met in the last 11 years. Her home was badly damaged by the storm surge that Irene whipped up. Before World Renew DRS’s teams arrived, Joyce and her grandkids were limited to living in one room of the house, and even then they had to watch where they walked because of the holes in the flooring.
Given the challenges she was facing, it would be easy to assume that Joyce was bitter or angry with God…or that she was mad at the culture that helped to create her difficult circumstances. But nothing could be less true of Joyce’s reaction to the disasters in her life! Dear Sister Joyce is one of the most gracious, humble, and thankful people that I’ve ever met. Even when she and her grandkids were down to one room, Joyce recalled thinking that if that’s what God had for her, then she would be thankful. And she meant it! So you can imagine what a joy it was when our team showed up and basically did a floor to ceiling makeover. Her home is now solid and safe, with insulation, a beautiful oak laminate floor, and fresh paint inside and out. It looks great! And all Joyce could do was cry and thank Jesus for what He’d done for her. It was my privilege to hug her and pray with her, and realize once again how much I can learn from precious saints like Joyce.
The other highlight of my trip to Hyde County was that, in many ways, this community marks the beginning and the end of my career with DRS. Shortly after I joined CRWRC in 2003, Hurricane Isabel hit that same eastern county of North Carolina. Our teams set up in Swan Quarter, and in September of that year I had the privilege of working alongside our Rapid Response team, meeting for the first time some of our managers and partners. Those early relationships have endured to this most recent trip. Making it particularly special was the fact that Rick Wiersma was the Rapid Response team leader back in 2003, and this year, along with his wife Bonnie, served as the Project Manager for the Hyde County reconstruction site until it closed in April.
Relationships with volunteers, partners and disaster survivors have made the last 11 years of my life very special. I spent 30 years in business and in the late 90s came to the conclusion that somewhere God had a more important job for me to do. DRS has been that job…and I thank Him for it! I also thank each of you for your faithfulness and your friendship. Ron Willett will be taking over the leadership role at DRS, and I know that he’ll do a great job. But I’ll always remember the good work that we were able to do together in the last 11 years. And perhaps we’ll have the opportunity to remember together as we sit around His great banquet table one day, and glorify God for allowing us to be participants in His kingdom work…because, after all, it’s always been His work “that He prepared in advance for us to do.”
In His Service,