In February of 2013 members of the First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, Georgia, received a powerful demonstration of God’s faithfulness to provide when his people answer his call. Literally on the eve of the 2013 Bible and Missionary Conference, themed “Calling: Every Member on Mission,” Mission to North America delivered a 20-foot trailer because of the church’s demonstrated commitment to disaster response projects.
In September 2012 the team first started making contact with MNA about doing domestic disaster response projects and the team was mobilized in December to serve in New York following Hurricane Sandy.
After the work in New York, First Presbyterian’s pastor, Dr. George Robertson, received a heartfelt letter from one of the families the team helped that week in Breezy Point. They wrote, “When we were unsure what to do we approached the volunteer contact person to borrow some tools. He then told us to wait a brief while and he assured us that he would send some volunteers to help. He did not only send volunteers, but what [we] considered to be God’s Angels. These wonderful gentlemen not only worked on our mother-in-law’s home as if it were their own, but did so with such cheerfulness and occasional laughter that it was an absolute joy to work with them.”
The trailer provided by MNA has enabled the team to deploy much faster and with more tools and provisions when help is needed. Billy English, ruling elder and head of the FPC disaster response team, said “This gift indicated to me the Lord’s desire for us to serve him in developing a disaster response ministry. When he calls us into serving he provides the means and resources to do the work.”
First Presbyterian’s mission statement is “Restoring people and rebuilding places through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the glory of God.” Since 2012, the church has sent disaster response teams out five times to serve in four different states. The team has also served the larger Christian community by helping to restore a Christian youth campground in New York State. Because of their work, 800 inner-city children were able to attend camp this summer and hear the gospel.
In October of this year, a team of 11 men, ranging in age from 13 to 62, traveled to Andrews and Sumter, South Carolina, to help with relief efforts for victims following the “1000-year flood.” They helped three different families in very different circumstances.
The first case was the home of a widow. Virtually everything she owned was destroyed in the flood and was removed by the team. English said at the beginning of the day she seemed distraught and kept saying, “What am I going to do?” The team assured her that things were going to be okay and that God would provide for her. At the end of two days, there was laughter and a lot of hugs.
The next house was that of a man who had been out of work for some time and had just relocated to Sumter for a new job. The floodwater came under his house and destroyed his heating system. To remove the ductwork from under his house, one contractor had quoted him an estimate of $10,000 — an amount that was out of the question for him. The FPC team was able to remove the entire system in just four hours.
The last family was the most unusual case. Their home had been completely flooded, top to bottom. The owner was a man — seemingly of affluence, an executive in a large corporation — and this was the family’s hunting lodge. English said, “I’ll be honest; I struggled a bit with helping him and asked the Lord if there was someone else that needed our help more, that could not afford to rebuild their home. Then the Lord reminded me, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ (Exodus 33:19)” And so, the team gladly undertook the project.
This family seemed to have an especially hard time letting things go and accepting that their family antiques and their furniture, some dating back to the War Between the States, had to be discarded.
English said, “It was not until later that evening that we understood why the Lord sent us there.” In the last 30 days the man had a health scare, had lost a family member, his daughter had developed seizures, he lost his job and his house had been flooded. It was clear that this man needed Jesus the most.
“When we finish a person’s house, we sit them down and tell them why we came to help them. We always pray with them and tell them a simple message of God’s love and forgiveness,” English said.
“Catastrophic events bring such emotional trauma; hopelessness is a characteristic we often see. But we have also seen that these events have caused people to be open to the things of God,” English said. “After walking with people a few days and sharing Jesus and listening afterwards, we see the healing process of the Savior taking place. It is a beautiful and powerful thing to see.”
To learn more about First Presbyterian Church of Augusta or to contribute to the church’s disaster response efforts, visit firstpresaugusta.org.