|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on March 20, 2017 at 1:25 AM|
Years ago, a circuit-rider would bring preaching and communion to congregations whenever they were in the area of a church without a pastor. And when two Lutheran pastors happen to be passing through the only Lutheran congregation in Robeson county and they happen to be without a pastor, we stop in to preach, preside and bring along students to help lead worship, too. It was a joy to be among God's people at worship this morning and to hear Pastor Ray preach about this Jesus who meets us and loves us when we are the outcast and who invites us to follow in his footsteps. To bring his love and his forgiveness to those who find themselves on the margins of life. To bring the living water of God's welcome and God's presence to those who thirst for it.
And today we found life-giving welcome in the people of St. Mark's, who hosted a delicious potluck lunch for us after worship, the kind with plates full of deviled eggs and a whole table full of desserts. And as full as the table was, the community was even better- like being among family we had not met before. By the end of lunch, one of our students was carrying a baby who had fallen asleep on her while she was playing with him, we had shared stories with all the members sitting with us, and had also met a student and a recent grad from UNC Pembroke who had helped found the Lutheran Episcopal Campus Ministry there. They formed by themselves first and then seeking out Lutheran and Episcopal pastors to support them. In the midst of 7 Baptist campus ministries, ELM has a distinctly different way of living out the faith. It was a way that one of the students was eager to experience after growing up in a church where they only talked about what you were doing wrong. To hear about a Jesus that speaks love first was living water to her.
After we were fed, we got to met Mac Legerton, a UCC pastor who founded and runs the Community Action Center. He wil be our guide for the week, helping us to learn more about the realities of rural poverty, connecting us with the Lumbee community and giving us opportunities to serve in ways that are helpful to the community's rebuilding.
Mac took us on a driving tour of some of the flood affected areas. The flood was caused by 18 inches of rain in 24 hours in October 2016, but made worse by a dyke installed originally to prevent flooding which didn't allow the waters to recede naturally back into the Lumber River. Thankfully, only 4 people were killed in the flooding- those being motorists who got stuck. Mac says they brought in rescue boats very quickly to rescue stranded folks. They were without water for 2 weeks, as the flooding took out the main water plant. Even though most lives were spared, rebuildng will take a long while.
4 months after the flooding, sand from the bottom on the river still covers many yards and there was still debrs and ruined cars (not too many, but some). One of the roads we were on had fallen apart in places and stil hasn't been rerouted, just leaving dead ends. Many of the homes were in the most economically disadvantaged communities, so restoring the area was FEMA will buy out some of the destroyed homes, so some are not attempting to rebuild right now, but others are eager to leave the motels they are living in and get back home. We will learn our role in the rebuilding tomorrow.
Later Mac gathered back at our home for the week (and brought cots and air mattresses with him, yay Mac!!) to share stories about his work of poverty reduction and sustainability and to tell us about all sorts of possibilities for our time together (which included enough to last us for 3 weeks!), so we are eager to hear what we'll be doing each day.
Some of our students led us in devotions tonight, reminding us that although God can speak in powerful ways and can speak through destructive things, often we hear God best in the sheer silence. And they reminded us to listen to the silence after the flooding to hear what God is doing now to re-establish places to live and to connect with others (like us) who have come to learn and serve.
We have been filled up today- by the living water of hospitality at St. Mark's, by the faith, passion and prayer shared by Mac, by anticipation of all the week will hold, and by the grief of what this community has lost. And by the laughter- the oh so much laughter- shared by these students.