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Day 4: Rivers, campfires and long-term recovery

Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on March 22, 2017 at 1:05 AM

With weather gettng up to the 80s, we took a day to enjoy the beauty of God's creation.  We spent the morning floating down a part of the Lumber River and eating lunch at River Way. Mac Legerton, our guide, runs River Way environmental center and it also serves as an income generator for the Center for Community Action that he runs.  It was a great day to be paddling, despite our less-than-great steering skills, and a great day to be singing on the river.  The beauty of the river was in contrast to the plastic bags hanging in the trees and a "trash island" that had formed near some downed trees.  When the waters receeded after the flood, they took with them all sorts of deris from roadways and deposited them in the river.  One of our brave kayak teams when along puling bags out of trees (while our canoers focused on not tipping over.)  There was much laughter and singing of all water-themed song we could think of- all until we entered the wetlands.  Mac brought us in there to see the blue heron nests.  There were 2 herons in the trees and when the distant sirens died down, it was a sound of sheer silence as the herons circled overhead.  It was the sheer silence like some of our students shared about in devotions a few days ago- the prophet Elijah experienced on the mountain God's presence in the sheer silence.  We stayed there for about 10 minutes and our students spoke of that as a moment of utter peace and something that they didn't even know they needed until it happened.  Being in creation does that- it connects us to a part of ourselves that we forget and it connects us to the voice of God that we didn't even realize that we had failed to listen to.  We pray that in the midst of the stress and frsutration that the flooding has brought, those affected would be blessed with a peace like this.  Because we all need to take the deep breath that nature lets us take. 


After lunch by the river (with a few folks jumping in the freezing cold water), we went to the long-term recovery group that meets weekly.  Disaster relif coordinators, pastors and others helping with the recovery meet to coordinate services and network with each other to determine the best way forward. They don't have much money themselves- only $15,000 as a committee- but they can come together to make sure that all residents are cared for, that case management is given to all that can use it, and avoid duplicating services. 


There are still 149 families living in motels 5 months after the flooding.  Although there were ony 4 deaths from the flooding, folks here say there has been an uptick in the death rate the past several months as exhaustion and grief set in.  That's why one group has been set up to care for emotional and spiritual needs of these 149 families.  Some of the students gathered with this group to learn what they had planned- but there was only one member of the committee present.  It felt like we were just taking up his time being there, but then he asked our thoughts.  And we shared from our own experiences (including our connections already with the Community Engagement Office at UNC Pembroke- college students always need service hours!). And you could see this one man's energy pick up a little after we chatted.  This wasn't anything big and that energy may not have lasted, but it was a reminder than in the midst of a disaster, those outside the situation can bring the gift of a new set of eyes and can hold onto hope for those who are too weary to carry it themselves.  We can't clean everything up, we don't often have the best ideas of how a community can recover, but we can hold onto hope and vision for them at times when the going is too hard.  And sometimes we get the privelege of being that hope.  One of our students heard about a 90-year old woman who still hasn't had her house cleaned up.  We will call tomorrow to see if we might be the help she'd been waiting for.


After dinner, a few of our students helped with childcare for a substance abuse recovery group while the rest of us got ready for a campfire.  There was singing, story-telling and s'mores.  And we did what we do every single night- we relect on where we saw God at work or a question with which we are struggling.  And it's amazing during this sharing how the experiences we are having intersect with the challenges we brought with us into this week- the stuff from our lives back home.  That's where God so often chooses to show up and where we most recognize God's presence- in things that may seem small to others, but seem like God speaking right to our hearts through the challenge or the forgiveness that we desperately needed.  And we pray that God will keep being up to that work when we head back to physical labor tomorrow!


Click here to see photos from the day

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