North Carolina Flood Relief Efforts Start Strong

October 15, 2016 • United States
Volunteers in Pinetops
Volunteers working in the area of Pinetops, North Carolina, are bringing relief and spiritual comfort to homeowners devastated by Hurricane Matthew.

Samaritan’s Purse is helping those affected by flooding in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. We are currently at work in an outlying area of Pinetops, in a neighborhood also flooded during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Elsa Oviedo couldn’t believe how quickly the water inundated her yard. When it reached the top of her front porch, she knew she and her family had to get out.

“My husband and I picked up our two girls and ran out with the clothes we had on our backs,” she said. “When we went outside, water was to our knees. We were so wet by the time we reached my aunt’s house down the road.”

Volunteer in the Carolinas

But her aunt’s yard quickly flooded as well, leaving them trapped. Elsa’s family was among the 200 people from Pinetops, North Carolina, who were rescued by boat after nearly 24 hours of rain fell from Hurricane Matthew. The deluge caused nearby Town Creek, a tributary of the Tar River, to break its banks.

After being evacuated during a hurricane, most people agonize over not being able to see what’s happening to their homes. Elsa, however, agonized over what she did see—courtesy of a local television news station. As she watched the news, she saw a sea of water around her very own Pinetops home.

“When I saw my home surrounded by water on the news, all I could do was pray, ‘Lord, don’t let the water get into our home,’” Elsa said. The family had moved into the home a year ago, after making numerous repairs and improvements.

Somebody to Lean on

When Elsa returned home and was able to see that floodwaters hadn’t made it past the front door, “I was so thankful to God,” Elsa said. Their flooded cars are a loss, but that doesn’t diminish Elsa’s thankfulness for her home being spared.

Presenting a Bible to Elsa

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers pray with homeowners Fernando and Elsa before presenting them a Bible.

The family did need help removing the drenched insulation and ductwork from the crawl space underneath their mobile home. So, eight Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers along with Elsa’s husband, Fernando, spent much of yesterday crawling underneath the house to extract and bag the material.

“I am so grateful for the help, to see how good God is to provide it for us,” Elsa said. Elsa believed in God before these events but she began a personal relationship with Him after talking and praying with María Colón-Rivera, a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. Elsa received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior during the first day of our work in Pinetops, one of eight professions of faith that day (October 14).

“You have Somebody who cares for you, who is always here with you,” Maria told Elsa when the young woman said she’d miss her and the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.

Twin Teachers Team Up

Volunteer Amy Hines was able to draw on her experience as a teacher to comfort Elsa when she expressed concern about how her 6-year-old daughter would react to how the family had been uprooted from their home for the past week.

Laura and Amy Hines

Laura (front) and Amy Hines work to remove paneling for a Pinetops homeowner.

Amy and her twin sister, Laura, Johnston County (N.C) Schools’ teacher of the year, are volunteering in Pinetops while schools in Johnston County are closed until Tuesday. The sisters have served with Samaritan’s Purse several times in the Carolinas, including after a tornado in Raleigh and previous flooding in South Carolina.

The teachers both introduce themselves to their new students each school year by showing them a slideshow about their lives. Photos of their activity on Samaritan’s Purse work sites play a significant role in depicting their community service. On some disaster relief deployments, they’ve enlisted their classes to write cards for the children of homeowners.

“We love to be helpful in what seem like helpless situations,” Laura said.

Volunteers at Elsa and Fernando’s home ranged in age from 14 to 81. Bob Lassiter, 81, was one of four members from Raleigh’s Bay Leaf Baptist Church who worked at the home. Tonya Crump, who homeschools her eighth-grade son Hunter in Winston-Salem, decided they would volunteer together after seeing photos of the hurricane damage.

Hitting Home: Floyd, Now Matthew

News footage of Pinetops residents being evacuated from their homes initially led Samaritan’s Purse staff to contact Pinetops mayor and fire chief Steve Burress.

“We go everywhere in the world,” said Luther Harrison, vice president for Samaritan’s Purse North American Ministries. “But when something happens in North Carolina, that’s where our home is and that’s where our heart is.” Samaritan’s Purse, active in well more than 100 countries, is headquartered in Boone, North Carolina, and has offices in several other cities within the state.

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“Samaritan’s Purse is out here now, doing what they do, helping people,” Mayor Burress said. This isn’t the first time that he and Pinetops residents have had to contend with record-setting hurricane flooding.

The same area near Town Creek flooded in 1999 because of Hurricane Floyd. Six people died then when a boat capsized just blocks from where homes recently flooded from Hurricane Matthew.

“This is the exact mirror of Floyd to the tee,” the mayor said. But some areas that didn’t flood in 1999 were covered with water this time, he said, including the road in front of Pines Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.

But the water didn’t encroach into the church, so the congregation has opened its doors to Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, providing them lodging while they work in the community.

“We’re glad to be able to have a part in the relief efforts in the community,” said Pines Chapel Pastor William Keys.

The Body of Christ Comes Together

Pines Chapel Deacon James Horne’s home was flooded by four feet of floodwater from Hurricane Matthew. His house flooded twice as high in 1999 during Hurricane Floyd. Then, he had to be rescued by boat. This past weekend, as rain poured down from Hurricane Matthew, James managed to drive out before it got too bad.

Chaplain Dave Barlow prays with James.

Praying with homeowner James Horne.

When James returned to his water-soaked home and saw its bowed walls and mud-caked furniture, he knew that most of his belongings were unsalvageable.

“I’m just glad I got out alive, that’s the main thing,” he said.

On Saturday, October 15, Samaritan’s Purse volunteers, including some fellow members from Pines Chapel, helped him begin the clean-up effort.

“Thank God for my church as well as the volunteers,” James said. “You can’t make it through something like this by yourself. We have to help each other.”