Churches rebuild after Floyd
October 21, 1999
Like thousands of families who have lost their homes under Hurricane Floyd’s floodwaters, houses of worship have suffered, too. Ministers like the Rev. Pat Kilby face uncertainty for their flocks.
The 34-year-old Kilby became pastor of Adamsville Baptist Church earlier this year. Now his church with no flood insurance must find a way to complete up to $150,000 in repairs after more than a foot of water damaged Sunday school rooms, the fellowship hall and the pastor’s study.
But members of other churches have arrived to help with demolition work and repairs, and Kilby is hopeful of a bright future.
”The God we serve created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.” Kilby said. ”If he can do that, than I’m sure he’ll take care of us. This isn’t a problem to him.”
Up to 20 inches of rain from Floyd in mid-September forced the 650-member church to rip out what had been newly installed carpet, tear down rotting wallboard and clean up hundreds of chairs and tables. The floodwater receded but rose again when more rain fell.
Members of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Knightdale learned of Kilby’s predicament and came to Goldsboro recently with demolition tools to help. Other religious organizations helping houses of worship clean up include the Baptist State Convention, the Council of Churches and the Quakers.
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Bethlehem member Paul Ervin, sweating through his green short-sleeved shirt as he pulled out wallboard, saw the opportunity to work as a way to live out his Christian faith.
”I told my wife that if we wanted to do missions, that now is the time to do it,” said Ervin, a state Transportation Department engineer. ”I had 18 trees down in my front yard during Hurricane Fran. I know how much it meant when people helped me.”
Alton Lee, a member at Adamsville Baptist for more than 35 years, said he appreciates the outside help.
”People have really poured themselves out and have really come together,” Lee said, taking a break from ripping the wallboard from the church bathrooms. ”This has really brought out the best in people.”
Fifteen miles down the road in Seven Springs, Drema Auman said answering God’s call to service meant sweeping splintered wallboard, broken tile and countless nails from inside the flood-damaged Seven Springs Baptist Church and parsonage.
Mrs. Auman made the 130-mile trip from High Point joining about two dozen others in a cleanup crew sponsored by the Baptist State Convention men’s missionary group.
”I’m so fortunate and I’m so blessed,” Mrs. Auman said, speaking from the parsonage now stripped of its carpet and insulation. ”For us to come here is the best thing that could happen to us.”
Only four of the building’s pews were undamaged. But workers hoped they had saved the sanctuary’s large Bible, left waterlogged by the storm. Someone put it on the front porch to dry.
”It brought tears to my eyes,” said church member Betty Jo Rogers.
By Saturday afternoon, workers had removed most of the pews. But watermarks just below the stained-glass windows foretold months of work ahead at an estimated cost of $70,000. The church held Sunday services in nearby La Grange.
Meanwhile, North Carolina emergency officials have started the ”Church2Church” program, in which churches in the flooded region will be paired with congregations unscathed and ready to help them.
At the first ”Church2Church” event earlier this month, members of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, armed with cleaning supplies, arrived at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Rocky Mount.
They steam-cleaned walls and floors, carried out debris and pledged $10,000 to help the congregation get back on its feet. Tipper Gore, the vice president’s wife, came by to kick off the program.
The Rev. Raymond Privott, Metropolitan’s pastor, was stunned by the generosity of a church he had never heard of three days earlier.
”We now know we can go to heaven before you die,” Privott said. ”All of a sudden, in walks a miracle like this.”
More than 100 churches have inquired about the Church2Church program. So far, about 35 congregations have been identified as needing assistance and are being matched with volunteer churches, said Renee Hoffman, a state spokeswoman.
The partnerships are designed to go beyond immediate cleanup to include major repairs or raising money to replace damaged choir robes and hymnals.
For Privott, the program has been a blessing.
”The Lord is sending good things and good people our way.”