February 2019

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is the emergency response program for our denomination, committed to the long-term journey of recovery of communities adversely affected by a crisis or catastrophic event. It has designated funds for responding to specific disasters, and it is the focus of our Witness Season 2019.  

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been tremendously helpful to the ongoing relief efforts after the flooding in North and South Carolina. In addition to the initial rescue and clean up during the immediate crisis, they also sent out groups of pastors and volunteers to assist in long term recovery trainings and projects, including resiliency training to deal with the community stressors that occur during the aftermath of a natural disaster. PDA provided a counsel of experts and has helped coordinate the generous collaboration of so many communities. In the face of the storm, PDA resources and teams kept many out of harm’s way and lessened the effects of wind and water on others. Many communities in North and South Carolina have been deeply affected, and thousands of people have had their livelihood, homes and stability destroyed. During our Witness Season in February, we will have the opportunity to be visited by PDA representatives who have been involved in this relief effort, and hear from them directly about the importance of our generosity to their mission. 

Our goal is to raise $25,000 for Presbyterian Disaster Relief to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been affected by the flooding in North and South Carolina. These funds will be used to help with basic necessities such as food and clothing, as well as support the training and re-building projects for these damaged communities. We want to help build courage for those who are suffering, and give support to PDA in assessing damage and directing relief efforts. We want to share our generosity as a congregation, and respond to the deep human needs emerging in the wake of the storm.  

The needs are tremendous. Through the Coastal Carolina Presbytery, I was told of several current sad circumstances. I learned of an elderly couple flooded out of their home. They've had mold remediation done twice, yet the the home is not habitable. They are staying in a hotel and trying to figure out what people their age are supposed to do in a situation like this. An approximately 10 mile stretch east of Wallace, NC was completely flooded - homes, churches, businesses. Many of these homes have not even been mucked out or tarped. There are people still living in flooded homes because there is nowhere else to go. Much of the area is rural so there are no hotels or rental properties. In some of the counties, schools were closed for five or six weeks. Some schools are currently not able to use their facilities because of storm damage, making the relief efforts even more difficult for children and families. The ripple effects are endless - mail deliveries of medicine sitting outside flooded and vacant homes, flooded cars recreating transportation issues, libraries losing scores of books that were checked out and in flooded homes, etc. You can imagine the pain and frustration of the ongoing issues. 

PDA is working to find funding needed for long term recovery groups that are coordinating efforts in local communities. PDA teams deployed in response to the hurricane and flooding meet with presbytery, congregational and community leadership. They support the initial presbytery assessment and assist in developing a short-term response plan and identify opportunities for volunteers to help muck out homes and churches. Long term recovery efforts and needs for training team are identified. Deployments are timed to give teams an opportunity to worship with impacted congregations, and build relationships in the communities with long-term relief volunteers.   

As you consider your participation in Witness Season this year, please give generously to Presbyterian Disaster Relief, and show our neighbors how much we care. Your donation helps them take care of people in crisis. It means so much to the communities that are involved, and you never know where the next catastrophe may occur. Donations can be sent to Lynise Clarke at FPC and marked "Witness Season - Presbyterian Disaster Relief". Envelopes will be available inside your bulletin the last two week of February. You can also donate online through the link below. Thank you for sharing in the love and mission of First Presbyterian Church of Spartanburg.

Dawn Bingham and Emily Neely, Witness Season 2019