Uwharrie Leaders Visit Ongoing Flood Recovery Efforts

posted on September 13

It is hard to understand what flash flood damage looks like until you see it. To better understand the destruction, on September 7th, seven clergy and laity from the Uwharrie District travelled to tour the Canton, NC area and learn from local leaders. The trip began at 6am when participants gathered to leave from Bethany UMC in Albemarle. Rev. David Cochran graciously drove Bethany UMC’s van. On the way, Rev. Kris Mares led discussion about missional evangelism, missio dei, and the Neighborhood Way. This framework (shared from Missional Collective), laid a foundation for understanding the ongoing recovery work.

When the Uwharrie team arrived in Canton, they met Rev. Peter Constantian, pastor of Cruso UMC and Long’s UMC, Brian Mateer Director of Missional Engagement, and Ben Rogers, Mission Response Associate. Rev. Constantian led the tour of the area along the Pigeon River.
As the participants passed houses, Peter shared stories of the members of his congregation who lived in some of the homes and the ongoing ministry of recovery and healing. He pointed out the area of the landslide, where the moving earth into the river caused a whirlpool that wiped out an entire RV park. Six people lost their lives. The physical layout of the river changed, exposing rock and collecting debris of all sizes, even cars.
The tour ended at Cruso UMC. This church, with an average worship attendance of 10, became a key point of relief immediately after the storm. At one point, they served 3 hot meals a day. Now, the church continues a Wednesday evening meal where local residents come to break bread, share stories, and if needed, take home fresh and non-perishable groceries. While Sunday worship remains around 10 people, Peter explained that this core group of faithful disciples provides the spiritual foundation for the ongoing community recovery ministries.

After lunch at Black Bear Café, the group met at Central UMC to learn from Rev. Erin Yow and disaster response staff. Rev. Yow shared the early recovery stories from the collaborative work of the Canton Missional Network. She talked about the importance of having strong relationships between clergy colleagues; these relationships were the foundation that allowed the Canton Missional Network to quickly respond to community needs.

Ongoing recovery is facilitated through four disaster recovery staff members who were hired through an UMCOR grant. While at Central UMC, Brian Mateer talked about the role of disaster recovery and the need for preparedness. The disaster recovery staff talked about ongoing recovery work, including home repair and case management. Work teams are still needed to complete the home repair and rebuilding work. Laity from Central UMC (Albemarle) and Christ UMC (Salisbury) were able to learn more about their planned trips in October and February. Rev. Laura Auten presented disaster recovery staff with prayer shawls made by Uwharrie District United Women in Faith.

The Uwharrie team left the Canton area about 3:15pm to begin the drive home. They continued to discuss where they saw God at work in the recovery, what God might be calling them to do next, and how Uwharrie District churches might better prepare for community disasters. While the day was filled with learning, the team enjoyed plenty of laughter as well. Just ask Kris about pirate church!
If you would like to learn more taking a team to help in ongoing flooding recovery efforts, please contact Ben Rogers. To learn more about how your local church might better prepare for disaster, please contact Brian Mateer. The Uwharrie District is grateful for the time and resources shared.

Viewing the Pigeon River