CLARKSBURG, Md. (BP) — Gwen Arthur was saddened watching news broadcasts showing photos and videos of the devastation from recent flooding in Kentucky. So when she saw an opportunity to go, Arthur, a recently trained DR yellow hat volunteer, knew she had to help.
The 84-year-old widow of the late George Arthur, who served as the Montgomery Baptist Association director of missions from 1981-97, was one of about a dozen members of Greenridge Baptist Church in Clarksburg, who traveled to Grace Seaford Church in Delaware earlier this year for disaster relief training from the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware BCM/D). In the spring, she served with others providing food for volunteers who came to Maryland to assist churches during the Send Relief Baltimore Serve Tour.
Traveling to Kentucky to help with flood relief was a big second step, but Arthur was excited for the opportunity.
“I called Ellen Udovich (BCM/D’s community engagement/disaster relief consultant) to see if an 84-year-old woman could be helpful,” Arthur said. Udovich’s answer was a resounding “Yes!” Not only could she be hands-on helpful, but her presence could be very encouraging to homeowners.
The BCM/D DR team partnered with a team from the Baptist convention in Pennsylvania/South Jersey. Arthur drove to Harrisburg, Pa., to meet her fellow volunteers, jumped in a van, and arrived in Kentucky on Saturday, Aug. 14. The following day they worshiped with Marrowbone Missionary Baptist Church in Elkhorn City, Ky., had lunch together, and then headed to their assignment. The combined team worked under the supervision of an Alabama Baptist Convention Disaster Relief team. Altogether there were about 90 volunteers, Arthur said.
“We went to a home with two feet of water above the floor. The flooring had to be torn out and a lot of things removed,” she said. Arthur’s heart went out to the family. Many items were destroyed, and the house smelled bad from standing water, mold and mildew. Household and personal items were stacked on the furniture and tables. The homeowner, an 83-year-old woman, was not home, but the woman’s daughter and granddaughter were onsite and helped the team determine what needed to be thrown out and what should be kept. Members had to be careful not to fall on the buckled floor. Arthur’s first job was to bag things up and get them out of the house. As she worked, she and another volunteer discovered heirloom quilts, which they washed, dried and safely stored. The team had to clear the area and get the furniture out to pull up the ruined flooring.
After her initial job, Arthur helped pull staples out of the floor joists to make preparations for a new floor. She bagged insulation and helped clean up trash.
She laughed as she said she was definitely exhausted Saturday night and wasn’t sure she could go back the next day, but she was rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep and continued, even encouraging others.
The work was exhilarating for Arthur but the most exciting part was seeing spiritual seeds being sown and several people committing their lives to Jesus.
Team members encouraged and prayed with the daughter and granddaughter as they worked. The granddaughter’s estranged husband came to the home later in the week to help.
Arthur said, “On the last day, the husband just broke down and cried in appreciation for what we had done. We told him it was because of God’s love that we wanted to do the work, and we told him because of God’s love, we love you too.” Arthur said one of the volunteers had some spiritual conversations with the young man and prayed for his family’s restoration.
There were three chaplains on the team, from Penn/Jersey, New Hampshire and Maine. Arthur said while one part of the team was working on the house, the chaplains were driving around the area and ministering to people as the Holy Spirit opened doors. They saw one young man who seemed despondent walking down the road by the church. The chaplains talked with the man, gave him food, got to know him, asked about his life and shared a bit about Jesus with him. Arthur broke down in tears as she told how the next day, that man returned to the church seeking the chaplain he spoke with, and he brought three other people. The chaplain chatted with the little group, provided more food and prayed with them. All four accepted Christ.
As the team prepared to leave, they prayed with the family outside, and a neighbor came and joined them.
“Our prayer is that the church and association will be able to follow up with these people and disciple them,” Arthur said.
The workers bonded on the trip and looked out for one another, she said. “If anyone noticed someone else was thirsty, they would take them water.” No one, she said, thought anyone was shirking if they took multiple breaks, and everyone respected the various skill levels.
“We were like family, and we were only together a few days,” she said.