February 13, 2020
Each of the past three years, I have participated in Westminster’s 2nd Wave Disaster Recovery ministry. This ministry provides assistance in the repairs and renovations to homes damaged by natural disasters. Typically, a team of ten to twenty volunteers travel to the area affected by a disaster six months to a year after the disaster occurred. They then spend a week performing repairs to a home at the direction of a site manager provided by the organization overseeing the disaster recovery. Lodging for the team is typically in a dormitory or barracks fashion at a local church or church affiliated camp.
My first experience with the 2nd wave ministry was in 2017. My wife Alice and I were the Westminster representatives on a joint Westminster/First Pres of WC trip to Hammond Louisiana. The parishes north of New Orleans had experienced extensive flooding as a result of an unnamed storm dropping 38” of rain in a 24 hour period. We stayed at a Church camp in the area and spent the week prepping and installing ceramic floor tile on the concrete slab floor of a small rancher home.
In 2018, Ann Hatfield and I were the Westminster representatives on another joint Westminster/First Pres of WC trip to Houston. Hurricane Harvey produced extensive flooding. Our team was assigned to the home of a single father with two children. Again, the focus was on replacement of the floors. Our team assessed the status of the floors in each bedroom and decided that two needed to be totally replaced, while the subfloor of the third could be retained. We spent the week installing the new subfloors, followed by laminate flooring, and finally the trim molding. If you ever need help installing laminate flooring, Ann is now an expert.
In 2019, Westminster decided to increase its disaster recovery efforts. As a result of Hurricane Florence hitting the Carolinas, the affected areas were within driving distance. A total of four trips took place, one each in March, April, May and October. By October, the supply of available volunteers was dwindling, so, the team for this last trip consisted of only four members: Eric Emrich, Xiu McGovern, my wife Alice and myself. Neither Eric nor Xiu had been on a mission trip of this type before, although Eric had previous experience with Habitat for Humanity and Good Works.
The WPC mission committee laid the ground work for the trips by coordinating with the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM) in Wilmington, NC and with First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington. WARM administers recovery efforts in the area by identifying and screening potential recipients, determining what specific work needs to be done, providing tools and site managers at each site and assigning work crews.
First Pres. of Wilmington provided accommodations. They had taken over a former nursing home and converted it to a pre-school, office space and class rooms. However, one hall was kept as double-occupancy rooms for groups to stay in. The hall also had a kitchen and common area. The staff of First Pres. kept the kitchen stocked with food for us to prepare our own breakfasts and to pack lunches to take to the work site.
Our team was assigned to a home about 20 miles outside of Wilmington owned by an elderly widow. Most of the house was above ground and was not significantly affected by the flooding. However, the flood waters did damage the floor, interior walls and insulation of a finished garage that was at ground level. We started with some demolition, ripping out the affected wallboards and insulation. The exposed wood was then treated to prevent mold growth. New insulation was installed in the exterior walls and new sheetrock installed, spackled and painted. One advantage of our small team was that we weren’t getting in each other’s way and tool availability was normally not a problem; but, as a result, there was little excuse for down time, and plenty of work to be done. So, we tended to have long hard work days.
In the evenings, after cleaning ourselves up, we would go out to dinner as a group to a local restaurant. Upon returning to First Pres we would hang out in the common area, reading or watching TV (we watched a very disappointing effort by the Eagles on MNF).
After participating in a 2nd Wave trip, you get a real sense of fulfillment. You can visibly see how you’ve positively affected someone’s life. You also get to spend time with and get to know other Church members that you may not have otherwise met. It is an excellent opportunity WPC offers to love thy neighbor.
Editor's Note: Our next disaster relief work trips are scheduled for the week of April 19-25 and April 26-May 2 in Wilmington, NC. You can participate in a disaster recovery mission trip for a full week, or a 4-day stretch. Interested in serving on a work team, contact Ann Hatfield, or Bill Stewart. Click here to register for the week of April 19 or click here to work the week of April 26.