(Hannah Kessler is a member of the Lanes Primitive Baptist Church and is currently working for Next Step Ministries. She has been involved in active ministry in West Virginia. The following is a report of her work in the aftermath of the recent flooding.)
Friends and Family,
My mom asked me to send you an update on West Virginia since the flood relief has begun.
Let me begin by saying how encouraging it has been to be apart of this process.
Since then I have been humbled to see the opposite take place. Both locations we have been volunteering at have been hubs for donations to be dropped off and picked up. Flood victims can drive through a parking lot, and not even leave their cars. They just say what they need, and as they make their way around a loop, volunteers assist them.
When people speak with me, they are at their worst. This is the first day they have been able to get out of their homes. Some of them are in little clothing, and what they have is caked in mud. Many have gone days without food and water when they arrive. They are on day 5/6 without medications they need.
But what I have noticed is, even their worst is thankful. It is patient. Their worst is generous to their neighbors, not taking more than they need. Their worst is loving towards a 22 year old girl trying to help them, even with little experience or knowledge. Their worst wants to know about me, and why I’m in Clendenin, West Virginia. Their worst tells me that they lost everything, but at least their dog is still alive, and for that they are thankful. Their worst says that they will make it through, because that’s the West Virginia way. Their worst says “God Bless YOU. Thank YOU for what you’re doing.”
Their worst makes me look at myself, and wonder if I could be that brave, that loving, that generous at my worst.
No one is mean. No one is starting riots because we are taking too long. People are kind. They have blessed me more than I could ever bless them.
A lot of the day is spent in the busyness. Trying to get people what they need and keep the line moving to get more people in.
Every once and a while I will step back for a second and look around. There are news crews everywhere. People are trying to make it to our medical tent before they fall down. Sometimes an ambulance arrives to take one of them to a better equipped facility. I see a Red Cross Truck, a FEMA trailer, National guard Humvees, and helicopters overhead. Sometimes they are taking areal shots for the news. Sometimes they dip low on the river and I wonder if they’re still searching for missing people.
On my walk to my car to grab some water I walk past the medical truck. It’s large, similar to an 18-wheeler, but has doors on the outside that slide open to reveal lots of drawers with neatly arranged supplies. On the top right corner I see boxes and boxes, all labeled “Body Bags”.
While continuing at the checkpoints, we are also starting the process of mucking out homes this week. This means that all of the water/mud-logged furniture has to be thrown out of the home, carpets have to be pulled up, basements have to be emptied of mud, and the water damaged walls have to be pulled out also. Looking at the destruction is overwhelming, and I’ve just been in one, of the 3 or 4 towns badly affected.
In the coming weeks hard decisions will have to be made, concerning our option to continue with the relief effort, or make our way back to commitments we have in Rosedale. Please be prayerful with me about these choices.
After seeing the destruction personally, I have a better understanding of where support could be used.
My heart was broken for Heather. Her husband works out of town, and hasn’t even seen his home since this happened. Heather is bright, perky and energetic. When I met her yesterday she was overwhelmed that anyone would want to come and help her. We quickly became friends and exchanged phone numbers. When I text her later and said the group would arrive at her home around 8, but they may be a little later, she replied, “That’s okay, I’m usually late to everything. So I wont hold it against them!”
Heather is a normal person. She’s a young mom trying to hold it together for her children and her mom.
As the week goes on, and I get to talk to Heather more, I want to offer some support to her. Whether it’s buying shoes for her kids that would actually fit, or a comfy pair of pants that would make life feel a little more normal.
These are the types of things that I would love to come alongside of people with. Obviously there will be larger needs, like home repairs and new cars that I won’t be able to fix. But the things I can help with, something to bring comfort or a little bit of normalcy, is what I am passionate about.
If you are interested in this, or have other ideas of your own, you can reach out to me through my email, phone, or mailing address.
Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.
I am thankful that God placed me here.
– Hannah –