CHARLESTON, S.C. (FR) – In the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, church groups from all over the Southeast have volunteered their services to provide relief to the disaster-stricken coastal area of South Carolina.
“Without the churches I don’t know what we would have done,” said the Governor’s deputy chief of staff, Bob McAlister, as he praised the Christian community for their “incredible outpouring of sacrificial assistance.”
After devastating the Caribbean Islands, Hurricane Hugo’s 135 mile an hour winds ripped into South Carolina’s coast on September 22 destroying millions of dollars of property and leaving many of the state’s poor, rural area residents homeless. Half of South Carolina has been declared a disaster area and while most of the attention has been focused on Charleston, hit hardest were residents in several poor counties.
It has been mainly volunteers from Christian churches and organizations who have led the emergency relief efforts. The result has been the spontaneous creation of a people-to-people network in which state agencies and churches have worked together to supply people in need.
“We’re not looking at whether we’re crossing the church-state barrier,” said one church spokesman, “we’ll worry about that later if someone fusses. Right now we’re just trying to help some people.”
Relief materials, supplies and workers have come from many diverse backgrounds and have knit together to help thousands of residents rebuild their lives. A sampling of churches and Christian groups involved in the relief effort include: Columbia’s Trenholm Road United Methodist Church; The South Carolina Southern Baptist Convention; Columbia Bible College and Seminary; Church of the Nazarene and World Relief; and the Salvation Army.
Bob McAlister said that it has been the Southern Baptists, in particular, who have been magnificent in their efforts with a “ready-to-go” disaster plan, set in motion before Hugo’s winds hit the coast. McAlister said now that the media attention has died down, the most needed and critical work is yet to be done.
“The churches will need to mount a monumental effort to provide long-term spiritual and material care for thousands of families who need to put their lives back together from scratch,” McAlister said. “The government can help in many ways but it cannot provide one critical element – personal love. That’s the ingredient the churches are going to have to provide.”