This is the seventh in a series of articles as part of the Bishop’s Appeal for Disaster Recovery for ongoing work needed for survivors of the June 2016 West Virginia flooding. Visit wvumc.org/disaster-recovery to learn more about how you can participate in our continuing efforts.
By Judy Pysell,
Pastor, Richwood Charge
Greenbrier District Communications Coordinator
It rained, and rained, and rained, but I heard them say, “We need the rain!” What looked to be a normal few days of rain turned into anything but normal.
I was standing in my living room watching the news and they were talking about the amount of rain that had already fallen and the amount of rainfall that was still expected. They talked about the possibility of flooding in some areas and flash floods in others. “Don’t drown, turn around,” they said, and “move to higher ground,” they repeated. Can it be that bad? Living on a mountain at 3,500 feet, all is well with the world…but then the lights flickered and went out. An accident perhaps?
My cell phone rang and our neighbor was informing us that the road off the mountain was now impassable. The ground was saturated and the ground could no longer support the roots of large trees which slid down the mountainside, across the road and onto the power lines. We were stuck on the mountain.
Another call came in saying that Richwood was flooded. Oh no! Here I am, a newly appointed pastor to the Richwood charge with a start date of July 1, 2016, and I was stuck on a mountain. How do I reach them?
After several days without power, frustrating phone calls, the trees cut up and moved, and the power lines connected, I was on my way to Richwood. I could not believe the damage. It looked like a war zone. Mud and rocks were scattered everywhere, making driving very difficult. My heart ached watching the residents of Richwood—dressed in waders, gloves, and facemasks—carrying out their personal belongings, dripping in mud and water, and throwing them on a heap to be hauled away.
I made my way to the Red Gym, which was the drop-off point for donations. I was amazed at the number of vehicles in the parking lot unloading donations. The license plates told me that we had received a blessing. People from near and far came to help. They came from Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and even from North Carolina and Georgia. Most of these people I will never meet in a lifetime, but they came to help. They brought cleaning products, clothing, non-perishable food items, and lots and lots of bleach. Monetary donations earmarked for flood recovery were coming in from all over to the Conference Center in Charleston. Those areas hit the hardest were Richwood, Rainelle, White Sulphur Springs, and Clendenin. We wonder if we will ever have enough to help everyone.
We opened the doors at First United Methodist Church of Richwood and provided meals and shelter. Work teams came from near and far and spent long hours helping Richwood recover.
The church became the church that day, and new friendships and relationships began before I ever became their pastor. My first day in the pulpit felt like home.
I am proud to say that the United Methodist Church was there, mucking out homes, walking side by side with those in need, and providing a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a hug when there seemed to be no hope. They were there providing a way to restore and rebuild.
Many homes were repaired, some were restored, and others were rebuilt, and still others were torn down. Almost three years later, there is still work that needs to be done. The United Methodist Church is still here, responding with love for as long as it takes.
Click here to learn more about the Bishop’s Appeal for Disaster Recovery and how you can give to help us keep our promises to flood survivors.