Honestly, I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep that morning. The thought of spending the next 12 hours doing demolition was, well, messy. I don’t like messy. You see, I’m more of a design and fluff girl. But I rose from under the warm covers, made coffee, and willed myself into some unattractive work clothes so we, my husband and I, could rendezvous with the rest of the CAC flood relief team at 6:15.
Yes, at 6:15.
We drove the 2 hours to Lumberton (I slept) and arrived on time. It was sunny and cold, but a beautiful day.
We were assigned a house, picked up our sack lunches that the Baptist Men’s Relief team provided, and set off to clean up and demo the day away.
I was not prepared for what I saw; utter devastation. Yes, A huge mess. It’s one thing to see photos and it’s quite another thing to feel, smell, and experience it up close. For the next few hours we carried out the task of removing all the belongings from this tiny home. We removed a lifetime of soaked things, white patent leather pumps, rotted furniture, a graduation photo, dripping wet books and even a well-worn Bible. It was heartbreaking to see someone’s entire life piled high on the side of the street.
We put in a call to see if there was anything the homeowner wanted to salvage from the house. The answer was no. Nothing.
So we continued our day. After the appliances were removed from the house, the team began the actual demo. This little house was already in poor shape before the flood. The support beams on the floor were completely rotted. I came to realize that Lumberton and the surrounding areas of eastern North Carolina were already close to poverty stricken before the flood hit. Adding insult to injury, the floods destroyed the businesses and property of many people already struggling.
Home after home and street after street, lifetime after lifetime of memories destroyed.
The team continued to tear out walls, floors, and the ceilings, carrying the soaked and rotted wood out by hand, trashcans, or wheel barrels. Many hands make light work, and I was so very thankful for the many hands, but this was not light work. It was hard, messy work.
Midway through the day we saw something shiny hanging on a hook by the back door. We found ARMY dog tags.
Again we dialed the homeowner and yes, they would come by to get them. Soon an old vehicle pulled up with a man and an elderly woman inside, a mother and son. The first thing I noticed was the woman’s face. She was radiant as she stepped out of the vehicle. With barely a glance at her belongings piled high by the curb, she came to embrace us. This woman, 83 years young, had pure joy and gratefulness exuding from her. She said she’d lived in the house 50 plus years, and that it was bought and paid for. She was very proud of that. But what struck me was what she said next….
”My Jesus has never failed me. Even when the floods were rising, I knew He would take care of me, even when the boat came up to my front porch to take me to the shelter. My Jesus would care for me.”
This faithful soul was beaming over her Jesus. Not brooding over her loss.
Mamie Harrison entered the house to get the dog tags and have a look around. She was unfazed by the destruction of her earthy things. She knew that her real worth is in Jesus Christ, and that her God would supply her needs. He always had. Why would He stop now? When asked what she would miss most, she mentioned a certain table, her prayer altar. She had taped the names of the many people she had prayed for over the years on that table. But God knows. He sees, she said.
Miss Mamie leaned on her cane, but her faith was unshakable, her strength and resolve in the Lord unwavering.
Funny how these days go; I thought I came to serve but, actually, Mamie served me. She showed me that stuff doesn’t make a life and circumstances can change in an instant; but a faith resting and trusting in Jesus cannot be swept away. Ever.
Before Mamie and her son left, we prayed. We asked the Lord to continue to provide for her and for the many displaced people in the area. They pulled away in that old car, a recent gift from a local church member, (“Oh, Jesus is soooo good,” she said) we waved goodbye and went back to work. The rest of the day was different; the team had added energy, felt an increase of purpose, the day became personal, not merely a project.
We saw the Lord that messy day in Lumberton, we saw Jesus in the sweet face of Mamie Harrison.
Am I glad I got up that morning?