Presbyterian Mission Network Responds to Flooding

Property damage included flooded cars like this one. Source: Presbyterian Mission

Several months after flooding affected the communities of Canton and Curso in Western North Carolina, residents are still trying to rebuild. The floods resulted from Tropical Storm Fred, which generated “buckets of rain in a short time, in a hurry,” swelling the Pigeon River, said Bill Neely, a member of the National Response Team for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).

The flash flooding left Canton, a small rural community of Cruso and other nearby areas, not only devastated but also grieving the loss of six residents.

One of the local congregations helping to coordinate volunteers in response to the flooding is Canton Presbyterian Church.  The pastor of Canton Presbyterian Church Rev. Esta Jarrett said Cruso was one of the worst areas where “the water moved through with the force of a bulldozer,” knocking homes off their foundations.

However, she described appreciation she was receiving from the Canton Missional Network and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. She commented, “We were fortunate that we already had in place an ecumenical mission group that was very active in Canton called the Canton Missional Network.”

According to Pastor Jarrett, “We already had the group of pastors who are friends and mission partners in place that, as this was happening, we were texting each other. We got on a Zoom call” soon afterward, Jarrett said, then “we got together and served a free meal the next night. We had that system in place that we could get the ball rolling really, really fast.”

With limited affordable housing available in the community for rent the flooding led to a major housing shortage. Through a grant, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance helped provide resources for immediate needs such as food and emergency shelter.

“This is a perfect example of the connectional church at work,” Jim Kirk, PDA Associate for National Disaster Response said. “Presbyterians in the impacted community are helping impacted siblings with hands-on support. The Presbytery of Western North Carolina and the National Church, through PDA, are able to bring additional resources to address the many unmet needs of those most in need. As with other disasters, PDA will continue to provide “resources as able.”

Other denominations and faith groups have also participated in helping the community to rebuild.

Pastor Jarrett said, “Episcopalian, AME Zion, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Baptist, different kinds of Baptists, non denominational. Just people have come together with a single purpose, and it’s been really powerful to see.”

Through the Missional Network, funds in excess of $70,000 have been raised to support flood relief. Pastor Jarrett commented that “This [is] what church looks like,” stressing the importance of everyone coming together to help those in need. 

As the community continues to rebuild, Jarrett is optimistic that the relationships formed during this crisis moment will not dissipate once the community is rebuilt.

Source: Presbyterian Mission