By: Donald Felice
Yesterday, the Waccamaw River rose to unprecedented levels in Conway, S.C., prompting The Salvation Army’s Hurricane Florence Incident Command team located at The Boys and Girls Club to relocate to three different areas to combat the challenge of high water levels and approximately 250 road closures.
A growing number of people affected by Hurricane Florence’s succeeding flood waters are scattered in pockets across Horry County. As the water rose, the logistical challenges for The Salvation Army team to maintain and increase their relief operations rose, too.
The Salvation Army Horry County Incident Command Logistics Chief, Major Andrew Gilliam, from Macon, GA, is tasked with the challenge of fine-tuning and orchestrating the newly developed three-location strategy.
A phone call from Conway’s Ekklesia Christian Church Deacon, Ricky Vines, provided some of the answers Major Gilliam was seeking.
Vines, who owns a successful Plumbing and Water Restoration business, saw the need in his community and leveraged his business relationships with Duke Energy and Recovery Logistics to help in relief efforts. He asks if The Salvation Army would like to partner with the growing, 500-member, twin-campus Ekklesia Christian Church and their newly-affiliated group of businesses to help their community.
Ekklesia’s new church building, located at 2469 E. Highway 501, is scheduled to be completed in January. The new site right off Highway 501 is the perfect place to stage one of The Salvation Army’s three new logistical relief operations.
A large cross on the front of the partially built front wall of the church building overlooks the entire parking lot operation. Construction vehicles and hard-hatted workers continue to labor loudly on the new church building to meet their January deadline.
Donned in a brand-new white Salvation Army hat, Cindy Wilson, wife of the west campus Ekklesia Christian Church pastor Brandon Wilson, spearheads the onsite operations. Her office is a table under a pop-up tent in what will soon be the new church building’s parking lot.
“The Salvation Army has been awesome!” says Cindy. “The culture at The Salvation Army and here at Ekklesia are the same. It’s a great fit.”
The group of Salvation Army staff and volunteers and Ekklesia church members gathers each morning to pray before starting the day’s operation. Just yards away is an industrial mobile kitchen donated by Recovery Logistics. Neatly lined up nearby are refrigerated and dry tractor trailers full of food and perishable items donated by Duke Energy.
A host of church members and Salvation Army staff and volunteers then start to busily tote food boxes, assemble meals and load Salvation Army canteens (mobile feeding units) as they roll by to pick up food for those in need before driving off to destinations across Horry County.
“Every disaster relief opportunity has its own unique qualities and partnerships,” says Operations Chief Gilliam. “Our partnership with Ekklesia is brand new, but has the feel of a long family relationship. They have stood with us side-by-side, partnering with us in doing the most good for their community.”
Major Larry Broome, Incident Commander for The Salvation Army’s Hurricane Florence relief efforts in Horry County echoes the praise about the new partnership, “Our job would have been much harder without the partnership with Ekklesia Christian Church,” says Broome, adding, “We are one church with many parts ministering to those in need out of our collective gifts and abilities.”
A day earlier, Broome had another providential partnership encounter. The new three-location strategy required some additional supplies for one of the new distribution areas. On their way to pick up the supplies, Broome and the disaster relief team members riding with him contemplated how they were going to distribute meals that night to one of the new locations. They had not planned to stop at one particular brand store, but somehow found themselves stopping there anyway.
After purchasing the supplies, they exited the store and noticed a group of people gathered in the parking lot. Some of them were looking at the Salvation Army vehicle. “We are a group from Beach Church,” a person in the group says. “We are meeting in this store parking lot to discuss ways to help our community and noticed your vehicle. Can you guys use some help?” They continued, “We’ll go with you and help with whatever you need.”
The eager volunteers worked with The Salvation Army team for the rest of the afternoon to prepare food and serve it to those in need in their community until 9:00p.m. that evening.
Scripture says that God’s ways are mysterious. It also says that He will make a way when there seems to be no way. He can split the sea, move mountains, or any barrier before us, and allow us to walk victoriously through on dry ground.