By Carl Stagner
Sometimes the greatest ministry moments happen in the midst of the greatest tragedy. Bob Daniels, pastor of Highland First Church of God in Rainelle, West Virginia, says it’s their story. It’s also been true for Scott Beha, who serves as teaching pastor of Southridge Church in South Charleston, West Virginia. Though Highland First Church suffered some structural damage, they’re doing what they can to help others displaced and in great need. Though Southridge Church didn’t suffer structural damage, they’ve dropped everything to reach out to homeowners and churches—whether a part of the Church of God movement or not—and make a difference in the name of Jesus. Christ-followers in West Virginia are now rejoicing that, in addition to homeowners receiving help and hope, some are also receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.
Things could have been a lot worse at Highland First Church in Rainelle. Their basement was flooded, five inches of water accumulated in the gym, and the carpet in the nursery was ruined. Thankfully, the drywall did not suffer damage. But according to Pastor Bob Daniels, the church’s structural damage really isn’t the story.
Beginning last summer and continuing this summer, Highland First Church of God has partnered with an organization called Appalachian Service Project. Students and leaders from across the country descend on Rainelle, West Virginia, to make houses “safer, drier, and warmer” for the Mountain State’s residents. They use Highland First Church as a launching point and a place to lodge and eat. When the historic floods came through Rainelle, the team that was at the church was left stranded on the upper floors of the church. After the waters subsided from the building, the team still couldn’t leave due to impassable roads. When rescue boats came to pick the team up, the team refused to go with them! The building had no power and no running water, but did have food that would spoil if they didn’t do something. Fortunately, a gas grill was their solution. So within the first thirty hours of the flood, Rainelle’s first shelter was Highland First Church of God! As Bob explains, “The church became a stinky, muddy mess that Jesus was thrilled to see!”
Appalachian Service Project had intended on pulling the team out of Rainelle until it could be used as a safe hub for their base of ministry. As they prayed, however, plans changed. The team that was staying at the church has moved on to another host site. But now they’re giving back to Highland First Church and are driving the distance to Rainelle each day until the Highland First Church building is completely restored!
Southridge Church in South Charleston was blessed to avoid structural damage from the floods, but some in the church were affected. Scott Beha took a crew the homes for cleanup and to make initial repairs. But it was the women’s ministry team that initiated the immediate response. They’d had a scheduled event planned that Saturday. Following a last-minute cancellation, they turned the church into a donation site for supplies—everything from mops to diapers. Working with a Nazarene church in nearby Clendenin, they were able to donate loads of provisions for the hard-hit Clendenin-Elkview area. Recalling the devastation in these communities as church leaders made the delivery, Scott Beha says of the debris, devastation, mud, and indicators of how high the floodwaters rose, “Mud up on trees and debris high in the air. It’s incredible to see. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Each day this week, Southridge Church is sending work crews to clean up and do their best to salvage damaged homes. Sadly, many of these homes are total losses. So Southridge will persist in this ongoing effort, commissioning work teams at least once a week for at least the next month. “Somehow God can bring good even in the midst of tragedy. But the church has to be the church,” Pastor Scott insists.
As a reminder, the Churches of God in Richwood and White Sulphur Springs, and Alta (near Gauley Bridge) also suffered significant damage due to the floods. The pastor from Richwood also lost the family car. West Virginia Ministries has been in touch with pastors from each church and will coordinate relief efforts. This includes the need for work teams.
Regarding work teams, the following is a message from West Virginia Ministries of the Church of God:
Work teams are currently needed to serve in the impacted areas. Congregations are encouraged to assemble work teams that can serve in these areas. For information on how and where to serve, we recommend contacting the Emergency Operations Centers in the impacted counties. They will have the most up to date information on how and where to serve.
To inquire about work team opportunities with affected Church of God congregations in West Virginia, please contact West Virginia Ministries at 304-763-1118.
Please continue to pray for West Virginia, those who have been directly affected and those who are providing on-the-ground relief. Please also consider a gift to the Disaster Relief Fund at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org/disaster-relief.
Gifts to the Disaster Relief Fund at Church of God Ministries are used to respond to needs identified on the ground. All gifts to the Disaster Relief Fund are used for disaster relief efforts domestically and internationally at the discretion of the Disaster Relief Committee. Donations can always be made online to the Disaster Relief Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief/. Donations can also be mailed to Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018; please note that your gift is for Disaster Relief, Project #45.04502.