In flood-stricken Lexington County neighborhoods Sunday where soaked, ruined belongings lined quiet streets in front of every house, waves of volunteers brought food for the body and soul.
“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come,” sang a small group of Christians and neighborhood folks, led by Erik Wolf of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as they stood in the sun at Cannon Dale and Melville roads.
The roads lie along Rawls Creek, which flows past numerous low-lying residential neighborhoods.
Like Gills Creek in neighboring Richland County, Lexington County’s Rawls Creek meanders for miles. It flows past communities built on hillsides, past homes constructed in low-lying areas beside the creek and its downstream dams, along small lakes and ponds – where residents moved, not knowing that one distant day, those waters would rise.
Never miss a local story.
After the 20-minute service, the home-grown missionaries moved on to other neighborhoods in the Rawls Creek drainage area.
Ashley Summers, 34, a Cannon Dale Road resident, attended the service with her daughter, McKinley, 3. “It’s amazing they are out in our community to remind us that God is out there taking care of us. He may bring the rain, but He also brings the sunshine,” said Summers, adding that “Amazing Grace” was her favorite part of the service.
Most of the homes that were hardest-hit on her street were on the Rawls Creek side. Their back yards end near the banks of the creek; rising waters flooded the first story of the house across the street from hers.
“It’s been devastating, to say the least,” she said. “But we were very lucky – the water got up to the base of our front yard but never reached the house.”
The last Lutheran-guided service Sunday was held on a green lawn under the shade of a tall tree on hard-hit Wilton Hill Road, the northern side of which backs up against a pond created by Rawls Creek.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” members of the impromptu congregation said at this final service, reciting Psalm 46..
“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change ... though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult,” they said.
Christian music was by Danielle Rockey, 34, and her husband, Chris, 31. He played the guitar and she sang “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” and “Sanctuary.” They had seen a post on Facebook and decided to turn out and help the worship service. They brought their children, Maggie, 4, and Parker, 22 months.
“We were blessed,” Danielle said after the service. “Our house is safe. We are safe. We wanted to find any way we could to help out.”
Not 20 yards away was what people call a command post, in this case an area sheltered by a large tent under which were tables piled with various foods and clean-up supplies, including paper towels to bleach.
Such command posts have been replicated in various forms all over the Midlands. At one end of the relief chain, individuals are taking food and supplies to area churches or other centralized staging areas. From there, other volunteers load up their pickup trucks and vans high with the donated goods.
Then, those drivers head out to places like Wilton Hill Road, where people can walk to them and grab a meal and whatever else they need without having to leave the neighborhood. Stores also truck in food and supplies.
“We come here, drop it off, and then they go door to door,” said Paul Teeple, 53, from the Palmetto Church of Christ. Sunday afternoon, he brought 150 chicken sandwiches in his pickup to the Wilton Hill command post. “That kind of organization helps everyone. We are distributing around 1,000 meals a day.”
A few teachers from Harbison West Elementary School started the Wilton Hill Road command post, and neighbors and volunteers from Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, Capital City Catering and other groups stepped in to staff it.
Since Tuesday, they have served hundreds of lunches and dinners, said Melinda Heyward, a volunteer at the command post. Another neighbor grilled hundreds of hamburgers, hot dogs and chickens to give away. Christ Church of the Carolinas, a Columbia church, brought 300 chicken sandwiches on Sunday morning in coolers. Bojangles and Cracker Barrel, as well as a Chick-fil-A in Marietta, Ga., also have donated food.
Kelly Bruce, 45, one of Wilton Hill Road residents who attended the service, said she and her husband, Bob, 50, had lived in their house for 15 years. Their back yard had water once from the rising pond water, but last week’s flood was by far the worst, she said.
Kelly Bruce, a Catholic, liked the service. “I thought it was appropriate, and it really brought the community together.”
Most of her neighbors are grateful their lives and pets were spared, and all the help that has been pouring into their neighborhood has actually left most folks in high spirits, Kelly Bruce said. “How could we not be?”
Pastor Wolf, who organized the mobile Sunday services, was on home ground Sunday afternoon.
“I grew up in Irmo,” Wolf said, “and I know everyone is kind of stuck where they are doing this work, and they just needed to be reminded that God is with them where they are. That’s the job of the church – to come around and be the church with people.”
Fewer than 30 people attended each service, but Wolf said he wasn’t discouraged. “Whoever we have turn out, we know they want to be with us, God says he is wherever people are gathered in his name. We’re here as a representation of God’s love in the community.”
Benediction at the end of the last service was pronounced by 10-year-old Eden Rowell, a student at Satchel Ford Elementary, who had come with her mother from Forest Acres to help out with the service.
Eden, her voice strong and clear, said words repeated in various forms in weekly religious services across the world: “The Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace, Amen.”