Friday, June 23, 2017

Devotional 6-23-17

Riding in the Shadow of Giants

Events of June 23, 2016 would change the landscape (literally) of small towns along the Elk River – forever. The flood waters left behind empty foundations, debris, heartache, pain…and giants.

The area along Rt. 4 in Clendenin is known to me only from the seat of a bicycle. When traveling from Charleston to the north, I am usually in a car and it is usually on the Interstate. For more years than I have been a part, the WV Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has organized a fund raising bike ride from Charleston to Buckhannon.  The recipients of these funds change from year to year. In my eight rides, we have raised money (and awareness) for Imagine No Malaria, Tsunami Relief, Kids Affected by Aids, Clean Water for Africa and several other VERY worthy causes. Although ride support varies > the route does not. It brings us right along the Elk River…right through Clendenin.  This year’s fund raising pledges were designated for use in the flood recovery in WV. As planning began, I knew it would be an emotional ride – raising money for an area so often traveled yet so severely devastated. Would things we remembered be changed? Be gone? We knew already that our beloved Brawley Chapel, which was always an oasis with cold water, granola bars and an available restroom, was indeed gone. So damaged that it had to be torn down.  The ride launched on the bright, clear morning of June 3rd. Away we rode. As the distance from Charleston grew longer and the distance to Clendenin grew closer, everything seemed normal. Just past the bridge that leads to Clendenin United Methodist Church, we stopped in a parking lot at the corner of Beech Street and Rt.4. Since Brawley Chapel was no more, this seemed like an acceptable alternative for a rest. The support drivers began un-stowing the water and snacks as we looked around. Jack Lipphardt, who is heading up the disaster recovery for our conference, had volunteered to be one of those drivers. Standing next to Jack, he casually said, “See that post over there?” and he pointed back towards the corner of the parking lot. “Yes.” “That white tag near the top is the high water mark. It has the date and level written on it.” I was speechless. Not only was it well over my head > it was, I do believe, ‘over the head’ of a school bus.  As I stood there with my mouth (I’m sure) hanging open, all I could muster was “wow.” If I could have seen through the trees to the other side of the river, I would have been able to see where Clendenin UMC set. I remember scrolling through the pictures on social media of the flooded areas and in particular of this church in Clendenin. On two different bike ride events, Clendenin UMC, its pastor and members, had been gracious enough to allow the riders and crew to stay in the church’s fellowship hall – in a space revealed by the pictures to be completely under water. Immediately next to the church is the pastor’s house – a place where he and his family had allowed the sweaty riders to shower (coming up with twelve extra towels). The living room of their home would eventually be under four feet of water.

It is in such a fire that heroes are forged. Faced with a situation that would have so many – me included – wondering if giving up or running away would be the best solution, people like Rev. Scott Ferguson from Clendenin UMC dig in and look towards a solution. Offering prayer and hope to those in pain, food to those who are hungry and shelter to those whose homes were washed away > all while suffering the very same afflictions himself. Scott, you are a giant. To those in your community. To those in your church. To those around the state and region that draw strength from your actions. In the 2 Kings story, Elisha asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. I would ask for a fraction of the faith exhibited by the giants of this flood recovery. A fraction so that I may soar over mountains. I have to believe that you are the living manifestation of the age old question printed on tee shirts, bumper stickers and bracelets; WWJD?

I will never travel that road again that I do not remember and respect in whose shadow I roll.

Steve Matthews

1 comment:

Becky Warren said...

Steve, once again you have touched my heart with a story of faith and commitment. The day of the storm was the same day that I took Don to the ER to find that his body had been ravaged by cancer. His battle was over in four months and he is at peace. You have reminded me that the battle of those living in those conditions rages on. Your skill in helping us visualize the devastation is only surpassed by the love for the area that comes shining through. Thanks for shining a light on what still needs to be done and the giants who are doing what Jesus what do.