by Trish Duggan, OPC Disaster Response Communications Coordinator
As we make our way toward the one-month mark since the record rainfall and flooding in Neon, the town (and surrounding region) continues the hard work of recovering from the devastation. As you drive along the debris-filled roadways, it’s obvious that Neon Reformed OPC’s building has made progress in its clean up and drying out, as many others still struggle to emerge from the mud. The Lord has been merciful to this congregation through your prayers, donations, and volunteering.
The town itself is still reeling. Although electricity and water have been mostly restored, thirteen counties in Eastern Kentucky, including Neon, have been without a sewer treatment system since the flood. Two mobile sewage treatment units have been obtained for Neon but have yet to be hooked up.
Progress at the Church and Beyond
Volunteers have come from all over the country. They have worked at the church building to remove ceiling tiles, as well as much of the drywall and trim. The doors have been sandbagged to keep potential future floods at bay. The two air conditioning units at the church, after being submerged, were inspected, and will need to be replaced. Commercial dehumidifiers are running continuously, drawing the unwanted water out of the wooden and cement structures. Moisture levels are monitored daily to indicate when the rebuild may begin. Neon Reformed elder, Seth Long shared with the city of Neon the offer of OPC Disaster Response to muck out the library, which shares a common wall with the church. The city gladly accepted the help of our volunteers, and within a few days, the library was mucked out.
Teams have also worked to muck out, clean and sanitize an addiction recovery building across the street, muck out the home of a friend of the church, as well as another building close-by. Praise the Lord that none of the members of Neon Reformed were affected, but many residents need help, and have no means of getting it. Much of the work that’s been accomplished would not have been possible without the PCA’s MNA Disaster Response equipment. We have been blessed by the use of their standup Bobcat and Mud-Out Flood Mitigation Trailer. We are thankful for the relationship that we continue to share with this sister denomination.
As with other disaster efforts, there are many who have been integral to this effort, including elder Seth Long, his son Reuben, and his daughter Helen, as well as Pastor Jay and Andrea Bennett. Their knowledge and relationship with the community has been indispensable. Jim Flanagan, member of Covenant OPC, in New Bern, NC has jumped in to advise, visiting the area to lend his expertise as he has more than 40 years’ experience in disaster recovery work. Elder Mike Cloy from Landis OPC, in Marion, NC is serving as the Regional Disaster Coordinator and chairman of the Neon Disaster Oversight Committee, which meets weekly to discuss the response effort, advise those on the front lines, and approve of disbursements from the Kentucky Flood fund.
To date, nearly fifty volunteers from OPC and sister churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina have jumped in to help in the effort to restore worship in Neon and to serve the neighbors in Neon.
Art Allen, a deacon at Shiloh OPC in Raleigh, NC has recently agreed to assume the role of Site Coordinator, taking over for Reuben Long, who has faithfully served thus far, but needs to return to his full-time work. A much-needed professional drywall finisher from Idaho has generously agreed to come, as well as an HVAC professional to install the air conditioning units. Enrique Huezo, member of Shiloh OPC in Raleigh, has agreed to head up the book donations for Pastor Jay Bennett’s library. Jane Robinson member of Covenant OPC in Chilhowie, VA is working tirelessly as the Volunteer Coordinator, and Neon Reformed OPC’s Andrea Bennett is serving as the Hospitality Coordinator, ensuring that all the volunteers have somewhere clean, dry and cool to sleep. Truly the body of Christ is at work!
Neon Reformed met as a congregation this past Sunday to determine whether to rebuild or seek a meeting place on higher ground. The church was unanimous in their decision to rebuild at the current location. They believe the church is an anchor in this community and needs to stay where it is. Consideration is underway to protect the building from future floods.
Neon Reformed is truly feeling the love from the broader church. The Kentucky Flood Fund has already received more than $160,000. These funds will enable the church to rebuild, to replace the items lost in the flood, and to remain a haven for the lost in that area. Offers regarding replacing Pastor Jay’s book library have also been coming in at a steady rate.
Much has been accomplished, but there is still so much more to do. As the effort shifts from clean-up to rebuild, we are especially looking for those skilled volunteers who are able to complete the carpentry, flooring, painting and other work. If you, or someone in your congregation could help, please have them contact Jane Robinson at KentuckyVolunteers@opc.org. If you would like to donate toward this effort, please visit Give.opc.org. If you would like to find out more about replacing Pastor Bennett’s books, please contact Enrique at BookDonations@opc.org.
Thank you for your continued prayers for those suffering in Eastern Kentucky.