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Mission teams from two Connecticut churches recently visited the area to help homeowners recover from Hurricane Florence
The Mission teams from First Presbyterian Church of Hartford and Hampton Congregational Church — both in Connecticut — joke that the first thing they found out about Southeastern North Carolina is that summertime here is very hot and humid.
Both groups traveled to Wilmington this summer and spent eight days assisting those who still needed help rebuilding from Hurricane Florence. And while the work to rebuild will go on for years to come, the missionaries were as grateful to be here as the people they were here to assist.
“It’s definitely better to go and be able to give something back,” said Keith Rhoden Jr., who has served on various mission trips over the years from Texas to Louisiana and now to North Carolina.
A ministry of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the group made up of adults and teenagers came ready to work — and work they did.
They spent each day plastering, sanding, nailing and replacing drywall and sheetrock in two Pender County homes that flooded during the storm.
“So many people have been afflicted in the last 10 months by the storm. So when the offer was made to come, we were thrilled,” said Martha Highsmith, pastor of McClure Memorial Presbyterian Church in Rocky Point.
Highsmith served in various roles through the years in the Hartford church before retiring in Atkinson.
Abena Adzenyah, a high school student on summer vacation, said that spending a portion of her break in the heat helping restore a house has been rewarding.
“Yes, it’s been hot and messy from all the plaster and sanding,” she said. “But I feel like I’ve done something more this summer to help someone else, hopefully speed them up getting them back in their home.”
Homeowners, like Teresa Langley, are thankful for the help. Langley’s Burgaw home had its roof cave in during Florence, and it flooded a few days later. She said the help from the mission teams will get her home sooner.
“I’m overwhelmed by the help of these people. They are angels in disguise,” she said, adding that she hopes to finally be able to return to her home in September.
Not applicable for long term FEMA assistance because her home was not located in a flood plain, Langley and her daughter stayed with family until November, and then began renting an apartment in Wilmington.
Her home had to be completely gutted, and she says that if it weren’t for groups like the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Baptist Missions, her return home would likely be delayed even longer. She intends to “pay it forward” for the rest of her life for all the help she has received.
“You never think this will happen to you, and so it becomes a new normal after a while,” she said. “But you are forever grateful for these heroes who come to help.”
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