After the Storm

 In General, Ministry Village

In the early hours of September 16, Hurricane Sally SLOWLY made her way through the Gulf Coast. Ministry Village at Olive and its staff were impacted along with much of Northwest Florida and Southeast Alabama. While our programs and facilities suffered some damage, the well-being of our employees, their families, our Charis House residents, and our ELC families was of utmost importance. Some suffered extensive damage in their homes and will be dealing with the aftermath long after this hurricane season is over. Here is an overview of the impact of Hurricane Sally on our Ministry Village programs, and how our team has mobilized in response to the devastation throughout our community.

The Charis House suffered minimal damage to their 3 buildings. Water began creeping into the Esther House (our Phase 3 program) as the torrential rains continued to fall, but our residents jumped into action – blocking the water from entering with blankets and towels, and soaking up the water that breached the doors. Thanks to their quick action, the Esther House suffered very little damage. The Phase 2 home was unharmed. Some strong vines prevented a large tree from falling through the roof of the Phase 1 home, sparing it from a full impact and leaving the tree leaning gently against the frame. Bob Ross Tree Service has removed the fallen tree, and yard cleanup was completed.

The Bargain Center’s building had a few minor leaks and lost an awning. Without power, and with damage throughout the streets, the Bargain Center remained closed for several days. Once power was restored and it was safe to reopen, they did – but without phone or internet access, it was back to shopping like the days of yore – cash only. Because of their location on busy 9 Mile Road, they were seeing large numbers of power truck crews, tree crews and first responders in the area. Julie Paden, the Bargain Center’s manager, had team members start grilling hot dogs to feed the many workers who were doing the heavy lifting of getting our area back to normal. Anyone who came by the store was treated to free hot dogs, chips and cold bottled water as a way to thank them for their hard work and shine the light of Jesus even in a power outage. If you need to contact the store to schedule a donation pickup, you can reach out to them through Messenger on their Facebook page or click the Book Now button at the top of their Facebook page to schedule a pickup through the ReSupplyMe app.

Ministry Village employees cookout at the Bargain Center to thank storm responders.

The Ministry Village at Olive main office did not sustain any structural damage, and quickly became a hub for disaster relief workers. To provide easier access to the food pantry, the Tender Hearts Caring Hands team, led by Kathleen Schuster, put together food bags and temporarily moved supplies to a space in Olive Baptist Church. As of Monday, September 28, THCH Food Pantry distribution returns to normal, with food pantry assistance available at the MVO office from 10am to 12noon, Monday through Friday.

Most Excellent Way suspended meetings due to space limitations and road/travel safety concerns during the week of the storm. Thankfully, MEW meetings were able to resume their regular meeting schedule on Friday, September 25 at Olive Baptist Church.

The Ministry Village Early Learning Center sustained the most extensive damage of all the MVO programs. As a newly constructed building, the facility remained sound. However, as Sally’s rains continued, water entered the building from the ground up. After the storm had passed, the ELC was forced to remain closed to children while the damage was assessed and a plan for offering childcare at an alternate location was created. Crews began drying and cleaning the building as soon as weather allowed, as well as restoring the playground area which was full of storm debris. To prevent mildew and bacteria from forming, and to ensure that none was left lurking in the walls, administration and construction experts decided to remove the drywall from the lower portions of the walls – 2.5 feet from the ground – throughout the entire ELC facility. Repairs will begin as soon as the cleanup process is complete.

Drying out the ELC after rising waters from Sally damaged the interior of the building.

Knowing the strain that lack of childcare causes families, the ELC and MVO team members began looking at alternate childcare location options. Leaders at Olive Baptist Church Preschool graciously offered space in an area of their building to provide temporary childcare classrooms. State licensing requires that the Department of Children and Families inspect the temporary location, and the ELC and Olive Preschool teams are working together to ensure that process goes as quickly as possible so the ELC can reopen to families who need care. The initial estimate is that the ELC building will be under construction for 3 to 4 weeks.

As the Ministry Village team worked together to address all of MVO’s storm concerns, they also began reaching out to community members and neighbors in need. The ladies of the Charis House jumped into action, cleaning and moving furniture at the Early Learning Center and helping with storm debris cleanup throughout the Olive Baptist Church campus. Employees from Ministry Village also began working with teams of staff and volunteers from Olive to help the more than 400 widows that Olive Baptist Church serves throughout the year and in especially in times of need like this. They went throughout the county picking up broken limbs, raking and removing debris from homes and yards.

The work of cleaning up and returning to normal will continue for the Ministry Village team, just as it does for families throughout the Gulf Coast. Some of our team members had extensive damage in their own homes or in the homes of their family members, and they will continue to deal with those personal challenges for the foreseeable future. But like so many others that you see throughout our area, even when their own situation was dire, they continued to offer assistance to friends and neighbors. In times of crisis, it is comforting to know we can count on the love, support and grace of our God, as well as the tender hearts and caring hands of those who live and work among us.

Many comparisons have been made recently between Sally and Ivan. Hurricane Ivan’s devastation in September 2004 brought forth massive hurt, but it also birthed the idea for Ministry Village at Olive. From those painful beginnings have come beautiful blessings for individuals and families throughout our community. Now, 16 years later, Hurricane Sally has roared through our area bringing heartache and destruction once more. But again, we know the good that can come from situations just like this. While we are weary, and our bodies and minds are exhausted, we must remind ourselves that our hope rests in God.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me: for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

This is God’s promise to us, and one that we hold dear at Ministry Village. We pray that whatever you face – because of Hurricane Sally or any other storm in your life – that you too will find comfort in these words. There is hope, and there will be peace, after the storm.

RESOURCES

  • If you are in need of tree removal, debris cleanup, have water in your house, or need disaster relief assistance, contact Olive Baptist Church by texting DR to (850) 470-1950. You will receive a contact form through automated reply. Fill out the form and someone will contact you as soon as possible.
  • Florida Baptist Disaster Relief is stationed at Hillcrest Church – 800 E. Nine Mile Road. If you are unable to text the disaster relief number, you can stop by the tents at Hillcrest. https://www.facebook.com/FLBaptistDR
  • Florida Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry allows the Florida Baptist Association to act immediately and effectively as Jesus did to help people. When people are hurting because of a disaster, they respond with love, healing, and help. They assist all people in crisis regardless of ethnic background or religious beliefs. They do not ask the survivors for financial support.
  • The Tender Hearts Caring Hands Food Pantry accepts donations Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 2PM at the Ministry Village at Olive office (1716 E. Olive Road). Donations of nonperishable food items and travel-size hygiene items are accepted. Financial donations are also appreciated and go toward purchasing the items THCH distributes each day. Supporters can also make purchases through Amazon and items can be shipped directly to the Ministry Village at Olive office.
  • Most Excellent Way meetings are held each week at the Olive Baptist Church Main Campus (Tuesdays and Fridays from 7pm to 8:30pm). Meetings are open to anyone struggling with addictive behavior, as well as the family members and loved ones of those struggling. There is no cost to attend.
  •  The Charis House is a non-profit Christian-based residential substance abuse program for females. The program is designed in 3 phases, each offering stages of recovery that provide the necessary tools for a practical transition into a new lifestyle free of addiction. The faith-based recovery program addresses the client’s personal relationship with God as the foundation for healing and wholeness. It requires a willingness to change and adhere to a controlled, strict and disciplined environment, allowing life-changing experiences to occur. There is no fee to apply.  To learn more about the Charis House, click here or contact Vanessa Bettis at 850-475-1116 or VBettis@MinistryVillage.org.
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