A true labor of love

Moravians in ministry

Sometimes being a servant of Christ can be exhausting work. So how does one explain the indescribable joy we felt at the end of long days of toil when our bodies were filthy, aching and famished? One of God’s more brilliant designs, I dare say… a grace bestowed on us by God when we abide in him.

The Facebook post read “Work Crews Needed for Hurricane Florence Relief in Both Wilmington and Lumberton, N.C.” The timing was impeccable as we’d just begun seeking opportunities for mission work, not fully sure of what that meant. But an unmistakable sense of being ‘called’ led us to inquire within.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’”

And so, it began…a faithful group of Moravians from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina spent time over two weeks in early November helping neighbors ravaged by hurricanes Florence and Michael begin the rebuilding process. Thankfully, we had an experienced leader in Weldon Harris, a familiar face to Board of World Mission (BWM) disaster relief efforts.

Our hosts were Covenant Moravian Church in Wilmington, N.C., where we slept, ate, prayed, showered, socialized, and most importantly, became good friends. Our work teams included two dedicated cooks each week who lovingly prepared delicious meals each day. Many thanks to our cooks Brenda Watson, Marcia Tabram Philips (aka Chocolate), Rev. Chuck Harmon and Janet Beck. The members of Covenant Moravian were wonderful hosts, taking care of our every need. And a special thanks to Don and Kathy Britt and Crystal Baron from Covenant, our “go-to” team.

On Monday of each week, we partnered with Samaritan’s Purse, who supplied us with our work-sites. Samaritan’s Purse was well organized and equipped to support our effort. We performed projects such as tarping roofs, cutting trees, and cleaning up yard debris. Each project began with a prayer circle and ended with the presentation of a special edition Billy Graham Bible signed by the work crew and prayer with the homeowner.

On the other days, we partnered with Lifepoint Church of Wilmington, N.C., for projects that were much larger in scale and tended to be further out into the countryside where the destruction was significant. On one project, we spent four days completely stripping a home down to the studs and joists. This family saw more than six feet of flood water ravage their home. It was heartbreaking to see them trying to salvage whatever they could of their belongings…their memories. The conditions were deplorable, but I think this drove us even harder to help strip away the ugliness (everything moldy, smelly, waterlogged…ruined) and help the homeowners begin to see a vision of the future.

At that point in time, two months post-hurricane, there was still no electricity or running water. The homeowners were living out of an old rusty school bus parked in their front yard. Our team assisted more than a dozen ‘neighbors’ during our two weeks in the Wilmington area performing a variety of jobs including drywall/flooring removal, shed roof replacement, fence repair, siding reinstallation and yard clean-up.

We also distributed items like food, clothing and kids’ backpacks that had been collected by Covenant Moravian; Lowes Gift Cards provided by friends and coworkers of one of our team members, Curt Nicholas; and several child sized quilts that were handmade by team member Brenda Watson.

All throughout our time spent in the mission field, our top priority was always the homeowner. We listened to their stories; together we laughed, cried, hugged. The reason we were there was to spread the good news of Jesus Christ through physical labor and an outpouring of love. In doing so we proclaim the hope of the Gospel.

There had been so much suffering, but the people we met were very gracious and appreciative of the work our team performed. For anyone feeling drawn to get involved in some way, big or small, take a leap of faith. There are many tasks for a wide range of ages, gifts and abilities. I guarantee it will change your life. God doesn’t choose the equipped, God equips the chosen.

Remember…”whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Brian and Janet Diehl are members of Mountainview Moravian Church, Hellertown, Pa.