"Be A Flood of Love"

After 32 years away, Dr. Joe B. Martin has returned home to Charlotte, NC as the lead pastor at Sardis Presbyterian Church.

The last thing that happened in Charlotte before I moved out of town for my first real job in 1989 was Hurricane Hugo. I was leaving in two days, so I made plans to spend the night in the apartment of two of my Davidson classmates because we thought we were having a hurricane party—even though it wasn’t supposed to be a hurricane by the time Hugo got to us. We bought wine and cheese and an emergency radio and we got a football out so that we could see how far we could throw it in the parking lot with a prodigious tailwind. We also were hoping to meet the cute girls in the next apartment.

We waited and waited, but the storm was delayed. Without today’s media coverage, we figured we were in the clear and went to bed. I got the hide-a-bed next to the large sliding glass doors to the patio. The internet tells me that it was probably about 3:00 a.m. that the wind started sounding like a locomotive and woke me up. I looked through the glass doors and the driving rain behind them to see a stand of pines standing at a 45 degree angle. I turned on the TV just in time to watch for 10 seconds before a nearby transformer blew up and all the power went out.

If a flash, the three of us were in a closet (not designed to hold three adult males) with our wine, cheese, and radio. We listened to frightening news reports and felt (imagined?) the creaking apartment building walls move. We could hear the girls talking next door through the thin wall and figured their floor plan probably had them in an adjacent closet. We, therefore, tried to keep our audible whimpering to a minimum. Still, that was the most terrified I have ever been. Helpless. At the complete mercy of the world around us.

When the storm passed, we were fine. The pine trees were close to perpendicular to the ground, if not quite, but damage was everywhere and many people were not fine. However, the story quickly became what a city can do when people act like neighbors to one another.

As I prepared for and endured Florence (or the remains of her), I had a lot of time to think about Hugo, as I imagine some of you did. Other than suffering considerable boredom and the stress related to having to decide whether to call off Sunday services, there were no problems at our house. Many people in the Carolinas have not been so fortunate, but we are seeing again what people can do to help others recover from a storm when they act like neighbors to one another. Outside of my own neighborhood, I tend to give and work through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. There are many great helping agencies. This one is good at sticking around long after emergency responders have been called to the next storm. I have no doubt Carolinians will look out for one another through the aftermath of this storm. It’s the last thing I remember about living here before.

Here is another thing to think about. There are constant storms in our community that are not of a meteorological variety. Poverty storms. Addiction storms. Injustice storms. Illness storms. A dangerous depression does not have to be tropical. There are always too many people at the complete mercy of the world around us and it is too often merciless. What if after we got everyone recovered from Florence with our tenacious community effort, we just kept that care and concern and love for our neighbor rolling; picking up everyone we can who is down because of the other storms that never, ever pass? That’s what we are working on at Sardis Presbyterian Church. We’d love for you to join us.

It shouldn’t take a disaster to motivate us. I’ve seen what Charlotte can do. The issue for me is one of persistence. If we can choose persistence, we can be a flood of love. There have been good people everywhere I have lived, but I am glad to have Carolina neighbors again.

It is good to be home and God is good—among other things, because God gave us each other.

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