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We Came, We Saw, We Helped!

By Russ Smethers, UCC Parish Las Vegas

     Our long-awaited trip finally happened – and it was a huge success!  The UCC Parish Las Vegas traveled to Tennessee to assist in flood recovery efforts.   You may have read about the Parish in Connecting Voices back in November, 2010.  We’re a group composed of members from several Las Vegas area UCC congregations who joined forces in 2009 to participate in fellowship, worship and outreach activities. 

     On the morning of July 10, 2011 seven of our members, five of them teenagers flew to Nashville to work alongside flood victims and other volunteers. Three things made this trip unique for the United Church of Christ and UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief):  the UCC Parish was the group that traveled the farthest to assist; it consisted of mostly teenagers and was the only one comprised of members from several Congregations.

     While in Nashville we were lodged at Brookmeade Congregational Church UCC.  Their entire Congregation was more than kind, even cooking dinner for us one evening.  I also had an opportunity to speak with their pastor, who is interested in starting a U.C.C. Parish in the Nashville area.

     The work we accomplished while in Tennessee was extraordinary – and, remember, most of our crew were teens!   We tore out damaged carpeting in one home and replaced it with ceramic tile. The lady who owned that home had lived there since she was three:  her father built the house. The floods washed away her vehicles, outdoor tools and equipment; ripped out her duct work and a/c units and totally flooded her basement and first floor.  She rode out the flooding by staying in the home’s second floor areas with her dog.   It was a heartwarming experience to meet and get to know her.

     Another job was on the outskirts of Nashville.  A young lady had bought a 30 acre parcel with three houses on it – two guest homes and a main house, a beautiful 100-year-old red brick building. Two weeks after she purchased the property, the floods hit, wiping out the two guest houses and ripping the foundation from the main home. The worst part was that her homeowner’s insurance hadn’t been issued yet.  We cleared the area under the home and poured a new foundation.  Her father was there  everyday with donuts and thanks.  He told all of us that we always had a place to stay and a meal to eat when we visited Nashville in the future.

     We arrived in Nashville not knowing what to expect, and worrying that it was 98 degrees and 90% humidity outside, but left with a warmth in our hearts, smiles on our faces and a whole bunch of new friends.  In the ENTIRE week of heat, humidity, long hours and sleeping on cots, not one person in the U.C.C. Parish complained.  I am not only proud of what the group accomplished but of each member who volunteered her or his time to help some of God’s children.

     If you would like to learn more about the U.C.C. Parish Las Vegas and/or how starting a Parish in your area could benefit you, please contact me at rsmethers@ucclasvegas.org.

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