Volunteer Marsha Bradley helps unload supplies at the Verdunville Church of God. Hundreds of volunteers have showed up to help with flood relief and cleanup following last Thursday flash flood that damaged more than 200 homes in Logan County. (Photo | Paul Adkins)
VERDUNVILLE -- Last Thursday’s flood waters along the Mud Fork came right up to the doorsteps of the Verdunville Church of God.
The parking lot was completely under water but not a drop got into the church building itself.
Three cars which were parked against the church wall were also not touched as flood waters miraculously came right up to the car tires, forming a small island, before turning back.
Since the waters have receded that same parking lot has been used as a major staging area the last four days for flood victims across Logan County.
Flood waters damaged an estimated 150 to 200 homes along the Mud Fork, making Verdunville one of the hardest hit areas.
The aftermath was still being felt over the weekend as flood-ravaged area residents were still in cleanup mode.
The scene was one of devastation with flood debris, mud, muck and mire.
Behind the church evidence of the flood was still clearly visible: a baby stroller lodged against the side of the creek, a propane tank against a rock and hundreds of shopping bags and milk jugs littering the trees and banks.
But through the tragedy, the Verdunville and Mud Fork community has come together.
Countless volunteers have stepped up, including area church members from across Logan County along a number of faiths and denominations, as well as the National Guard, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
Local, state and national political leaders such as Logan County Commissioner Danny Godby and U.S. Congressman Nick Joe Rahall were also on hand Sunday to survey the damage and relief efforts.
The volunteers were hard at work over the weekend, handing out bleach and cleaning supplies, cases of drinking water, paper towels, brooms, mops, garbage bags, blankets, antibacterial soap and even diapers and baby food to needy flood victims.
The church fellowship hall and kitchen was turned into a flood relief feeding center as hot meals were being prepared and sent out to those affected by the flood.
Food from area restaurants came streaming in -- baked spaghetti from Giovanni’s of West Logan, pizzas from Mr. Gatti’s at the Fountain Place Mall, drinks from McDonald’s of Logan and also food from Reno’s and La Hacienda.
Buckets and cleaning supplies were trucked in by Lowe’s.
National Guard members used a forklift to unload crates of water, stacking them in the parking lot to heights of nearly 10 feet.
The outreach was staggering as some flood relief supplies came from as far away as Ohio and Kentucky.
The Appalachian Dream Center, located at Holden and operated by the Verdunville Church of God, has also been distributing clothes to those affected by the flood.
Hallways inside the church were also used to stack boxes of canned goods which came in.
In a time of tragedy, Logan County has come together, Verdunville Church of God Pastor Michael Hartwell said.
“All the outpouring of love from the county has been fantastic from all of businesses, the churches and the individuals,” he said. “We’re feeding 1,000 hot meals a day. I can’t say enough about the county officials, the churches from in-state and out-of-state and volunteers who have organized this. Even in the midst of disaster, we’re surviving.”
Through all of the devastation, not a single loss of life has been reported due to the rising waters.
“That is what we’re rejoicing about,” Hartwell said. “We had a non-denominational church service on Sunday night for that very reason. One state police officer and a reporter last week said they’ve worked a lot of disasters and had seen a lot of floods in this state but had never seen so much devastation but not a single loss of life.”
When the flood came last Thursday, Hartwell said he was in the church building.
“I saw a Biblical story in action that I‘ve preached for many years,” he said. “My son-in-law Timmy Mullins was in the office and I came in and looked out and saw that it was a flood but not an ordinary flood. I went next door to the house and got my wife and saw that when the flood waters began to rise I realized that it was a disaster. I said, ‘God, please, no loss of life.’”
Hartwell said the flood waters came, literally, right up to the church’s front door.
“The water came within one inch of coming into the church,” he said. “It filled the parking lot. You can see a photo from above by Gore Photography that shows it. The water came right up to our three personal vehicles. My son-in-law got a table and put it at the front of the church and we kept sweeping the water, which was right at the thresh hold of coming into the church. I said, ‘God, according to your word water is supposed to flow out of the throne room and muddy water is not supposed to come into your house.’ I said, ‘Lord, you have rebuked the seas. It’s time that you do it right now.’ Within a few minutes, I noticed that the water began to recede.”
Hartwell said the volunteer work has been heart-warming.
“What you are seeing today is the joint effort from the greatest people that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’ve been here 22 years and Logan County is my family. I love the people of Logan County. This is about Jesus and not about a particular denomination or a particular church.”
Hartwell said scores of area businesses have pitched in to help.
“I can’t say enough about Giovanni’s,” he said. “They came in here from the very beginning and began to send out pizzas. We’ve fed people up and down Mud Fork and here at the church every day. I made a phone call to Operation Compassion, our parent organization, and within eight hours of the rising of the water we had a load of disaster supplies sitting on this parking lot on Friday. I want to thank Operation Compassion.”
Hartwell also said the National Guard’s help has been invaluable. Up to 100 Guardsmen were deployed at Mud Fork and other flood-ravaged areas in West Virginia such us Dingess, West Logan, Mount Gay and in Lincoln County.
“What can I say about all of the volunteers and the National Guard?” he said. “These are men of God who have served this country all over the world and have had to leave their families. How they have ministered to me as a pastor today I just want to say thank you to the National Guard. You are great men.”
Hartwell said he hopes something good can come out of this tragedy.
“I’m from Bluefield, West Virginia, but I’m a Loganite. This is nothing new to me. I grew up with floods and I’m used to it. We’ve had our share of floods here. The physical flood has come and now I’m looking for a spiritual flood,” he said. “God is going to bless Logan County.”
Hartwell said the Verdunville Chuch of God plans on distributing flood supplies throughout the week.
Donations are still being sought but Hartwell said clothing items and cleaning supplies can be dropped off at the Appalachian Dream Center through Friday as items will be diverted from the church parking lot to the Holden facility.