The following is our first update (on October 17) from Linda Lovins, the chair of the Dogwood Acres Ministry Team. She can be reached at Linda@MusicWaMission.org.
Assessment and Plans
Our Director, our former Ministry Team chair, and I spent Saturday assessing the damage and listening for God's call so we would know how to move forward. With Sunday and much of Monday to pray, gather offers, and think, we have agreed that God is calling us to make ourselves viable as a volunteer staging area for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance as quickly as possible. In fact, six PDA folks stayed at Dogwood Acres on Tuesday night. We converged on the center with them that day and, with our maintenance man, cleared the road to the dining hall and access to our newest lodge for them. Though we do not have power yet, we have restored water to the property and power to the office building using generators so the presbytery staff can function again (their office is located on the property).
We have cancelled our fall retreats, of course, and each group is prepared to reschedule in the spring, and will help now in any way they can. In fact, the Methodist women's group that was due to come in early November said, "We'll come out there to do whatever you tell us needs to be done, and we'll make the men come, too!" There is a fierce helping-hands ethic in this region and we could not be more grateful.
While our main driveway into Dogwood Acres was clear, both roads in the camp were obstructed by several large trees. We are amazed at how little damage our structures sustained and, for most of them, how relatively minor the damage is. We have two seriously damaged structures, and only one of those has serious structural damage (the tractor barn). The other has roof/ceiling issues and carpet damage, but everything else appears to be fine. The remaining structures have suffered varying amounts of roof and eaves damage, plus the pump house roof is gone and the RV bath house has a tree on it and damage underneath. We will have to repair the playground area and replace a lot of the railings on various walkways around the site.
Blessings and Silver Linings
The woods beside the dining hall appear to have hosted a tornado for around a 1/4 mile, evidenced by the varying directions of tree falls. It will take a significant amount of money and heavy equipment to get them all cleared from our main fire circle, basketball courts, barbecue area, and the dining hall/bathroom access on one side. The Chapel adjacent to the dining hall has three trees leaning toward it, any one of which would have obliterated this octagonal screened worship space with 360-degree views. They were all caught (and stopped) by other large trees, and there's NO damage to the Chapel!
God's grace has shown itself in so many ways and places! As we looked across countless downed trees in the woods, we suddenly realized there was a valley beyond our property and a gorgeous view for miles and miles to a horizon we did not know was there! Thank you, God!
We kept a generator going for the frozen and refrigerated goods until we could find a good donation option. One of our Ministry Team members teaches culinary arts in a local high school, and she's now feeding around 200 emergency crew members twice daily with the help of a few of her high school culinary students. Her church in hard-hit Marianna wasnnot damaged, but had water in the basement. Dogwood Acres was able to loan them a sump pump, and sent two other generators to help people in Quincy, where they still do not have power and cold showers are begin to wear on people.
We are so thankful to be able to serve the presbytery in recovery efforts, despite the damage and obstacles we've encountered at Dogwood Acres and our homes. We are grateful that God showed us a path forward so quickly and in a manner that honors its mission for ministry. We are blessed by the offers of help we have had to date and that will continue to come, with God's grace. We truly believe He means for us to survive and flourish, and so we shall ... with many hands, hard work, time, and no small amount of money and services!
How You Can Help
Our outlook is very hopeful and lifted, yet tempered with a healthy dose of realism. We have acres and acres of downed trees, some of which we can not remove ourselves because of the vulnerability of buildings and other structures; and many of which we can not remove because of where they have fallen and our lack of heavy equipment and disposal methods.
You can help Dogwood Acres by making an online gift to our recovery fund.
Our needs are significant; our blessings are already too many to number. God is surely testing us, but we believe He is also showing us the way. We thank you for your donations and your prayers as we move forward.