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Youth pastor’s dedication inspires others

 
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3:00 P.M. EST June 9, 2010

The Rev. Robert Craig (left) assists Michael Thorpe with flood cleanup in Dyersburg, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Cathy Farmer.
The Rev. Robert Craig (left) assists Michael Thorpe with flood cleanup in Dyersburg, Tenn. A UMNS photo by Cathy Farmer.
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The Rev. Robert Craig joined First United Methodist Church of Dyersburg, Tenn., five years ago with the mission of teaching youth to serve others.

He is leading by example.

Craig, associate minister of youth, is helping to provide disaster relief to victims of Dyersburg’s worst flood in more than 70 years.

Nearly 600 buildings and homes were under water in the West Tennessee town following massive flooding that occurred in early May. Around 56 homes are slated for demolition. The area was declared a disaster area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Craig is the volunteer coordinator for Disaster Recovery Services of Dyer County, a group that works closely with local and federal officials, volunteers and businesses to help organize recovery efforts. The group was formed following a 2006 tornado that killed 16 people in Dyer County and eight more in nearby counties.

“We are called to help our neighbor and to me this is one of the greatest ways to do that,” Craig said.

Volunteers from First United Methodist Church in Millington, Tenn., unload hundreds of flood buckets for distribution to people affected by the flood. A UMNS photo courtesy of Cathy Farmer.
Volunteers from First United Methodist Church in Millington, Tenn., unload hundreds of flood buckets for distribution to people affected by the flood. A UMNS photo courtesy of Cathy Farmer.
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Craig has never been prouder of The United Methodist Church than he is now. He says it is during these times of disaster that you really see “the beauty and connection of the church.”

Residents are “overjoyed” by the groups of volunteers that come by and offer assistance with the cleanup and provide lunch and supplies, Craig said. “They are glad that someone is thinking of them.”

Disaster Recovery Services, working with the federal agency, has spent more than a month gathering information from victims of the flood, finding them temporary housing and handing out supplies. Volunteers also are providing a listening ear to people’s concerns.

‘To love is to serve’

Hundreds of volunteers have come together to help save properties.

Many came forward early to sandbag homes when flooding was imminent. Now volunteers are helping homeowners clean out their homes so they will not have to be demolished.

Logan Collier, 17, helped in the sandbagging of the town for two days as the town prepared for the worst. Collier, a member of the Dyersburg First youth group, said he lent a hand because “it is just the right thing to do.’

Andrew Legan, 17, another member of the youth group, helped plan a benefit concert for the victims of the Dyersburg flood.

Students from the church and from Dyersburg High School performed at the May 16 event, raising some $1,700.

Legan said Craig and his church have instilled in him a desire to give to others.

Flood waters cover large areas of West Tennessee following heavy rains in early May. Photo courtesy of the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency.
Flood waters cover large areas of West Tennessee following heavy rains in early May.
Photo courtesy of the Memphis/Shelby County Emergency Management Agency.
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“We are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Legan said. “Until you realize to love is to serve you are not going to feel complete.”

Collier said that by speaking about giving back and taking the youth on mission trips, Craig “has really shown me the importance of service.”

More than a month after the flood, Craig said, the work continues. Out-of-town volunteer groups are scheduled to stay at the church through June, but more are needed.

“We are going to be rebuilding for several months,” he said. “Those teams are going to be very important to us in the rebuilding.”

Further information is available from Disaster Recovery Services of Dyer County at 731-285-3303 or the First United Methodist Church of Dyersburg at 731-285-6454.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to the flooding from spring storms in Tennessee and other states. Donations can be made online here.

*Edgemon is a freelance writer in Bell Buckle, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5105 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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