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After anxiously holding their breath last week, Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR) leaders have let out a small sigh of relief as Hurricane Florence was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 1. Now, they wait to deploy ministry teams as the full impact of the slow-moving Tropical Storm is revealed.

The approximately 40 Foursquare churches in the region, and volunteers from outside the area, are poised to offer practical help and spiritual care to victims in the aftermath of the storm, as soon as they are given the green light.

“We are eager to respond, but we have to do it in an orderly way,” says Jason Reynolds, FDR national coordinator. “It’s just too early to be able to make specific plans yet.”

Though initial reported damage was less than had been feared, as Florence’s winds weakened on reaching land, the massive storm still claimed more than 30 lives across the Carolinas. Its slow movement also dumped more than three feet of water in places, prompting fears of further flooding yet to come.

With a full assessment of Florence’s impact yet to be made because of the many impassable roads, volunteer groups, including FDR, have been placed on standby, readying for when access is possible. Jason anticipates that FDR will help Foursquare churches provide relief supplies, and organize teams of chaplains and cleanup crews, to help people start to salvage damaged homes.

“We’re having to wait to make a full assessment because the flooding is so extreme right now that you can’t be out there,” Jason explains. “Every main thoroughfare has some flooding on it someplace. Government agencies are still in rescue mode.” With rivers cresting at record levels, “we’re looking at pretty much the same sort of flooding we saw in Houston last year,” he adds.

While waiting to be able to mobilize Foursquare teams to affected areas, FDR has already been able to assist other responders on the ground. Tina Fowler, FDR chaplain, and missions and outreach director at Hope Chapel (Apex Foursquare Church) in Apex, N.C., helped a team from Soup Ladies, a nonprofit serving food to first responders, reach their station in New Bern, N.C.

Although many churches in the affected areas canceled Sunday services, Hope Chapel was able to open its doors as usual. “It provided a great opportunity to really minister to some people as they were able to come and be prayed for and cared for,” explains Theresa DeFreece, Hope Chapel’s executive director.

Only one Foursquare church has so far reported being seriously affected by Florence, according to Chris Wilcox, properties assessor for the Southeast District. New Life Community (Kinston Foursquare Church) in Kinston, N.C., suffered some minor flooding, with possibly more to come, he reports. “The issue is going to be these next few days, as the river [it is right on] is expected to crest 12 to 15 feet,” he says.

Gary Grubbs, FDR’s U.S. operations chief, notes that although reduced wind speeds have meant less initial damage than had been feared, the danger is not over. In addition to flooding, there is another hidden threat: “A lot of trees are starting to lean because the ground is so saturated, and we are seeing them fall,” Gary observes.

More information about FDR’s ongoing response to Florence, as well as how your donations are making a difference, can be found on FDR’s webpage.

Along with your prayers of support, FDR is asking for financial donations so they can provide relief as soon as teams are allowed into the area. Supplies can then be purchased, and local Foursquare churches can serve as resourcing centers. “Let’s rally, and give, and pray for our teams as they go,” encourages General Supervisor Tammy Dunahoo.

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is a freelance writer living in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.