As the people of the Columbia, SC area were waking on the Sunday morning of October 4, no one had a full idea of the devastation that was unfolding around them. In the midst of the growing reports of washed out roads and trapped drivers, the senior pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in the small city of Forest Acres within Columbia received a call from a member who happens to work for the city: the police department was flooded, and they needed an emergency operations center on high ground. Within minutes they were given access to Good Shepherd’s fellowship hall.
As the rains and the floods continued that day, it appeared that some of the worst devastation was in and around Forest Acres. The National Guard needed a headquarters and lodging, so they contacted Good Shepherd. The Guard set up their command center in the same fellowship hall. The male soldiers made their lodging in the youth room and the female soldiers made their lodging in the narthex.
Before long, over five hundred individuals from numerous local, state, and federal agencies began to receive their meals at Good Shepherd. The community stepped up to help in many and various ways, including feeding the police, Guard, and other units. One officer from the National Guard said, “This was my first mission with the Guard that I didn’t have to eat an MRE.” Through the necessity of working closely together, many bonds were formed by the various groups. Before the Guard left Good Shepherd, they passed a helmet and collected over $900; this money was given to the family of Greg Alia, an officer of the Forest Acres Police Department who was shot and killed in the line of duty just four days before the flood took place.
The police department was the final group to leave the fellowship hall, and it was able to relocate its operations after nine days at Good Shepherd. Good Shepherd plans to continue to work closely with the FAPD, local congregations, and Lutheran Disaster Response to help rebuild the community.