Choose hope

Published 8:43 am Friday, December 18, 2009

I am a relative newcomer to Franklin / Southampton. My family and I moved to Boykins in 2003, and I became the founding pastor of True Word Christian Church in 2004.

This, however, was not my first experience with the Franklin area. On my journey from Senior Chief in the Navy to becoming a pastor, I held several jobs. One was as a salesman for a company called Virginia Equipment Rental located in South Norfolk.

One day I went into work and my boss told me to get to Franklin. He had an entire truckload of pumps and generators to rent out. It was Sept. 20, 1999.

I made my way to Franklin, and found the city still under water. I reported back that the generators might rent due to an extended power loss, but the pumps wouldn’t until the waters receded. I spent a few days out in Franklin after the water receded and met some amazing people. One that stands out was this fellow who was cleaning out a local restaurant — Fred’s.

Here was this guy knee-deep in muck, wearing as I remember a yellow rain slick and some kind of red headband; and all he kept talking about was how they were going to rebuild and survive. That fellow I met again years later and until this article never even mentioned to him that we had met before. It was David Rabil.

And as you all know, he and many other businesses did rebuild and survive.

The flood of 1999 was caused by a storm called Floyd. Today, Franklin and the surrounding areas face another storm; this one is called the impending closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 22, ,as the news of the mill’s closing had spread I went to Wal-Mart to speak to a couple of members about how we would respond. The faces of the people in the store said it all. There was shock, despair and even fear on many faces. I began receiving phone calls of people I met along the way telling me they were ruined and asking what they should do. As a pastor I told them the obvious — pray.

But, as I have had time to process and reflect on the situation, I keep thinking about that guy I met way back in 1999. His attitude of “We are going to survive” is what we need right now.

In 1999, the papers all had headlines dealing with the despair of the people of Franklin. I met this town at one of their worst times in recent history and was so impressed by the attitude of the people I met.

Well here we are with another “storm to face.” We need to decide how we are going to handle it. Will we let despair and fear win and let talk of our demise become a self-fulfilling prophesy; or do we have hope and tell the world, “We will survive”? I choose hope. I pray that you all do as well.