Photo: Volunteers clean up outside Lexington’s Old Mill in Lexington, S.C.
The members of Watershed Fellowship in Lexington, South Carolina, hope their small changes can make a big impact for the kingdom. With little prompting pastor Kevin Thumpston can quickly explain the five stages of a geographic watershed and the spiritual states that parallel each one.
On Oct. 4, 2015, Watershed Fellowship had a watershed moment when the Gibson Pond Dam broke and flooded the church facility in Lexington’s Old Mill, a historic, revitalized section of downtown Lexington. The church immediately organized volunteers who went to work cleaning out the other flooded businesses in Old Mill.
By 9 a.m. on Oct. 5, Thumpston had been designated the volunteer coordinator for Old Mill. In the first week of cleanup Thumpston put to work 1,000 volunteers from local and out-of-state groups. Watershed partnered with area churches, and Mission to North America (MNA) sent skilled crews to help with the construction.
Twelve businesses at Old Mill had standing water, so Thumpston first sent volunteers to clean up those businesses and replace drywall. When a bookstore owner feared he would go out of business, volunteers removed 30,000 waterlogged books and relocated 15,000 dry books to a new space in the upper level of Old Mill. Watershed also helped raise funds to rebuild the bookshelves.
“That first week was pretty amazing how everything worked. MNA came in with teams, schools sent athletic teams, restaurants provided food, and most of the Lexington churches came to our rescue,” Thumpston said.
When every other business had been cleaned up, crews went to work on Watershed. Up to four feet of water had flooded Watershed, and everything below the standing water line had to be removed, down to the wall studs. Watershed did not have flood insurance, but 10 local churches and 25 PCA churches donated enough money to cover all of Watershed’s expenses. Local churches also donated equipment to replace what Watershed lost.
Since October, Watershed has been meeting in a local Christian school, and Thumpston said members look forward to returning to worship at Old Mill in February 2016. During the cleanup, the Old Mill property manager let Watershed reconfigure its space to double the size of the worship area and add offices, additional bathrooms, and space for children’s ministry.
In the months since the flood Watershed’s attendance has increased. Thumpston sees how God opened doors for the church to connect with its neighbors, and other Old Mill business owners have appeared at Watershed on Sunday mornings.
Just a few weeks before the October flooding, Watershed hosted a prayer event for Palmetto Presbytery and local churches, a time of praying that God would use each church in its respective community. Thumpston believes God answered his prayer on Oct. 5.
“We believe the flood part of God’s answer to our prayer. [God] chose us to be the weak thing to gather true community to display his glory,” Thumpston said.
If construction stays on schedule, Watershed plans to host a communitywide celebration on Valentine’s Day to thank the town for its love and support during the flood cleanup.
To see video footage of the Old Mill flood damage and the impact on Old Mill businesses, visit here.