A rendition of the Ocracoke United Methodist Church burned into a piece of a beloved cedar tree on church property that was lost in Hurricane Dorian. Photo by Leslie Gilbert

By Bonnie Person

In 2019 Hurricane Dorian brought major devastation, loss, and heartache to our brothers and sisters across Eastern North Carolina, especially to the residents of the Outer Banks island of Ocracoke when a 7.4-foot storm surge inundated the village. 

Thankfully, there was no loss of life, but mass destruction of homes, property and businesses was abundant.

Emergency services from government agencies and assistance from multiple groups were activated.  UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) worked with conferences and local churches to provide supplies, aid and shelter for islanders along with multiple additional groups and individuals, to include many from Franklin County through the Tar River Baptist Association. 

Within this group, Susan Peoples, a Louisburg native and member of Louisburg Baptist Church, was assigned to assist with recovery and repair of Ocracoke United Methodist Church, which received significant water damage from the surge.

One particular loss on the church property was an Eastern Red Cedar tree that had served as a treasured landmark and symbol for them for many years.

After the tree was cut into manageable pieces, thinking of Louisburg United Methodist Church as a fellow United Methodist Church, Susan brought several pieces of the tree back to Louisburg and gave them to the Methodist church.

“In all disasters, I try to think, how can we bring something positive from it?” Susan said. “I brought cedar back with hopes to get something created for the Ocracoke Church, maybe craft ornaments.”

It was decided, however, to first create a memento to be gifted back to OUMC.   

After almost four years, that has become a reality, thanks mostly to Frances Kossan of the Louisburg United Methodist Church. 

Upon seeing a few pieces of the cedar, Frances had the vision to burn the image of OUMC prior to its damage onto a piece of the cedar trunk. She created the image from a drawing of the church pre-Dorian.

A small wooden plaque was also included.

In August, Frances and her family visited Ocracoke and made an in-person delivery to the OUMC.

“This gift is so special,” said Leslie Gilbert, chair of the church’s administrative council. “It’s amazing how long reaching the love and care for this church people have. It touched everybody’s heart.”

Frances Kossan presents her cedar remembrance to Leslie Gilbert. Photo courtesy of Frances Kossan

And just as cedar is known for longevity and resistance to decay, so, too, is the longevity of the love we have and share with others, and the reminder that God’s love for us will never “decay.”

With the remaining cedar, it is hoped that future bazaar crafts will become available as Susan envisioned.

Bonnie Person is a member of the Louisburg UMC and friends with Susan Peoples, who in November 2019 presented $6,000 collected from members of the Louisburg Baptist Church to the Ocracoke School PTA since Dorian had prevented the PTA from doing the Halloween carnival, their big annual fundraiser.

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