As they brace for Hurricane Florence, Pastor Les Capers and his church family at St. Joseph Free Will Baptist Church are trying to be good stewards.

After flooding from Hurricane Matthew displaced the congregation for the bulk of a year, the faithful were not about to let the same thing happen with Hurricane Florence.

Capers sent out a mass message earlier this week, urging members to help place sandbags around each entrance to stave off floodwaters at the Claridge Nursery Road church.

“We had 20-something to show up Tuesday,” said member Randy Cox, explaining they were “there because of their love for the church.”

They showed up again Wednesday evening to complete the project.

A sandpile awaited them along with about 60 nylon bags that needed to be filled. More than 100 bags had been filled and placed around the entrances the evening before.

Ten-year-old Jaylen Jones, Capers’ son, was enthusiastic about the task.

Caleb Brown, 11, had his own technique for the task.

“I am shoveling it with my hands,” he said.

The group took a cautious approach, Cox said, “but we’d be crazy not to try to do something to protect the church.”

Better to be safe than sorry, said his brother, John Cox, who attends another church but showed up to lend a hand.

After filling and securing the bags, a layer of heavy plastic was placed at each entrance before piling the bags high.

“We put sandbags up to every doorknob. We wanted to go at least two or three deep,” Capers said.

Inside, Bibles and books were taken out of the pews and anything at floor level was raised up.

“My wife took care of all my robes,” he said, estimating he had six or seven of them water damaged.

He has been fortunate to have them replaced, just as carpeting and furnishings were following the last hurricane two years ago.

That experience was not in vain, Capers said.

“We told the church, look, we have been here before but the difference is we didn’t get to prepare with Matthew,” he said. “This time we’re excited to be able to come out and look at what God has done with our church.

“We’ve got to do what we can to make sure (the church is) OK — just knowing that ultimately it’s in God’s hands.”

There is a sense of accomplishment in doing that, he said. From piling up sandbags to cleaning the church yard, his congregation has done its part.

“We’re prepared. We have done what we can humanly do but the rest we just wait and see how it’s going to go but more than that, we just trust God,” he said.

The effort was not only a way to protect the building and its contents but an opportunity to fellowship with one another, Randy Cox said.

“They’re concerned about their church as well as their pastor. It’s just a team effort,” he said. “We’re doing this, we’re just walking with God.”

Capers had intended to kick the evening off with prayer but said it didn’t quite work out that way, as when he arrived each night his congregants were taking care of business.

So the prayer time wound up happening afterward.

“Everybody was tired, everybody was dirty and sweaty, but now we just take a break and say, now God, it’s your turn,” he said. “We’re poised and we’re in place.”