This week at Christian Life Assembly we're working to get another load of 30,000 lbs of supplies prepared and sent to Merritt, B.C., to help as people prepare to return.
I’m 54 and was born and raised in B.C., and I’ve never seen anything like this. November is the start of the “rainy season” here, so we are used to winter rains. November is always wet. However, we received all of November’s average rainfall (250 mm) in three days, causing catastrophic damage. In the mountains the early snow melted from the rains increasing the rising rivers caused significant damage to all three highways from the coast to the interior.
Power outages, levee and dikes were breached, creeks rose, and both the Sumas River and Fraser Rivers breached their banks. Flood waters poured into many regions, but the area between Abbotsford and Chilliwack were particularly hard hit down here.
I learned while pastoring in Kelowna during the Okanagan wildfires that the key to emergency response was to be quick in making decisions. Churches tend to be bureaucratic and slow. They need to be nimble and dynamic to change.
On Tuesday, November 16, I gave the green light for Christian Life Assembly (CLA) to be a gathering center for relief supplies. We also opened up discussions to be an evacuation center, should a key pumping station on the Fraser River collapse (which was a very real possibility).
A call went out to our people. CLA is a multisite church of 3,000. Staff, volunteers and strategic partners began to plan how to get supplies to stranded drivers and trapped citizens. A family from our church owns Sky Helicopters, and we began to air drop supplies into Hope. Early on, we focused on blankets, jackets, water and sandwiches.
As a church in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada network, I reached out to Hope City Church in Edmonton, a partner church. They jumped on board to help collect items for evacuees in Kamloops.
I also contacted our churches in Kamloops (Oasis Church and Gateway Church), and they began to work together to prepare for emergency relief coming down the Yellowhead Highway. A Christian owner of a trucking company called East West Express gave us a truck and driver. Within 48 hours, 24 skids of supplies (mostly non-perishable food) were on their way to Kamloops for evacuees. CLA purchased fuel cards for the evacuee families. Coffee & food was offered to Merritt residents as they picked up supplies.
We were contacted by some isolated First Nations who needed help and we began to work on logistics to deliver more relief supplies. When the roads opened up on the weekend to emergency traffic, trucks came from Hope and Chilliwack to pick up water, perishables and diapers.
In less than a week we managed to gather over $50,000 and delivered 30,000 lbs of relief supplies. It was a herculean effort. By God’s grace, church partnerships, and quick decision making we were able to see a lot accomplished over a short period of time.
This coming week we will narrow our focus to some First Nations that are completely cut off. One of them was adversely affected by this summer’s fires, and now they are dealing with the floods. I was told that our coming flight of supplies will bring them “hope and relief” and great encouragement “to know that others are standing with them.”
This week we are working to get another load of 30,000 lbs of supplies prepared and sent to Merritt B.C .to help prepare the town as people prepare to return. We will be working through a local church there called Crossroads Community Church. The story continues…
Derrick Hamre is the lead pastor of Christian Life Assembly, a church with multiple locations across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, B.C.