Stories are beginning to come out about how churches are helping respond to the floods in B.C.
Some images leave your mouth agape. 9/11 did that. The wildfires that burned up Lytton, B.C., in July did that. Now, a crumpled highway, a flooded prairie and life-consuming landslides have done that.
“For such a time as this” became more than ancient reality to B.C. believers absorbing the devastation of an atmospheric river pouring out its power on the landscape. Most of us here in B.C. have driven these roads. We drank in the majestic beauty of our surroundings, not fathoming how fragile we were.
Jeff Kuhn, from Grace Baptist in Hope, B.C., launched a Facebook post and opened the doors to 250 stranded travellers despite having no power. (See story and video at CBC.ca.) Local grocers provided foodstuffs and community members dropped off bottled water and snacks. When the roads closed, 1,500 people vied for support and the local school (hosting 700), Camp Hope (hosting 250) and churches stepped up. Some still had to spend the night in their cars. Authorities have confirmed there has been loss of life from the landslides blocking the roads.
The B.C. government issued a state of emergency. With Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Rail lines compromised and main roads cut off, supply shortages were expected. The links to Vancouver’s port usually supply grain, consumer goods and vital staples. The port moves over $550 million worth of cargo every day in essential goods. Grocery stores absorbed a rush of shoppers scooping up everything from toilet paper to produce. Gas is expected to be in limited supply soon.
Some groups got creative. Christian Life Assembly in Langley sent supplies by helicopter to do an air drop with water, blankets and freeze-dried meals. The Fellowship Baptists, the Mennonite Disaster Service, the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church all set their fundraising gears into motion to raise the response of their members (see sidebar below for links).
Hundreds had to be rescued by air or watercraft. The air force mobilized to rescue 275 people, including 50 children, who were trapped between two landslides and spent extended times in their cars. Farmers in flooded areas desperately tried to save their livestock but significant loss of life for animals is expected.
More on B.C. disaster relief
David Horita, regional director for the Fellowship (of Evangelical Baptist Churches) Pacific region, stated “we are still in the early days of this disaster, so it’s not completely clear yet what is needed. We do know, however, that as the days and weeks go by there will be ongoing support needed as these communities work to recover and rebuild, and we are inviting all of our churches to consider adding their support as well.”
3,000 meals per day are being prepared by the Dukh Nivaran Sahib Gurdwara in Surrey to assist in the relief efforts for people in Merritt and Kamloops.
Pastor Narayan Mitra from Merritt Baptist asks for prayers with the evacuation of all 7100 residents. He says the church basement is flooded and anticipates that with collapsed bridges and a comprised wastewater facility it will be a while before residents will be able to return. Some were unable to evacuate and are isolated but some unaffected properties are being opened again.
Pastor Kyle Nichols of Princeton Baptist reported that in the early stages his town had no water and the main gas line was shut off. The church was providing emergency services and operating a food bank while many homes had to be evacuated. He was loading his truck in Princeton and ferrying supplies back for the community.
Subzero weather and snow will increase the challenge of rebuilding so prayer for engineers and road crews ferrying heavy equipment would be appreciated.
This article was originally written for LightMagazine.ca and is reprinted with permission. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash. Organizations that wish to be added to the sidebar can contact us. Below find a news item submitted by Samaritan's Purse.
More help for embattled B.C.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers to begin cleaning out flooded homes for residents
By Frank King, Nov. 24, 2021
One Disaster Relief Unit tractor trailer has left Samaritan’s Purse’s Calgary headquarters, and another is soon to follow as the Christian disaster relief organization prepares to help hundreds of flood victims in Abbotsford and Merritt, B.C.
Disaster Relief Units (DRUs) are outfitted with disaster recovery equipment including generators, pumps, hand tools and safety gear for volunteers. They also serve as volunteer coordination centres and are equipped with a self-contained office, communications system and other supplies.
“We’ve had a lot of people eager to help, but not sure how,” Jonathan Giesbrecht, executive pastor at Abbotsford’s Northview Community Church, told me. Northview is serving as home base for one of the DRUs.
“Disaster relief is what Samaritan’s Purse does, so this is a partnership made in heaven.”
Each DRU has a toll-free phone number. As the number is publicized, people phone in asking for help. We give those assignments to teams of volunteers – many of them from local churches – who work under an experienced leader.
The volunteers removed waterlogged furniture and other household items, then strip away soaked flooring, drywall and insulation. Finally, they spray the affected areas with a mold-fighting spray, leaving the flooded areas safe and ready for repair.
I’ve been on these deployments, in places like Fort McMurray in 2020 and southern Alberta in 2013. The work is usually hot (though maybe not at this time of year), dirty and smelly. Definitely not pleasant. But it’s done at no cost to the homeowner.
When the work finishes, the volunteers sign a special Bible and present it to the homeowner as a gift of hope. The teams also offer to pray with homeowners. In this way, they follow the Lord’s command to “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, ESV).
Please pray for the people of southern British Columbia and for our volunteers as they minister in Jesus’ Name.
Frank King is news media relations manager of Samaritan’s Purse Canada. He took the photo of basement wall cleanup in Fort McMurray, Alta., in May 2020. Photos used with permission.