|Church looks to pinpoint Iowa flood relief response|
By Arthur McClanahan*
Iowa University's Danforth Chapel in Iowa City is surrounded by floodwaters from the Iowa River on June 16. UMNS photos by Greg Henshall, FEMA.
June 19, 2008 | DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS)
As waters began to recede in central Iowa and the shock of a second
“500-year flood” in 15 years became a numbing reality, the focus was
shifting from the rescue phase to relief and long-term recovery.
United Methodists are among a statewide interfaith consortium and action
teams from local churches that are reaching out to the estimated 38,000
people left homeless, farmers who have lost a projected 10 percent of
the 2008 corn crop and countless churches and parsonages inundated from
the ravages of nine rivers.
Bishop Gregory Palmer spent June 18 visiting clergy and surveying damage
in the Cedar Rapids area, including Trinity, Salem and St. James United
Methodist churches – all three of which have been partially underwater
in the floods.
Bonnie Cleveland carries flood-
damaged furniture from a friend's
home in Cedar Rapids.
"The disruption caused by the floods is overwhelming, but the way in
which people are pulling together in communities more than balances this
out," said Palmer, of the church's Iowa Area. "The outpouring of
tangible compassion from the church along with the resolve of local
people to reclaim their lives is signaling hope … hope … hope."
Representatives from the United Methodist Committee on Relief are
expected to tour Iowa by the first of next week to assess damage and
formulate a response plan. UMCOR already has issued a $10,000 emergency
grant to the conference to aid in responding to the May 25 tornadoes in
Even as the water subsided from storms, flooding and tornadoes that have
ravaged Iowa since May 25, more levees broke, and Des Moines' Birdland
neighborhood, a low-income area near the Des Moines River, was flooded.
In Cedar Rapids, the Cedar River was projected to continue to cover
nearly 450 blocks of the state's second largest city well into the
In Iowa City, emergency measures were suspended when it became too
dangerous to build up sandbag flood walls. At least 18 buildings on the
University of Iowa campus were flooded, including the school’s major
auditorium and its art museum.
Representatives of the United Methodist Iowa Annual (regional)
Conference were among eight Christian groups networking to respond to
emergency needs, and an ecumenical blog was set up at http://www.iowawaters.blogspot.com to
share information. The Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council (IDHRC),
which is an even broader interfaith coalition, was coordinating some of
the first steps of the rescue response to complement efforts by the
American Red Cross and Salvation Army in some of the hardest-hit areas.
Except for Iowa's Mississippi River areas, first-responders were invited
beginning June 17 to support those returning to their homes for the
first time since being evacuated. First United Methodist Church in
Marion ramped up to serve as a host site for volunteer crews. As of June
18, teams from five states already had committed to assist in the Cedar
Rapids area, according to the Rev. Mike Morgan, pastor of the Marion
Floodwaters surround Salem United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A UMNS photo by Becky Johnson.
Early response has included consoling residents who have lost many of
their possessions. "This morning, about eight clergy went into the St.
James United Methodist Church neighborhood about three hours after
people were let into their homes. This was very necessary," Morgan said.
Marcia Young, the church's Iowa disaster relief coordinator, was working
with Volunteers in Mission coordinator Susan Olive to mesh the services
of the IDHRC and the long-term presence of UMCOR, particularly in
equally hard-hit but lesser known areas such as Columbus Junction in
southeast Iowa. There, a ministry action team already was in place to
support the community's nearly 1,800 residents.
In Coralville, near Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, the
Revs. Douglas E. Williams and Beverly Marshall-Goodell were coordinating
crisis counseling by the area's faith leaders.
Coralville United Methodist Church received its first volunteers when 14
people from First United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan., stopped to
help while en route to a mission trip in Wisconsin.
"I know the worst hasn't hit in (Iowa City) and Coralville. We're
keeping (Cedar Rapids) in our prayers," Williams said in a blog
Iowa United Methodists were invited to share their experiences and
photographs from the storms and flooding at a blog site established at www.iowastorms2008.blogspot.com.
Up-to-date information, photos, giving opportunities and ways to
volunteer are being posted on the Iowa Annual (regional) Conference Web
site at www.iaumc.org/storms2008.
Donations for relief efforts may be sent directly to the Iowa Conference
Treasurer, with an indication of Storms 2008 Relief #223 (Treasurer,
Iowa Annual Conference, 2301 Rittenhouse Street, Des Moines, IA 50321);
or to UMCOR's relief efforts in the Midwest, by the Domestic Disaster
Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, with a designation for Midwest Flooding
Relief. UMCOR support checks can be dropped in church offering plates
or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write
the Advance number and name on the memo line of the check. Credit card
donations can be made by calling (800) 554-8583 or online at www.givetomission.org.
(From left) Janice Pugh, Frieda Sojka and Cathy Crawford walk up the Highway 92 ramp in Columbus Junction.
*McClanahan is director of communications for the Iowa Annual Conference.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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