Midwest still reeling from floods as clean-up begins

By Linda C. Hoops

With 83 of 99 counties in Iowa having been declared state disaster areas and estimates of damages surpassing $1.5 billion, some are calling 10 days offloods2-new.gif flooding in the state “the Katrina of the Midwest.”

In Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, 36,000 people have been left homeless, many have lost their businesses, and farmers have seen their summer crops washed away.

“The mood of the people here varies with whom you talk,” said Rev. Dean Rothchild, assistant to the president in the LCMS Iowa District East, on Wednesday (June 18).  “We met today with representatives of the affected congregations, and it was a positive meeting.  Congregations are organizing to help their members and those congregations with fewer members affected are helping out those with more.”

Some homes of members “have been declared uninhabitable,” Rothchild said, “and there are conflicting stories about when cleanup can begin with regard to insurance claims and required FEMA documentation.”

The district, he said, continues to receive calls from individuals and groups who wish to help in the cleanup effort, and who will be matched up with those needing assistance.

In a June 13 e-mail sent to district presidents in affected areas, Synod President Gerald Kieschnick wrote, “News of the weather-related calamities in your district deeply saddens me and your brothers and sisters at the International Center of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The property damage that has occurred is significant.  The human toll of the aftermath of the devastation is even greater.”

Kieschnick encouraged all LCMS members to support the efforts of LCMS World Relief and Human Care (WR-HC) in helping flood victims with monetary contributions and prayers.

The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is encouraging its members to follow the lead of young women in the LWML’s Iowa West District who are putting together buckets of cleaning supplies, hand lotion, and devotional materials for flood victims.

The “scrub buckets” are being distributed by Orphan Grain Train (OGT), the Norfolk, Neb.-based LCMS Recognized Service Organization that gathers, stores, and delivers donated goods for those in need.  OGT came up with thefloods2 2.gif idea in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina and gave out thousands of buckets at that time.  Now it’s launching a three-week effort to “assemble as many scrub buckets as possible” between June 23 and July 11 for victims of the Midwest floods.  For more information about “Project Scrub Bucket,” visit the OGT Web site.  

Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of districts and congregations with LCMS WR-HC, said that as of June 23, the organization had given more than $32,000 in initial grants to individuals, congregations, and districts in Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Nebraska to help in the relief effort.  An estimated 1,500 LCMS families in those states have been affected by flooding, he said. 

Hernandez, Executive Director Matthew Harrison, and four other LCMS WR-HC staff members visited flooded areas of Indiana three days after the event to begin assessing needs.

LCMS WR-HC released videos on its new “YouTube” channel, http://www.youtube.com/lcmsworldrelief, showing members and church workers describing the devastation to their homes. 

Cheryl Knollman, director of Christian education at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Columbus, Ind., and her husband, Josh, describe in a video the damage caused by the three-and-a-half feet of water that inundated their home, which had been listed for sale.  Expecting their third child, the couple had hoped to move to a larger house.  After an extensive cleanup, Cheryl says, “We’ll have to find a way to make this house meet our needs.”

Denise Gressel, relief coordinator for St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ind., where 100 families were affected by the flooding, said that for many people “the grief is starting to set in.”  On Thursday afloods2-youth-new.giffternoon, she was planning to visit a member of the congregation who “just needed someone to listen to her,” she said. 

Pastors in the city have offered their services as counselors, along with members of the church’s Stephen Ministry program. 

If you’d like to help, send donations designated “Flood Relief 2008” to LCMS World Relief and Human Care, P.O. Box 68661, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.  Or, call the credit-card gift line at (888) 930-4438.  Gifts may also be made online at http://givenowlcms.org.

Those wishing to volunteer in the cleanup are advised to call the office of the district in which they’d like to serve.  Contact information for LCMS districts is available online at www.lcmsdistricts.org.

Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.

Posted June 19, 2008

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