I grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas, positioned along the west bank of the Missouri River. So as a kid, I had seen my share of floods.
In fact, I remember when water crept into what is now the town’s community center. I have recollections as a kid of riding in my dad's truck down the hill on which our house was located headed into the downtown and seeing water clearly surrounding buildings on the far end of Cherokee Street. I even remember driving to what was a farm field but looked like a huge lake when Stranger Creek rose out of its banks.
Those images rush back for me as I see video and photos of the devastation in southern Louisiana. In Livingston Parish, just east of Baton Rouge, 105,000 of the 137,000 residents reportedly lost their homes when more than 2 feet of rain fell in less than 48 hours.
Perhaps the worst flooding I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes came, oddly enough, in the desert southwest. In January 2005, two rivers that we would call creeks in the Midwest – the Virgin and Santa Clara – both rose from melting snow in the mountains followed by a rare series of days with significant rainfall. These bodies of water that usually flowed at about 5 cubic feet per second rushed at more than 6,000 cubic feet per second.
As a result, more than 30 houses had the banks chewed out from under them. The wreckage of what used to be homes for families washed down and ended up in Lake Mead near Las Vegas. And the water backed up to swallow up golf courses, more homes and blocked major streets for days on end.
While the floods devastated parts of that community, the days that followed made me proud to be a United Methodist.
First, our church, the only United Methodist Church in the town, became the staging site for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and for people to fill out important paperwork for government assistance. Then, I was privileged to be placed on a team of United Methodist men to help dig out a farmer’s property from all the silt that settled around is corrals and barns.
It was that effort – the clean-up process – that gave me a real appreciation for the United Methodist connection. Many of our friends were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they took notice of the UMCOR response and the way Shepherd of the Hills UMC stepped up. They noted how people from outside the area and outside the predominant faith provided assistance.
Now, we have a chance to work within the United Methodist connection to help others, this time in Louisiana.
As you hopefully have seen, the Great Plains is trying to help by donating money and flood clean-up buckets. You can read our story about the flood-relief effort, which includes the list of supplies needed for a complete flood bucket and the deadline for dropping off completed buckets to conference offices in Lincoln, Topeka and Wichita, as well as First UMC in Dodge City.
Only completed buckets can be accepted so we can expedite getting supplies, in their entirety, to the people in need.
Please pray for the people of Louisiana. And if you are so inclined, please do what you can to help people who have lost so much.
Todd Seifert is communications director for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church. He can be reached via phone at 402-464-5994, ext. 113, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Great Plains Annual Conference or the United Methodist Church. Follow him on Twitter, @ToddSeifert.