Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Haiti on the morning of October 4 and in Cuba later that afternoon. This powerful and slow-moving storm battered islands of the Caribbean and the United States' Atlantic coast. Over 1,000 people have died. Devastation and displacement abound. The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are well situated to respond robustly to people impacted both in the Caribbean and within the United States.
United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries has just awarded a $3,000 solidarity grant to Immanuel United Church of Christ in Clarksville, Iowa, which is helping members and neighbors affected by severe flooding. Heavy rain that started in mid-September and the resulting flooding are causing tremendous damage to homes and crops in Iowa. More than 30 inches of rain in two weeks have caused several rivers to overflow their banks, beginning in the northeast and rolling south toward Cedar Rapids and other cities.
Imagine volunteering in a disaster-stricken community for a month or longer at a time. That is the commitment of 17 participants from three denominations, including 10 from the United Church of Christ, who are beginning an 11-day Disaster Project Leadership Training today (Sept. 27).
Disaster-related psychosocial trauma can take up to three years to heal, especially for school children. In Nepal, UCC Disaster Ministries' support is helping tens of thousands of children and adults recover psychologically from the terrifying effects of the April 2015 earthquakes, Nepal's worst in more than 80 years. Program Executive Zach Wolgemuth just returned from a 10-day visit to Nepal, and tells the story.
In Nepal, last year's two powerful earthquakes damaged or destroyed many communities' water collection and distribution systems. They even moved or emptied many underground water sources as the earth shook and shifted. UCC Disaster Ministries has helped many communities repair or replace their water systems. Program Executive Zach Wolgemuth tells the story of one such community, in Nepal's Dhading District.
The contributions a local congregation can make to long-term recovery following a disaster that affected its area include not only "stuff," but also space and basic hospitality. Consider the example of Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in West Columbia, S.C., which suffered heavy rainfall and flooding last October. The church has been hosting disaster recovery work teams almost every week since January.
United Church of Christ Disaster Ministries is stepping up its support for West Virginia communities struggling to recover from their second "one in 1,000 years" flood in June. UCC Conference Disaster Coordinators Jim Ditzler (Ohio) and Karl Jones (Pennsylvania Southeast) are working with affected communities to establish long-term recovery groups and to lay the groundwork for eventual deployment of UCC work teams.
Parts of Louisiana received 30 inches of rain within three days in August, leaving 20 parishes in a state of emergency and stranding nearly 30,000 people. In all, over 12,000 needed to seek refuge in shelters, nearly a dozen died, and an estimated 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas.
The disaster ministries of the Church of the Brethren, United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have partnered to develop the Disaster Response Support Initiative (DRSI) and are seeking applicants for a Long-Term Recovery Group Formation Specialist. The application deadline has been extended to August 31.
FLINT OPENED EYES TO LEAD-TAINTED WATER SYSTEMS
Flint, Mich., is only one of thousands of U.S. communities with excessive lead levels in their water systems. In the third article of his series on infrastructure disasters, UCC Environmental Justice Ministries Minister Brooks Berndt examines the issue of water justice.