Unprecedented flooding in southern Alberta since June 20 has displaced more than 75,000 Albertans who have been forced to evacuate their homes. The flooding is estimated to have caused $3-5 billion in damage as many overflowing rivers swept water, mud and debris into people homes and washed across communities.
Much of downtown Calgary is currently closed because of flooding damage and power outages. High River, a town of about 13,000, is among the most battered communities. Flood waters have left a large portion of High River covered by a lake that will be difficult to drain. The town remains underwater and without basic services as of Tuesday.
Flood waters have overwhelmed the basement and filled the sanctuary of High River Baptist Church with five feet of water. It is too early to determine whether the church building can be salvaged from the damage. Many members of the church have significant flood damage to their homes and are facing catastrophic losses. Homes have been filled with debris and muddy water, possibly contaminated with viruses and parasites, ruining everything from furniture to carpets to drywall. Mold can begin forming within days.
Elsewhere, First Baptist in Calgary cancelled worship services on June 23 and postponed the scheduled ordination of Eijiro (Jay) Campo, because of the flooding and power outage in downtown Calgary. In Canmore, houses across from Trevor Sato, pastor of FBC Canmore, have been washed away. The CBWC’s Calgary offices will be closed for about a week because of evacuation orders and loss of power. All other CBWC churches seem to be high and dry for the moment but church members are scrambling to cope with evacuation orders and look after their neighbours and homes in stricken communities. At press time, Medicine Hat, AB was concerned that flooding would move on to its community.
The CBWC is responding.
Pastors of CBWC churches are busy mobilizing their congregations to help out any way they can in their local communities – providing billets, sandbagging, volunteering in shelters, helping in cleanup efforts. Despite the flooding in the church he guides, High River Baptist’s senior pastor, Jason Johnson, has been visiting shelters in Nanton, AB to console victims and offer support, as has Stephen Pike, senior pastor of Nanton First Baptist. Awaken Church in Bowness is working to give relief to people in that hard-hit area of Calgary. Several CBWC pastors serve as reserve chaplains in the military and at hospitals and other organizations. They are on the ground making a difference where they can.
The CBWC’s Disaster Relief Fund is accepting donations to help provide emergency shelter and food and to support CBWC churches that are providing emergency service. Any churches or individuals wishing to make a donation to assist the High River recovery effort or to support churches like Awaken that are working to speed recovery can contact Louanne Haugan at the CBWC’s head office in Calgary or email@example.com. Once the Calgary office is functioning again, we will make online donations possible – check www.cbwc.ca. Canadian Baptist Ministries, our national missions arm, is also inviting its partners to participate in raising funds to relieve victims of flooding. We are extremely grateful for their support in this time of need.
Dennis Stone, the CBWC’s Regional Minister for Alberta/NWT is in almost daily contact with all afflicted CBWC churches to monitor their needs. The Alberta CBWC office has been actively recording names of people willing to help out at High River Baptist, the church with the most pressing needs. Volunteers would be responsible for their own food and lodging. Anyone interested in helping out should email firstname.lastname@example.org to provide:
- Name and primary phone numbers.
- The person’s building experience, skills, and equipment that can be utilized. Any professional ranking should be noted.
- dates that the person may be available up to the end of July.
- If a team leader, the number of people on the team and a list of relevant experience, skills, and equipment.
Praying is another very practical way to help. Pray for the safety of all people in the path of the flooding and for the safety of first responders. Please pray especially for the people of High River and their safety and for the members of High River Baptist that God will help them face the many facets of their losses and move them forward through recovery. Pray for all communities affected by the flooding as they face a massive cleanup effort in the coming days, weeks and years.
Other opportunities for ministry will be posted as they come in. Watch the CBWC website www.cbwc.ca
and ‘facebook/Canadian Baptists of Western Canada’ for more news.