By Carl Stagner
It’s one thing to see the news coverage of the West Virginia floods from a television screen or handheld device, but each photo and video clip represents a living nightmare for the residents of the Mountain State. According to the latest reports, at least 23 people have lost their lives, hundreds—if not thousands—of homes have been destroyed, and rising waters have wiped out bridges and made roads impassable. Forty-four of fifty-five West Virginia counties were under a state of emergency after more than a foot of rain fell in some parts. Experts suggest that such an enormous amount of rain in a short period of time is likely to happen only once in a thousand years. Sadly, Church of God congregations were not immune to the loss of life, homes, and church property. Praise the Lord for the local churches that banded together almost immediately to bring aid to the region! Now you have an opportunity to come alongside those who are bringing disaster relief to West Virginia.
Church of God Ministries is aware of at least four Church of God buildings that suffered severe damage due to the historic flooding. Professional assessors are surveying damage to First Church of God in White Sulphur Springs, where the fellowship hall appears to be a total loss but, in spite of the need to remove seating and flooring, the sanctuary may still be structurally sound.
Early reports indicate severe damage to First Church of God in Richwood, but attempts to contact leadership there have so far been unsuccessful due to disruption to communication channels and impassable roads.
Bob Daniels is the pastor of Highland First Church of God in Rainelle, a church that has been blessed to experience new growth and momentum in recent years. The building sustained minor damage due to flooding but, like the other two churches, is home to congregants who have completely lost their homes. Damage to local businesses and schools has been nothing short of catastrophic, and cleanup is expected to take months.
In a notice to friends and supporters, Pastor Bob wrote, “For those who haven’t heard, our small town and large county has been devastated with an unprecedented flood. The extent of damage to property and spirit is hard to communicate. We’re blessed to live in a home at a very high elevation and sustained no loss—very few can say the same. There will be a loss of power and water in our town for SEVERAL days. Drinking water—maybe weeks. Many of our church body have lost a portion of their belongings, others have suffered a total loss. Our church building suffered major flooding in our gym and minor flooding in our main building. Thanking God for life, strength, friends, a town full of good, loving, tough people, the possibilities for ministry, those who will be praying and walking alongside us in various ways.”
In at least two of our Church of God congregations, family members are mourning the tragic loss of loved ones to the rising floodwaters. Your prayers are strongly encouraged.
Your financial support is also strongly encouraged. Church of God Disaster Relief is reaching out to West Virginia Ministries to determine allocation of funds. Consider a donation at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org/disaster-relief.
Not surprisingly, Church of God congregations in West Virginia responded within hours of the flooding disaster with generous donations of supplies, time, funds, and labor. Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia, has served for the past few days as a hub for West Virginians who have donated mops, bleach, bottled water, and much more for the displaced, as well as the cleanup crews. Teays Valley, working in conjunction with West Virginia Ministries, coordinated a caravan of ten trucks, vans, and SUVs to haul supplies to Rainelle. Other Church of God congregations, like Southridge in South Charleston, are being the hands and feet of Christ by offering help and hope to those directly affected by the flooding.
Thom Pratt, state church health coach who has taken on the role of coordinating on-the-ground relief efforts, says work teams are currently needed. For more information, contact West Virginia Ministries at 304-763-1118 or email@example.com.
UPDATE, July 14, 2016: Church of God work teams have already begun to be deployed to remove damaged furnishings and materials, as well as to replace these items. Thorough cleaning of ruined flooring, etc., has begun, but much more is needed. Musical instruments, pews, and other items have been donated to churches in need and emergency supplies have been distributed to families in need. Families of local congregations have also begun to receive assistance with damaged homes. The Richwood pastor and his wife had lost their automobile in the flood; another pastor and his wife donated a vehicle to them. Much good is taking place and will continue to take place. Your church work team can be a part of the cleanup and restoration process. Please contact West Virginia Ministries at 304-763-1118 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Thank you! For another recent story on how God is bringing hope in the midst of the flooding aftermath, read https://chognews.org/2016/06/29/update-disaster-relief-following-west-virginia-floods/.
Gifts to the Disaster Relief Fund at Church of God Ministries are used to respond to needs identified on the ground. All gifts to the Disaster Relief Fund are used for disaster relief efforts domestically and internationally at the discretion of the Disaster Relief Committee.
Donations can always be made online to the Disaster Relief Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief/. Donations can also be mailed to Church of God Ministries, PO Box 2420, Anderson, IN 46018; please note that your gift is for Disaster Relief, Project #45.04502.