Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?
Or thirsty and give you something to drink?
Or a stranger and show you hospitality?
Or naked and give you clothing?
When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to me!
It’s hard to believe that just a little over one year ago the rains came, the dams burst, and the flood came to many parts of our Central Bay District. Devastation from flooding was experienced in Arenac, Gladwin, Midland, and Saginaw counties. Some experienced damaged homes. Some lost homes. Some experienced washed-out roads and bridges. One entire town (Sanford) was nearly wiped off the map. Already hit by a world-wide pandemic, this environment disaster couldn’t have come at a more difficult time. But it did.
The Church of God, including the churches of the Central Bay District, joined with community and state response teams to help their neighbors pump out, muck out, and salvage what they could. Flood buckets were put together and distributed. Meals were provided, bags of food and bottled water were distributed. As able, homes were repaired. The immediate response was wonderful; I am very proud of our District churches for the many and various ways you all were there for your neighbors.
Since then, state and federal aid has been distributed, homes have been restored, rebuilt, or built new. Roads and bridges have been repaired allowing for more normal travel routes. Essexville is accessible again. Sanford is slowly returning as a village. Restaurants are opening. Sanford hardware store is rebuilt and open. For all that has been restored in just over a year, we give thanks. For all those who have done so much to make it happen, we give thanks. For every story we hear of another family back in their home, another business back in business, another park cleaned and ready for guests, or another obstacle overcome, we give thanks.
It is easy to see all the success a year later and think that all can now be put behind us … but it’s not and we can’t. It’s not success and we cannot put it behind us until the work is done. You see, there are many yet who still do not have a home. There remain many who may have a home but there is no drywall on the walls, there is no carpet on the floor because the wood that is on the floor is buckled and rotting. There is no electricity because it was deemed unsafe. There are still many without water because their wells dried up and need to be redrilled.
What is most disheartening to me is that those who have not yet experienced recovery are the ones need it most: the least, the lost, and the last – the ones who are often left behind even when the rivers are running fine. They did not understand what FEMA is, let alone how to apply for the aid if provided. They are elderly with no or little family to count on. They did not know where to turn. They were already without resources and now have even less. Church, these are the ones Jesus spoke of when he said, “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.”
The long-term recovery efforts are ongoing and may for another couple years. We could make is sooner. By just giving a few hours of our time, a bit up expertise, a bunch of willingness, lunch for a team of workers, and resources where needed, we could make a huge difference – you can make a huge difference!
Folks from the Coleman Faith UMC have continued to help the cause and are willing to keep organizing, in cooperation with the long-term coordinators. Please consider how you, your church, your men’s group, your mission group, your ministry team might help make a difference. Call (989-465-6181) or email (email@example.com) the Coleman Faith church, they will gladly get you in touch with persons who will set your team up.
Make it a local mission initiative. You’ll be glad you did.
With you on the journey,