By Jeff Brumley
Television and internet images of flooding in Colorado just don’t capture the scope of the carnage, says a Baptist minister helping clear mud and debris from homes.
“The devastation is just amazing, and it just goes from house to house,” said Bill Prather, the pastor at American Baptist Church in Fort Collins, Colo.
Prather’s church and city were relatively unaffected by the flooding caused by several days of torrential rains that began Sept. 9. He and members of his congregation are volunteering in hard-hit Boulder clearing mud and debris from people’s yards and homes.
“You realize it more fully when you are there,” Prather said. “This is a person’s life and they’ve just lost it.”
Working largely on personal initiative, individual congregations like Prather’s are at the forefront of current faith-based disaster-response efforts in Colorado.
Denominational recovery efforts are still being formulated as flooding continues in some towns, and out-of-state church and volunteer groups have yet to be requested by government and church officials, according to Baptist disaster-response leaders.
Authorities now say as many as 10 people have died in the flooding and 140 others are unaccounted for, the Reuters news agency reported today. The estimated economic impact of the flooding is $2 billion statewide, including the destruction of 1,800 homes along a 130-mile stretch of the eastern Rockies.
Convoy of Hope, Feed the Children and Samaritan’s Purse are already active in some Colorado towns. Various Baptist organizations are gearing up to send people or aid to the state when they are requested.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which has no partner congregations in Colorado, has allocated $2,500 to the American Baptist Association, which does. That money is being used to send $100 gift cards to flooding victims.
Tommy Deal, CBF’s domestic disaster-response coordinator, said he’s also been in touch with American Baptist Churches USA, which has churches throughout the affected regions, about coordination of fundraising and other responses.
Deal said he’s been communicating with Bob Ballance, a former CBF pastor and one-time editor of Baptists Today who serves as pastor of an ABC/USA church in Boulder. Ballance, who also has been affected by flooding, is coordinating local disaster-response and cleanup efforts.
At the moment, CBF is not prepared to send teams to the area.
“I haven’t had anyone call to say ‘I’m ready to go,’” Deal said. “As soon as I do, I will direct them to him (Ballance).”
ABC-USA has issued a grant to its Rocky Mountain district to help those in need. Other members of the North American Baptist Fellowship, including Texas and Virginia, said via e-mail they are waiting to learn the long-term need.
The need will likely include the muck-out and debris removal Baptists have been all too familiar with after other recent disasters. In Boulder alone, mud is everywhere as are half-submerged vehicles and mountains of wet trash, Prather said.
Housing is another issue, as flooding victims are flown in from smaller communities cut off by flash floods that have wrecked bridges and roads. In many cases churches are serving as shelters for those people and their pets, he said.
For now, Prather said his congregation and a group from First Baptist Church in Atchison, Kan., are teaming up with Ballance’s Pine Street Church. All three are ABC/USA members.
“We are pretty much all over the place,” he said. “We feel so blessed to be the hands and feet of Christ.”
Donations for flooding victims may be made through CBF online or by sending checks payable to “CBF” to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, P.O. Box 101699, Atlanta, Ga., 30392-1699. Include “Acct. 17000” in the memo line.