By Scott Sundberg
KALONA, IA—Most of the flood waters in Iowa have peaked and begun to subside. Rivers such as the Des Moines, Cedar and Iowa, as well as countless smaller rivers, streams and creeks have created widespread damage to farmland and homes. As of Tuesday, June 17, many buildings still had water to their eaves.
Homeowners are gradually being allowed in to assess the damage and remove some valuables. Mennonite Disaster Service has received numerous requests for help, as well as people offering to volunteer. Aside from sandbagging, which continues in an attempt to save farmland and buildings, volunteers have not yet been allowed in to begin cleanup.
On Monday, June 16, more than 50 people, including pastors, Amish representatives, and other Mennonites in the community met at Sunnyside Conservative Mennonite Church in Kalona, Iowa. The meeting focused on responding to the damage done by recent tornadoes as well as the flooding.
Eighty-three out of 99 counties in Iowa have been declared disasters. The storms have left 35,000 people homeless and have caused $2-3 billion in damage. Flood waters crested in some places at 31 feet above flood stage, breaking the previous record of 20 feet.
A survey from the air showed rivers that look like lakes, as well as immeasurable farmland that has been stripped of crops or covered in silt and mud. Some towns, such as Fredonia, appeared to be completely inundated with water, despite many levees and sandbags intended to protect the community.
Pastor Don Patterson from Lower Deer Creek Mennonite Church shared at the meeting in Kalona, saying, “This one looks like quite a belly washer.”
“This is an opportunity for us,” said Patterson, “to show our faith by what we do. Lord, guide us to what our response should be in these times, to devise the correct response.”
Kevin King, MDS executive director, was asked how the flood compared to Hurricane Katrina. King said that the current season of storms has given him Katrina flashbacks; the storms and flooding are being referred to as “Iowa’s Katrina” and are considered the worst disaster Iowa has ever seen.
As MDS begins to mobilize local volunteers, one participant of the information meeting said, “There will be lots of agencies coming in to help, and more than enough work to go around. We with MDS need to ask, ‘Who’ll need the most help?’ We are not in it to go where all the glory and the glitz and the honor is, but to go help those most in need.”
At present, MDS is not accepting volunteers from outside of the damaged area. Check the MDS website, www.mds.mennonite.net, for updates on volunteer needs.
photos used with permission from http://www.mds.mennonite.net/