“Pray, pray, pray,” asks Rev, Catie Newman, disaster response coordinator for the Iowa Annual Conference, in this time of widespread flooding across the State.
In the aftermath of winter snows, rising temperatures, and recent heavy rains, significant parts of Iowa are inundated by flood waters. In fact, Newman, who is also the pastor of the Hornick and Salix United Methodist churches, had just 10 minutes to evacuate her home, something she said was “a little unsettling…I’ve talked about preparedness and being ready, but when it happens it’s a completely surreal experience.”
Click here to listen to the conversation with Rev. Catie Newman
In some parts of Iowa, the flood waters are receding. In other places, however, across western, central, and even the eastern part of the State, the waters are still on the rise. Evacuations continue. And for people like Newman, “you can’t get any closer than maybe a mile-and-a-half, or two miles. It will probably be five or six days before we’re allowed back into town.”
“This is more widespread than I have ever known. And I've lived in Iowa all my life. This flooding is really sort of unprecedented.”
In the midst of this latest natural disaster to strike Iowa, there are still hopeful signs. “I think that it’s amazing that even though we don’t always get along when push comes to shove, people take care of each other.” It’s a reality for the 121 households in Hornick. It’s also a reality for the 760 plus congregations of The United Methodist Church across Iowa – “It’s a blessing of our connectional system,” Newman added.
One tangible aspect of that connectional system is the network of locations where cleanup buckets are deployed. “We have devised sort of a network of places to store them so that we have buckets for exactly this reason because when you need them, you need them.” One thousand cleanup buckets, containing work gloves, kitchen gloves, a particulate respirator dust mask, package of heavy-duty trash bags, clothespins, scouring pad sponges, reusable wipes, scrub brush, air freshener, insect repellent, and soaps and detergents, were at the ready. In addition to the on-hand cleanup bucket sets, valued at $75 each, three thousand more are on the way from UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) sites in Illinois and Louisiana.
“Yesterday and today we've delivered a lot of buckets, to the communities that are ready to receive them,” Newman reported. Because of the connectional partnership, “all I had to do was contact UMCOR and more buckets were on the way.” Three thousand additional buckets will arrive in two incoming shipments followed by more to “restock the thousand that we like to have here all the time.”
What to do if you need a cleanup bucket
How do people who need cleanup buckets get them? “Contact your district office, or your district disaster response coordinator, every district has a district disaster response coordinator.”
Click here for District Disaster Response Coordinators contact information http://iaumc-email.brtapp.com/files/communications/district+disaster+response+coordinators.pdf
“People want to help,” Newman observed. As soon as situations permit, invitations will be posted on the Iowa Annual Conference website and shared through Conference social media platforms. “We're going to need many many hands to help clean up basements and replace drywall and help people to regain their sense of home in the buildings that have been inundated with water. Today it's, it's just too early…but be prepared because probably starting early next week we’ll start announcing when and where people can help.”
Newman offered some advice and a list of “best tips.” From first-hand experience, she said, “The reality is when they say they need to evacuate now your heart kind of stops for a minute and you go blank for a minute.”
- Talk with your family and have a plan for what would happen if you need to leave your home
- Have a “go bag” packed with a list of your medications, or even your medications, an extra pair of shoes underwear socks shirts toothbrush
- Have your car’s gas tank filled with gas
- Take your phone fully-charged and have an auxiliary charger and/or a charger in your car
- Never, never, never drive to standing or running water
What can Iowa United Methodists who aren’t currently affected by the flooding do for their siblings-in-Christ? “Pray, pray, pray, not only for the folks effective but those folks who are helping. We've got folks who have worked tirelessly to help communities be saved - sheriff's departments, fire departments, Department of Natural Resources volunteers, who stayed up all night to help us.” And then “be ready when the word comes that it’s time when people can help…in the meantime, just gear up to be ready…and pray, pray, pray.”