Long-term response is planned in Tx

BY GEORGE PIPER | SEGUIN, Texas | October 30, 1998


As the water recedes and cleanup

continues from record flooding in south Texas, disaster response

organizations are swinging into action to insure long term recovery for

survivors.

Torrential rains on Oct. 17 caused flooding along the Blanco, Colorado,

Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers and its tributaries, resulting in at least

29 deaths and damage to thousand of homes.

Officials from Lutheran Disaster Response, the United Methodist

Committee on Relief and other disaster relief organizations are working

with their own denominations and interfaith groups to provide direction and

assistance in helping people and towns bounce back from the disaster.

The Guadalupe Valley Ministers Association, near Seguin, is continuing

to meet twice a week indefinitely, reports Luther Oelke an LDR coordinator

in Texas. "It appears that the GVMA is already filling an important

advocacy role with governmental agencies in addition to its other relief

coordination roles," he said.

Other clergy are taking up similar efforts throughout the flood zone.

The Rev. Chuck DeHaven, minister at St. Paul Lutheran Church in New

Braunfels, and Church World Service's regional facilitator, Norm Hein, met

with other New Braunfels pastors and community leaders to discuss the

church's role in recovery.

In the Houston area, which a month ago saw flooding from Tropical Storm

Frances, an existing interfaith organization is helping disaster survivors

with unmet needs.

Interfaith Ministries is part of the longterm recovery for that area,

said the Rev. Steffani Jacks, disaster response coordinator for the United

Methodist Church Texas Annual Conference and pastor of two Houston area

Methodist churches. The group formed in 1994 after flooding that year.

"Each representative there brings something to the table that we can

offer, and we'll take it case by case," she said, adding that the new round

of flooding hit areas not affected by Frances.

Having an organization like that in place before disaster strikes helps

speed up the cleanup and recovery process. Jacks is trying to form disaster

response teams in each Methodist church in Texas that can be ready to

respond when disaster strikes.

"If you have to organize after the fact, you've lost precious time," she

said. "That just make it more difficult and that makes for a longer

recovery."

The Texas Conference UMC organized cleanup teams who took some 200

cleanup kits supplied by the United Methodist Committee on Relief to three

flood-impacted areas, Jacks said. Another 200 kits are arriving soon, and

UMCOR also provided her with a representative to help with recovery efforts.

Other denominations also are weighing-in with disaster relief.

Southern Baptist Convention churches are sending volunteers from three

states to being cleanup or "mud-out" duty in flooded areas. The action

comes on top of more than 100,000 meals served to Texas flood victims.

Baptist officials also are setting up emergency childcare centers,

requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In addition to services, the Texas Baptist Family Assistance Task Force

already distributed $37,500 in aid, while First Baptist Church

congregations in Lewisville and Garland, Texas, collected more than $17,000

for disaster relief.

Adventist Community Services, is also providing flood-stricken areas

with relief items. The organization is working with state and volunteer

groups to establish a donated goods warehouse in the San Antonio area.

The best thing about disasters, noted Jacks, is afterwards when people

are helping one another. "It amazes me every single time we go through this

when I see people working together," she said. "To me, that's God's plan at

work and that is wonderful."

Posted Oct. 30, 1998


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