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MO flood service focuses on hope

BY SUSAN KIM | KANSAS CITY, MO | April 2, 1999

KANSAS CITY, MO (April 2, 1999) -- Exactly six months after her husband's

death, at exactly the hour when the flood waters rose, Monica Hudson

attended a commemorative interfaith service Sunday, April 4, at 5

o'clock in the evening.

Hudson has a four-year-old daughter and a six-month old son who knew his

father for only one week before the waters swept him away forever.

But Hudson says she hadn't planned to attend the service to grieve. "I'm

going so that I can be there for the other families," she said. "The Lord


provided me with tremendous strength. Yes, I grieve, but I still have to

live my everyday life. Other people who lost loved ones ask me all the time

why I'm not more angry or depressed. Well, I can understand their anger but

I don't share it. My husband got to see my son being born. He got to name


At the service, Hudson listened to scriptures and songs about water.

"Rather than have a preacher, we're planning a message that acknowledges

that people are grieving but still gives them hope," said the Rev. Ruth

Hotle, associate director of the Interfaith Council for Disaster Response

and a United Church of Christ pastor, prior to the service.

From verses in the book of Genesis that describe how God used water to bear

up the Ark of Salvation, to a line in the 23rd Psalm -- "He leadeth me

beside still waters" -- the service focused on how water can symbolize

creation and restoration, not just death and destruction.

On October 4, the Kansas City flood killed 11 people, and damaged or

destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and businesses. Flood assistance from the

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) totaled more than $10 million.

As some flood survivors sue the city for alleged negligence in maintaining

proper flood control, and the city in turn publicizes its plans to revamp

its disaster response and preparedness operations, the interfaith service

is being designed to help unite a fragmented community.

The interfaith council comprises faith-based groups, including Church World

Service, Lutheran Disaster Response, Mennonite Disaster Response,

Presbyterian Church USA, Seventh Day Adventist Church, The United Methodist

Church, and United Church of Christ, as well as FEMA, the Salvation Army,

American Red Cross, and local agencies.

Hotle said she also hopes the community-wide service will help flood

survivors feel less isolated. "Even though we are in a major metropolitan

community, the number of people affected by the flood sometimes seems small

in proportion to the masses. When I tell people around here what we're

doing, many of them still say, 'Oh, there was a flood?' "

Although the majority of displaced people are either back in their homes or

in temporary living quarters, there are still people, many of them elderly,

whose basements look exactly the same as they did six months ago, or whose

homes sustained major foundation damage. "We are still finding many people

who have just shut their basement door and gone on. They don't want to ask

for help," said Hotle. "But we've got to help them clean up before health

problems arise from contamination in those damp areas."

The interfaith council is still recruiting volunteers to clean basements

and yards, to help with home repairs, and to respond to emotional and

spiritual needs.

Linda Foster, a member of the interfaith council, said mental health needs

are prevalent right now. "We are hoping that this service will help give

people both a sense of closure and a recognition that we know they're still

coping," she said.

Foster is inviting volunteers from faith-based groups and the Red Cross who

assisted people in the initial relief stages immediately after the floods

to attend the "Service of Remembrance, Prayer, and Hope," which will be

held at the Linwood Boulevard Seventh Day Adventist Temple.

"Here in the midwest we're used to flooding, but for each family it's a new

and fresh disaster," said Foster. "Right now is when many people are just

starting to realize that the life they once had is completely gone."

For Hudson and other survivors, beginning a new life is part of what Easter

means to them. "The last time I talked to my husband, he called to tell me

his car had stalled in the water but that he didn't think it was that

serious. An hour later he still hadn't called back," she said. "Then the

news said that cars were going off the side of Bush Creek and that several

people were missing. The next morning, my husband was the first person


"I would like to say how grateful I am for all the cards, gifts, and small

donations my family has received, and also all the help we're received from

our church, and from FEMA and the Red Cross," she added. "I want to keep

this community spirit alive and keep people aware of the good things that

are happening. Yes, we've bonded together through tragedy, but some

positive things will come out of it. I believe that's the way God wants us

to react."

Updated April 5, 1999

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