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Report from LCC district office on southern Alberta flooding

June 21, 2013 2 Comments

(Ongoing updates at http://www.lccabc.ca/blog/2013/06/21/alberta-flooding/)

by Rev. Don Schiemann

Parts of East Village were flooded on Friday, June 21, 2013.Photograph by: Tijana Martin, Calgary Herald

Parts of East Village were flooded on Friday, June 21, 2013.
Photograph by: Tijana Martin, Calgary Herald

No doubt we have all seen video footage and news reports of the extreme flooding which has taken place in Calgary and the surrounding areas. As of Friday morning, 25 communities in the City of Calgary have received evacuation notices. The Town of Canmore has been completely cut off as a result of Highway 1 being closed by the surging waters. High River, south of Calgary, has also been evacuated and most of the Town is underwater. A state of emergency has been declared in these and other communities.

How have our churches been affected? We have been able to contact almost all of our pastors and/or congregations in the affected areas in the Calgary and Lethbridge circuits. Some congregations have been impacted by the flooding and this is what we know so far about their situations:

1.       Calgary Circuit

Shepherd of the Valley, Canmore, AB: As of last night, Pastor Mark Lobitz reported that he was aware of three families which had been affected, requiring evacuation or experiencing flooding. The church building is on higher ground and so has not been flooded. Pastor Lobitz is unsure if there will be access to the Town of Canmore by Sunday and it is questionable whether they will be able to have services Sunday morning.

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Calgary: (Pastor David Dressler sent this e-mail at 11:30 p.m. last night) Although several families live within communities that are heavily affected by the flooding only one family who is living in High River has actually been evacuated. All those connected with our congregation who live within the city are so far unaffected by flooding. A good 15 families live within an area around the church building that is much lower and if the flood waters were to rise another 10 feet it is likely that most of them would be flooded out. At this point it would have to rain hard for much of the night for the water to rise that much. Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd is located in Deer Ridge which, thankfully, is so far above the river that it is likely the highest point of land in the deep southeast and so is immune to flooding. We have offered our building to our members and friends for use should they need it for themselves or for their friends, neighbours and relatives who are being evacuated. So far there is enough help and safe evacuation points closer to the flooding that our building may not be needed.

  As I was phoning around I discovered that our members were already busy helping out neighbours and friends who were in need of help. Some had been taking in evacuees into their homes. Others were busy buying up generators and de-humidifiers and other emergency supplies on behalf of those who were evacuated from their homes. These supplies will be necessary as the flood waters recede and people begin to put their homes back in order. Although it is a tragedy, it was good to hear about our people caring for one another in such a godly fashion.

Thank you for your prayers. Especially critical right now are prayers for the rain to stop in the immediate Canmore area. Much of the rest of the area has already seen a lessened rainfall.

This e-mail from Pastor Dressler was sent around 1:00 a.m.: Soon after I sent off the last email to you the community of Deer Run (down the hill from Deer Ridge where our church is located) received a mandatory evacuation order. Many of our congregation members live in Deer Run and most of the church elders also live in that area. A good number of them will stay with family elsewhere in the city. However, the elders may open up the church building as an alternate location. Ray Boivin, who is our head elder and who also lives in Deer Run, will make a decision about whether that will be helpful for the community. The city has already opened up a large evacuation center just a couple of blocks away from where Cross Pointe meets for worship, which is only minutes away from our own congregation.

And a further update from Pastor Dressler at 8:00 a.m. this morning: During the night several families from the neighborhood were given shelter in our church building. With the river possible cresting today near noon with up to 30-40% more water running through the Bow River than it is right now we may see more in need.

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Calgary, AB: (Pastor Keith Haberstock sent this message at 10 p.m. last night) We at POP have been affected by the rain. This morning we had a lake out back of the gym and as the rain kept coming even though staff were working to form a dike, and kids and parents were vacuuming, we needed to quickly run out and buy sand bags to keep the water from fully rushing in over the gym floor. The fire department came to our aid and assisted by pumping a huge volume of water into the Lake to the east of us.

However, the main reason the fire department was there is because Sami, our Church and School Janitor, had been working so hard and non-stop that his heart was in trouble. One of our school moms is a nurse and immediately noticed that he was in trouble and jumped into action.

We had EMS and Firefighters with us in no time to assist. As EMS took care of Sami and took him to hospital to be checked out (now at home resting and needing further tests) Firefighters saw our dilemma and sprang into action to displace a good portion of our problem waters.

Sand bags remain and we pray that they will hold the water as the rain continues to pound tonight.

We pray that our other area congregations and members are safe and in warm surroundings. Barb just received a text from a school mom whose hubby is an emergency worker saying fill our bathtubs with water as the amount of water coming into Calgary will overwhelm our Calgary water treatment plants. We shall see. Feels like Ukraine.

Speaking with Kurt Robinson at EnCharis this morning, Prince of Peace Village, Manor and Harbor – which are adjacent to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and School – have been unaffected so far by the flooding.

Grace Lutheran Church, Calgary: (Pastor Mark Ruf reported at 11:00 a.m. this morning) I’ve spent the morning contacting any members from Grace who live in low-lying areas. We do not have many in that situation – SW Calgary tends to be on rather high ground. So far, I am aware of only one individual who has been evacuated and is staying with another member family. The church and manor buildings are on high ground so no problem there. We have offered out building to the city if necessary, but it does not appear to be needed. Our home neighbourhood has been under a partial evacuation – we live about two blocks from the Bow River – but are at least 15 metres higher elevation than the affected portion. We should be fine.

While our church buildings have been undamaged, because of the extent of the flooding and evacuations, there is undoubtedly not a single congregation in the Calgary area which has not had members affected in one way or another.

2.       Lethbridge Circuit

A survey of the pastors and congregations in the Lethbridge Circuit indicates that the rainfall in Southern Alberta, while heavy, did not result in the severe flooding experienced in areas further north. Communities like Lethbridge are on a flood watch but unless that is upgraded to a warning, it appears that the danger of flooding is not at all imminent.

Prayers for Those Affected

First, consider God’s promises:

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 NKJ)

“…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.” (Psalm 50:15 NIB)

We ask that you provide the following prayers to your church members that, as congregations of Lutheran Church-Canada, we might be single-minded in asking our heavenly Father to help those who have been impacted by these floods.

Almighty God, merciful Father, Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways. In Your wisdom You have permitted this disastrous flood to befall Calgary and many other area communities. We implore You, let not the hearts of Your people despair nor our faith fail, but sustain and comfort Your people. Direct all efforts to attend the injured, console the bereaved, and protect the helpless. Bring hope and recovery that people may find relief and restoration; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, our times are ever in your hands. Particularly, during times of disaster, we find that we have no helper but You. As many have been affected by the severe flooding in Southern Alberta, grant that this may be a time when people turn to You as their refuge and strength, their ever-present help in trouble; and in turning to you, may they find a good and gracious God who hears and answers our prayers for the sake of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your disciples marvelled that You controlled even the wind and rain in order to calm a dangerous storm which threatened their very lives. In that miracle, You revealed Yourself as true God. So now we come to you and ask, of Your mercy and according to Your will, that you would bring an end to the storms and flooding and that people would acknowledge and praise You as the Lord and Giver of Life. We ask this in Your saving name. Amen.

Rev. Don Schiemann is president of Lutheran Church-Canada’s Alberta-British Columbia District.