Unification News for June 1997
Hope in the Midst of Despair: Flood Relief in North Dakota
by: Dr. Kathy Winings, Executive Director IRFF
One of the most powerful floods in almost 500 years struck with devastating effect in America's Northwest region. Families in the multi-state area of Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota experienced the fury of nature toward the end of April. The hardest hit area was the Grand Forks area, a thriving city in the northern part of North Dakota and Minnesota.
As heavy rains soaked the region, the waters of the Red River of the North began to rise. As the Red River began to rise so too did the watersheds of the Minnesota, Yellow Medicine and Chippewa rivers as well. It was this combination that spelled trouble for the families in that region. When the waters spilled over their banks in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, thousands of families and businesses knew that this was going to be a difficult spring and summer season.
In early May, a special meeting was called of those disaster relief agencies that have formed a cooperative partnership called National Volunteer Organizations Giving Aid in Disaster (NVOAD). IRFF is a member of that umbrella organization. I attended the special meeting to see what IRFF could offer to the thousands of men, women and children of the flooded area. The meeting only confirmed what all of knew already - this was indeed a serious disaster and would require all of our efforts.
After the meeting, I was able to tour the affected area of Grand Forks with a colleague, Dr. Ron Patterson, the Executive Director of Christian Disaster Response. Our guide was the WFWP chairwoman for North Dakota, Mrs. Betsy Ormand. From our brief stay in the region, we spoke with several individuals and families who were just beginning to filter back into their neighborhoods to assess the damage.
One woman was kind enough to allow us into what was left of her home. Though I have seen many disasters and have witnessed the devastation of disasters, poverty, and disease around the world, each one is still profound and tugs on my heart. This particular woman had just purchased her first home. She had saved for most of her life to purchase this simple house in East Grand Forks. They had just finished preparing their new home and had only moved in a short while before the floods came. As she described her moving day, you could see in her eyes the pride and joy she felt. This was to be home for her and her son.
What we saw was a house with windows blown out by the force of the water, warped floorboards, furniture completely destroyed, and nothing left for her to salvage. The water mark indicated that the water had reached her ceiling. Though she and her son escaped with only the clothes on their backs, they both thanked God that they were alive. As they walked through what was left of their home, the only emotion that they could express was shock and disbelief. Tears would come later.
As we wandered down street after street, this scene was repeated over and over. Everyone was experiencing a sense of gratitude mixed with shock and uncertainty. Of course, other concerns would soon take root. First, as the flood waters recede and everything begins to dry, bacteria levels will rise and the potential for illness will increase without the proper precautions. Secondly, winter comes very quickly to these 3 states. Unfortunately, the clean-up and rebuilding will take more than a few months. This is a long-term rebuilding need. This means that thousands of families who are living in shelters, with friends or with caring strangers will be without a home for most of this year. Third, the longer the clean-up effort takes, the more toll the disaster takes on the victims - physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Fourth, the longer it takes to clean-up, the longer the businesses will be closed. This means the local economy will also suffer. People will be jobless as well as homeless, without businesses running money will not be generated in the community which will further hamper the rebuilding efforts. Finally, as with all disasters, this community will be flooded with people who seek to profit from the misfortune of others. All of which will effect the rebuilding efforts.
Of course, through times like these, there are amazing stories. We have all read of the widow of McDonalds founder, Ray Kroc, donating millions of dollars to help the families. Several families have opened their hearts and homes to the victims of the flood. And hundreds others have volunteered to help in some way. Through it all, many people have had deep experiences with God and the Holy Spirit. The power of the family has also become quite evident and many of the victims have sought to renew their family bonds as a result of the disaster.
IRFF too is trying to do all it can to help the flood victims and to share the loving parental spirit of Rev. and Mrs. Moon. We have formed a partnership with Christian Disaster Response and a few of the smaller relief agencies. By working together, we believe that we can mor effectively use our limited resources. There is tremendous need for volunteers, special relief kits that can be assembled in your home and communities, and of course donations are deeply appreciated. If you, your family, or your friends wish to do something to support this relief effort, please contact me in New York at: (212) 869-2614. This is a tremendous opportunity to reach out to thousands of families and to demonstrate the power of living for the sake of others. Encourage your children to take an active part in this effort. Let's be creative with how we can share God's blessings this summer!
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