Two months after unprecedented and disastrous flooding in Alberta, Canada, many wait. Wait to return home. Wait for things to dry. Wait for insurance companies to assess damage. Wait for the government to present a flood-prevention plan that will allow them to feel comfortable rebuilding.
In the midst of it all is the one and only Christian Reformed Church in High River, a congregation reaching out to others in need while in need itself. Sixty percent of its members live in town and were evacuated during the flood. Twenty five percent remain out of their homes.
“Things are slowly progressing and starting to look up,” reported Greg Bennik, clerk of High River CRC. “Many people have been able to move back and occupy the upstairs of their homes. Others work at clean-up during the day and leave in the evening. Those who have no home to go to are living in temporary housing set up north of town or in local hotels.”
After a few weeks of living in a trailer, pastor Paul Droogers and his family were able to move back into the upstairs of the parsonage. The basement had only a few inches of water in it, but the water had caused mold and other issues.
The church’s basement was nearly filled to the ceiling with 11 feet of water. By the time people were allowed to return to town, the water had mostly receded, leaving a thick layer of sludge. “Thanks to hardworking volunteers,” Bennik said, “everything has been cleaned out and it is in the process of drying before rebuilding.”
Once their basement is renovated, the Droogers have graciously offered to host the Genesis Christian Preschool in their home until it can resume in the church basement—probably not until the new year.
Meanwhile, Sunday worship services can be held in the upstairs portion of the church. The sanctuary will be shared with at least one other High River church whose building needs to be entirely rebuilt.
Initially High River CRC was used as a neighborhood command center for distributing food and for volunteer coordination. The church continues to host 50 to 60 people every Wednesday at “Come as You Are” dinners. “The weekly dinners have been well-received in the community,” said Bennik, “allowing the church to connect, assess, and reach out. During the initial cleanup it was buffet style on the church lawn with lawn chairs and everyone in their grubby clothes!” Come fall, the church hopes to continue this ministry, probably on a monthly basis.
On behalf of the High River CRC, Bennik offers thanks for all the help the church has received from other Alberta CRCs: “We are extremely thankful for the volunteers that give of their time, and the donations that continue to come in. Members from Granum CRC helped with the initial cleanup of mud and debris. Covenant CRC in Calgary donated and packed care hampers that we distributed to all our affected members as well as those in our neighborhood. Emmanuel CRC in Calgary, along with Covenant CRC, have been helping us host our Wednesday dinners. Ebenezer CRC in Leduc sent us a ‘kids helping kids’ package filled with children’s materials that they collected during their VBS week. Ponoka CRC sent us a load of household donations to distribute. We have received volunteers and financial donations from many others, and World Renew has committed to help in the rebuilding process. We have been truly cared for, and feel blessed by our CRC community around us!”