2015-10-15 - The Floods Came in South Carolina
The Rains Came and the Floods Came
Note from Jan: As I was proofing Carmella's great devotional, I noted that as Carmella mentioned, volunteers and donations have been sought. However, emergency personnel have requested that you do not go to the scene as individual volunteers, for several reasons. If you want to volunteer or donate supplies or money, please contact your denomination's Disaster agency, most of whom organize volunteers and who also give 100% to victims - or you could work through the Salvation Army. (baptistrelief.org,pda.pcusa.org, http://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/How-We-Work etc. or http://disaster.salvationarmyusa.org) The last I heard, disaster agencies are asking that people please do NOT send individual donations of items like water, cleaning supplies.
Please work through official agencies, so they get exactly what is needed, as well as preventing a need to store supplies for which they don't have storage space! Thank you for caring, and thank you, Carmella for such a timely devotional! Jan
“When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and the rivers will not consume you. Do not fear.” Isaiah 43:2-3
I live in the Columbia SC area. As you probably know by now, we’ve been slammed by catastrophic flooding and a range of serious problems as a result, since Saturday October 3rd. These events have been significant enough to receive extensive coverage on the national news. Federal help has already been requested and approved, due to the extensive damages and tremendous and wide-ranging needs we have across the state.
Last Thursday, weather forecasts began warning us about what was likely to be heading our way as a result of Hurricane Joaquin and other significant weather systems hitting us all at once. I didn’t catch all the science and technical stuff, but I definitely understood words like “historic weather event” and “significant and dangerous flooding.” Terms like “deadly,” “catastrophic,” and “life-threatening” definitely got my attention and convinced me that this was likely going to be a very serious situation. The entire state was bracing for this “historic weather event, from the upstate near the mountains to the midlands where I am, to our low country and coastal areas. Our Governor and local officials were all making statements about what was being done to prepare for the pending disaster, and residents were being advised as to how to get prepared for flooding, evacuations, dangerous road conditions, power outages, and other emergencies.
Unfortunately, forecasters and officials weren’t exaggerating. We experienced several inches of rain per hour for hours at a time from early Saturday morning until early Monday morning with accumulations of between 14 to 26 inches of rainfall across the state. This resulted in widespread severe and dangerous flash flooding. Conditions deteriorated very rapidly in certain areas. There were numerous emergency evacuations and rescues in Columbia SC and surrounding midlands cities and counties. Homes were lost or significantly damaged. Sadly, about 20 lives were also lost. Roads were under water, bridges were out, and portions of the interstate and other main roads were closed.
Rescue crews and public safety personnel have already been hard at work around the clock, since the event began. State agencies were (and still are) doing their best to keep residents safe and to make sure accurate and timely information was/is being distributed. Additional concerns now involve possible additional flooding from compromised dams and levies, as well as overflowing lakes and rivers. Officials are urging people who are safe where they are, to stay home due to ongoing dangerous conditions. Curfews are in effect. Businesses and schools are closed.
Emergency shelters and water distribution sites have been set up for those who’ve had to evacuate, and for the many who don’t have clean running water, due to breaks in the City of Columbia water system and elsewhere. Requests are going out for volunteers and donations. Supplies are being brought in from other parts of the country, and special efforts are being directed toward making sure those in our numerous rural areas are safe and receiving food, water, clothing, and other needed supplies. So many are stepping up in big and small ways to take care of each other. Time, financial resources, and necessities are being given from near and far. From helping neighbors get out of flooded areas safely, to helping at the shelters to distributing water, so many are working alongside each other to address the many needs created by this disaster. I’m also proud to say that various local churches and faith-based organizations are getting involved in being the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.
Columbia is in the middle of the state, not on the coast, and we are not used to these sorts of conditions. Things like this are similar to snow or ice storms, in that they are not part of what is “normal” for us. As this event has unfolded, and continues to unfold, there has been a lot of anxiety, worry, uncertainty, and apprehension throughout our communities. Many are depleted, exhausted, and overwhelmed by what they’ve experienced and witnessed. Those who have been hit the hardest aren’t sure what they’ll do next. They’re grieving and stunned, and find themselves needing help in circumstances they never thought they would face. Their lives have been disrupted and completely changed in a matter of minutes and hours.
Even for those of us who have come through mostly unscathed, we’re having trouble taking all this in, processing what is happening and what it means. We’re glued to the local news and social media sources, to know the very latest on what’s going on. We’re wondering what else is going to happen, and braced for more bad news. We’re hearing about tragedies and crisis situations throughout the area, that we can’t even begin to get our brains around. We’re learning more and more about the extent of losses, damages and devastation. Those of us who have stayed safe and experienced minimal problems are sad for others whose losses were much worse. We’re humbled, horrified, and unsure what to expect - or how we’ll recover and rebuild as a community and as a state. We’re doing what we can to help each other, love our neighbors, and to work together.
In the midst of this tragic situation, I have to remember what the Bible says and what God promises. God tells me not to be afraid or overly anxious. Appropriate concern and prayer is how I am to respond to this situation, and to all others. Whether the crisis is big or small, I know I have a real and active relationship with the all-knowing God of the universe. Whether it is sunny or pouring rain, God is still God. He alone has complete and total knowledge of what is going on, and fully understands this complex situation. He knows what is needed. Because of this, I can be concerned but not fearful. God is with me – and with all of us impacted by this flood - as He has promised. He will give us comfort, peace, strength, and wisdom in this uncertain situation. He also gives us hope, and will be with us as we heal and rebuild. I’m so glad I don’t have to look to any human being, or even numerous human beings, for all the answers about this. I can pray, and put all the troubles we’re experiencing in His hands. I know we are loved, and that God is at work, when we see it in obvious ways - and when we don’t.
May we do as He leads and trust His goodness. May we remember that He will meet our needs. May we help and encourage each other, as He directs practically and spiritually. May situations like this keep us thankful, and bring our perspectives and focus back to what is truly important. May times like these help us not to take what we have for granted. May these hard times lead to new, restored, or strengthened relationships with God, and may this be a time of spiritual seeking and growth.
We appreciate your prayers here in Columbia and throughout SC, NC, and other impacted areas in the southeastern US. Please continue to pray for our emergency personnel and those on the front lines of keeping us safe and informed. Please also pray for our leadership, as they continue to make important decisions about what is best for everyone involved, and to obtain and distribute resources. Pray for those who have lost homes, and who only got out with the clothes they were wearing. Pray for those who lost loved ones in this flood. Don’t forget us in the weeks and months ahead, as the recovery and rebuilding process continues. Our needs are great -- but God is greater.