Monday, July 14, 2008

Photos and Videos from Work in Waterloo

(Photos submitted by Rev. Sheryl Campbell,
St. Paul's UMC, Waterloo)

Videos about Work in Waterloo
Any time you see pictures of water nearby, and actually, often when you don't even see the water in the streets, there is actually home-after-home-after-home with a basement with anywhere from 2 inches to 8 feet of water in their basement--most frequently, 4-6 feet. Hundreds and hundreds of these in Waterloo and towns around. This is what downtown Waterloo looked like at one point--for every one of these pictures, there are several worse places not pictured.

Oakville Update, July 14

Although significant ponds remain around town, most of the floodwater has receded in Oakville. The congregation has been worshipping together each Sunday at the Centenary United Methodist Church in Morning, which has also been the site for weekly gatherings for meals, conversation, and support. If electricity becomes available again soon and clean up continues at the current pace, the Oakville congregation hopes to be worshipping in their sanctuary by the end of August.

Volunteer in Mission teams from West Branch and Washington were in Oakville last week. And several more teams are scheduled to be on site in the next few weeks. The Oakville parsonage, which was not occupied at the time of the flood, was heavily damaged, and its future is uncertain.

-Phil Carver

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Matthew 25/Taylor School Mural

“What about the mural? Can it be saved?” This was the first question many asked after hearing the Matthew 25 Ministry Hub space had been flooded. The mural is an ironic picture these days. Giant children straddle the Cedar River and stand on top of downtown Cedar Rapids building bridges. The painting was meant to symbolize the dreams of the Ministry Hub, reminding us how children can help effortlessly overcome barriers. It was meant to be a hopeful sign of the future.

On June 13, the Ministry Hub and the mural were engulfed by water. Trinity United Methodist Church's main building, where the Ministry Hub was located, may have been damaged beyond repair. The hard work of a recent remodeling project and nearly all the Ministry Hub equipment were destroyed. “What about the mural,” was the question on top of everyone's mind.

The week after the flood, Rev. Clint Twedt-Ball walked into the muck and darkness of the Ministry Hub space. As in other flooded basements, the stench and destruction were overwhelming. The piano had floated from one end of the building to the other. The kitchen was destroyed. Paint was coming off the walls and ceilings in sheets. And the mural, it looked dirty, moldy and bubbly, ready to peel off the wall.

Later in the week, Muralist Eleanor Yates called. She was in Philadelphia working on a mural. Early the next week she would be traveling through Cedar Rapids to Fairfield, IA to work on a huge mural. She wanted to stop by and see the what had happened to her “Bridges” mural in Cedar Rapids. Clint told her the mural was destroyed, but she was insistent in wanting to see it.

Wednesday morning, June 25, the petite Eleanor borrowed a pair of size ten, men's wading boots and tromped into the muck of the Ministry Hub. Like a surgeon, she carefully cut around the edges of the mural, peeled it off the wall and rolled it up. Her first stop was at a car wash, where she thoroughly washed the pieces of the mural and laid them in the sun to dry. Like the city of Cedar Rapids, the mural waits, ready to be rebuilt.

Eleanor has collaborated with the Ministry Hub on another mural. “You Are a Gift” graces the wall of Taylor Elementary School, which took on three feet of water during the flood. In “You Are a Gift,” twenty-four children from the Taylor Neighborhood use their imaginations to create the world as they wish it to be. The hope of the Ministry Hub, Eleanor Yates and the people of Cedar Rapids is that the the “new” Cedar Rapids will be an even better city for these children than the “old” Cedar Rapids. If this flood is used as an opportunity to build bridges of opportunity for at-risk youth in our community, that hope may become a reality.

In an effort to make this hope real, the Ministry Hub is selling t-shirts with a picture of the mural on it that say, “Building Bridges and Loving Our Neighbors As Ourselves.” The t-shirts cost $30, can be ordered from, and one-hundred percent of the money raised will go to help children impacted by the flood.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

From Rev. Sheryl Campbell, Waterloo, St. Paul's UMC

June 27, 2008 Waterloo, IA

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

First of all, I will tell you that we could use some help in our area.

Like everyone else, we really hate to ask—there are so many great needs everywhere in our world. And our little ol' floods actually are small compared to some of the great disasters in our world, even in recent months…

Yet, this is a GREAT opportunity, if you feel called to pray for, share with, or partner any efforts in this area. If you have a prayer team of 2 or 22, a mission team, some dollars to share, we are being shown hour by hour one or ten or one hundred more persons who are experiencing great loss and grief along with many of their family and neighbors and friends….

A quick punch line is that our small-but-loving church in the north part of Waterloo, IA is hosting and helping to dispatch mission teams from UMC churches, UCC churches, ANY churches, individuals, groups from Habitat for Humanity, Vista/Americorps, and anyone the Lord sends to minister to folks not only in our city, but also in smaller towns and rural places within quite a radius of here. I am someone who is simply trying to enhance the wonderful working-together and praying-together of so many terrific folks. I also seek to be a support to my own parishioners and everyone else God is putting in my path—as well as encourage and communicate with others who may wish to do the same.

A great big enthusiastic thanks to Pastor Terry Plocher of Reinbeck, IA (30 miles away) who already after a brief communication with UMC Volunteers In Mission has been here in person and has brought several in his church to "BE the church" TO affected people. One small example of many things they are doing in Christ's name--they have helped one homeowner carry out very heavy water-soaked papers, ruined furniture and multitudinous personal items, have helped to finish pumping and cleaning a basement, have now stripped and hauled out sheet rock, all while being of great comfort and cheer to a very stunned lady who can't understand why she can't really move—after all, she has only been "inconvenienced…" They (Reinbeck) have been here twice—and promise more in the future. Pastor Terry even took the time to visit three of my folks in the nursing homes this week (I have about 30!), to remind them of the Lord's love—and that Pastor Sheryl and the church have them in our thoughts and prayers but are just a little busy right now.

Pastor Terry and at least one of his former churches were impacted by massive flooding and disaster about 15 years ago. He now is equipped to help with keen insight to the chaos and need. I was serving a church part-time in Grand Forks ND/East Grand Forks MN when 80-90% of that combined community went under water as the build up from blizzards melted in April, 1997. I then was able to stay with them full-time for a year of their disaster, cleanup and rebuilding process. Now we learn from them. Another colleague from Waterloo's Eastside Ministerial Alliance, Martha Frazier, helped and served in Katrina for years and now helps ministers to minister in Waterloo. May we all continue to learn from one another, as we unite to build one another up in the Lord.

Also GREAT thanks to so many others who have called, who have scheduled, who are praying and discerning what to do. I so much want to hug you all! Our churches and many other agencies are working together QUICKLY to share across every denominational line to host and dispatch any one who would like to come and help. We were so happy to receive a visit on Monday, June 23 from Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Iowa Conference United Methodist Church, along with Bishop Alan Scarfe of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa. They came with people from UMC Iowa Conference Disaster Relief, UMC Iowa Volunteers In Mission, UMC news and publications, and UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief). They listened to us carefully, though they had so MANY other people in the state to listen to as well that day! The Bishops will be happy to know that we at St. Paul's UMC already are partnering with St. Luke's Episcopal Church to host short term mission work groups coming in this summer. I am kind of assuming this will lead to more…

You—or someone you know—can help church-to-church, neighbor-to-neighbor, or in many aspects of the cities, Red Cross, United Way, and more. Many of you already are—thank you! Large experienced early-disaster-response Christian agencies such as World Hope and Samaritan's Purse have set up and can equip-trains-dispatch individuals or small/large working groups immediately to help those on the lists. (World Hope has helped several of our parishioners already!!) More are coming. I hear MUCH praise from those who have worked Katrina and other disasters for years about what United Methodist (UMCOR) and Presbyterians and Lutherans and others do in ongoing wondrous work and help for others—again, hand-in-hand with all the above-mentioned and more. I know they are at work in Iowa, preparing to do it again, and stay for the long haul. As far as now, you don't have to be from afar off to lend a hand—local residents who are not overwhelmed can help for a half-a-day or a day or more as they are able. Physical labor, friendship walking-with, or even helping an elderly person sterilize their flooded china or jewelry or other keepsake can be of great help and support. And pray.

I am writing from St. Paul's UMC in Waterloo Iowa. Anything I say here can apply to many many communities around us, most certainly and worse (?) Cedar Rapids, Coralville/Iowa City, and more to the south of us all. Towns such as New Hartford, Palo, Chelsea and others have widespread damage beyond our belief—AND all of the environs, of course. Crops and grazing lands have been ruined for the season. Other businesses are out-of-business or struggling to figure out what to do now. Our news media simply cannot cover it all adequately in order that we all should understand the extent of the damage and havoc for all… I will speak for my perspective of our immediate area, and you can simply project the same and more for areas north and east and south and west of us.

Waterloo/Cedar Falls area (we call it "Cedar Valley") and surrounding towns have experienced a greater "natural disaster" crisis than anyone ever can remember, with the incredible flooding that began June 9 and 10, and then kept continuing, and continuing. Waverly has been incredibly hit. Parkersburg, New Hartford, areas north of Dunkerton, and so many rural areas around still are stunned and many out of their homes since an incredible F-5 (really-really-big-and-destructive) tornado hit May 25 and took or greatly damaged many homes, churches, farms and other businesses. New Hartford then seems to have been much-covered by flood waters—I haven't even been there yet—but my friend who lost her sister-in-law (killed in the tornado)—and also suffered much wind damage personally and everyone else there she knows—told me yesterday that the green flood slime which came two weeks later is still in her home as she and her husband are living with their grown kids in another house for now. The pictures of New Hartford under water several days ago that I finally saw on news media last night were incredible.

My eyes are here in Waterloo where more have been affected than ever before—with floodwaters, storm sewer back-up, ground-water in basements, and more. No matter how large or small the water damage, the mold is here, which creates more problems of its own. Sometimes this massive flood has taken, wrecked and twisted a whole home like one of my parishioners.

Sometimes it has "simply" filled a home-including the main floor-with violent flood waters, leaving a stinky mess to clean up and incredible waiting, paperwork, more waiting, confusion and chaos—while the adults of the family need to still go to full time work every day and then deal with whatever else they can do after hours. Sometimes it is like another one of my parishioners who just had to wait for days and days for the water to quit coming in through the basement walls, inundating and ruining "only" the water heater, furnace, washer, dryer, everything stored there they had no time to get out. They feel much better now that they have removed 7000 pounds of soggy crud from their basement, have actually been power-washed and sanitized thanks to a Christian volunteer group, and now simply have to connect with overworked contractors with long waiting lists for all the rest and deplete the personal savings they had. They are so happy to have running water again after two weeks without. Hot water will come later. Their pets are still with them. SO fortunate compared to others! Did I mention they both are over 80? Their grown son has helped them constantly. He is worn out, too—though the flood never touched his house.

Another couple I know did not want to call any of the Christian or city or United Way agency help lines. After all, they only had an inch or two of water in their basement. But that is enough to completely soak a carpet, make dressers fall into pieces and render a precious cedar chest unusable, and mold up every piece of camping equipment, along all their daughter's bedroom belongings, Christmas decorations and more. Fortunately, a Habitat for Humanity group already staying in our church made themselves available after their other work yesterday to come over and lift everything, including that horrid now-moldy carpet (it used to be red!), up out of the basement and to the curb. Across the street they could also watch the heavy-loading equipment driving and scooping up multiple building-high mounds of personal items and furniture that used to belong to everyone in the east-Waterloo neighborhood—last Saturday everyone who lived in the area was invited to dispose of it there—and the ones who had the energy and the strength did. My couple was a little behind—he has been out of work (self-employed) since a very difficult surgery 4 months ago, and she still limps from last year's hip-replacement surgery. They did enjoy sharing with the Habitat folks about the 17 years' worth of mission trips they used to go OUT on, around our country, shoulder-to-shoulder with friends from Methodist and Catholic churches—they called the group the "Metholics." Anyway, they now have had the energy to call a help line and get on a list. World Hope will take care of the next steps as soon as they can—and they are discipling the rest of us to help people like them and others in the future.

I found out two days ago that three predominantly Black churches were so flooded that they likely will never be in those buildings again. I know many others were greatly damaged. Parsonages have been damaged—including those of our own local UMC brothers and sisters and more I don't yet know of. Others, like ours, were not touched—which enables us to offer our worship space to share (we only have one Sunday service at 9am), and to pray for others, and to host work groups. We also are continuing with our brand new 1st & 3rd Wednesday Evening worship—that is bringing some new people in the doors—some who "don't do" Sunday mornings… we'll see.

I don't know what else to say—I'll share what I can as I can, but sitting in front of a computer to write is a luxury I used to do for an hour a day, and now simply try to find a few minutes here-and-there in order to catch up.

There has been incredibly low numbers as far as loss-of-life directly due to these hits—yet we all know that to each family that has lost THEIR loved one, the disaster is beyond hurt—as with everyone suffering at any time whether or not it makes the headlines. Keep praying for those now facing post-disaster injuries, depression and other mental afflictions, reactions from air tainted with mold or carbon monoxide, and more. We have to be so careful, and so caring, now and on into the future.

Let the Holy Spirit remind us all to be so careful and caring, in these situations, and the others everywhere day by day. May we all be ready to let our lights shine in the name of Jesus Christ, to help lighten another's darkness or share the load, to offer our time and worship and prayer and praise to the God who made us and loves us, including taking that Sabbath time to allow God to restore peace to our souls.

Please pass this on to whomever you think should read it. I don't know how to reach you all, and even those I could look up in directories of various kinds, I just don't have time right now. Bless you all.

In Christ,
"Pastor Sheryl" Eash Campbell
St. Paul's United Methodist Church
319-232-4790 Church number (secretary is in T, W and Th 8am-noon)
319-231-9161 (Pastor's cell phone—yes, it's really ok to call, but if I don't answer, leave a message PLEASE!)

Flood Help Links:
Iowa Conference United Methodist Church
Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
World Hope International
Samaritan's Purse

Reflections On the Week of June 8, 2008

The storm clouds gathered and the Upper Iowa River rose. One by one, the focus of the community shifted from ordinary weekend pursuits, to all of the droplets in ever-growing streams. Many grew earnest in prayer. Time stood still. Time rushed past.

My home is on the west side of Decorah in an area where a mandatory evacuation was issued on Monday. I heard the news on the radio early in the morning. I had just driven back to my house after spending the night helping residents of Aase Haugen Assisted Living get comfortable in the churches fellowship hall, (which had became their refuge during their evacuation). The Emergency Management Team had issued an evacuation order for two nursing homes and an area of Decorah which is known as Freeport at midnight. The river was flooding. Nursing home and assisted living residents had been awakened in the middle of the night, dressed, and placed on chartered busses, ambulances, school busses and van to make the trip across town to our church. It was disturbing for them and their staff. Our church members greeted them, held their hands and helped to soothe shaky spirits as the rain continued to fall, and the river continued to rise.

At dawn a mandatory evacuation was issued for the neighborhood where I reside. I had literally just turned into the driveway in hopes of lying down for an hour when I heard the news. And I was confused about the items which I should rescue. I picked a few things (clothes, shoes, bills, legal papers) and snatched the cats. When I walked out the door I did not know what the future held. We were told the dike was crumbling around Luther College, and I had images of my home floating away. At the same time all of those tangible things which fill it faded in their importance to me. The things that are truly important are intangible. What is important is my faith, family, church community, friends, memories and my health cannot wash away. Many along the Upper Iowa River who were also asked to evacuate understand my feeling.

Well, the damage to the dike was limited and so my neighbors and I could return to our home in the evening. All of us had water standing in our basements. Some had upwards of 6 feet, others less than 18 inches. The water in my completely finished basement rose 30 inches. Everything from Christmas decorations to dry wall to laminate flooring had to be carried out and immediately dried (or sent to the curb). I lost a lot of items and cleaning out was a daunting task. But capable church members heard the call. We created a central way for those who needed help to ask for it and those who could help to volunteer their services. I was also helped. It’s very humbling.

The lessons learned from a natural disaster are like pebbles that fall into a still lake. The pebble may drop in one spot, but ripples spread throughout the pond and touch other pond-dwellers. We are all changed by the experience. The way caring community and church members pulled together to face the flooding and its after-math was Godly and good. While a lot of people were helping me, others were helping different family and friends. All over the county people were helping each other. It is impossible to name everyone who sacrificed and helped beyond all expectations. Then again, people didn’t sand bag, muck out, make maid-rites or help their neighbor to gain recognition. People stepped up because it is what Christians are called to do. In other words we responded to the call of Christian duty.

I will never forget the events of June, 2008, but not because of the flood. I will never forget and always marvel at the community of Decorah’s (and First UMC’s) response to it. “Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Carol Kress
First United Methodist, Decorah, Iowa

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Loving Our Neighbor Teams

Matthew 25 is still feeling there is a need for listening ears and personal conversations. The Ministry Hub's plan is to send groups out with homemade cookies on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings for the forseeable future.

Individuals are encouraged to meet at Sharon UMC, corner of 18th Ave. and 9th St SW at 6pm tonight and 9:30am Saturday. There will be a brief training and send off. Total time commitment is 1 1/2 hours.

There is no need to call ahead. Just show up on Tuesday or Saturday and show the people of Cedar Rapids impacted by the flood that you want to support them.

God's Peace,

Monday, June 30, 2008

On Doing What We Do

On Doing What We Do

It was a few weeks ago Friday evening and the water had risen.

Gathered in prayer for the healing and recovery front of us, the United Methodist Preachers planned and prayed for two hours. There were tears; there was support and an overwhelming feeling of God inspired resolve.

The water crested and began to subside. Tuesday morning, block by block the neighborhoods were being opened for folks to see what was left of their material lives. From the middle of it came a phone call, it was a colleague who simply said; “can you please come to my neighborhood.”

For years those were her people, the people of another neighborhood on the other side of the river with whom I and my congregation had little if any connection. That Tuesday everything changed. Her people – the whole neighborhood became what they always should have been – our people.

We quickly trained teams of pastors to go house to house offering an ear, shoulder, presence and prayer to those who had lost much of their “everything.” Simultaneously our volunteer structure was ignited and men and women with trucks and trailers began helping people move their possessions to storage places. Almost immediately tents were set up on the church lawn where water and refreshments for the already wearying workers could be given. Within half a day “muckers” from every manner of church, volunteer organization, circle of friendship and kinship began the process of removing the “muck” from homes.

No one knew the future – only the present seemed certain, people needed help and the Christians were there to offer it in voluminous ways. Why?

Steve Sjogren once wrote: “We love, we serve and care for others because that is the normal behavior for people who are filled with God’s Spirit. We are Christians. Christ was the ultimate servant. We can’t help but serve because the Spirit of the Servant has filled our hearts. When we serve, we are just being who we are naturally.” For me this has always been the essence of why we do what we do as individuals and as the body of Christ.

The opportunity before us is long and arduous. The opportunity before us has been mapped out by the Servant Master of us all who is willing and planning to walk it with us. There is much to do, much to pray for, many to be served all because it rained too much in Iowa this spring. We are committed as Christians to do what we do for however long it takes to heal our cities and state because simply; we are the Christians and for the time being, that is what we do.

In Greatest Expectation,
Rev. Mike Morgan
First UMC, Marion