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Published on 11 March, 2014

Small U.S. town still reeling from disastrous flood

Water damage reached several feet high in most buildings. (Photo by SEND International)

Water damage reached several feet high in most buildings. (Photo by SEND International)

USA (MNN) — Did you know that some construction crews work 24 hours a day, seven days a week? In the small town of Galena, Alaska, it is normal to see construction workers out on the Yukon River digging up gravel from under the ice.

Why? They are rebuilding and relocating roads. That’s because last May this town was devastated by a disastrous flood. An ice jam in the river caused the water to flow into the old and new parts of Galena. 90% of all buildings were damaged or destroyed.

SEND International had three missionary families living there at the time. When disaster hit, they were one of many mission groups that stepped in to help.

Jerry Casey of SEND North recalls some of the damage of the inundated village. He says, “Most of the buildings sustained water damage between two to three feet up on the walls of the buildings, and the buildings were already on stilts because of previous floods. This was a record flood for Galena.”

The SEND families in Galena were affected in various ways according to Casey: “Remarkably one of our missionary family’s house received very little damage and they’re back in that house. The other family had to move to a different house–a small cabin. And then one family actually had to leave the village, and they went north to a village called Huslia, north of Galena about 70 miles.”

SEND took on a supporting role helping the citizens clean up Galena, sort through what was left of their belongings, and rebuild. Much of their effort included saving existing buildings by drying out water damaged areas.

Over nine months after the flood, Casey says, “The recovery process is still going on. In fact, there’s a road construction crew up there right now that’s actually working 24/7 because, interestingly, to build roads in Alaska, it actually works better to do it in the winter time.”

Much of the repair work last year had to be done quickly before freezing temperatures arrived for the winter. Teams scrambled to prepare the newly-repaired plumbing and sewer systems for the -50 degree temps.

“Because it was considered a national disaster area, FEMA was there,” Casey reports. However, it took about three weeks for the situation to be declared a disaster. Until FEMA arrived, state response was working to deal with the aftermath of the flood. Most of FEMA’s work was focused on rebuilding government buildings and infrastructure.

Many home owners were left to fend for themselves. This is where the hand of God is seen working through his Body. “The churches in Anchorage banded together,” Casey says. “It was amazing. On a lot of my flights, I was hauling frozen pans of lasagna or different meals that were prepared and frozen here in Anchorage.” Even the simple act of making a meal was needed.

The work teams and supplies sent to Galena were allocated appropriately with the help of Galena Bible Church. Chris Kopp is the pastor of the small church. He and his family helped SEND and other missions groups know just what was needed where and when.

Their work for a small church was immense–and still is. “I guess the neat thing was to see how the Bible church in Galena reached out to everybody in the village, whether they were a part of the church or not. And then the churches in Anchorage also rallied to send supplies–whether it was food or building materials or work teams to go up there,” Casey says.

Casey also noted a lot of aid coming from the lower 48 states including Texas and Louisiana. Many missions groups native to Alaska stepped in to help as well. “It was a large group effort,” Casey explains. “Mission Aviation Repair Center, Samaritans Purse, a missionary by the name of Adam White–it wasn’t just SEND responding up there. It was really neat the way all the organizations that are based here in Alaska came together to go up there.”

SEND received recognition for their work from the town of Galena. They were awarded for their service that helped save many townspeople from despair. Their actions have even opened doors for sharing the Gospel.

The way that the Body worked together was phenomenal. However, as Casey explains, there is still a lot of work to do. Work teams are one specific need: “That’s one thing that we’re always interested in is folks that can come help because we did a hasty job of doing rebuilding and getting things ready for winter. It will be a 2-3 year project to get the village totally back on their feet. I know that there can be both opportunities for work teams and financial aid to help with the projects that are going out there. I know that that’s something that would be a benefit to the people up in Galena.”

If you’re interested in partnering with SEND during this extended period of reconstruction, here is a list of ways to come alongside financially. If you have questions about work teams, you can e-mail Galenayounglife@gmail.com.

Continue to pray not only for the physical condition of this town, but also for the spiritual condition of its residents. Pray that God would shine His light through His children working there.

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Call to action

  • Consider coming alongside SEND North with a financial gift.
  • Contact SEND to see if your church could send a work group in to help.
  • Pray for the residents of Galena as they rebuild their lives.

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