USA (MNN) — Colorado’s deluge is being classified as a ‘1,000-year event’ (meaning there’s a 0.1 percent chance that a similar flood could happen in a given year).
The rainfall has simply been astonishing – upwards of 12 inches in less than 24 hours in some locations near Boulder. Devastating flooding resulted in some areas, and in others, the disaster approached historical proportions of 200 times the normal precipitation amounts.
Essentially, the weather experts say that two circular weather patterns converged just long enough to draw in moisture from the coast of Mexico and the leftovers of tropical cyclone Lorena. As the moisture pushed up against the Front Range it had trouble getting over it, so it dumped right where it was.
Mark Lewis, Reach Global’s crisis response director (Evangelical Free Church of America) says the news they’re getting from churches in the area is not good. Many local churches in the Front Range region are experiencing flooding. In some areas, “It’s hard to get out. Many roads are impassable because of the flooding waters and many bridges washed out.”
Road and bridge damage was extreme in the worst hit areas, with entire roadbeds washed away and bridges missing. Lewis explains, “I’ve had a lot of conversation with our church leadership team in Estes Park, Colorado. That town had been isolated and in fact, about 17 miles of road has been washed out.” Air rescue operations are underway, the scope of which hasn’t been seen since Hurricane Katrina efforts.
A Reach Global crisis response team is in Colorado assessing what outside resources will
be needed to come alongside their sister churches. Lewis notes, “I really do sense that from the many churches I’ve talked with in the last 48 hours, most all are engaging in some form in the community.” Local churches are mobilized and ready to respond to their neighbors as the water recedes.
Pastor Jess Mahon, (Rocky Mountain EFC) spoke with Lewis over the weekend. “‘Mark, right now we are just staggering as we see this enormous impact and the overwhelming need.’ ” Lewis says the scope of the damage is mind-boggling. “They’re realizing that is going to have really significant, long term effects.”
He added, “They characterize the area as mud, water, mudslides, roads washed out. There are areas where they haven’t been able to hear from some of their church members because of the isolated conditions that they get out of the main town.”
Estes Park usually gets about five inches of rain per year but they received 18 inches in four days last week, resulting in roads being washed out, and portions of the town being inundated. Small communities around them are completely gone. Every business, school and home has been affected. His church members took in 200 kids who had to be evacuated from a nearby YMCA camp.
“How will we be able to care for all those that have been impacted?” Pastor Jess’ pastor’s heart wants to be in the forefront of the crisis, encouraging his church members and reaching out to the community, but instead, he finds himself on the forefront of prayer and trusting God’s goodness. The reality, says Lewis, is, “We expect resources to be stretched very thin. Our churches in this region are very missional. They are very focused on outreach into the community and they are well-networked in support of one another.”
Certainly, significant financial resources will be needed for local EFCA churches to meet the needs in their communities, but, says Lewis, “From people to longer term staff, we’re short. Financially: the coffers are empty. Equipment: we really are coming before the Father on our knees with open hands and being committed.”
Lewis shares that the network of churches began responding when Pastor Jess made use of the only mode of communication he had left: the internet. “Others are already out helping with cleanup efforts. Some of the other churches looking at providing food and immediate relief needs.”
With roads cut off, teachers can’t get to school, business people can’t get to their jobs, their tourism industry flounders. He said, “The ripple effect will go on for years as people try to rebuild and deal with the financial calamity”.
Lewis says one of the ways Reach Global can help is by empowering the local church. “The greatest need is going to be financial resources that we can put in the hands of the local church to allow the local church to accomplish the ministry that they know best.”
There will be needs for big equipment, manpower and more in the days ahead. Until then, pray for wisdom as the pastors and the body of believers reach out to their communities with the love of Christ. Pray for churches to work in unity to bear a bold witness for Jesus Christ.