Flood Recovery Renews Community
At St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Eureka, the word “community” now has a renewed meaning. Six months ago, areas of Missouri were devastated by winter floods—Eureka, Missouri being one of them. “As a community, we had been a little guilty of not embracing the lower-income area outside the city limits,” St. Mark’s member and flood recovery case manager, Denise Kasten says, “but [since the flood] that has completely changed.” St. Mark’s began a flood recovery effort for their members as soon as the roads were navigable, but as they were working it had soon become clear that the damage reached further than just their congregation.
After identifying homes that needed rebuilt or repaired, the congregation organized temporary housing for survivors in local hotels and prepared meals for them. “The first priority was to get beds, water, food, and heat for them,” Denise said. Then with the tireless efforts of the construction manager Chris Hosley, Pastor Bob Liebmann, a dedicated group of volunteers, and a new tool trailer from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, St. Mark’s began reaching out to rebuild the neighboring mobile home and river house communities.
St. Mark’s connected with Lutheran Family & Children’s Services—Disaster Services, who arranged for additional volunteer groups to travel to Eureka and offer their time and skills. An experienced volunteer group from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Appleton, Wisconsin arrived in June and stayed for one week. Denise recalled one man who, upon being shown his newly repaired home, broke down into tears. In celebration, the group of volunteers and their pastor also shed tears of joy as they joined with the man and performed a house blessing ceremony.
When Denise was asked about her most memorable experience thus far, she shared they story of Joe*, a man whose home was a project site.. “It was Easter morning and in the church doorway I see Joe* with the sun shining behind him. I had invited him to church so many times and he never came. I ran and hugged him and invited him to sit with our family. So many members already knew him since we had been working on his house by the river for months. I’ll never forget when at the end of the service he said, ‘I can’t believe how comfortable I feel here.’”
While there are still some families who are unable to return to their homes, St. Mark’s believes every family will be able to return once the work is completed. “Our hope is that they will see us as Christ’s hands and feet and they will know that God loves them,” said Denise, “these are people and they belong to all of us—they’re part of our community.”
St. Mark’s asks for your prayers as the flood recovery effort continues. They are also in need of more volunteers and ask you to consider offering your time and abilities!
To learn more about St, Mark’s flood recovery efforts, visit their website at http://www.stmarkseureka.org or call the church office at 636.938.4432. You can also contact Ben Perrin, Disaster Services Manager at Lutheran Family & Children Services Disaster Services at BenP@lfcs.org