A Job Most of Us Never Expected

Rev. Rick King | February 4, 2014

Rev. Rick King

Rev. Rick King

I remember sitting in a Board of Trustees meeting at our church Wednesday evening, Sept. 11, 2013, and watching the hard rains continue to fall, as they had all afternoon, and remarking to myself: “This is not good. This is not normal, hard rainfall.”

There was something about the weather that reminded me of the torrential rains that caused flash flooding in southeast Minnesota in August 2007, while I was living there.  I was right.

Our church building was unaffected and my house remained dry, simply because of being on higher ground.  But just three blocks away from where my family and I live is The Greens subdivision, and it was underwater.  In fact, our local elementary school, Longmont Estates, had the highest number of Longmont households affected.  So it hit very close to home!

I quickly requested several hundred CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets for the families that were affected by the floods, and had them delivered to the Longmont Disaster Assistance Center.  Kristen Baltrum, a local Lutheran deaconess, was the warehouse manager, and she’s now working on long-term recovery with our committee.

I did not have direct contact with flood-affected residents who received the buckets, but I was very happy with the prompt response and attentive follow up from CWS personnel!  This helped in two ways.  The buckets went to residents who needed them in the weeks immediately after the floods, and then were made available later on to people who were delayed in getting back to their homes to start cleanup.  Best of all, my request for the buckets deepened a relationship with CWS, which began when our church assembled kits for Joplin, Mo., tornado survivors.

I’m now co-chairing the volunteer coordination teams of the long-term recovery groups for both Longmont City and Boulder County.  In December 2013, a CWS “Recovery Tools and Training” workshop was held in Boulder, Colo.  I attended and gained a beginning knowledge of the differences between the earlier stages of disaster recovery and the long-term stage.

I especially benefited from World Renew’s presentation on needs assessment and how it ties into the larger picture of long-term recovery.  The presentation emphasized that the focus of long-term recovery is on unmet needs.  While we may do other things, our priority is to organize to meet unmet needs.

Thanks to the CWS Recovery Tools and Training workshop, I have a clearer picture of what we’re supposed to be doing, and HOW we can do it most productively and equitably. It was pretty foggy at the beginning!

I’m sharing what I learned at the CWS training again and again, with people in my congregation, people in the community we serve, and people on the teams I chair.  I am emphasizing that this is going to take a while, and that we can’t rush or cut corners.  We’re building this long-term recovery group to do a job most of us never expected to have to do, and hope never to have to do again.  So even though we won’t do the job perfectly, we can take the time to do it well.

Rev. Rick King, Senior Minister, United Church of Christ, Longmont, Colo.