In the wake of catastrophic flooding across a wide area of northern Colorado, a disaster relief unit from Samaritan's Purse arrived in Boulder County this week to help homeowners by removing mud, debris and ruined belongings from homes -- and to share the hope found through Christ. The team is stationed at Rocky Mountain Christian Church in Niwot, Colo., within 15 minutes of the hard-hit communities of Lyons, Clark and Longmont. As soon as the team arrived, staff and volunteers began providing tools and equipment to local churches already engaged in relief efforts, and shortly thereafter entered some of the affected areas to begin helping victims.
The floods, caused by torrential rains that began on Sept. 9, destroyed at least 1,800 homes in the two hardest-hit Colorado counties of Boulder and Larimer and caused property losses estimated at nearly $2 billion statewide. Authorities have recovered the bodies of seven people killed in the flooding, and another 140 people in the state remain unaccounted for.
"There's definitely a need here in the Boulder area and surrounding areas," said Kenny Adcock, a Samaritan's Purse program manager. "As each day goes on, it seems to grow as we are able to collect more information, more data, to find out that there is that great of a need. I can see where we are going to get in and plug into here and restore lives and livelihoods to a point where families are going to see hope. And that hope isn't through just that physical labor but the ministry opportunities, to go in and love them in the name of Christ."
Missy Smith (pictured above, center) is the daughter-in-law of a homeowner Samaritan's Purse volunteers are helping in Longmont, Colo. Smith and her husband live on the other side of town and were not affected by the floods, but were cut off because of closed roads. "You hear all the flooding but you can't get out to even see because everything is being closed around you," Smith said. "You can't even imagine ... the devastation the entire state has suffered. You know, in 38 years I have never seen anything like this, never."
Smith's mother-in-law, whose neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, was not at home when the flash flooding occurred because she was at work, and Monday, Sept. 16, was the first time she was able to see her home. "We went with her on Monday just to brace ourselves ... and there was still seven inches of water in that basement when we came in," Smith said.
Wednesday, Sept. 18, was the first day Smith and her husband began working on cleaning out the damaged home. And first thing in the morning on Wednesday, Samaritan's Purse volunteers showed up to help. "We both just broke down," Smith said. "This is the very first day that we are coming in to clean up."
"Samaritan’s Purse came in to help with the relief efforts and cleaning out the basement," Smith said. "We are kind of directing them what to keep, what to go through. It's been amazing, just amazing, and [we are] truly blessed to have people like this because ... there would be no way that we could hire somebody to come in and do this. It would have just been the family trying to get through this without this help."
"We talked to our insurance company and [my mother-in-law's] insurance company and they aren't covering a dime," Smith said. "No loss, nothing. She would not be able to hire anybody to come in and do this kind of stuff, and to have Samaritan's Purse come in and help us is just such a blessing. Again, it's overwhelming to know that you guys go out and do things like this."
"You know, there's just certain things that you lose and certain things that you find and you take those as small victories, but above anything else, the animals are safe, the people are safe and we always come together as a family and support each other no matter what," Smith said. "That's what we do -- no matter what the trying times are, you pull together and you support each other, and we have a wonderful community and they come together and help."
"I can't thank anybody enough," Smith said. "It's priceless what everybody's doing here, and like I said, [my mother-in-law] would not be able to afford to have somebody come in and do something."
"You know," Smith said, "you just think about the fact that we're all okay. We've got people helping and we've got family and you know we've been through tragedy before and we've made it and we just will make it again. That's what we'll do."
Samaritan's Purse is asking for prayers for the Colorado flood victims during this difficult time. For those interested in donating to the disaster relief efforts, click here. For those interested in volunteering, please visit the Samaritan's Purse Volunteer Network.
Photos by Matt Powell/Samaritan's Purse
Anna Kuta is the editor of ReligionToday.com. Karina Petersen contributed to this report.
Publication date: September 20, 2013