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Flood recovery remains Pa., N.Y. challenge

MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. (BP) — With water rising a foot every 15 minutes, Noel Carr and his young son Jerico grabbed a few possessions, the dog and five pet chickens before abandoning their home to historic flooding from Tropical Storm Lee.

“By this time the water was over our heads and we had no more access to our home,” Carr said Monday, four days after the flooding receded from Montoursville, Pa.

Fellow members of First Baptist Church in Williamsport, of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, had placed gravel to give Carr access through foot-deep mud to his home. Church members cleaned and gutted the house’s flood-damaged first floor and thrown out ruined furniture, appliances and clothing.

Carr, his wife Fawn and their 8-year-old son were in church Sunday, full of gratitude.

“It was very important that we see the people and start to thank them for what they’ve done,” Carr said.

“We see [God’s] hand working in this,” he added. “We’ve had a chance to minister to people that we would never have been able to minister to, especially my neighbors.”

Such ministry, both physical and spiritual, is the thrust of Southern Baptist relief and recovery workers who are stretched thin to meet the needs of many in the Northeast where Tropical Storm Lee brought heavy rains to areas that were still flooded from Hurricane Irene.

“What a blessing,” Carr said after some 20 members of his church, five of them trained disaster relief volunteers, responded to his need. “Currently, we’re still homeless. We don’t know where we’re going to live.” Carr hopes to rebuild as the church helps his wife and son secure temporary housing while he lives on his property in a camper trailer.

Kenton Hunt, Carr’s pastor and BCPSJ recovery coordinator, was busy ministering to Pennsylvania communities in need while also helping several families in the Williamsport his own congregation whose homes flooded.

“The damage in Pennsylvania is huge. We’re getting requests from all over the place,” Hunt said. “This is going to be huge.”

The adjacent Baptist Convention of New York is busy responding to needs in Binghamton, where more than 10,000 residents were evacuated because of the flooding Susquehanna River, the same source of flooding in Pennsylvania.

“It literally flooded the whole city,” said Mike Flannery, BCNY director of disaster relief. “The good part is the water is receding quickly. The challenge is getting mud-out teams from other communities.”

The BCNY is shifting its focus from Washingtonville and Schenectady to Binghamton, Flannery said. The feeding unit at Trinity Baptist Church near Schenectady, staffed by volunteers from Kentucky, will prepare meals for Binghamton through today (Sept. 12), while the Washingtonville feeding unit transfers to Davis College in Johnson City to begin serving Binghamton on Tues., Sept. 13.

A mud-out team from Somerset, Va., has responded to Flannery’s call for recovery help, but more teams are needed.

“What we’re trying to do is organize college students to do the mud-out in Binghamton,” Flannery said. More than 100 Davis College students are being trained in clean-up work in hopes of geting mud-out equipment and supplies. Flannery will speak Sept. 13 to some 30 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, hoping to mobilize them to help.

The Baptist Convention of Ohio has responded with volunteers for the feeding unit in Johnson City, replacing a team from the Pearl River Baptist Association in Mississippi who have returned home after serving in Washingtonville.

Sunday in Pennsylvania, the BCPSJ stationed a feeding unit in Hazelton that prepared 3,000 meals that night with the help of local volunteers and a group from Virginia. The BCPSJ is still assessing flood damage and need. Two churches in the BCPSJ have requested help, Hunt said.

“The problem for us is many of the volunteers we’ve called who would respond are affected by the floods themselves,” Hunt said.

Just after Hurricane Irene, the BCPSJ mobilized two mud-out units to clean about 40 homes in Noxen Township, Pa., only to have Lee reflood the homes.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” Hunt said of Lee coming so closely behind Irene. “You take a step at a time. [You] keep trusting in the Lord, not only for physical strength, but for spiritual direction in how to proceed.”
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer in New Orleans.