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Idaho church rallies aid for hard-hit community

WHITE BIRD, Idaho (BP)–When a chinook came to the Idaho logging and ranching community of Riggins, God already was at work.

The day before, pastor Randy Myers preached “Ordinary people can do extraordinary things” based on 1 Kings 18 at Pleasant View (Southern) Baptist Church in White Bird, 30 miles north of Riggins, in Idaho’s panhandle.

Monday’s news reports told of the devastation in Riggins:

Unusually heavy snowfall followed by chinook winds raised the temperature from 25 to 60 degrees in less than two hours. Acres and acres of melting snow resulted in house-moving mud slides. Four homes were swept down the snowmelt-swollen Salmon River; 16 more shoved off
their foundations were knee-deep in mud; another 20 were almost as bad. None of the families involved had flood insurance.

“The Lord woke me up at 3 a.m. (Tuesday, Jan. 7) and said I must do something for these people,” Myers said. “At 5 a.m. I called my friend, Ron Prentiss, our Brotherhood leader.”

By daylight they had a plan: They would start with Pleasant View’s 25 members, reach out to include the entire community in the relief effort and let Riggins know that God and the town of White Bird cared about them.

Six days later, a Ford Explorer leading four trucks loaded with clothing and food items plus $1,700 in cash broke through mud slides on state highway 95 and pulled up outside Riggins’ Assembly of God church.

“I’d match my church folks against anyone,” said Myers, Pleasant View’s pastor the past seven years. “They have a can-do spirit of love and compassion. We worked together to put into action an immediate disaster relief program.”

KROT-AM and FM radio station in nearby Grangeville made frequent public service announcements of a Friday night fund-raising taco dinner and Saturday morning pancake breakfast at the Community Center in White Bird. Grangeville’s newspaper, the Idaho Free Press, also provided free advertising.

Food and supplies were donated by the local Cash and Carry grocery store, two community meat markets and Pleasant View members.

People were asked to contribute $4 and a nonperishable food item for each fund-raiser. Most didn’t stop with one.

“Folks came with bags and boxes filled with clothes and food,” Myers said. “We wanted this project to involve the entire community, not just our church, and that’s what happened.”

The Southern Baptist church turned over the money, food and clothing to the Assembly of God church because it was better able to distribute the items according to need than was a church from a town 30 miles away, Myers said.

“We chose them because they were centrally located and could quickly distribute items to families most in need,” Myers said. “Also, they had the largest fellowship hall.”

A week later, it’s back to church as usual for a congregation of ordinary people who did something extraordinary. But wait! They do something extraordinary every week: Pleasant View’s weekday Good News Bible Club attracts virtually every youngster in town — except for the five from Jehovah’s Witness families.

“We have lots of good people at Pleasant View Baptist who are willing to get the job done, whatever it takes,” the pastor said. “We’re working to be a supply line, a lifeline, for people in need.”

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  • Lyn Johnson