This last week there was severe winds and flooding in Vernonia Oregon. In it's wake was a small scale replica of the Gulf Coast after Katrina hit. I had the opportunity to be a part of the Body of Christ mobilizing in response to the emergency needs right here in our own back yard. As we drove into the secluded community I was hit with flashbacks of New Orleans, Light City, the 9th Ward, piles of debris on the streetside, black mold, Aunt Betty... I spent all day ripping down sheet rock, tearing out insulation, pulling up carpet, and throwing away broken, destroyed memories.
Many have criticized residents of Vernonia for not learning their lesson in 1996. In my conversations with home owners I was struck with a different story.
Vernonia hardly has a booming economy. A single mother was living in what is best termed as a shack. Another gentleman who has lived in Vernonia for the better half of a century explained how the flooding is even worse than 11 years ago; the previous flood was 300 years prior. He expressed frustration with the tax write offs lumber companies are receiving from their irresponsible clear cutting methods. He said he has never see more trees come through Vernonia then this last summer. And clear cutting had already reached all time highs in 1996. The correlation is too strong to ignore.
My hope is to be a voice for the resident of Vernonia to whoever reads this, because their voice will likely not be heard.
But yesterday was also a testimony to the heart and potential impact of the Church. I was pleasantly surprised by the 40+ volunteers from my church who were ready to serve bright and early on a cold Monday morning. Upon arriving in Vernonia, I was shocked to see the Baptist church we were serving under had transformed their facilities into a emergency resource center, including mountains of clothes and a fully stocked storehouse of food (which were all donated this last weekend by other local churches in the NW). We were also helping them prepare for today, as they are opening their doors for use by the city to continue classes for over 300 elementary students.
My prayers are with all those suffering and hurting through this disaster.