EllicottCityFloodBy Sharon Mager

ELLICOTT CITY, Md.—Churches in Ellicott City have quickly rallied in response to a flood that occurred on July 30 in the small historic old mill town of Ellicott City. The flood, caused by a strong storm that swept through the area, resulted in massive destruction and was responsible for the death of two people swept into the Patapsco River. Metanoia Church and Bethel Baptist Church, both minister in the midst of the flooded area and are taking the lead in ministry efforts. Metanoia Church meets at the Roger Carter Community Center, now being used as the community’s relief center where Red Cross volunteers and others are working to respond to needs of area residents. Bethel Baptist Church has offered their facility for Metanoia to use in the interim.

Metanoia Church Pastor Adam Feldman and Bethel Baptist Church Pastor Ken Cavey  have both been out sharing with residents, business owners, first responders and relief workers on the streets giving them coffee, praying with them, crying with them and encouraging them.

Metanoia Church hosted a meeting on July 31, at Catonsville Baptist Church, to gather those who wanted to pray for the community and discuss ways to help.

Adam Feldman introduced Jesse Florida, a staff pastor, at Metanoia.  Florida, in addition to his pastoral duties, will serve as a temporary part-time liaison with the county, state and other relief agencies with funding by the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.

Feldman opened the meeting calling the flood “historic,” and “catastrophic.” Over six inches of rain fell within two hours.

“It was just unbelievable. The flood started at the top of the road and continued overflowing and coming down. The river also rose, which is why it was so catastrophic,” Feldman said.

Feldman addressed three questions during the gathering: “How should we process this tragedy?” “How should we pray?” And “How do we prepare to serve?”

“We process this as Gospel people,” Feldman said. Though it is a horrific tragedy and the community may never be the same, we carry good news. “The good news is that our God knows suffering. When we pray, we pray as a people who have a God intimate with suffering. Jesus died, but it didn’t end there. He conquered the grave and we believe one day he will wipe away our tears. “We will give shelter, food and Good News,” he said.

Regarding prayer, Feldman suggested the language of lament. “Lamenting is a gut response of grief – it’s a moaning, and it’s a rending of our hearts before our Lord, a desperate cry to God to act and respond. It’s real, it’s personal and it’s corporate,” he said.

Feldman read from Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day…The Lord Almighty is with us.”

Feldman said, “We pray knowing God is with us.” He told those in Metanoia Church that the flood didn’t surprise God, that when He planted the church in 2005 He knew that members would be there to serve in the aftermath of the tragedy.

How do we prepare to serve? “As a body…will we be known as people in whom the Spirit of God dwells or will we act in our own strength and resources and steal the glory of God?

“Will you make the decision to sacrifice in the coming days or will your life stay the same?” challenged Feldman.

Participants gathered in groups to pray for the community—for friends and family members of the victims, those who lost businesses and residences, for leaders to have the necessary energy and resources and for guidance and wisdom.

Jesse Florida shared that there is a link on the church website where volunteers can donate funds and service. To date, over 4,000 people have volunteered.

Network Disaster Relief Coordinator Bruce Conley and Network Strategist for Church Strengthening & Community Engagement Ellen Udovich met at Bethel Baptist Church on August 1 with Feldman and Ken Cavey to follow up regarding disaster relief response.

“Things are very much in flux,” said Udovich.

“Crews are still shoring up damaged foundations. Homeowners have received no word when they can visit their homes to pick up items—some ran out without identification or money. Business owners are just now being escorted down to see property. There is no estimate as to the number of homes, businesses or artist studios that were affected. Because homeowners have not seen their homes, they don’t know if their homes were damaged or just part of the ‘no go zone.’

“The county executive has announced that the areas will be closed for at least a week until it is deemed safe and to allow work crews to clean up the area. More detailed information regarding the needs will be available later.”

Udovich said pre-existing relationships developed by Metanoia and Bethel churches have been helpful and will be beneficial in the disaster relief and recovery processes.

Metanoia is collecting donations to help with longterm response to the flood in the greater Ellicott City area. Churches can donate here: http://metanoiachurch.org/ec-flood-relief-donations. For more information, or to volunteer, visit the Metanoia website link.