Over the past 12 hours I have been in phone and e-mail conversations with Del Sexsmith, the President of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario; Faye Ford, the President of Saskatchewan Conference; and Craig Miller, who serves Oak Lake Pastoral Charge in Manitoba.
I am learning a great deal about the multiple layers of crisis people are facing in the areas affected by the flooding—flooding unlike anything seen there for over 300 years.
Please hold all of those affected by the flooding in these provinces in your prayers today, as the dike has now been opened and anxiety is high about what the coming days will bring. As we gather for worship in United Church congregations throughout Canada tomorrow, I know that you will be joining me in holding those who are suffering and those who are sharing the love of Christ in these dire circumstances. Our church’s General Council Office is in close contact with leaders in these areas to determine how we can best respond nationally in the most helpful ways.
First and foremost, we join in the Spirit of Christ. Thanks to Del, Faye, and Craig, I offer you particular concerns to bring into your prayers today, tomorrow, and in the days to come:
- Around Oak Lake, many have flooded farm land or homes. A large segment of the congregations and community is under stress due to road closures.
- Teachers, nurses, gas station attendants, and others who live on the north side of the Assiniboine are either driving two hours to get around the river or staying in RVs, trailers, or with other families in order to get to work.
- Many older adults have had water in their homes since last June or July—unheard of in what is usually a very dry area—and are under great stress as the pumps run full time.
- Ranchers, many of whom have spouses who work to finance the farms, who are just seeing the price for cattle come up since the BSE scare in the late 90s, now have land that is flooded and will likely not be accessible this season.
- Many of the evacuated families have low incomes.
- There is concern regarding current evacuees, especially those with limited resources. (I believe some members of Peguis are still not back home after a month, probably a more complicated issue than just flooding there.)
- Migrant workers are losing their work.
- The stress level for those working around the clock for the last 2–4 weeks to deal with flood concerns, the possible controlled breach in Portage, the road closures, and flooding in homes is worrisome.
Crisis upon crisis.
Those who live and work along the Assiniboine are accustomed to some flooding, but for many this year will be another of great difficulty. The flooding does not exist in isolation—in many cases it adds new urgency to other concerns, compounded by at least a decade of difficult times. These have received limited attention.
- Many folks along the river and in the area, especially up north, were able to harvest only 20% of their land last year as a result of a very wet spring. Some seeded twice and lost both crops. Saskatchewan was hit harder than Manitoba in this regard.
- Add to this poor prices for cattle for almost a decade—prices were just coming up this year—increased fuel prices, and poor market prices for some crops while other costs are increasing exponentially.
- Add to this water in their homes right now, the road closures, and the knowledge that they will probably not get a crop in this spring, and the anxiety level is running high.
I met many of these farmers and neighbours last fall at a town hall meeting in Brandon, Manitoba. These are people of great faith, hope and generosity.
May we bring our solidarity in faith, hope, and love to all of these. Let us join in prayer.