Fr. Allen Doerksen, Nov 20, 2021
Sometimes familiarity is a shocking thing! I woke up Wednesday morning (Nov 17th) to see a screen shot my daughter-in-law had texted me from the other side of the country; it showed the “Welcome to Abbotsford” sign as part of the first headline in the BBC world edition. I wasn’t expecting that! The tragedy that has imposed itself on Abbotsford, as well as other communities in the southern half of our province, seemed to come so suddenly and then develop so rapidly. Denise and I live just above the flood evacuation zone and it has felt surreal to walk only a short distance from our house and meet people who are forlornly looking at their homes and apartment buildings surrounded by water.
On Wednesday, Nov 17th, the Rev. Paul Richards, Deacon at the Church of the Holy Trinity contacted me and wondered if it might not be helpful to have some clergy present at the Evacuation Centre at the Tradex building at Abbotsford Airport. I was enthusiastic about this initiative and Rev. Paul and I introduced ourselves to the Evacuation Centre managers and they welcomed our presence, encouraging us to listen to people’s stories. It has been both heartbreaking and heartening to do so. Several people I talked to were in shock; one lady in particular, barely escaped with her life, being rescued from the top floor of her house as the waters swirled beneath her. I heard stories of truckers sloshing through waist high water on Hwy 1 after abandoning their rigs and yet other stories of people feeling guilty because they had to abandon family pets and farm animals.
I was heartened by the response of our province, the professionalism of the organization (we’re apparently getting to be ‘old hands’ at climate crisis management!) and by the compassion of the staff of organizations present, including the Salvation Army. After conferring with staff, Bishop John, Rev. Paul, and I were able to present a donation of $1000 of Walmart gift cards which will enable many of those present to purchase fresh underwear, socks, and towels; this opportunity will be especially helpful to the migrant farm workers present on site.
Thanks to Bishop John and the generosity of the people in our diocese! We are now moving to the next stage of this crisis; the evacuation centre will over the next week or so, become a “resiliency centre,” as people figure out “what next?” And as the difficult decisions over which buildings can be salvaged through renovation, and which cannot, are made. Our prayers and thoughts are with all those involved.
The PWRDF has now made it possible to earmark donations for the flood victims of B.C. Go to pwrdf.org/give-today. This week we are celebrating the final great feast of the Church Year, the Reign of Christ, a feast imagined after the calamity of WWI in answer to the perennial question, “Where is God/Christ when anarchy is unleashed?” This may become a feast of increasing poignancy as the “anarchies” predicted continue to increase over the coming decades.
May all of us continue to dare believe that in and through our small actions of kindness, Christ is indeed reigning with the power necessary to change our hearts and so change our world.