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Mo. flood destroys church
Brian Koonce, Baptist Press
May 16, 2011
5 MIN READ TIME

Mo. flood destroys church

Mo. flood destroys church
Brian Koonce, Baptist Press
May 16, 2011

DORENA, Mo. — When

the U.S. Army Corps Engineers blew the Birds Point levee along the Mississippi

River May 2, the waters washed away as many as 100 homes and

133,000 acres of fertile farmland. It also flooded a small Southern Baptist

church.

“The church is gone,” said LeRoy Davenport, pastor of Dorena

Baptist Church.

“I’ve seen aerial pictures, and it’s gone.”

The church building is still there, but at one point the muddy waters were up

to the edge of the roof. The day after Mother’s Day, when the National Guard

allowed property owners to inspect their homes via boats, a man reported to Davenport

that he stood in the window ledge and could see pews floating inside.

The church had been around since 1946 and had never had floodwater in it,

though it came close a few times.

When the floodway was activated, it was done so in part to save the town of Cairo,

Ill., which experienced a record

crest along the Mississippi River and a swollen Ohio

River. With rain continuing and water levels at historic levels,

the Corps said there was “no way to stop all flooding, but rather to do our

best to reduce the risk to life and property in the region.”

Photo by Bob Greenlee

Joann Hahs of First Baptist Church in Oak Ridge and Dan Dickerson of First Baptist Church in Millersville prepare trays of food for flood victims at the feeding station at First Baptist Church in Morehouse, Mo.

This spring the Mississippi River has experienced

precipitation 125 to 150 percent above normal. Corps experts estimate it will

take up to two months for water to recede from the floodway, assuming there is

no additional rainfall.

After the water has receded, it will take another 20 to 30 days for the land to

dry out.

If there’s an upside to the manmade flood, it’s that the residents of the floodplain

and members of Dorena Baptist at least had some warning. Most of the church’s

small membership lived outside the floodplain in East Prairie, but two who

lived in mobile homes had to move the homes to higher ground and are now out of

work.

“We knew it was coming, and kept praying,” Davenport

said. “We got the piano, pulpit and Lord’s Supper table out, but not

everything. The rest of it is gone. The brick on one side of the building is

gone, too. Then, if the water goes down like they’re telling us, there may not

be any roads left.”

Davenport said there isn’t a lot to

be cheery about and recovery is going to be hard work, but he sees a glimmer of

hope in the dark waters. There are lots of discussions floating around,

including rebuilding and permanently relocating.

“Maybe God just wanted us to move this church into town,” he said, referring to

East Prairie. “Whatever He wants, that’s what we’ll do. There’s no growth

possibility in Dorena simply because there’s nobody down there. It’s hard to

leave the site of your home church, but maybe this is what God wants us to do.”

Volunteers needed

In addition to Dorena Baptist, two other Missouri Baptist churches flooded in

the recent surge of the Mississippi River. Shining Light

Baptist Church

in Charleston and Hooe

Baptist Church

in Oran also were impacted. First

Baptist Church

in Morehouse has been among those to open as a shelter.

Volunteers are needed for large-scale cleanup as the water recedes.

Rick Seaton, a men’s ministry specialist with the Missouri Baptist Convention

and the state’s disaster relief coordinator, said he anticipates at least a

two- or three-week response in the area.

“We currently have mud-out teams beginning in the Poplar

Bluff area and are presently looking into the need for

other areas,” he said. (Volunteers need to go through their state convention’s disaster recovery unit or through the North American Mission Board.)

In St. Louis, the chainsaw work in

the wake of the Good Friday tornadoes is finished. St. Louis Metro Baptist

Association and local churches report that they anticipate being able to

fulfill any further requests for assistance. The official disaster relief

response site has been shut down.

“Some have been on this site for over two weeks straight, and there were around

328 jobs completed,” Seaton said. “We are very thankful to everyone both in

state and out of state who have responded and helped in this area.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Koonce is a staff writer for The Pathway, newsjournal of the

Missouri Baptist Convention.)

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