When the waters of Rock Creek began to surge across its banks into homes and businesses in Red Lodge, Montana, the members of the Church of the Rockies began to respond. At first, it was neighbor helping neighbor, checking on one another and offering aid. Then, the Red Cross arrived. The church family quickly began to volunteer to be the hands and feet for this relief organization. They began preparing and delivering meals, distributing supplies and helping coordinate the response. The church also has a benevolence fund and they too began to meet immediate needs.
Pastor Justin Carter said, “I’m so proud of the way our church has responded. Every day, I’m hearing new stories of how church members have served the people of Red Lodge. It’s amazing. The church immediately reached out to community leaders to offer our facility to be an emergency shelter. We made a few meals, but quickly realized that coordinating with the Red Cross was our niche. Working together, we have had the greatest impact.”
In the next few days, coordination with the Disaster Relief Unit of the Utah/Idaho Convention and our Missouri Baptist partners began to take place. A Missouri shower unit that had been assigned to Lee Merck for summer ministry in Bozeman was redeployed. Then, a team from Utah/Idaho arrived to coordinate “mud out” crews. As basements have been cleaned out, the team offers to spray them with “Shockwave” to kill bacteria and mitigate against mold forming. As these homes dry out, they will be ready to rebuild. The team has had opportunity to pray with flood victims, exchange stories, and be a source of hope and encouragement.
Just downstream, in the small community of Fromberg, many homes were also devastated by this historic flooding. Pastor John Finley and the Refuge Church have jumped into action. In the last week, he has met a half dozen families who need a mud out crew. God is opening doors for spiritual conversations and local officials have asked him to provide counseling in the evenings.
John and Justin are working together to coordinate MTSBC teams who are ready to offer relief. South Hills Baptist Fellowship recently sent a cleanup crew to Fromberg. Tom Blankenship was a member of that team. He said, “The family we helped were so grateful and very open to talk. They had so much to share and were open to listening about the hope of the Gospel.”
Trey Haidle, the youth pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, also brought a team of twelve students to Fromberg. They tore the sheetrock out of two basements and power washed mud out of a garage. They emptied the furniture out of a house and loaded eight trailers full of trash. He says this was a bonding time for these students. Serving others gives them a glimpse of what it means to unite as church.
Expedition Church in Livingston and Gardiner Baptist Church have also partnered to deliver thousands of pounds of food and water. Darryl Brunson had multiple teams planned this summer for outreach and community service. He has redirected the purpose of these teams to fill sandbags, clean out homes, and offer hope and encouragement. By working with state and local officials, Britton Gray has a pulse of the needs of Gardiner and the long-term impact of the flooding. With the town cut off from Yellowstone National Park, most of their businesses may not survive. Together, they can mobilize teams to provide assistance to these communities. Expedition Church is raising funds to help families in need. You can give directly by going to www.expeditionmt.org. If you are willing to mobilize a team to serve up and down the Paradise Valley, you can reach out to these pastors at [email protected] or [email protected].
The MTSBC has also set up a giving tab at www.mtsbc.org to provide disaster relief and recovery assistance. Or, you can mail a check to the MTSBC with disaster relief in the memo to 1130 Cerise Road Billings, MT 59101. If your church needs resources to serve your community, reach out to Dr. Barrett Duke at [email protected] . We stand ready to support our churches. This is the perfect time to live out the vision of Go Montana.