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Sometime familiarity is a shocking thing! I woke up Wednesday morning (Nov 17) 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 17, 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 the Reverend Richards 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, 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 Stephens, the Reverend Richards 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.

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.

Editors Note:

In a report to PWRDF on November 24, Bishop John Stephens reported that additional diocesan clergy have been visiting the EVAC Centre at the Trade-X building at the Abbotsford Airport. In Hope, BC, the Vicar at Christ Church, the Reverend Timothy Morgan, along with many volunteers from the parish and in the community, opened the hall as a place of refuge.  People were able to get warm and to get food. In Agassiz, All Saints Church, were also involved in being a place of refuge to those stranded or fleeing the flooding. In Sardis, the rector of St. John the Baptist, the Venerable Allan Carson was stranded in his car for many hours.  Eventually he was able to get home and then be part of the outreach to those in need in Sardis and Chilliwack. 


Deacon the Reverend Paul Richards presents Erin (one of the Evac. site managers) with the $1000 of Walmart gift cards.