Flooded Alaska Town Honors Relief Efforts of SEND International

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The evangelical missions organization is recognized for saving lives and offering hope.

International missions organization SEND International provides assistance

Galena, Alaska submerged in flood waters

90% of the homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Some homes were pushed off their foundations; others floated away. The whole town was crippled.

Each spring, communities in Alaska look forward to break-up: the time when the ice and snow accumulated over the last several months begins to melt. Last May, however, in the 500 person community of Galena, Alaska, break-up led to a record-breaking flood.

An ice jam on the nearby Yukon River had stopped the flow of the water and created a temporary lake 40 miles long. Over the next several days, the water continued to rise, engulfing the whole town. In some places, the water rose five or six feet in less than an hour.

The roads through town were soon impassible and electricity, phone and water services were cut. Eventually the only dry ground was around the old military base where the water crested just six inches below the top of the dike wall. That base was the only way out for residents of the remote town. Most were evacuated by plane to other towns while a few hearty souls lived on boats until the water receded two days later.

The town was devastated and declared a national disaster. 90% of the homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Some homes were pushed off their foundations; others floated away. The whole town was crippled.

SEND International had three missionary families living in Galena involved in church planting at the time. Martin and Silke Hornfischer, SEND missionaries from Germany, wrote about the disaster response from the local church they were working with, Galena Bible Church. “The church was able not just to focus on the member needs but also on others from outside the church. Volunteer workgroups from different churches all over the country are currently helping with rebuilding. The church is their base; lots of cots are filling the sanctuary. Everything is coordinated from here.”

Jerry Casey, a pilot with SEND North, spent months flying supplies and volunteers to Galena. He told Mission Network News, “It was a large group effort. Mission Aviation Repair Center, Samaritans Purse, a missionary by the name of Adam White–it wasn’t just SEND responding up there. It was really neat the way all the organizations that are based here in Alaska came together to go up there.” Together those groups sent supplies and food. Work teams cleaned out water-damaged buildings. Casey even recalls carrying in his plane plates of frozen lasagna made by church women in Anchorage to feed the people of Galena.

The generous response of all those churches and evangelical missions organizations greatly bolstered Galena Bible Church’s reputation in the community. When the Native Corporation in town had extra flood relief funds to distribute, “Our church in Galena was named the first candidate on the list,” reported Hornfischer. “It just shows that the perception of the church within the community totally changed for the positive!”

In fact, the town of Galena nominated SEND North for the 2014 Alaska Air Carriers Association (AACA) Emergency Response Award. In a letter to SEND, the AACA wrote, “We honor the continued support of your aviation fleet from the outset of the flood, and through the duration of the summer as you flew volunteers to help rebuild homes and lives. The people of Galena say that your generosity after the initial crisis may well have saved lives from depression by the loss of hope. From the nominations received on your behalf, it is obvious you are respected and held in high esteem. The community of Galena and Alaska’s aviation community commends you.”

The work continues. Casey says that “It will be a 2-3 year project to get the village totally back on their feet. I know that there can be both opportunities for work teams and financial aid to help with the projects that are going out there. I know that that’s something that would be a benefit to the people up in Galena.”

To assist in rebuilding Galena, make a donation at http://www.send.org/info/community-flood-recovery-assistance.

SEND International is an interdenominational faith mission agency with around 600 missionaries in more than 20 areas of Asia, Eurasia, Europe and North America. SEND’s mission is to mobilize God’s people and engage the unreached in order to establish reproducing churches. SEND members are multinational and are recruited and sent from sending offices and partner agencies around the world. For more information on SEND’s mission and ministries, visit http://www.send.org.

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Amy Walters
SEND International
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