Out of the Flood: Kentucky Congregation Weathers Storm, Serves Community

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Disaster Relief, Loving and Serving

By Kim Ousley

According to weather.gov and weather.com, eastern Kentucky and central Appalachia experienced heavy rain, deadly flash flooding, and devastating river flooding between the 26th and 30th of July 2022. Rainfall rates, at times, exceeded four inches per hour across complex terrain, leading to widespread devastating impacts. Chavies First Church of God in Chavies, Kentucky, was right in the middle of the flooding devastation. Less than a year later, the affects of the disaster linger, but the Lord is using Chavies First Church of God to shine his light all across the region.

Only one factor stood in the way of the total destruction of the church building—it is situated on a hill above the surrounding terrain. Pastor Brian Bridges said thirteen counties were affected by the historic hundred-year flood, as it was being called by the news outlets. Creeks overflowed and people were left homeless. Many walked for miles to find a store to get food. None of them expected this storm to turn so violent overnight, yet it struck in the early hours of the morning when most were sleeping.

Bridges and other members prayed immediately about how they, as a church, could help the surrounding communities. “There was a gentleman in our church who used the church parking lot on a Sunday to set up his grill and start grilling all the hot dogs and hamburgers left over from a recent youth function to feed whoever came,” said Bridges. That was just the beginning.

Chavies First Church of God rises prominently above the landscape; a beacon of hope for the surrounding community.

For the next three months, somehow the word got out that the church was the main distribution center for anything needed in the local community. The news had told a story on the flooding and apparently people were flocking to the church or calling to see what they could bring to help those who had lost everything.

“People just called or showed up,” said Bridges. “Money was sent by the state offices to help buy food to feed people. Even the state offices of Subway sent a ton of sandwiches to feed anyone in need. Clothes, furniture, money, and other much-needed supplies were sent to the church to be distributed.”

Bridges also noted, “Having safe drinking water was the main issue.” Dr. Kassi Marshall, a physician and mom within the local church was able to make a connection to Sister Larraine Lauter of the Louisville-based Water with Blessings ministry, which the sister was the head of at St. Joseph. Before the flood, the organization had been distributing water filters with buckets to third-world countries. Up until now, they hadn’t been able to get it to those in need in remote areas of Kentucky. Sister Lauter had spoken to the Trenton Monitor newspaper and explained that the water is bio-contaminated and could be damaging to health.

“There is something we have to do in an organized, strategic way,” she said of mobilizing an effort to aid Perry County. “We don’t pick out a lucky few. We have to plan for the entire community.”

The newspaper reported that Water with Blessings was to partner with Chavies First Church of God—and anyone else who’d like help—to initially supply filters for 2,500 households in Perry County, home to 11,000 households.

Pastor Brian Bridges poses with a rainwater filtration system from Water with Blessings. Credit: Kassi Marshall.

Along with that, the manufacturer of the Sawyer PointONE water filters had offered a discount, enabling Water with Blessings to provide each filter, plus distribution and training, for $35 each. Since then, the church decided to build “tiny houses” for those who lost their homes in the remote community areas. They have received several monetary donations toward the building of the very first tiny house. Bridges said the first recipient is a newer congregation member who was blessed by the church during the first few months after the flood.

Bridges stated that it should be built and ready to be presented at the beginning of July. “He is living in a washed-out trailer at the present moment.”

The stories of God’s constant provision throughout these many months are amazing, according to Bridges. During the flood, their eighty-year-old piano player at the church lost her home and her piano she practiced on. The piano will be replaced with a brand-new electric keyboard once her home is finally fixed and she can move back in.

Another gentleman also lost his grill and everything he used to serve his local community with food. However, in the near future, Bridges said they will take him shopping to buy a new grill and whatever supplies he needs to continue his ministry. “We will have the best potato wedges around,” said Bridges with a chuckle.

Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

Feature (top) photo: Flood damage in the region of Kentucky hardest hit last year.

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