calendar July 4, 2006 in Disaster Response

In Pottstown, hope amid destruction

A forlorn child’s train left stranded in the ceiling trusses in the parish hall at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pottstown shows the force of flood waters that inundated the basements of the church, parish house and parsonage.

Waters filled the parish hall basement, which houses offices, classrooms and a boiler room, literally to the ceiling. While congregation members got the computers out to dry ground before the flood, papers and books in the office were destroyed, and the fuel tank was floated off its mooring. In the church basement and parsonage, the flooding topped out at 4 to 5 feet.

Bishop Claire Burkat visited the church Monday to view the damage and encourage the volunteers who are working tirelessly to muck out the basements and remove residual water so electricity can be turned on. St. John’s has already been assisted by volunteers from a Hmong community that uses the church, from Grace, Royersford, Emmanuel, Pottstown and St. James, Limerick, with more help expected.

The church will need temporary office space as well as office supplies and equipment as the space is cleaned up. But despite the damage and the hard work of cleanup, congregation members have demonstrated their hope in their ability to laugh. Pat Lieberman, vice president of the church council, told the bishop that when the congregation gathered for worship Sunday in a nearby firehouse, the opening hymn was, “Shall We Gather at the River.”

  • Offers of assistance for St. John’s should be directed through Lutheran Disaster Relief’s point person in Pottstown, Pastor Burl Latshaw, at 484.366.4193 (cell) and 610.323.4312 (office)

Three times in two years. That’s how often residents in low-lying areas along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers have lost everything. And each time the local Lutheran Disaster Response cohort has mobilized to bring hope and helping hands to those affected. "When the church came down it was beautiful," one flood victim facing his third rebuilding said yesterday. "Going through this is hard, and it was just so important to us to know we weren’t going through this alone." You can accompany those going through this disaster by volunteering to help or providing funds and/or supplies.