In the wake of the worst floods here in a generation, Church members and missionaries are reaching out to help others.
Earlier this month thousands of people were forced from their homes along the Ohio River and smaller streams in Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. At least 33 people died, scores were injured and hundreds of homes and businesses flooded. As of March 11, the water had crested in most areas, but a full evaluation of damage was not possible.All members and missionaries are reported safe. But in Cincinnati and Louisville, Ky., the homes of 26 member families were flooded and three others were destroyed.
"We were very lucky," said Neil Hahl, Cincinnati Ohio Stake president, explaining that not too many Church members were affected by the high waters in the area. He said the members, and especially the full-time missionaries, have been "stalwarts in the clean-up process. They did whatever needed to be done."
In the days after the river began to flood, missionaries worked with the Red Cross, helping with communications and working in shelters. One member, who owns a bakery, donated donuts to flood victims every morning. Another repaired electrical wiring in a Church member's home damaged by water. Several youth and seminary groups joined community clean-up efforts. Relief Societies collected blankets, pillows and cleaning supplies.
One LDS couple returned from a temple trip to find their basement flooded. The next morning, local priesthood leaders arrived and worked until after 5 p.m.
"It is amazing how many people are willing to help in these situations," said William Norton, president of the Louisville Kentucky Stake, explaining he got calls from members asking to help from as far away as Idaho.
And Church groups in the area are not finished working.
George R. Rahlf, president of the Cincinnati Ohio North Stake, said his stake has planned a "flood relief day." He estimates that, on that day, more than 250 Church members will work together to help elderly and disabled flood victims in their community.
Pres. Norton said many victims initially felt shock and disbelief. Now, he said, "they have seen an outpouring from everyone. They feel a great love."
All members and missionaries in Fiji have been reported safe after Cyclone Gavin struck the area March 8.
Two Church meetinghouses received minor damage; the spire on a third Church building was toppled. The homes of two member families were seriously damaged and 20 more were flooded.
Four fishermen died in the cyclone, which did major wide-spread damage to sugar and rice crops in the area.