Members and missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many in yellow Helping Hands vests, have spent more than 12,000 hours helping victims of the disastrous summer floods in Europe. Downpours led to small rivers swelling into torrents that swept away vehicles and killed more than 200 people in western Germany and Belgium in mid-July, according to news reports.
In the weeks following the floods, volunteers have headed into the mud-soaked communities in Germany and Belgium to help clean debris out of homes and businesses. Members in Luxembourg have donated clothing to local organizations assisting flood victims. The Church also contacted members in affected areas, offering pumps, food and support, according to Sept. 9 reports on the United Kingdom’s Newsroom site.
Locals in Germany’s Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler began calling the missionaries “Engel unterwegs” (“angels on the go”), according to United Kingdom Newsroom reports.
“There was an outpouring of kindness, love and unity. Fear was met with courage, despair with hope,” said Elder Erich W. Kopischke, first counselor in the Europe Area presidency and a General Authority Seventy, in the release on United Kingdom’s Newsroom site. “As a Church, we’re deeply grateful to all who’ve sacrificed their time and resources to help those in need. Seeing our missionaries and members serving alongside with neighbours, friends, and with total strangers, fills our hearts with humility and joy.”
He and his wife, Sister Christiane Kopischke, also helped with the cleanup in a Catholic kindergarten in Germany.
Elder Jeffrey Hilton and Sister Karen Hilton, serving in the Church Communication Department in Frankfurt, Germany, traveled to Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Germany to help in the cleanup.
“A local ice cream store was obliterated when not one, but two small automobiles were thrown through the front of the building by sheer force of the water,” Elder Hilton said. “What united the volunteers was the universal language of love and service. It didn’t matter where they were from or what dialect they spoke. We were all there for the same reason.”
Volunteers are coordinating with local authorities to help individuals, families and businesses.
“I soon found myself in a restaurant, helping shovel mud and debris and soiled goods out of the basement,” said Elder Jacob Reed. “I had originally thought that we would go there, help until it was done — maybe three or four hours — and then grab lunch and move on to the next house. I was definitely wrong. Bucket after bucket after bucket I carried through the house, onto the street and just poured it all out onto the street. It didn’t seem to have an end.”
In Belgium, Church members and missionaries serving in Belgium and the Netherlands have been helping in the Liege, Belgium, suburb Trooz that was flooded when the Vesdre River rose 7 meters, about 23 feet, above normal.
Missionaries from Belgium, Luxembourg and eastern France and members from Belgium and France have helped clear debris from homes and yards in Liege.
“There was a very positive, cheerful atmosphere, despite the very hard and exhausting labor and devastated surroundings. The helpers were not unhappy and didn’t complain about the circumstances but seemed to really enjoy what they are doing,” Sister Christiane Kopischke said.