Chaplains Give Hope to Detroit Flood Victims

By Erik Ogren   •   August 27, 2014

Rapid Response Team chaplains Pookie and Mike Mattingly talk with one of the Michigan homeowners affected by last week's flooding.

What seemed like a normal summer rain shower in the Detroit suburbs steadily and ferociously became something more. On Aug. 11, the storm front dropped hour after hour of torrential rain on the area, overpowering the city’s pumping system and leading to sewage floods in thousands of homes.

“On the whole, Michigan residents don’t get too excited about flooded basements,” said Chaplain Judy Tefft of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, herself a resident of the state. “They just assume that you get the water out–or the water goes away–and then you clean out your basement and move on.”

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But this storm was different, something that many had never before experienced.

“We’ve heard some people say that it’s the worst in their lifetime, they couldn’t remember anything like that,” said Judy’s husband, Bob. “It came so fast. I think it was because of the speed of the storm.”

As the sewage water has receded or been pumped out, the reality of the situation has begun to sink in, particularly for those who were already struggling to make ends meet in the first place.

Just off Detroit’s 8 Mile Road, Walter and Marilyn Jones are one of the families who realized this hard fact. A couple who has spent their whole married life giving to those around them, found themselves suddenly in need.

Standing on her front porch, surrounded by photos of many of the 38 foster kids they’ve taken in over the years, Marilyn recounted the storm.

“I was in the kitchen washing dishes, and I noticed how heavy the rain was,” she said. “Never did it cross my mind that it would lead to anything like this because to me it was just a normal, heavy rainstorm.”

Marilyn heard her treadmill start all by itself in her basement, and when she went to investigate she was devastated by what she saw.

“When I opened the door and walked down the stairs, I think I really did panic because I’d never seen such a large amount of water inside my home,” she said. “It was like 14 or 15 inches.”

Though the water receded the next day, she began to experience stomach and lung problems, which forced them to a hotel so she could recuperate. After the disappointment of being turned down by—or not being able to afford—the three companies that she had contacted for help, God had a divine appointment set for her and Walter.

It was in the lobby of the hotel that they met a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team who worked with them in getting the help they desperately needed from Samaritan’s Purse. “We’ve been rejoicing ever since.”

As for all of the possessions—the things in the basement that can no longer be used even though they may look okay— Marilyn is at peace.

“The Lord had already been telling me over the years to get rid of some stuff. Give, give, give away. And I was giving away things, but I wasn’t giving away as much as I could have been or should have been,” said Marilyn, who is known to buy peaches and walk up and down the street, giving fruit to her neighbors.

“The Lord had already put that on my mind, so when I started losing stuff it didn’t bother me that much. It really didn’t. One of the things that I thought was, well, the Lord had already told me to give stuff away. I should have done it.”

Chaplains are asking for continued prayer for the Jones family and the thousands of others who are struggling through this disaster.

“Pray that God would meet their needs,” said Al New, deployment manager for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “As the chaplains go out and come alongside, pray for the chaplains as well, that they’ll have the right things to say, and that they’ll love on these people and show them that there is hope through Jesus Christ.”

Chaplains with the Rapid Response Team pray with homeowners in Michigan on Monday.
Chaplains with the Rapid Response Team pray with homeowners in Michigan on Monday.