Charles Reynolds has gained a new appreciation for the plight of Noah. The pastor of First Christian Church in Keithsburg, Illinois, has been contending with a “Great Flood” of his own.

When the waters of the Mississippi River and nearby Pope Creek broke through the levee of sandbags in the town of 750, First Christian—the only Protestant church in town—became one of its victims.

“After the levee broke, I went over to the church in a rowboat, and there were 13 inches of water standing in our sanctuary,” Reynolds says. The basement was completely under water. Four days before the levee broke, church members formed a bucket brigade to evacuate the basement, but the appliances, tables, folding chairs, partition drapes, and new robes still got drenched upstairs, where the water level outside the church reached three feet.

Even more devastating than the damage to the church has been the flood’s effect on church members, says Reynolds. “We have 185 houses or businesses that are under water and unlivable.”

Ecumenical cooperation

Still, where rural Midwest Christians are concerned, optimism and cooperation abound. Unlike some other parts of the world where disaster strikes, there has been little looting or finger-pointing. Instead there has been a massive outpouring of relief.

For instance, Keithsburg’s Catholic church has loaned First Christian its building until repairs can be made. “I believe God will have a rainbow for us when all this is done,” Reynolds says. “Sometimes God uses adversity to build us up.”

Flooding in the upper Mississippi River basin had caused 29 deaths by mid-July, driven more than 30,000 people from their homes, and drowned 6 million acres of some of the world’s most productive farmland. Estimates of the total ...

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