By Becky Gonzalez, Global Outreach Director
At 10:37am on March 22 we mark the one-year memorial of the Oso mudslide that took 43 lives. This week there are several community events surrounding remembering the lives lost and the community impacted by this disaster. Events listed below.
• Mar 20: Darrington, Oso, and Arlington ministers have coordinated “Gathering in Hope” in memorial of the mudslide.
• Mar 21: A fundraiser evening will be held at the Rhodes River Ranch.
• Mar 22: Hwy 530 will be shut down for 3 hours and Washington State will host a public event for the families affected.
The Church’s Response
In the weeks following the event, a movement emerged of churches reaching out and sacrificially giving to a cause they believed it. More than 30 churches responded by sending a united message of hope to the individuals and communities affected through the Arlington Ministerial Association, a group of churches serving that region. In total, over $160,000 was raised in a matter of weeks and sent directly to the Association churches. This funding was given to the Church, from the Church, with the message that they are not alone in their suffering. This support was meant to empower the local churches, which would be active participants long after the news media left, to have a place at the table in discussion about relief and recovery efforts. Mission accomplished.
Medal of Valor
On March 18, “…a grateful state will pay tribute to those three communities and the tribe ‘in honor of outstanding acts of valor, risk of injury and death, and personal sacrifice in assisting in rescue, recovery and relief efforts’…Volunteers worked tirelessly and selflessly to help friends and neighbors in their hour of peril and helped their communities come together and heal.” Source here. This week, our friends from the Arlington Ministerial Association joined the Mayor of Arlington and others in traveling to Olympia to receive the State Medal of Valor, followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion. These churches shared with us that the prayers, concern, and financial gifts from over 30 churches played a significant role and led to such an honor for these communities.
The letter below is from a pastor in Arlington who has been very closely connected to the relief and recovery efforts and he shares some of the challenges. It has not been easy and there are complexities to providing this type of help. He expresses gratitude and honor to be walking alongside these communities this year and for the years to come.
To Him be the Glory. Amen.
Thank you for checking in. I am actively involved in the weekly meetings that take place every Thursday at the Rhodes River Ranch in Oso. There will be a “Gathering in Hope” event to be held in Darrington on March 20 at 7pm.
In our naiveté, all of us (the government agencies, the mayor of Arlington and the pastors of the region) thought we would have completed the process of dispersing resources. The processes have been quite slow because there are ramifications and implications in giving finances to people. Let me give a few examples:
• If a family is on welfare, will a large gift push them off of welfare and assistance programs?
• In the initial months any monies families received will be deducted from a legal settlement from the government to each family.
• The uniqueness of this disaster was that loss of belongings and land was complete. In most events, even if the house is destroyed, you still have the land to build on. In this case, land is a complete loss never to be built on again.
• Losses of vehicles in the mudslide, for example, were not covered by insurance since the slide was considered an Act of God.
• If a bank or escrow decided to forgive debt for house and land, it is regarded as income and taxes are still owing. A forgiven debt of $300,000 would leave people with a $100,000 bill and nothing to show for it.
Here are a couple of needs we have made to date:
• At Christmastime we purchase gifts for about five families comprising about 25 people.
• A number of cars that survived have been paid off.
• A young man was able to enter an in-patient mental health program for 40 days.
• Make repairs to equipment used in the initial response of people who sought to rescue any survivors.
• Paid moving and living expenses for some who have moved out of the area because of the trauma.
At the end of this month I will have our accountant print out an exhaustive accounting of the dispersing of funds and known funds about to be sent out.
The one-year anniversary is about to be remembered and even today (Feb 26) people have for the first time stepped forward requesting help. The emotional, spiritual, and financial strains pressed on families are varied and different and each individual/family responds at their own pace. We certainly understand this, but with such a large loss of life and property, the dynamics of grief are further intensified. Likely we will be involved in this process for a couple more years! At the beginning, we all would have thought we would have completed our responsibilities within 6 months! We are all honored to serve in the capacity we each hold!