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26 February 2014

Picking up the pieces - floods

The media spotlight is now turned off and the cameras are gone but the flood clean-up and the long task of rebuilding their lives have started and Christians say they will be there helping their neighbours as long as it takes.

"We are here to help like moving light items out of the way of potential damage, shopping, dog walking," said Eunice Nicholson from 'Kings Worthy Christians', which comprises Christian volunteers from various churches in Winchester, "It maybe that later we can help with re-decorating or garden restoration," she added.

"The Kitchen" in Egham, Surrey is now open five days a week providing free meals while in Bournemouth the Iford Baptist Church has gone into post-flood action.

"Once the immediate crisis was over, the church launched, via the Bournemouth Echo, an appeal for a relief fund. Many of the other local churches have made substantial contributions as well as many residents from across the region. This fund is in the process of being distributed to those most severely affected," said David Auger, the minister at Iford Baptist Church.

The flood damage and destruction was virtually on their doorstep. Homes in Iford Bridge Park, immediately opposite them, took the brunt of damage and the church remained open 24/7 as a hub for people going to and from the park, for sharing of information and for providing coffee and a rest area.

Christians demonstrated their faith in action in their communities.

When the recent storms and floods ravaged sections of the south-west of the UK, evangelical Christians sprung into action, without giving it a second thought, helping people they don't even know.

Alliance members in affected areas including Hampshire, Devon, Surrey, and Gloucestershire related how churches opened their doors as emergency shelters or as hubs for emergency services while some families welcomed total strangers into their homes. Others volunteered to fill and distribute sandbags, donate clothing, prepare and deliver hot food while Christians opened their purses, jointly giving more than £5,000 in some communities to help the displaced.

In Dawlish, Devon, one of the communities which was badly affected, Dawlish Christian Fellowship provided clothing for children who had to flee in just their pyjamas. They also provided hot meals daily for a week to those in the emergency shelter.

"There wasn't much planning, myself and another church member just took the bold step and did it," recalled Mark Jones, the church leader.

"We set out in search of people who were displaced and we made it clear up front that we were Christians but we did not come to preach or pray with them. All we wanted to do was feed them because they were hungry. We asked for nothing in return," Mark added.

However, a friendship has developed between the church and many of these people.

In Gloucestershire, the Tewkesbury foodbank in– less than a year old - based at Holy Trinity Tewkesbury provided 500kgs of food at the request of the Borough Council to help families in surrounding villages where the roads were closed.

Over in Southbourne, Bournemouth, the Cranleigh Community Church was able to help flood affected residents immediately. That's because they run a number of projects in the community including a child care centre, home help, food bank, a poverty advice centre and a revolving community emergency fund to help families in need.

Pastor Gary Conway said over the last seven years they saw an outpouring of God's love across the community.

"Our work has helped Christian and non-Christian families in need which in turn has helped to shape the community spirit and develop such a sense of unity. Over the last seven years, community life has improved demonstrating that evangelicals are good for society," he said.

As residents across the affected counties start the long process of cleaning up and rebuilding their lives, Christians are working alongside them without much fanfare and they say they are committed to be there for as long as it takes in order to demonstrate Jesus' love in action.