Flood transforms mission for Arlington volunteers

In a matter of hours, the river rose. Homes vanished, swept away by the swirling floodwaters. Roads and bridges flooded, making them completely impassable. The mission team from The Church on Rush Creek in Arlington watched and prayed for the families who had just lost everything. The team was stranded, and their mission changed.

“What started out as a VBS compassion trip turned into a humanitarian mission to help flood victims,” team member Bree Adams said.

The team arrived in Morelos, Mexico on a Saturday?July 3?prepared to conduct a Vacation Bible School with a local church and minister to the city’s homeless living in the dump ground. Rush Creek has sent teams to Morelos for the past five years, and has built a strong relationship with the people. The church partners with Rancho dos Countries, a ministry run by Fernando and Debra Martinez to serve families living in the dump.

“We start planning this trip in February,” Brian McFadden, the community pastor at Rush Creek, said. “Throughout the year we’re sending school supplies and food and all kinds of supplies down there. We’ve taken groups of men to build a soup kitchen. We’ve worked on the ranch where teams stay when they come in. We have a long-term relationship with that ministry.

“There are probably 50 to 100 people living in the dump. We meet different people every time we’re there. They are the homeless of the community. They live in the dump because they make a living by going through people’s trash. They sort through to find aluminum cans and other items they can resell for money. They build makeshift houses out of tarps and old discarded mattresses.”

This year’s plans were no different from previous years. The team would conduct Vacation Bible School at the Primera Iglesia Bautista. They were also taking supplies to the soup kitchen in the dump, known as the Dream Center. This multi-purpose structure has bathroom and shower facilities and provides soap, shampoo, and other hygiene items. It also has a small schoolroom where a volunteer teacher comes in to teach the children living in the dump ground.

Primarily, though, it provides meals for the people living in the dump. This year, however, that food went to help the people of community as well as the homeless.

Change of plans

The team had only just begun their work when a wave of storms from tropical depression Alex hit the area. The storm system released so much water that the area quickly flooded as water surged through on its way down from the nearby mountains in northern Mexico.

What had begun as a mere trickle of water a few feet deep and a few feet wide roared to life overnight. Within three hours of the rains starting, the 14-foot-high bridge spanning the Rio Grande between Mexico and Texas was under water. By the next morning the full force of the river rushed through, taking out anything in its path.

“We got to do a couple of things on our schedule, but because of the rain and floods it changed all of our plans. We had taken down a whole lot of food and supplies for the Dream Center, so we used that food to give to other families affected by the flood as well. Because of the flooding, all of a sudden, the regular community had nothing.”

Though stranded by the flood and their plans for the week impeded, the team did not let their circumstances hinder them from ministering to the people around them. They chose to stay and help the families in any way they could.

The area hardest hit was Zaragoza, a smaller city outside of Morelos. The river had been a dry riverbed for as long as many residents could remember. When the flood came through unexpectedly, it washed away homes and roads. Homes that were not washed away were filled with mud. The people were cut off from the larger cities around them, unable to go into town to buy food.<

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