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Pastor’s Message: The Flood Is Not A Message From God With AM-Flood Rdp, Bjt

August 1, 1993

HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) _ Though their homes may be submerged, their lives disrupted for who knows how long, the Rev. Myron Couch wanted his parishioners to know: God does not use floods to send messages.

″God doesn’t prevent bad things from happening to people,″ the Baptist preacher told both his congregations, as they gathered together. ″But God is with us in everything we experience, and God is ministering to our spiritual needs now.″

All over central Missouri, the Sunday morning airwaves carried similar messages of reassurance. Don’t grieve, the voices said consolingly, this is an opportunity for you to renew your faith.

The message is one Couch believed the faithful from his congregation in nearby Cedar City especially needed to hear. He could not go to them; their beloved church is full of water and, like many of the homes swept flat by the flood, may prove beyond repair.

Lying on bottomland across the Missouri River from Jefferson City, Cedar City takes on water every six or seven years when the river overflows.

But the flood of ’93 is without precedent, pouring over houses, mobile homes, businesses and churches. The town’s 400 residents fled a month ago and must remain scattered until the river slowly recedes.

The Rev. JonnaLee O’Dell has sought to deliver the same reassurances to the congregations of the four United Methodist churches she serves, including one in Cedar City, which has water ″to the ceiling,″ she said.

For those worshippers, the loss of the church - formed more than 100 years ago - has compounded the tragedy, for the church is a center of community life.

″What I have been trying to help people understand is that in the midst of this, God grieves with us, and that our faith provides us with what we need to come out on the other side,″ O’Dell said.

Couch’s flock here is working to build a church, so both his congregations gathered in a local Lion’s Club building. The two dozen people heard Couch read from John 7:25 about ″streams of living water″ - which the minister said was planned long before the floods - and sang hymns, accompanied by a portable electronic keyboard.

The men were in their suits, the women in dresses - even the worshippers from Cedar City. They knew the river, they knew what it could do, and so they had plenty of time to clear out their houses before the first devastating crest swamped their town.

After weeks of endless rain and ominous, crashing thunderstorms overnight, the sun shone intensely Sunday. It was hot. It felt good.

For Beverly Coots of Cedar City, there was no question about coming to church.

″It lifts your spirits to know the Lord is with you,″ she said. ″It shows you that material things can be taken away from you and it’s not that bad, because the Lord will provide.″