Who will pay?

"Who will pay?" Continued...

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

Infrastructure damage in Austin is estimated at more than $1 million. But Iowa cities are faring far worse: In Davenport, officials estimate that they will spend nearly $4.5 million on flood cleanup, including repairs to public infrastructure of up to $3 million. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa's second-largest city, officials peg damage estimates at $1 billion. FEMA officials announced on July 7 that they would begin inspecting the approximately 1,000 houses damaged in the area's 100-year floodplain to determine repair costs. Where repair costs meet or exceed 50 percent of the home's pre-flood value, the house would be considered "substantially damaged" and ineligible for federal assistance unless owners agree to elevate the home one foot above the floodplain. That type of construction could cost each homeowner an additional $25,000.

Since late June, Cedar Rapids city officials have haggled with homeowners over the parameters of a potential city buyout of flood-damaged homes in an effort to ensure they don't flood again. But city manager Jim Prosser noted that federal dollars for such a plan would be distributed among many Iowa cities, not only Cedar Rapids. He suggested that homeowners should look to take responsibility for their losses rather than rely on a city bailout.

"We didn't cause the flood," he said.

In addition to thousands of lost homes and businesses, Cedar Rapids floodwaters also wiped out large chunks of history. The 80-year-old Paramount Theater is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places; at the peak of the deluge, floodwaters splashed against the bottom of the marquee. Also a total loss: The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, dedicated in 1995 by President Bill Clinton, Czech President Vaclav Havel, and Slovak President Michael Kovac. Recently renovated, the institution had preserved the history of Czech and Slovak immigration and assimilation into Cedar Rapids during the 19th century. The area is still home to approximately 13,000 residents of Czech-Slovak descent.

Christians in Cedar Rapids and elsewhere have seen the disaster as an opportunity to love their neighbors. Serve the City, a coalition of 37 evangelical congregations and seven para-church ministries, is coordinating volunteer efforts in the area. Affiliated with Mission America Coalition, a national network of city-based Christian volunteer programs, the group is working in partnership with the Red Cross, dispatching 3,500 Good Samaritans to aid flood victims.

New Covenant Church, one of Cedar Rapids' two largest evangelical congregations and a member of the Serve the City coalition, has for three years emphasized praying for the city and sharing with neighbors in need. "We have pictures around our church facility of the cityscape," said Karla Underwood, a New Covenant member and Serve the City volunteer. "So when the floods happened, it was like a dive-in opportunity. We said, 'Let's pitch in here and get this done.'"

Though Chad and Natalie Kuntz suffered devastating material losses, the disaster and its aftermath have deepened their trust in God. "God was very, very near through all of this," Mrs. Kuntz said. "He has taught us that it's not about what you have. It's about loving those around you, and that no matter what, He is there."

Lynn Vincent
Lynn Vincent

Lynn is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the best-selling author of 10 non-fiction books.


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