Decatur First members offer helping hand to flood-ravaged Iowa town


By Sheila Smith
Decatur Herald & Review              
DECATUR -- More than two years after flood waters swamped the town of Oakville, Iowa, efforts to rebuild are still under way, thanks to federal funds and help from church groups such as Decatur First UMC.
This summer, 26 church members went to Oakville, 55 miles southwest of the Quad-Cities, to lend a hand.
"It was such a huge blessing to give a little back in helping those folks who have been through so much, as well as spend time with our church family," said the Rev. Kathy King-Nobles. The intergenerational mission trip included members as young as age 3 to seniors.
First United Methodist members did drywalling, insulation work and interior and exterior painting of flood-damaged homes.
In June 2008, the more than 400 residents of Oakville found themselves overrun with rushing flood waters that destroyed most of the town. Now only 150 people have returned to rebuild their homes and save their town, King-Nobles said.
"There were some hardships encountered with the lack of electricity and running water at the homes we were working on," she said.
Sleeping arrangements, she added, were air mattresses on bunk beds in the basement of a United Methodist church in Oakville. A curtain made of white sheets separated the men's from the women's sleeping quarters.
Evenings were set aside for devotion, singing songs and laughter after working all day.
King-Nobles said the highlight of the trip was when church member Patty Barr led daily story time for children at a park in Oakville.
"It gave the children something to do who had nothing to do before in that community. And leaders in the town said they wanted to continue it," she said.
King-Nobles said the time spent in Oakville "has had a profound impact on all of us."
One participant, Debbie Vandermyde, agreed. She said she felt the mission was where God wanted them to be.
"I came back feeling that we really made a difference. And many of us are excited to go
(Reprinted with permission from the Sept. 10 issue of the Decatur Herald & Review)