The story of the ongoing crisis of toxic drinking water in the city of Flint, Michigan, is taking an interesting turn. Last week, national news sources reported that the entire city has been advised not to drink or cook with or even bathe in the water coming through the city's water supply. Apparently, the corrosive quality of Flint River water has eroded lead pipes throughout the city, and resulted in dangerous levels of toxic lead in the water.
Major relief agencies have been delivering massive amounts of bottled water to distribution points throughout the city, and water filters are also being provided for households. The Wesleyan Church has already supplied over a thousand chemical hand-warmers for workers carrying supplies door to door in the bitter cold. A church in West Michigan District was one of the major donors of the hand warmers, and more are needed.
One of the main relief agencies is using our gymnasium at Bentley Wesleyan Church, three miles from Flint, as a distribution point. Pastor Scott Sacrey (pictured, left, with his son) was seen delivering the hand-warmers to United Way, who is helping coordinate home deliveries of water supplies.
Unfortunately, there are potentially thousands of people who do not have access to the supplies being distributed by the largest agency. Due to policies, people must have a government identification card to receive water, filters, and other supplies. Flint, a city of 100,000, has a few thousand people who cannot provide government documentation either because they are undocumented, are homeless or in poverty, or for other reasons. Rev. Richard Meeks, the district superintendent of the East Michigan District of The Wesleyan Church, says this is unacceptable. The message to those who are undocumented cannot be: go drink the unsafe water. Consequently, The Wesleyan Church is stepping up to do water distribution specifically to pockets of people who are being ignored by the big agency.
Also, according to District Superintendent Meeks, there are whole neighborhoods, hundreds of homes, that have been designated unsafe by the National Guard due to security issues, and those neighborhoods are being bypassed. The Wesleyan Church will specifically target these "unsafe" neighborhoods and provide compassionate service door to door.
Another local Wesleyan church deeply involved is Flint First Wesleyan, pastored by Rev. Scott Grigonis. This multi-ethnic Wesleyan church is partnering with a large African-American congregation, Joy Tabernacle. Joy Tabernacle is an independent holiness church pastored by Rev. Robert McCaphern. Rev. McCaphern, Rev. Grigonis, Rev. Sacrey, and District Superintendent Meeks are making plans together to meet the needs of the unserved people across the city who are being bypassed for various reasons.
The Wesleyan Church has an excellent relationship with United Way in Flint, because they both have interest in not just a short-term fix, but also longer-term concern for the thousands of families with children affected by lead poisoning. They plan to work together to identify and help these families with not only short-term supplies, but also ongoing testing and referral and assistance in getting treatment.
Last week, General Superintendent Dr. Jo Anne Lyon designated this crisis as worthy of help from the Wesleyan Emergency Relief Fund. Already $2,000 has been sent directly from donors to the East Michigan District office, and over $7,000 has been received at headquarters for the Flint River crisis, with one large gift coming immediately from a church in Pennsylvania. More will be needed to help our East Michigan District and our churches in the Flint area reach out to people who are being bypassed by the main agencies. As they do this, Christ is glorified and relationships are built that may also have eternal consequences. Thank you for your help!