Cobblestone streets remain coated in several inches of mud while mounding debris piles lean against the homes of Ahrweiler, a rural district in Western Germany. As the sun rises each day, the quiet air gives way to the subtle roar of voices and scraping shovels as neighbors join together to aid their hurting neighbors.
On July 14, record amounts of rainfall caused the region’s Ahr River to overflow and spill out into surrounding towns. The resulting damage is something that hasn’t been seen in generations. Thousands of centuries-old homes and family businesses were destroyed as water and mud washed into villages at an alarming pace and nearly 200 community members lost their lives.
“I looked out the roof window and suddenly the Ahr came closer and closer to us,” homeowner Michael Münn-Buschow said. He and his wife, Iris, live in a home that has been in Iris’ family for hundreds of years. Within a matter of hours, not only his basement, but also the first floor was under water.
Samaritan’s Purse began mobilizing volunteers 24 hours after floodwaters receded. Partnering with Evangelische Freikirche Koeln Ostheim church in Cologne, Germany, more than 350 volunteers have so far gone out into hurting communities to help dozens of families salvage personal belongings and remove layers of thick mud from their homes. An international Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was also deployed recently to provide additional support alongside our German affiliate office, including a member of the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team.
If you are interested in joining our DART roster to be a part of these types of disaster responses, click here to apply.
Several days after the flood, Michael and Iris didn’t know how they would salvage their home. The task of removing the mud and waterlogged belongings seemed insurmountable. Then, they saw Samaritan’s Purse volunteers walking down their street.
“I saw employees from Samaritan’s Purse, I just spoke to them,” Michael said. “They came and helped us.”
Esther and Christian Giller had one day off from work and normal responsibilities. The couple, who has been married for four months, attend our partner church in Cologne and knew that they had to help families in the wake of this disaster.
“I don’t think Jesus would be sitting in bed and doing other stuff,” Esther said. “We had a free day today and we just felt like being home in our house where nothing happened would not be something that is a sign of love. It’s just something out of love we should do.”
The couple’s mindset is shared by other Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. “Jesus came for the people. He served people and He told us to wash the feet of others, and this is what’s on my heart—serving others without looking to myself,” Samaritan’s Purse team lead Eduard Martens said. “These people are selfless. They were planning on vacations, but they didn’t go. They’re helping because their heart is for Jesus.”
More than the physical task of removing mud from homes, the Gillers want to provide emotional support and spiritual encouragement to hurting families.
“It’s so much dirt. You just feel with the people because you see photo albums and private things on the street and, it’s just, you are just sad with them,” Esther said.
Teams grieve with those who grieve, even as they work hard to restore property. From this platform, though, they also remember the Good News they have to share. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers can daily share that there is a hope found only in Jesus Christ that cannot be diminished by the troubles of this world.
“We want to be a light in these dark cellars,” Esther said. “I think this is the main purpose here to just spread hope in moments where there is no hope.”
Her husband, Christian, continued: “It’s important to show the people who lost everything that we have a bigger hope. We can lose everything in this world but in Christ we have something that we never lose. This is our motivation to help the people.”
Pray for strength, wisdom, and comfort for German residents affected by the terrible flooding. Please pray for our teams on the ground as they minister to these hurting communities in Jesus’ Name. For more information on how you can join a Disaster Assistance Response Team in the future, click here:
Samaritan's Purse responds to humanitarian crises with physical aid and a message of spiritual hope for victims of natural disasters, famine, poverty, and war. Your gift will allow us to share Jesus' love through clean water, food, shelter, medical supplies, personnel, and other aid.