By Laurent Trabadello, Regional Director
“Oki—Welcome.” These are the first words written on the beautiful wooden sign that stands at the entrance to the Siksika Nation 100 km east of Calgary. The Blackfoot greeting is a vibrant testimony of the hospitable nature of First Nations people. Their story is filled with joys and victories, but also sorrows and tragedies. Both man-made and natural disasters have befallen the original dwellers of our land. Their constant struggle with man and nature has forced them to grow ever stronger, more resilient and to develop an exemplary community spirit.
Natural disasters don’t discriminate. They hit hard and intersect with lives without regard for wealth, status, or nationality. The 2013 southern Alberta floods were no exception. Multi-million dollar homes were inundated with brown muddy water on the banks of the Elbow River in Calgary. But so were the modest homes of people living in Little Chicago, Little Washington, South Camp, and North Camp-all close-knit communities of the Siksika Nation.
With little warning and almost no time to gather belongings, some 220 families had to evacuate their homes and seek shelter with relatives, friends or in the Deerfoot Sportsplex located on higher ground.
While helicopters and media reports concentrated on the stunning images of Calgary as the large metropolis flooded, fewer reports focused on the devastation taking place among our First Nations brothers and sisters. Entire homes were engulfed in the chocolate brown waters of the swelling Bow River as it invaded the low plains.
Residents who had trailers were able to camp out on higher ground, keeping watch on their devastated properties below.
More than 100 people were accommodated, fed, and cared for at the Deerfoot Sportsplex. The large arena was also used to store generous donations of food, bottled water, and clothing that poured in. As a relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse responds to situations like this. When we spoke with our Blackfoot friends earlier in the week, they asked for hygiene supplies. So we mobilized a small army of generous volunteers who worked hard to put together 500 family hygiene kits that were delivered to the Sportsplex.
As we came alongside our friends from the Siksika Nation, we offered a ministry of presence and tangible help. In return, we had the privilege of learning from their exemplary community spirit and partaking in their legendary hospitality.
Help Samaritan’s Purse strengthen the impact of local churches in communities recovering in the aftermath of disasters. As caring Christians are trained and empowered to walk alongside individuals and families to find solutions to complex needs, God opens doors to share the Gospel.