Oso Mudslide in Washington: As Search and Rescue Press On, Local Church Look to God for Help and Strength

( [email protected] ) Mar 31, 2014 12:45 AM EDT
Oso Landslide in Washington
(Photo: NPR)

Local churches, like the Oso Community Chapel,  near the epicenter of the landslide tragedy, offered prayers during Sunday service for people affected by last week's devastating disaster that has claimed at least 28 people so far, with as many as 30 people still missing.  

The total missing and feared dead was lowered on Saturday, down by two thirds from the figure that authorities had been reporting for several days.

According to Reuters, The revision came after officials said they had managed to account for the whereabouts of dozens of people who turned out to be "safe and well."

Snow, rain and flooding this weekend slowed the search and rescue operations over the square mile of muck and debris left when a rain-soaked hillside collapsed without warning above the north fork of the Stillaquamish River.

The huge deluge of mud, rock, trees and earth, swept across state Hwy. 530 and over a residential area near the outskirts of the rural town of Oso, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.

Rescue teams have found no signs of life since the disaster 8 days ago.  Everyone they have found has been dead, and everything in the slide's path was destroyed.

Ron Brown, a Snohomish County official involved in the search operations said the giant mud and debris field may end up being the final resting place for some victims.

Oso Community Chapel - Washington Landslide
Randi Ray, daughter of Oso Community Chapel's pastor Gary Ray, and Gary's daughter-in-law Molly Ray, right, put up yellow ribbons around the Chapel grounds on Sunday, March 30, 2014 before their 10am service. (Photo: AP)

According to King5 news out of Seattle, people packed the Oso Community Chapel  to hear from Senior Pastor Gary Ray, and hopefully find some way to keep going during these times of trouble.  

"God is with us in this,"  Ray told the gathering "We're down, but we're not out."

It was a message of encouragment for a church community committed to helping their neighbors.

"In times of crisis, character is born,"Ray said. "We will be here to help in the long and short term."

"We've been knocked down, but we won't be knocked out. I don't know how many days and minutes we have left, but I know we have this one here," he said.

Ray asked people in the congregation to share their personal thoughts, and many were tearful as they rose to speak about their love for the area and the people.

One man read Isaiah 54:10 to reconfirm his faith in God, and to encourage other with God's word.   "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed."

As prayer and worship took place inside, outside trucks delivered food and supplies for people in need.

At the Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in nearby Darrington, Pastor Les Hagen urged his flock to keep going.

"We're all hurting," he said. "We've had a terrible week. It still continues, but life must go on."

"Stay in your routine," he continued. "Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because eventually all of this will be in the rear view mirror of your life and it will be a memory. It will be a horrible memory, but it will be a memory."

In addition to searching for signs of more victims in the enormous pile of broken earth and destruction, recovery crews have been scrounging for personal items like photographs and other keepsakes that might have belonged to victims or survivors.

Once located, these things will be cleaned and stored until they are claimed by survivors or victims' families, said disaster response spokeswoman Kris Rietmann at a news conference.

"A lot of people lost their homes. They lost friends and family, and so to be reunited with some of their physical belongings, if that's found out on the site, is a really important thing," Rietmann said.

Todd Wright, a 32-year-old carpenter was one of many offering earnest, emotional prayers at the Glad Tidings service.

"It's nice to get it out. Tears go, and it makes you feel damn better," Wright said.