News Release

Latter-day Saints Find Hope and Bring Help After Recent Flooding in British Columbia

When Maria-Elena and George Stancliffe, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, travelled to Kamloops, British Columbia, with their daughter, Susana Balbontin, to spend a weekend visiting friends, they had no idea they were about to find themselves needing shelter in the middle of a natural disaster. As the family tried to return to their home in Vancouver, they were caught in the heavy rainfall that caused extensive flooding and mudslides in British Columbia in November 2021.

The family travelled as far as Merritt before the flooding caused the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway. They tried to head south along a different route, but when they reached Princeton, they found that road closed too. So they decided to use smaller roads to wind home. When they reached Hope, they discovered all roads heading towards Vancouver had become unsafe and were closed. With nowhere to spend the night, the family slept in their car.

More than 1,000 people were displaced by the natural disaster and, like the Stancliffes, trapped in Hope. Local citizens responded with generosity and kindness. Firefighters knocked on the family’s car window to inform them that they could seek shelter at the local high school. The Stancliffes found themselves with about 700 people who had also sought temporary refuge there.

During their second day in Hope, while driving around looking for necessities, the Stancliffes noticed many vehicles parked at Grace Baptist Church. They stopped to see what was happening and were warmly welcomed by Pastor Jeff Kuhn and his wife. The Stancliffes were fed, and Pastor Kuhn arranged a place for them to stay that evening. Grateful for the kindness, they returned to Grace Baptist Church the following morning to help.

Maria-Elena commented that in moments where people have lost everything, “It is so important to help and to share what you have with others.” Although far from home and with few resources of their own, she said they “tried to help at Grace Baptist Church by giving service to others. Elderly people, mothers and men feeling so stressed and worried were experiencing back pain. Many had neck pain because they were sleeping in their cars, on a chair or on the floor. I volunteered to give massages to people.”

George went to a used bookstore and bought a stack of books to help keep people occupied. He offered to teach speed reading to groups of young people. Maria-Elena noticed that as they served, they learned to “be cheerful and to help other people feel more secure.”

The mood in the shelter changed as people started to help each other and express gratitude for the kindness of strangers. In the few days the Stancliffes spent in Hope, Maria-Elena said, “It became like a big family. Everyone [tried] to be so patient and friendly.”

Eventually, Maria-Elena asked Pastor Kuhn if she could speak to everyone sheltered at the church. She recounted, “I told people in the gym, ‘Aren't you glad you are alive and well? We have a shelter, water, food and bathroom, and we feel so warm inside this church.’ Everyone began to clap. Then I told them, let's thank Pastor Kuhn for opening his church and providing a shelter for us with all his amazing volunteers who have worked countless hours to help us in so many ways. Everyone agreed and clapped their hands again.”

One of the most important lessons the Stancliffes learned was that when there is an emergency, one does not need to be asked to find ways to help others. Maria-Elena noted that “in all circumstances, we can serve cheerfully. During this disaster, we certainly became more aware of the need for gratitude.”

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said, “Practising gratitude may not prevent us from experiencing sorrow, anger or pain, but it can help us look forward with hope” (“President Russell M. Nelson on the Healing Power of Gratitude”, November 2020).

Clean-up efforts in British Columbia began in early December. Latter-day Saints volunteers have been assisting with these efforts. More than 500 volunteers have given over 3500 service hours helping those affected by the flooding. 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Helping Hands in the lower mainland donated all the tools and clean up supplies and have been working with other organizations including Samaritan’s Purse, the Canadian Red Cross, City of Abbotsford, Yarrow Mennonite Brethren Church, Church of Scientology, and The Rubicon Group.

Kim Aippersbach, Vancouver British Columbia Stake Relief Society president, who has been coordinating some of the volunteer teams said, “Although the work is dirty, and you become soaked in mud, it is inspiring to be part of a cavalcade of volunteers, all driving along a previously flooded road, a few cars stopping at each house and volunteers piling out, zipping into hazmat suits and manning shovels, ready to take on the distressing and difficult work of emptying ruined belongings so homeowners can start to rebuild their lives”.

Volunteer work includes muck-outs of basements, removal of debris, shovelling out landslides, helping remove personal effects, cleaning to help get people back in their homes, working in the call centre, unloading trucks, assembling and staging the command centre, and coordinating with other service groups.

Vancouver British Columbia Stake President McKinley Bateman noted, "Abbotsford and surrounding communities have experienced an enormous loss. They are beginning the recovery stage … and we are here with helping hands. Together we will pick up, clean up and lift each other in the process. That is what Jesus Christ would do."

Speaking of Church humanitarian efforts, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once remarked, “Prayers are answered … most of the time … by God using other people. Well, I pray that He’ll use us. I pray that we’ll be the answer to people’s prayers” (“Neonatal Resuscitation with Elder Holland,” November 10, 2011).

Maria-Elena and George Stancliffe returned to the lower mainland on Saturday, December 18, grateful for the chance to give back. “It was beautiful to see so many volunteers helping people who have lost almost everything,” Maria-Elena said.


Maria-Elena Stancliffe shared some emergency preparedness tips her family learned during their experience:

  1. Check the weather before travelling.
  2. Bring a portable charger for phones. If you get stranded or trapped by a landslide, you need to communicate with rescuers and your family to let them know where you are and if you are OK. The first night in Hope, the whole city had no power, convenience store, gas stations, automatic banking machines, etc. Our three phones were dying, and we had nowhere to charge them.
  3. Always have a little cash. When the power came back after two days, stores took only cash, and all the banking machines were down.
  4. Carry a flashlight in your car emergency kit. Many people had to leave their cars along the highway when they were rescued. Many had to walk to Hope in the dark.
  5. Have warm clothes, good boots and warm socks. Sleeping in the van was OK, but it is hard to sleep if your feet are cold and you are wearing summer socks.
  6. Have emergency food in your vehicle. It was difficult to find food for the first two days. Fortunately, we had some granola bars and apples. When we found the shelter, we were able to get water and some snacks. It took a few days before the city began to receive donations to feed more than a thousand people stranded there.
  7. Keep fuel containers in your car. People were in panic mode when they learned that there was only enough gasoline to last until the weekend. We were able to get two cans of five litres each for our car.
  8. Have wipes. They come in handy when you cannot shower for several days or when you go to the bathroom.
  9. Have rain ponchos in your emergency kit. I had a cotton jacket that absorbed all the water when we had to walk in the rain.
  10. Have a radio with batteries. If your vehicle is dead, you need to be informed of what is happening. Our car radio didn't work, so we couldn't hear the news about the condition of the roads.
  11. Bring a map with the back roads on it so you will not get lost if your phone is not working.
  12. If you are a senior, do not travel alone. At Grace Baptist Church, we met a diabetic senior, who was travelling alone and was trapped between two mudslides in the highway. He did not have any food and was stranded for 24 hours until he was rescued. Others gave him food so he would not go into a diabetic coma.
  13. Bring extra medicine and vitamins. Lots of people did not have what they needed.
  14. Bring books to read. No power, no social media — nothing to do!
  15. If you have children, have something for them to keep them entertained.
  16. Bring a small notebook and pen. It is a great place to record what is happening and to document the things you are grateful for.

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