The derecho that slammed through the Midwest on August 10 last summer caused more economic devastation in the U.S. than any other thunderstorm in modern times, higher than many hurricanes. A derecho is a widespread, long-lived windstorm associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. The August 10 storm brought winds gusting to more than 70 mph for the better part of an hour over a 700-mile stretch of land from Nebraska to Indiana, flattening millions of acres of crops, severely damaging or destroying hundreds of homes, and bringing down thousands of trees, causing widespread power outages and blocked roads. The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, bore the brunt of the storm’s wrath.
Photo Credit: Mike Putz
A few days after the storm, Dave Grandon, pastor of Christ Community Church, an Open Bible church in Manchester, Iowa, about 30 miles from Cedar Rapids, and members of his church discussed how they could help. Someone suggested they could feed the victims and relief workers who were staying in Manchester.
After contacting neighboring motels, church volunteers set up a distribution center at the Days Inn. On August 25, August 27, and September 2 the church served meals to approximately 30 people each night and left take-out meals for relief workers who would arrive later. The first night volunteers grilled burgers and hot dogs; another night they served homemade lasagna, and another night homemade casseroles.
Dave said it is hard to imagine the destruction caused by the derecho. He said, “About a week after the derecho, my wife, Mary, and I drove to our son’s house. His neighborhood was devastated, as was the entire city. As of this writing, one house across the street from our son still cannot be occupied due to storm damage. Besides extensive damage to houses and businesses, it is estimated that the Cedar Rapids area lost more than 60 percent of its trees.”
The church, with a congregation of approximately 65 people (before COVID hit), is making it a habit to meet the needs in their community. When David Grandon heard about an opportunity to get involved with the Farmers to Families initiative, he suggested Christ Community could host a distribution. Farmers to Families is a program that was started by the United States Department of Agriculture after COVID-19 hit. At that time since so many venues were shut down, farmers could not get their product to restaurants, cruise ships, and other venues. Companies were cutting back on their workforces and production. With Farmers to Families, the USDA bought produce, meat, and dairy products, then suppliers processed and packed the supplies in boxes to donate to individual families via food banks, local churches, and other organizations. CityServe, an organization designed to help local churches network to create greater impact in the name of Jesus, served as the unofficial liaison between the White House and the faith-based community.
On September 17, 2020, 31 church volunteers used the alley behind their church to distribute 1,800 cases of food to their community. Many people said they were getting food for family members and neighbors who were struggling. Some were taking a carload or truckload to Cedar Rapids for the derecho victims. A couple of extended family members of the church came back multiple times during the distribution to take food to friends and acquaintances they knew could use the help.
When asked about the outreach opportunities, Dave said, “We were able to show and share the love of Jesus with people during a difficult time in their lives. Those who were believers were encouraged by the compassion of our volunteers. Those who were not believers were appreciative of our willingness to share what we had and to serve them by preparing and providing a hot meal when they could not do that for themselves.”
The church has received several expressions of appreciation from people who received the food. The Manchester Press wrote an article about the outreach. One couple that was displaced by the derecho had attended the church for a short season. They lost everything in the derecho, and the church was able to help them purchase new clothing and some essentials for everyday living while they were in the hotel. They eventually accepted temporary housing from a couple in the church. The stress of their loss exacerbated relationship issues between the husband and wife, and they decided to separate.
“They are not taking our calls or replying to our texts,” Dave said, “but they remain in our prayers. We did what we did because we think that is what Jesus would do. God is so good and has such a love for the least and the lost.”