Pam Schulz of Cedar Rapids, IA, has never experienced anything like the recent derecho storm.
But she’s hopeful that the destruction can also be an avenue for God’s grace.
And here’s how God is already moving through His church in the region.
Schulz and other residents of Cedar Rapids could do nothing but hide in their basements as the hurricane-force winds of up to 140 miles per hour rocketed across Iowa.
The derecho, as this kind of inland storm is known, caused widespread high winds and a tornado outbreak across the state and much of the Midwest.
However, most of the heavy damage occurred in Cedar Rapids, leaving nearly 123,000 people in dire straits.
Trees have fallen on houses and businesses, cars are destroyed, and the electricity is still down in parts of the city.
Farmers across Iowa have lost much of their fall harvest due to the devastating storm.
After a season of heavy flooding over a decade ago, Iowans are accustomed to rebuilding, but the residents of Cedar Rapids are struggling to find hope in the derecho’s wake.
“When we had the flood here in 2008, most people who went to serve could come home to a house with air conditioning and what looked normal,” Schulz admitted.
“Well, you can’t even drive down the street without seeing damage now anywhere in the entire community.”
“It’s going to be a long recovery,” she repeated.
Thankfully, Schulz, who is the executive director of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa, and other faith leaders are stepping up to help provide much-needed relief.
“I feel really blessed that we have the ability to talk to one another and work together in this,” Schulz said gratefully.
She’s led teams of volunteers who are working to repair damage and remove debris from homes and businesses.
Others are working around the clock to distribute food, emergency supplies, and medical care to community members in need.
It’s a draining task, and one that gets discouraging as more destruction is revealed each day.
“People are getting tired,” Schulz admitted.
“You can just hear it and see it in their faces when they come through our distribution site.”
Schulz’s church, St. Mark’s, was “incredibly blessed” with minimal damage, but Schulz admitted that it’s still difficult to find hope in the midst of all the destruction.
She called it “surreal.”
Other pastors and ministers agreed, adding that they have needed to lean on God more than ever during this trying time.
“I have countless [church] members who have basically lost everything on their farm,” said Reverend Andy Wright, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Keystone, Iowa.
“They’ve lost their equipment, they’ve lost their grain bins, they’ve lost machine sheds, they’ve lost barns…and you’ll see fields of [flat crops], along with pieces of people’s farm equipment…barns, silos, just laying out twisted in the middle of a field.”
“This is the stuff that they built with their hands, or…that their grandparents built and handed down to them,” Wright continued.
“So…just to see that gone in an instant, what took generations to build—people are pretty shaken up and devastated by that.”
Wright’s church was heavily damaged by the storm.
“My mouth just dropped open,” the pastor said, describing the moment he saw his church building crushed by the massive storm.
Despite his own distress, Wright has been keeping busy since the storm. He and his congregation have been offering practical, hands-on help to their community.
And they’re holding out the Gospel alongside food and medical help.
“A lot of the members have been talking about how we see this driving us to Christ, to cling to His promises,” Wright admitted.
“So it’s been actually a really wonderful thing to see, just that groundedness of people not wanting to quickly doubt God.”
“The promises of Christ ring true during this time.”
Reverend Sherrie Ilg, the leader of a Methodist church in Cedar Rapids, agreed.
“God continues to be our shelter after this storm,” she told her congregation and community.
“We’ve made it through that storm. Now God continues to be a center and a place of grounding ourselves.”
To donate to the Cedar Rapids relief fund, click here.
And please keep the victims of the Iowa derecho in your prayers as they rebuild. Pray that God will be present and offer His comfort amid the destruction.