Historic floods June 11–13 put much of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, under water.
The damage was catastrophic and cleanup and rebuilding promises to take
Neither the Cedar Rapids congregation’s building nor any members’ homes were
evacuated due to flooding. This left us in a good position to help our
community. Our congregation has long practiced joyful generosity with time,
talent, and resources. In this time of need, we found opportunity to
continue such expression. We also received and witnessed the generosity of
others as never before. We have seen people in
the community come together to help no matter their faith tradition, and we
felt Community of Christ sisters and brothers from all over reaching out to
us with prayers and tangible aid.
The Oblation Fund, contributed to by Community of Christ members and friends
from around the world, provided $15,000 to help our community. Our own
congregation designated $20,000 in local funds for the relief effort, plus
we have received generous contributions from individuals and congregations
around the United States. The outreach has been phenomenal.
Then there are examples like six-year-old Julia. She is a child from Sioux
City, Iowa, who learned about the flood relief efforts and told her mom, “We
need to do something about that.” She and her family are not church members,
but were directed to the congregation as a county-designated collection site
for emergency daycare center supplies.
Julia collected toys and money to benefit displaced children. She and her
mom delivered a FedEx truckload July 18. The next Sunday, Julia’s birthday,
the congregation hosted a party where she distributed the toys to more than
seventy five children who were displaced by the flood. There was a sea of
children running to the tables. I have never witnessed such joy in my life.
Julia is one of my heroes. This kind of generosity is amazing and humbling
to witness. I love our church! I love Christ for being part of our lives.
congregation encourages me to invest time as a World Church minister and
pastor in working with the community. I serve on boards and work with groups
including Partnership for Safe Families, Horizon Family Services, and the
Department of Human Services. A $10,000 Oblation grant was distributed
through Partnership for Safe Families in June.
Gloria Johnson is project coordinator for Partnership for Safe Families,
which works with families to help them solve their problems by building on
their strengths. “We expected some flooding,” she said, “but it more than
doubled what we expected.”
“We serve at-risk families,” Gloria continued. “About 60 percent were
evacuated from their homes. Most will not be going back for a very long
time. A significant number of our volunteers also lost their homes. The
devastation has been beyond our expectation. The amount of people homeless,
and still homeless two months later, has been beyond our expectation.” The
joint efforts of Partnership for Safe Families with the
congregation began when five members attended an orientation and said, “We
can help.” Gloria explained, “There was a partnership there before the
flood, and when the flood happened it seemed the church was a magnet for
people to come to.”
with a committee to ensure integrity in how the Oblation grant is used,
Partnership for Safe Families helped clients who lost everything by making
housing and utility deposits; paying fees to send for copies of birth
certificates; providing new mattresses, box springs, sheets, and pillows;
and much more.
“The families are so appreciative,” Gloria said through tears. “I didn’t
even know this church existed three years ago, and now the name Community of
Christ is everywhere in the community. People know this as a church you can
call and they will respond.”
The $20,000 from the congregation’s local ministries budget is for ongoing
flood relief. Working with local social services agencies each week, we
determined what people needed for cleanup and rebuilding.
Phase 1 was distributing cleaning kits. Phase 2 was tool kits for projects
like tearing out drywall. Phase 3 provided essentials in kitchen, bath,
linen, and tool totes. Phase 4 was clothing. By the end of July, the
congregation and volunteers from other faiths and organizations had readied
nearly 1,400 boxes of clothing from all over the nation. Thousands of people
in need came through the distribution site in mid-August
to receive these items.
Gloria was impressed that the clothing drive was open to everyone. Many
places require a FEMA identification number to receive goods or services,
but the flood eliminated clothing distribution centers for all those in
need. “I really appreciate that about this faith group,” she said,
“recognizing that everyone deserves to come forward and be served.”
Members and friends at Cedar Rapids continue to help neighbors in many ways.
Meals and more than seventy dozen cookies were shared with relief workers in
the hardest hit areas. Many have walked displaced pets and cleaned out
kennels. Some have cleaned out damaged homes. Others have been able to focus
on spiritual and moral support by doing grief counseling with survivors and
relief workers. Area Community of Christ members organized a countywide
interfaith prayer service and we have also opened up our building to groups
that found themselves without locations to meet.