Blown Away: How God Used a Disaster to Mobilize His Disciples

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

There’s nothing better than seeing God at work.  In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, God’s been taking people from overwhelmed to overjoyed the last few months thanks to many of you.

Over the last eight weeks, more than 12 EFCA Central churches have sent teams of volunteers to Stonebridge Church at their own expense to help with clean-up and restoration after a devastating August storm. Many other churches, friends and ministry partners have sent generous financial donations. Still more have faithfully submitted our needs to the Lord in prayer.

We have been blown away by the outpouring of God’s love.

The August 10th Derecho storm, with it’s 140+ mile per hour winds and rain, blew over 100-year old trees, lifted off roofs, knocked down buildings, flattened miles of electric poles and left Cedar Rapids and surrounding areas looking like a war zone.  Nearly every property in the city was affected in some way, including Stonebridge Church.

For several days after the storm, many roads were blocked by large fallen trees, no one had power, internet or phone service.  It was seven full days before we could get ahold of much of our congregation. Several had been blessed by the help of neighbors, yet more than 30 families still had major needs for clean-up, repair and physical help.

The church building also suffered significant damage.  The metal roof was peeled back over our worship center and large multi-purpose space.  Water poured in, soaking our stage and all the electronic equipment on it, as well as damaging walls and carpeting.  Insulation littered all 29 acres of our property and broken tree debris created a new kind of property line.

Yet even as news of the storm began to break, we knew we weren’t alone.  Calls from ReachGlobal Crisis Response, our EFCA Central leaders and churches throughout the Midwest began to pour in.  And when they couldn’t reach us the first time, they kept calling back, determined to help in any way they could.  Some just hopped in the car and showed up to help.

The devotion of God’s people to care for His Church was unstoppable.

Because of this support, we’ve been able to help our Stonebridge families as well as several neighbors, family members and friends of Stonebridge members.

People like Lori, a single mom who works with a Stonebridge member. “I had no idea how I was going to pay someone to come clean-up my debris,” shared Lori. “Even though I’ve never been to your church, you were willing to send people to help me. I can’t tell you how much that means. You have truly been a blessing to me!”

Beyond those we physically helped, seeds have also been planted among those who are watching. For example, John, a manager for the first response disaster relief company we hired, was staying at a Bed and Breakfast in Cedar Rapids a few days after the storm.  One night upon returning to the B&B, he noticed there were several people helping to cut-up fallen trees, haul debris and clean-up the grounds.  When John learned they were volunteers coordinated by Stonebridge Church, he was blown away. John knew of the significant damage to the church property and didn’t understand why we would be out helping others when we were facing so much on our own.  In a meeting the next day at Stonebridge, he shared how much it impacted him to see the church serving and how he had tremendous respect for the love Stonebridge was showing our community.

Just like Lori and John, we could share stories of single moms, elderly, family businesses, people with COVID and neighbors who were suspicious of Christians that we were able to help because of the support we received. For many of these people, this expression of care opened their hearts and the doors to further conversation about God’s love for them.

“The Lord provided through the teams to meet physical and financial needs. Now we are praying that those investments would yield gospel opportunities to meet spiritual needs,” noted Stonebridge Church Chairman, Steve Duffy.

The help from other churches has expanded our outreach exponentially and has been an incredible example of true discipleship. To see so many giving sacrificially of their time and resources has strengthened our own faith and shown us what it looks like to love the family of Christ no matter the cost.

Our staff, our congregation and our neighborhoods have been filled with joy during this difficult time. As our Lead Pastor, Brandon Levering reflected, “Watching our extended church family reach out and come alongside us in the wake of the storm has been such a sweet expression of God’s love. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and encouragement, your generosity, your sacrificial service and labor of love. We’re humbled and grateful, and praise God for the beautiful display of his gospel to both our congregation and our community through the loving witness of EFCA Central.”

Seeing God at work over these past few months has literally and figuratively blown us away. Our hearts have gone from overwhelmed to overjoyed as we have watched God mobilize His disciples and bless our community.

There’s truly nothing better than seeing God at work.