On August 10, amidst a global pandemic, a storm unexpectedly hit the homes and lives of the community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This event, called a derecho, barely even made the news.

Many in the KINDLE community were impacted and the practices of Cultivating Groups became the primary focus in organizing the clean up efforts.

Director of Christian Education (DCE) and Classic KINDLE Associate Tony Dixon lives and serves in the heart of the area impacted. He is on staff at King of Kings Lutheran Church.

“In our city and the surrounding area, over 200,000 homes were without power for almost one week, some for as long as two weeks. There was no internet, no cell phone coverage, no gas, and limited groceries,” said Dixon.

“Many of our congregation members were (and still are) missing sections of their roofs, had barns and grain bins leveled, and massive 100 year-old trees on top of their homes or cars. No one was left untouched by this storm and the need was great.”

It is hard to imagine a natural disaster like this in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a season where physical community is considered an unsafe practice, people came together.

“When we were helping with community efforts, people took precautions to wear masks, but honestly what I have noticed is clean up efforts have been about being neighbors, and being a community,” said Dvorak.

King of Kings quickly took action in checking on members and formulating next steps to help the community.

“Reflecting back on the past six weeks has opened my eyes to the fact that all five practices found within the Cultivating Groups strand played a huge role in our efforts to coordinate post-storm cleanup in our community. The two that have probably risen to the surface a bit more than the others are Identify Common Vision (4.2), and Nurture Collaboration (4.5),” said Dixon.

Tony’s team of congregational leaders identified that the common vision (Practice 4.2) was two-fold: “Serve others while sharing the Gospel in our hurting community by working with our King of Kings Disaster Response Team to give our congregation members a way to serve our neighbors with debris removal and facilitating a process for LERT [Lutheran Early Response Teams] and student groups from outside of our local community and congregation to come and serve,” said Dixon.

The word traveled fast, beyond the local community through social media, as the congregation sought outside groups to help with recovery.

Ruth Woltmann, a DCE in northern Minnesota and Classic KINDLE Associate, got connected right away. “I originally heard about the storm through Facebook posts from friends in the Cedar Rapids area as I did my DCE internship at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mount Vernon, Iowa. I contacted Tony Dixon after he posted in the NADCE [National Association of Directors of Christian Education] Facebook group about the opportunity to come help that his congregation and the Iowa District East were facilitating about one week after the storm.”

A new community was formed as groups traveled and gathered to work together in the recovery efforts. The group from northern Minnesota practiced identifying common vision as well.

“Our group was made up of 13 volunteers from 3 different congregations, (Peace in Christ; Hermantown, MN/Zion; Brainerd, MN/First Immanuel; Cedarburg, WI) ranging in age from 8 to 58. We arrived in 6 different vehicles from 5 different departure cities, but we all came with a common vision – to bring relief and comfort to some very tired people,” said Woltmann.

COVID-19 had shifted how Christian communities were fostered, but the
Christ-like servant leadership qualities still came through to bless and serve
one another.

“In some senses it has brought us so much closer together as a community. People are so willing to get out there and help each other whether it is through labor, food, childcare, whatever,” said Jessica Dvorak.

“The community that has been built over the past several weeks goes far beyond our neighborhoods. Think about the ways that God can use these acts of service to open doors when homeowners find out that a group has traveled all the way from northern Minnesota just to help them. These are the times when we begin to see even a small glimpse of the power that Christ holds in His living and active body.” — Tony Dixon

KINDLE Christ-like servant leader training benefited both leaders and volunteers alike as they utilized knowledge, skill, and attitude in a challenging situation.

“God put together a team of selfless, fun-loving, and willing workers to serve in Cedar Rapids. They were persistent through really hot weather, air mattresses, cuts and bruises – all for the sake of serving others in Jesus’ name,” said Woltmann.

“I’m very thankful for the ways that KINDLE helped prepare me to work with our leadership team and face the challenge of equipping Christ-like servant leaders in difficult circumstances. Throughout this post-derecho process, I’ve found much greater joy and purpose by connecting our staff, lay leaders, and visiting groups with opportunities to thrive as Christ-like servant leaders together,” said Dixon.

Read more of the KINDLE Life November 2020 issue here.