Volunteers Transform a Neighborhood Street in Jesus’ Name

August 24, 2020 • United States
Volunteers presented homeowner Della Ramsey with a Billy Graham Study Bible signed by the team after clean up work was completed at her house.
Volunteers presented homeowner Della Ramsey with a Billy Graham Study Bible signed by the team after clean up work was completed at her house.

God is at work in Iowa where our volunteer teams are helping homeowners clean up after a devastating "derecho" storm system.

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When volunteers clad in orange shirts descended upon Belmont Parkway in northeast Iowa, homeowners took notice. What began as just a few requests for help on the devastated street grew into nearly a dozen families asking for assistance.

Our volunteers are busy removing trees and debris from homes in two parts of Iowa.

Our volunteers are busy removing trees and debris from homes in two parts of Iowa.

Disaster response vehicles, a skid steer, and a volunteer army running chainsaws and clearing debris became a familiar and comforting sight in the hurting neighborhood.

Della Ramsey has lived on Belmont Parkway for 54 years. When she heard on the noon news that thunderstorms were coming from the west, she went down into her basement to ride out the storm. She sheltered there as she heard the screech of high winds and trees crashing down.

What most residents expected to be a late summer storm turned into a derecho with hurricane force winds. She described coming out of her basement for the first time after the storm as a shocking experience. The powerful derecho changed her entire neighborhood. Her backyard was covered in downed trees. Della is a widow and lives alone. She had no idea what to do next so she asked God for help.

VOLUNTEER IN IOWA: CEDAR RAPIDS | TAMA COUNTY

Then she saw a team of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers working at her neighbor’s house. Della wondered if this might be the answer to her prayer. Soon she had hope again—Samaritan’s Purse volunteers committed to helping her start to recover by chainsawing downed trees, clearing debris and cleaning up her yard.

Della told her family not to worry about her because God had sent people to help. Her son remarked that Della must be pretty powerful if she could have a volunteer team out working just days after the storm swept through, but she reminded him that the only power she has is the power of God.

Della said, “I believe in the power of prayer. I prayed for help, and you came.”

Hard Work Leads to Open Hearts

Across the street from Della, Samaritan’s Purse helped Jeff Wise. For three days, volunteers worked to clear his property of tangled trees that broke under the weight of the storm.

Homeowner Jeff Wise was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion at the site of so many volunteers at his house. And he was grateful and excited to read his new Bible provided by the team.

Homeowner Jeff Wise was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion at the site of so many volunteers at his house. And he was grateful and excited to read his new Bible provided by the team.

Jeff said, “I still can’t tell you guys thank you enough.” Samaritan’s Purse showed up in his driveway just when he was reaching the end of his rope. He didn’t know where to turn, but then a truck pulled into his driveway with a Samaritan’s Purse assessment team offering to help. He kept asking the volunteers how they found him, and how they knew how desperate he was for help, but all they could say was that God brought them there. As the team presented Jeff with a new Bible, signed by each volunteer who worked at his house, he said, “I could have never done what you did. I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say, but thank you.”

Ed Teegardin, the team lead at the worksite, shared the Gospel with Jeff before praying together as a team. He explained that the reason we serve is because Jesus paid the ultimate debt for our sins on the cross. Overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude, Jeff said he wanted to read his new Bible and learn more about the reason Samaritan’s Purse was there.

Cheryl Renken, who lives just a few houses down from Jeff, said word spread quickly on their street that Samaritan’s Purse could help. Cheryl said, “It’s just overwhelming. I can’t say enough about the volunteers.”

She described the mornings after the storm like waking up in a dark fog. She couldn’t see what to do next and felt hopeless. After Samaritan’s Purse cleared her yard, she woke up with hope. Her street was taking shape and recognizable again.

Teams make quick work of large debris throughout communities in northeastern Iowa.

Teams make quick work of large debris throughout communities in northeastern Iowa.

After days of hard work, Belmont Parkway began to transform. Yards filled with twisted, downed trees and debris have been cleared and raked. Piles of tree trunks, limbs, and brush now line both sides of the road—often higher than the people walking by—but this is not the most important work that was accomplished. The most important thing was sharing God’s love and offering homeowners the free gift of salvation. As volunteers served day after day, homeowners asked questions. They wanted to know the “why” behind our efforts. Many seeds were planted as God’s love was shared in action.

Please pray as our work continues in two parts of Iowa–Tama County and Cedar Rapids. Please also continue to pray for the many families in those communities who are struggling with what to do next. Pray that they will physically recover from the storm, but, most important, pray that God will transform their hearts.


Note: There’s a growing need for volunteers for our two Iowa responses. Watch this video about one couple who is volunteering with us as we seek to help homeowners in the northeastern part of the state.



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U.S. Disaster Relief Samaritan's Purse mobilizes and equips thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to U.S. victims of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. In the aftermath of major storms, we often stay behind to rebuild houses for people with nowhere else to turn for help.

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