On March 10-16, eighteen WA students and staff took a service trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to help in the recovery effort from last year’s derecho storm.

When this damaging weather system swept across the midwestern United States last August, causing high winds and weak tornadoes, Cedar Rapids was particularly hard hit, with many homes and businesses severely damaged. Our team worked to help those affected through a variety of projects in conjunction with the Iowa Derecho Relief Center, Matthew 25, United Way, and other community organizations.

During the week, students fixed and replaced mobile home skirting that had been torn apart by the winds. They cleaned up debris and spread compost in community gardens. They went door-to-door passing out information about a community needs assessment survey. They cleaned up fallen branches and trees in the Oak Hill Cemetery. They unloaded and sorted food for two different food pantries. On Sabbath, after church, the team took to the streets, distributing GLOW tracts and praying with people.

While the group set out to make a difference, a great change was also made in their own lives.

One student appreciated the way having a common purpose brought the team closer. “Whether it was hard or more fun at the time, just being able to do things together was a real bonding experience,” he said.

Another described distributing GLOW tracts as his favorite park of the trip. “So I went up to the door and this guy named Bob answered the door. He took the GLOW tract but looked super sad. I asked if I could pray for him. So I prayed with him, and didn’t think anything of it. But then the wife came out and said, ‘Thank you so much.’ I didn’t know what to say. I’ve never had anyone thank me for praying. It was really heartwarming.”

This trip was a continuing part of Wisconsin Academy’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) effort that we trained for last fall.

Wisconsin Academy is committed to training students to be “Fit to Serve.” Giving students practical service experiences like this is just one of the ways we are working to accomplish that goal.

Many thanks to Enrique Serna and Lexi Hamilton for taking and sharing their pictures.