December 16, 2013—In November, a fast-moving cold front spawned more than 75 tornadoes that affected residents of twelve states across the Midwest. Less than 24 hours after the disaster, World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) volunteers were on their way to Kokomo, Indiana, and Cole City and Washington, Illinois.
“We heard that a tornado was headed straight for a large Methodist church in the watch area when it seemed to take a detour around the building. God spared his people that day, because church was full of worshippers at the time,” say Early Response Coordinators Glen and Betty Geurink.
One of the families that the couple met was the Lancasters. Chad and Mindy, and their daughter Jett were struggling to cope in the aftermath of the storm.
“We helped them put the belongings they had left into their car. They lost almost everything and were grateful for our help,” the Geurinks said.
As trained DRS early response coordinators, the Geurinks have a compassionate demeanor about their work, and are especially gifted in providing emotional and spiritual care to those whose lives have been turned upside down during a disaster.
It will take a long time to clean up and repair homes after these rare November tornadoes, but in their immediate aftermath, a listening ear and a prayer are often the most helpful action responders can take.
“We talked with one woman for quite a while. We gave her information about applying for assistance as well as a helpful booklet called When Your Whole World Changes. We left a similar booklet and a Bible with a man who was disabled and lost his home,” the Geurinks said.
Regional Managers Ed and Helen Mulder are also active in the response, connecting regularly with Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) for the state of Illinois.
“For safety reasons, the communities that were affected by the tornadoes were “closed” for eight days—no one was allowed in or out besides emergency personnel and damage evaluators. After that, residents had a few days to search for their belongings and the city then began to clear the debris by the truckload,” the Mulders said.
World Renew will continue to assist long-term recovery groups in Illinois with organizational capacity-building, assisting them through the phases of disaster recovery.
While it seems that the current needs are being met, World Renew DRS plans to be involved in the long-term recovery following the November tornadoes. It sometimes takes months, even years, to restore homes, communities, and lives after a disaster.
You can help tornado survivors in Illinois rebuild with your financial gift, please click here.