In Greensburg, Kan., a tornado completely leveled 90 percent of town on May 4, during a night in which at least six tornados were in the area, and more the next night. “While Greensburg is the focus of the national media, the destruction reaches northeast into the heart of Kansas farmland,” reported Roy Winter, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries (formerly called the Emergency Response program) for the Church of the Brethren General Board.
Roy Winter visited Greensburg area last week to help assess the need for a Brethren response. “In Stafford County, the Eden Valley Church of the Brethren sits untouched, but at least five Brethren families experienced damage to their homes, garages, or barns,” he said.
Eden Valley pastor Tim Morris has been providing pastoral support to some of the families who survived the disaster, such as a family whose farm north of Greensburg lost all nine buildings as the tornados moved northeast. The loss included the house and some live stock. “Even the floor of the house was ripped away,” Roy Winter said.
Pastor Morris is helping coordinate relief efforts in this rural area, with support from Western Plains District and from Bill Winter, who is acting district disaster coordinator and is taking part in the meetings of area agencies involved in the relief effort.
Western Plains District is planning to focus the Brethren response in the area north of Greensburg. “Right now Greensburg is very much in the news eye, and they’re getting a lot of help. So what we’ve decided to do is focus on the area north of Greensburg where the tornados went after hitting the town,” Bill Winter said. Last week he and a small group of Brethren went out to help clean up felled trees and do some debris removal in the area north of Greensburg.
The district has issued a general call for volunteers to “walk the fields” on the afternoon of Sunday, May 27, to pick up debris for the farmers in the area. The call went out to the Church of the Brethren congregations located in the western part of the state of Kansas, west of Wichita. Volunteers are to meet at Eden Valley Church of the Brethren at 2 p.m., and the church will provide a light meal. “Anyone from child up to older adult who can bend over and pick up stuff is welcome!” Bill Winter said.
“The process is ongoing,” he added. “We can’t just go in with a big shovel and clean it up.” Future work may include rebuilding of homes and garages and other buildings damaged by the storms, he said.
Children’s Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care) also has responded quickly to the Greensburg tornado by sending seven volunteers to help care for the children of affected families. Volunteers worked in the Red Cross services center in Haviland, just west of Greensburg, through May 16. The program is currently working to create a longterm child care presence in Greensburg for families who are doing clean up and rebuilding.