Newsline Extra for June 5, 2008

“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008”

“Disaster after disaster!” (Ezekiel 7:5b).

1) Brethren in Northern Plains District respond to Iowa tornado.
2) Brethren bits: Material Resources, Emergency Disaster Fund.

For Newsline subscription information go to For more news go to, click on “News” to find a news feature, links to Brethren in the news, photo albums, conference reporting, webcasts, and the Newsline archive.

1) Brethren in Northern Plains District respond to Iowa tornado.

Brethren in Northern Plains District have been responding to needs of those who lost homes in the tornado that hit Parkersburg and other areas of northeastern Iowa on May 25. One Church of the Brethren family who are members at Ivester Church of the Brethren in Grundy Center, lost their home in Parkersburg and most of their household belongings.

The tornado was of the strongest type, an F5, with a path that stretched for 43 miles, according to Des Moines’ KCCI Channel 8. Seven people were killed and 60 or more were injured, 288 homes were destroyed, and a couple hundred were damaged. The tornado completely decimated one-third of the small town of Parkersburg, which has a population of 1,900.

District disaster coordinator Gary Gahm has been monitoring the situation in the aftermath of the tornado and subsequent flooding. Children’s Disaster Services was on alert for a possible response in Parkersburg, but the need for child care did not materialize, reported Jane Yount of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Gahm will participate in a conference call of recovery organizations later today, during which more will be learned about plans for immediate debris cleanup and longterm recovery. He said the conference call also will address the tornados that hit Iowa again last night, and he added that the weather forecast anticipates more tornados tonight.

“Right now there’s not a lot I can do, just sit back and keep track of it,” he commented, saying that it will take three or four weeks before a volunteer response can begin in Parkersburg and other areas of Iowa affected by the storms. Northern Plains District volunteers will take part in the clean up, he said, depending on the timing. “We’re a farming district,” Gahm said, noting that many farmers need to work in the fields right now.

Gahm’s immediate emphasis for the district’s disaster response is the Brethren Disaster Ministries site in Rushford, Minn., where volunteers have begun complete rebuilds of homes destroyed by flooding. A team of seven volunteers from Hammond Avenue Brethren Church in Waterloo–one of the closer Brethren churches to Parkersburg, just about 20 miles away–are actually working in Rushford. Gahm said they decided to go ahead and travel to the Minnesota site because it is too soon for Iowa volunteers to work on the situations in their own state.

Gahm also expressed concern for those affected by another Memorial Day Weekend tornado that hit the town of Hugo, Minn.–which coincidentally is the hometown of David Engel, a previous project director for the Brethren Disaster Ministries site in Rushford. A two-year-old boy was killed in Hugo, 27 houses were destroyed, and 500 more suffered some kind of damage, according to the “Star Tribune” of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In other efforts by churches in Northern Plains District, the Ivester congregation has held a “Blessing of the Plastics” on June 1, for the members who lost their home, and plans another blessing this coming Sunday. Church members were asked to purchase gift cards from stores such as Casey’s, K-Mart, and Target, and bring them to church. A special prayer of blessing was said as the cards were placed in the offering. The offering of gift cards is designed to allow the family to purchase what they need, when they need it.

The church also has been donating needed toiletry items for the wider community affected by the tornado, such as toothbrushes, shampoo, wash cloths, and towels. Operation Threshold will distribute the donations. Ivester member Chris Tobias serves as director of Operation Threshold, an Iowa community action agency providing services to meet basic human needs.

“What you have is just this outpouring of support among everybody,” said Tim Button-Harrison, executive minister for Northern Plains District.

2) Brethren bits: Material Resources, Emergency Disaster Fund.

  • The Material Resources program at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has packed its last box of clothing. The program reports that Lutheran World Relief has wound down its clothing processing efforts. Material Resources continues to process, warehouse, and ship a wide variety of relief goods to areas in need around the world, including quilts, blankets, medical supplies, and all kinds of relief kits. The shipments are made on behalf of a number of ecumenical partners. The program reports that staff and volunteers also are opening all health kits to remove toothpaste that may be tainted, and to make sure the contents are standard.
  • Material Resources shipments this spring have included blankets and hygiene kits to the homeless in Alabama, Massachusetts, and Washington States; blankets for refugees in Iowa; clean-up buckets to Arkansas and Missouri following flooding; a 40-foot container shipped to Burkino Faso on behalf of Global Assistance; a 40-foot container shipped to the Congo for IMA World Health, containing nearly 37,000 pounds of medical supplies; a cooperative shipment of Church World Service (CWS) and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to Moldova with health kits and toothpaste; a cooperative shipment of Lutheran World Relief and IOCC to Jordan containing layettes; two 40-foot containers shipped to the Dominican Republic for CWS, including a variety of relief materials; and a cooperative shipment by Lutheran World Relief, CWS, and IOCC to Bosnia with layettes and school kits.
  • Recent grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund have given a total of $6,500 for relief efforts following spring storms, and flooding in Nevada. The Emergency Disaster Fund is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board. A grant of $4,000 has been given in response to a Church World Service (CWS) appeal following more outbreaks of tornadoes and flooding across the US. The funds will help provide material aid, staff deployment, training, and financial support for longterm recovery groups in parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, and Oklahoma. A grant of $2,500 responds to a CWS appeal following the breach of an irrigation canal in Fernley, Nev., where flooding has affected more than 500 homes and 3,000 people were evacuated.

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Jon Kobel, Lois Kruse, Wendy McFadden contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with other special issues sent as needed. The next regularly scheduled issue is set for June 18. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]