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In early March, before deciding to close all Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) projects through the summer due to COVID-19, MDS Executive Director Kevin King made a trip to visit projects operated by local units—groups of volunteers in congregations who respond to local disasters in their states.

“It was an amazing trip,” said King of this visits to Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Iowa, Nebraska, Washington State and California. “I was so impressed by all the hard and dedicated work being done by so many to help their neighbors recover from disasters big and small.”

Below find a story from Iowa—the faces and places of MDS following God’s call to help others.

“It’s amazing to me”

A year after a devastating flood in Pacific Junction, Iowa, Pat Young stood in a house that had been repaired by volunteer crews coordinated by the MDS Iowa Unit.

For her, it was a bittersweet moment; her mother passed away on Valentine’s Day this year, 11 months after the flood. But before she died she was able to come back to the repaired home for her final breaths.

The house is filled with memories of her mother, including the day the levee burst.

Before they fled on that inexplicably bright, sunny afternoon, she grabbed pictures from the walls and her mother’s medications.

She also took her Bible. “Where’s the Bible? I got [to get] the Bible,” Young said, recalling that terrible event.

When the water finally receded, she went to survey the ruined house. Nobody in town, it seemed, was in any position to help. Then she met Ted Reading, MDS Iowa Unit coordinator.

“Ted was the first glimmer of hope,” she said. “I knew I had to rebuild my mother’s house.”

Reading, who lives a four-hour drive from Pacific Junction, was responsible for finding volunteers to work on Young’s house, and for finding them a place to stay.

“It’s amazing to me that somebody who doesn’t even know me would come across the state to help me,” said Young.

Susan Kim is a freelance writer. 

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