On Sunday, July 6, a tornado touched the lives of Michigan residents in Kentwood and Wyoming, damaging homes, trees, and power lines over a six-mile (10 km) stretch. The Christian Reformed churches in Ideal Park and Kelloggsville, along with World Renew, responded to meet the needs of their neighborhoods.
Rev. Evan Heerema of Ideal Park CRC said, “[World Renew] heard about [the tornado] and got in touch with me. They cut trees off the street. Members who live close by got their chainsaws out and gloves on and helped wherever they could.”
Rev. Ron Bouwkamp of Kelloggsville CRC said that church members got involved once they heard of or saw the damage on the news. “Members and staff began removing trees at the church.”
Ideal Park CRC served as a hub for clean-up efforts and as a place of refuge from damage. A food truck used their parking lot; relief agencies used the church’s activity center to meet with those affected by the tornado. “We are the only church in the Ideal Park community,” said Heerema, “so we see ourselves as a place of refuge for natural disasters. We are a gathering place, a place of rest, a place of shelter, a place where the presence of Jesus can be felt in the Ideal park neighborhood.”
Kelloggsville CRC hosted community meetings to connect area residents with information and resources.
A few members of both churches suffered from the effects of the tornado. A Kelloggsville member lost a garage; another family lost some shingles from their house. One Ideal Park family had a tree fall in on their house and another is being put up in a local hotel by their insurance agency. No one suffered major personal injuries during the touchdown.
By Wednesday afternoon, Heerema said, most of the cleanup was finished and the power was back on. The experience reminded him “how quick our church is to help people when there is a need without any expectation of being repaid.”