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Minnesota CRC Offers Space, Refreshments In Train Derailment Emergency

Derailed and burning tank cars in Raymond, Minn., drew responders and repair crews to the small town in late March. Raymond CRC offered what it could to help.
Raymond Fire & Rescue Department

Raymond (Minn.) Christian Reformed Church sits less than a quarter mile from railroad tracks running through the small Minnesota city. Early Thursday, March 30, 1 a.m. local time, when a train carrying corn ethanol derailed and caught on fire 200 yards from downtown, the church was called on to serve. The town’s 764 residents were displaced to nearby Prinsburg for 11 hours while emergency services fought the flames. While the town was evacuated, emergency service representatives needed a place to gather. They called on Pastor Aaron Greydanus. By 6 a.m., Greydanus and several other volunteers were in the church’s kitchen cooking pancakes and preparing coffee for the emergency response crews. Fire departments within a 60-mile radius of Raymond responded. 

Raymond CRC opened its doors to all emergency crews, which set up local incident command centers from the fellowship hall of the building. Greydanus said volunteers from Raymond CRC, the local Lutheran church, and the Lion’s Club took turns in shifts so that hot food was available throughout the night and into Friday morning for emergency service members. Local residents donated food, water, and baked goods for the crews. They also made in-kind and monetary donations, Greydanus said, which volunteers packaged into gift bags to share with residents in need as they returned to their homes around noon Thursday.

Greydanus said Minnesota senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and state representative Michelle Fischbach visited Raymond CRC on Friday morning to be briefed by emergency services, tour the accident site, and meet with the press. 

“God used us in service to others,” Greydanus said. “He brought people from all over the nation. It was almost like God said, ‘Here’s the world, now preach the Gospel through your service.’” Greydanus said he could see evidence of the church answering the call to generosity. “‘We’ve never been received like this before,’” he heard from one of the Burlington Northern Railroad representatives.


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