On the evening of May 20, Midland (Mich.) Reformed Church opened its doors to some of the 10,000 people who were forced to evacuate their homes and the surrounding communities due to flooding caused by the breaking of two dams. Of those affected by this disaster, close to 20 families were members of the congregation.
Midland Reformed Church had been scheduled to send a group of volunteers to serve with World Renew Disaster Response Services in North Carolina this summer. That trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did those volunteers know that May 2020 would bring an entirely different opportunity to serve those who had survived a natural disaster, this time much closer to home.
Senior pastor Mike De Ruyter explained that in the past it had seemed to the congregation that “disaster recovery work was always something that happened a long distance away and participating in that work meant doing a short mission trip. When the disaster happened right in our community, I knew that World Renew DRS would be one of my first calls.” While COVID-19 has restricted the ability of World Renew to send volunteers to disasters, Midland Reformed provided World Renew the chance to creatively respond to a crisis with a grant that equipped Midland and other nearby churches to serve their local communities, physically and emotionally.
Since the night of the evacuation and through the aid of their World Renew grant, Midland Reformed Church has installed hot water heaters, focused on immediate needs to get families back in their homes, and tended to the emotional needs of the vulnerable.
“Our prayer is that congregations across the mid-Michigan region will be unified in our response to those needs in a way that the hope of the gospel becomes a profoundly and personally lived experience and that the presence of Jesus is known,” De Ruyter shared. “Specifically, we are praying that we will be able to develop long-term relationships with those we serve.”
Chris Gibson, groups program manager for World Renew DRS, was able to spend some time in Midland after the flooding to assess the disaster and meet with De Ruyter.
“Before we ever got involved, neighbors were helping neighbors, pastors were talking with pastors, and churches were working together to help their own community,” Gibson said. “This type of collaborative work is foundational for the type of ministry we hope World Renew comes alongside in times of disaster. Collaborative partnerships are at the center of this ministry, and having pastors and churches already moving forward together to help their neighbors is exactly the situation we hope for when a disaster strikes a community.”