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This is the first in a series of Faith In Action reports on how churches, ministries, and people from the Iowa United Methodist Church are making a difference and changing lives following the derecho disaster in August 2020.
It is estimated that the city of Cedar Rapids lost 50 percent of its tree canopy as a result of the August 10, 2020 derecho. The derecho, with wind gusts of over 140 mph, devasted much of the city and surrounding areas. Since day one of the disaster, the Iowa United Methodist Disaster Response Chainsaw Team led by Rev. Andrew Happ has been on the front lines helping clean up some of the thousands of fallen trees.
See a gallery of images from the Chainsaw Ministry Team
On Thursday, August 27, 2020, Bishop Laurie Haller met with the volunteer chainsaw crews in the parking lot of Hiawatha City Hall to hear their stories, offer encouragement, and pray with them.
Rev. Happ is the pastor at Center Point United Methodist Church and Disaster Response Coordinator for the East Central District. He became involved in the chainsaw crew a few years back through the suggestion of his district superintendent Rev. Kiboko I. Kiboko.
One of his biggest joys is seeing all the willing volunteers who come to help.
“It’s been difficult for me to not be in my office for a great amount of time, but this is also my parish. It’s been a good molder and shaper for me and my ministry. God’s opening my heart and eyes to see an opportunity and that it ought not just be during a disaster,” said Happ.
Center Point UMC’s staff and laity have stepped up to help when Rev. Happ is unable to be in the office doing sermon prep throughout the week. He acknowledged that it is difficult to be in two places at one time, including at home for his pregnant wife and two girls.
“We have learned the strong use of the word ‘pivot.’ We have got to learn to pivot. It’s a very functional word and application for us in ministry. It’s what God is calling us to do,” said Happ.
One of the things Rev. Happ wants to remind everyone is that the cleaning up and recovery after the derecho is not a sprint but a distance run.
“By and large, we are an individualized culture. You're not affected but you can still have an impact in a great way and change someone’s life. That’s something I think about every single day. How am I doing that? In what way do I need to be better at that? And asking God for the guidance and wisdom to find that opportunity,” said Happ.
Financial donations can be given through the United Methodist Church Advance Special #223. All donations are used for supporting and helping Iowans affected by these storms. Check here for other derecho donations and ways to support.
Churches (please, only churches at this time) who need help from one of the Chainsaw Teams cutting trees and hauling branches, please contact Rev. Andrew Happ at 319-241-0223 (call, text, or leave a message) or email him at [email protected]. Individuals who need chainsaw help, please call your church or pastor. (Pastor’s please make a list and contact Pastor Happ with your needs.)
If you want to volunteer to help the chainsaw crews in the Cedar Rapids area with hauling brush and clean-up, please meet at the Hiawatha City Hall Parking Lot, Friday and Saturday at 9:00 am. Please wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, sturdy shoes, eye protection, and work gloves. Plan to bring your lunch and water.