Cedar Rapids, IA

A local polka band wrapped up its rendition of “Sioux City Sue” as the Church World Service Day of Celebration began May 18 at the home of Dan and Sandy McSpadden.

The event was the culmination of a six-week ecumenical rebuild project. It was also a vivid reminder to the participating denominations of the ongoing need for disaster relief in Cedar Rapids. Since the floods of June 2008, local faith-based and secular partners have been working together across denominational and agency lines to rebuild more than 600 of the 6,000 flood-damaged homes. The CWS project begun in April of this year mobilized 700 volunteers and enabled 14 more families to move back into their homes.

No one felt the need to celebrate more on this bright, sunny morning than the McSpaddens, whose home at 1342 5th St. NW was showcased during the CWS Day of Celebration. They sat on their newly rebuilt front porch holding hands and listening to the remarks of the national and local partners who had coordinated the effort.

 “Whatever binds us together as denominations in Jesus is greater than any small disagreements we might have about how to do things,” said David Dethmers of the Reformed Church in America.

Dethmers’ comments were affirmed by Fred Visser from Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, who quoted 1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Visser provided a ready example by explaining how the day before, a group of workers had differing opinions about how to section off the angles on some drywall when in walked a geometry teacher from Joplin, MO, with a perfect solution.

The McSpaddens were joined on the front porch by the partners for the ribbon cutting ceremony and turnover of the house keys.

“I don’t know how to thank everyone who has helped us come back home,” said Dan McSpadden. “It’s like a dream come true.”

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance contributed $30,000 toward the rebuild effort and worked in conjunction with the Presbytery of East Iowa to coordinate housing for the CWS volunteers.

Christ Church Presbyterian and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids have been PDA hospitality sites since 2008 and have provided overnight accommodations for more than 1,600 volunteers. Frank Vardeman, PDA Gulf Coast recovery manager, was on hand to represent PDA at the CWS event and to tour the hospitality site at Christ Church.

Other CWS partners were  Lutheran Services in Iowa, American Baptist Church USA, Brethren Disaster Ministries, Catholic Charities USA, Lutheran Disaster Response, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Week of Compassion, Linn Area Long Term Recovery Coalition and Block by Block.

Marue White is communications associate for the Presbytery of East Iowa