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Young Alumni make a difference!
On March 6, 2017, two of MCC's young alumni working in pastoral ministry lived and ministered through unique challenges all because of where God has planted them.
Alum Jaylin Storm '13 and his wife Geena moved to Oak Grove, MO. (just east of KC, MO) in 2016. Jaylin had recently finished graduate school at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, and was ready to get back to the midwest and start pastoring a church.
On Monday, March 6 between 8 - 9 pm, an EF-3 Tornado hit the city of Oak Grove, Missouri. Oak Grove Christian Church was two streets from the path of the tornado. Around 500 homes and businesses were damaged, including the church and homes of people in our church family. The damage left the surrounding area without power from anywhere between 12 hours - 3 days. The church was without power for 24 hours, but that did not stop people from the church and the community from setting up camp at the church to begin serving the immediate needs of those in need. With two generators, we started serving meals and collecting and distributing donations. The first two days were organized chaos as various needs came in, and we attempted to fulfill them as soon as possible. The range of early needs included moving crews to get people’s possessions into storage units, cutting up trees that were blocking paths, covering for Meals on Wheels when we learned that the elderly and disabled were not getting their meals delivered (including gaining a temporary food handler’s license from the Health Department), hosting the local food pantry while their building was without power, and helping the low-income areas restock their fridges.
On Thursday of that week, government officials, business leaders, and the senior ministers gathered to get on the same page. At the meeting, we formed the Long-Term Recovery Committee. My congregation was generous enough to allow me the time to participate on the committee in which I serve on three sub-committees: Donations Management, Spiritual/Emotional Care, and Unmet Needs (Financial Accountability).
For the first week, I averaged 14 hour work days. I have finally been able to catch up on sleep, but the memories are still fresh in my mind. The memory of sitting on the bathroom floor in my duplex with my wife Geena, who is 9 months pregnant, and my terrified dog, Karl, when the weatherman exclaimed there is a tornado on the ground in Oak Grove. Everyone in town now has a similar story of our shared traumatic event. Many people are hurt and looking for answers. The church has seen new faces, and people are asking good questions. I consider it an honor that God has placed me here at this time to share in the true healing that only our God can provide.
A reporter asked me on the second day, “How long do you plan on serving your community.” I responded, “We are the local church, we aren’t going anywhere.” And the faithful church family of 138 years has held true to that promise.
Nick Johnson '15 moved to Ashland, KS at the beginning of 2015 to be the new Senior Pastor at the Christian Church. He had learned to love the congregation while ministering through pulpit supply during his time at MCC.
On Monday, March 6th 2017 the largest wildfire in Kansas’ state history came across the border from Oklahoma and started in Clark County. The fire burned over 85% of Clark County and as a whole burned over 1.5 million acres of land. There were seven total fatalities and one here in Clark County. Out of the 31 structures that burned in the surrounding area of Ashland, where I live, 19 of those were people’s homes. Our town was evacuated, along with three other towns near us. These fires not only took people’s homes and belongings, but it also took people’s livelihoods. With our primary economic means here being the cattle industry, the acres or grazing land, hundreds of miles of fence, and hundreds of head of cattle lost, our community has a long road ahead of us towards recovery.
However tragic this has been, it has also been a great opportunity for ministry. I am not only the Pastor at the Christian Church here in town, but I am also a volunteer EMT. The night of the fire, I was driving an ambulance and servicing our county with EMS. We had several calls that night, one to help evacuate the hospital, then going door to door to let people know they needed to leave, and that night we had a vehicle accident outside of town in the middle of the fire. Honestly, it is only by the grace of God that we were able to save a family and make it out alive ourselves.
Beyond the night of the fire, it has been an eye opening experience for me to minister to the community here. Farmers and ranchers are not the type to come to the church to speak to a Pastor. These are the guys that know they have work to do and they are not going to rest until it is finished. So, it has been my goal to put on my work gloves and a pair of boots and go help these ranchers by building fence, counting cattle, and even just riding with them to get out and open gates for their trucks. It is quite different work from what I am used to, but this is the type of work that really allows the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus.