Thousands of Iowans need a hand rebuilding their homes and lives after the June floods and a western Iowa minister is urging Iowans to answer the call and help their neighbors, even if those neighbors are across the state. Pastor Arley Ellingson, of Onawa, says the hours are long and the work is hard, but it’s wonderfully rewarding being part of a mission team that’s tackling — and accomplishing — the tough chores.
"I don’t try to argue anybody into it," Pastor Ellingson says, laughing, "I place the need before them and I’m quite honest with them. I told some folks the other day, they’re going to come home sore, you might even come home sick, but it’s well worth it because of the ministry we are doing for other people."
Being a volunteer laborer on a flood zone crew could involve relatively simple chores like sweeping or painting, but it may also mean heavy lifting of debris, swinging a sledge hammer into moldy drywall or dredging filthy dried mud off a basement floor.
Ellingson says, "I don’t want to have anybody come along that’s misinformed because then they may not go again. I want everybody to know up-front what’s going to be happening and after they go through the experience, then I think they’re more likely to return again."
There is an urgency, he says, as September arrives, reminding us that fall is coming — and eventually winter. Many formerly-flooded Iowa homes still need a lot of work before people can live in them again and some folks are still living in backyard tents or campers. Ellingson says that won’t do once November’s here.
"The need is so tremendous, not only in Cedar Rapids, but in all areas," Ellingson says. "You can go from the north to the south in Iowa, it seems we focus a lot on Cedar Rapids but north to the south of Iowa in the central and eastern areas, there’s just need all over the place." He says Iowans can get involved in the flood relief effort by contacting their nearest church, Red Cross office or visit the website of the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church .