“It was a good experience, but so overwhelming,” said Shawn Huber of Hillsboro, of local efforts to help with disaster relief in Kentucky after deadly December tornados. “With something like this, you wonder if we really are doing much to help. But if you can help one person, it means something to them. And if you can get a lot of people to help others, it really does make a difference. One person can’t do everything, but each person can do a little.”
Huber, who serves as the assistant pastor at World Harvest Church in Hillsboro, joined a group of volunteers put together by Jim Brown of Litchfield of the Rural America Missions Network. Other team members included Pastor Steve and Matthew Schmidt of Carlinville, Chaplain Steve Holems and his two sons of Marion, John Holmes of Moline, Dennis King of Mt. Olive, Dave and Laura VanHeuvelen and their four teenage kids of Emmetsburg, IA and Robert and RJ of Eddysville, KY.
The RAM Network is focused on supporting rural pastors and developing rural churches to impact their towns with the love and hope of God.
“Putting this work team together was just a natural outflow of helping out small town America,” said Jim Brown.
While some of the team started on Sunday, Dec. 19, Huber made the trip to Dawson Springs, KY, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, and everyone departed for home by Thursday.
“Our main thing was to help individual families who had been affected by the tornados by clearing their lots,” Huber said.
On the first day, Huber worked on a lot that was next to an industrial park building, meaning he and his team members moved metal, wood and other debris close to the road and away from the lot. FEMA instructed volunteers to move debris as close to the road as possible so it could later be picked up by dump trucks.
At another lot, Huber and other volunteers cut up big tree limbs to make room for bigger equipment to come in and do the work that was needed to be done.
Throughout their journey, the team stayed at a nearby motel.
“I kind of had it in my head that I wanted to do something to help,” Huber said. “With all the craziness we deal with in our own area, I thought it would be nice to go to Kentucky and help some that are worse off than we are here.”
In some places, Huber said the devastation was just awful, including whole neighborhoods destroyed by the storms.
Huber added there has already been a big response to provide supplies like clothing and food from major organizations like Convey of Hope, Samaritan’s Purse, National Guard and more.
Many places set up “free stores,” where those displaced by the storms could get what they needed. Huber said one of the most heartwarming things he saw set up was “free Christmas shop,” where local residents could go through and pick gifts for their families.
“It brought a tear to my eye,” Huber said.
And despite dire circumstances, Huber said the people they encountered on their trip were still in good spirits.
“They still seemed to have high hopes despite everything,” he said. “It was refreshing that in the middle of everything, they weren’t bitter. They were still pushing forward and continuing to live their lives.”
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