Alumni In Action: Tornado Relief

NCC Alumni Family Responds to Natural Disaster

On Thursday, July 19, Marshalltown, Iowa, made national news when a half-mile wide tornado traveled two miles down the center of the town and destroyed or significantly damaged more than 700 homes and businesses. By the grace of God, no loss of life or major injuries occurred that day, but the tornado left hundreds of people without homes, power or jobs and the local hospital had to be evacuated.

Marshalltown has been home to alumni Kerry and Jane Jech who moved there the day after they graduated from NCC in May of 1978. Kerry has been the lead pastor at New Hope Christian Church since that time. Forty years is a long time to minister in one place – long enough to develop strong ties to the community and forge strong relationships. 

Watching the tornado swirl debris as it moved through town, Kerry knew the needs of the community would be overwhelming. He immediately told his church staff that everything they were doing was on hold, and tornado relief was the only priority for the entire next week. Worship services on the weekend were focused solely on praising and thanking the Lord for His protection and organizing for action. Since the day of the tornado, the church has sought to meet the needs of their members, their member’s neighbors and the community. Clean-up efforts were most of the needs for weeks, but they are now transitioning into the construction phase. 

Kerry said, “42 languages are spoken in the Marshalltown School District, and I have been praying for years that God would bring a revival and unity to Marshalltown and Central Iowa. Though Satan intended to bring great destruction through the storm, God has accomplished a great deal of good.” The community has clearly come together to be “Marshalltown Strong.”

From the moment the news of the tornado hit the national news, Kerry and Jane began receiving communications from family and friends, including alumni across the nation. One of those calls came from Dawna Bates in McCook, Nebraska. She and her husband, Clark (‘79), attended NCC at the same time as the Jech’s (both Kerry and Clark have also served as trustees for NCC). Clark has been the lead pastor at the church in McCook for the last 33 years.

The Bates’ and members from their church donated supplies to help with Hurricane Harvey Relief last year in Houston where their son, Bryson, lives. They also collected donations for people affected by the Moore, OK, tornado a few years back when Abby Cotton’s family lost their home in that disaster. Abby had served as a summer intern at the church. 

Based on those experiences, Dawna knew the needs in Marshalltown would be overwhelming and immediately wanted to help, so she contacted Jane to discuss the possibility of sending a team.  She put out the word to the McCook Congregation on Friday, and by Saturday she had a crew of 8 volunteers lined up to go. They also collected a trailer load of donated tools and supplies.  Their team, ranging from teenagers to retirees and an international student, traveled to Marshalltown on Sunday (7-hour trip), worked two days, and made their return trip very early Wednesday morning. Half of the group had stayed with Kerry and Jane, and the other half with their daughter, Amanda (’03). 

 “The missions ministry team of McCook Christian Church is very supportive of relief efforts,” said Clark Bates. “Dawna has a passion for this type of ministry, and she is the one who lines everything up, makes the connections, and leads the teams. We were blessed by the group of volunteers who made plans to participate on just a couple days’ notice.”  

Dawna added, “The most meaningful thing from the trip was being able to pray with the people we were serving, including a young couple struggling to make it before the storm, a single mom, a senior citizen, and a lady who understandably was still pretty shaken up days after the storm. We worked hard for two days; we accomplished only a small part of what needed to be done, but for those we did help, we made a difference.” Both the Jechs and the Bates commented on how much they enjoyed sharing life and doing ministry during those few days!

Miracles happened from the moment the tornado touched down in Marshalltown, including lives that are forever changed because of that disaster. A member of New Hope Christian Church in Marshalltown has been praying for her father, Dean, for many years, but he had stubbornly rejected Christ… until he survived the tornado and members of the International Relief Organization Samaritan’s Purse demonstrated God’s love by helping him in the days that followed. Dean now attends New Hope Christian Church faithfully. To watch a video of Dean’s compelling personal story of surviving the tornado and coming to faith in Christ, click here.

Marshalltown may never be the same again following this devastating tornado, yet the compassionate response of God’s people, including the NCC alumni family, served as the hands and feet of Christ – tools God used to bring beauty from ashes.

Jonathan Norton