A bit of Jasper County is currently hard at work in Moore, Okla., assisting with clean-up and disaster relief efforts following Monday’s EF5 tornado that destroyed a wide swath of the Oklahoma City suburb.
While he’s at it, Walt Claussen is hoping to repair a few hearts, too.
“Definitely, the opportunity to minister to others is the most rewarding part of this trip,” he said. “We’re all working so hard, but stopping at the end to minister and pray with people, that definitely feels great.”
Claussen, who is now a pastor at Developing Great Relationships, a marriage enrichment center in Pella, left Wednesday with a group from Valley Disaster Relief. The group he works with, a “chainsaw crew,” is an all-volunteer bunch that will work in coordination with Global Compassion Network.
“We should be on-site by 6 p.m. this evening,” he said. “Then, we’ll set up tomorrow morning, and hit it hard.”
Claussen said his group of volunteers should be returning to Central Iowa on Saturday. He said a second group of volunteers is being formed currently that will go sometime next week. Volunteers are still being sought.
“There are three ways people can help,” he said. “Obviously, they could volunteer — the information is available at the Valley Disaster Relief website, ValleyChainsaw.org — and they can donate, or they can keep us in their prayers.”
Claussen said the relief trips can be costly for the organization. Gas alone for the current trip to Oklahoma will cost more than $500. But, he said the group has been blessed with an outpouring of support, so far.
“At our first pit stop [in Polo, Mo.], an elderly lady named Wilma came up and handed one of us a wadded up fist of cash and said she didn’t have much money but thought we could use it for fuel or food,” he said. “When asked how we could pray for her, she teared up and said just pray for those effected by the tornadoes. We give God the glory for sweet ladies like Wilma. Already, we see God’s hand at work.”
Valley Disaster Relief is a West Des Moines-based ministry affiliated with Valley Church — and Evangelical Free Church — in West Des Moines. The ministry responds to natural disasters to provide direct assistance by clearing away trees that have been knocked down by storms.
With the motto, “Cutting Straight to the Truth,” Valley Disaster Relief has responded to the EF5 tornadoes in Parkersburg and Joplin, Mo., as well as the areas impacted by hurricanes Ike and Katrina. The group also travels to places that don’t grab national headlines.
Claussen said he has been affiliated with the group as a volunteer for about three years. He said he finds it is a great way to serve, because it meets the needs of many who otherwise couldn’t afford to clean up felled trees on their property.
A native of Killduff, his first pastoral call was to a church in Wittemburg about 20 years ago. He also pastored a church in Grinnell for a few years. His wife, Lori, and mother-in-law, Nancy Minner, work for a Newton law firm.
Daily News Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at email@example.com.