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How hundreds of Latter-day Saint youth brought relief to an Iowa community devastated by floods

In mid-March, heavy rainfall and snowmelt inundated western Iowa with as much as 10 feet of water, devastating homes, farmland and roads.

On Monday, June 10, close to 800 Latter-day Saint youth and leaders from eight stakes from Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa gathered at Glenwood Lake Park in Glenwood, Iowa, to serve the community impacted by the floods in nearby Pacific Junction.

Before beginning their labors, the youth were fed physically and spiritually at a breakfast devotional with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was accompanied by his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund.

Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Brian K. Taylor and Elder L. Todd Budge, both General Authority Seventies, were also present at the devotional, joined by Sister Lynette Cook and Sister Lori Budge.

After the spiritual and physical feeding, the youth shook hands with the visiting apostle and General Authority Seventies, put on their work gloves and went to work cleaning up areas in Pacific Junction.

Debris covers the yard of a Pacific Junction residence on June 10, 2019. March rainfall and snowmelt left parts of Iowa in as much as 10 feet of water, devastating homes, farmland and roads.
Debris covers the yard of a Pacific Junction residence on June 10, 2019. March rainfall and snowmelt left parts of Iowa in as much as 10 feet of water, devastating homes, farmland and roads. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“I am so impressed with the youth in this area,” Elder Renlund said. “They cheerfully came together, to help their neighbors. They expressed their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their actions. They followed Jesus’s example and ‘went about doing good.’ I loved being with them and feeling their enthusiasm for helping.”

Elder Renlund also acknowledged the youth leaders and other members who organized and supervised the service, saying he was grateful for their willingness to serve the youth and the community.

“The flood damage here is extensive and the need is great,” he said. “These leaders organized a way to show what it means to minister as well as providing help that is needed.”

In addition to addressing the youth at the devotional, Elder Taylor, Elder Cook and Sister Cook worked alongside the youth.

“The youth cleaned up all types of debris throughout the town that was left when the flood waters receded,” Elder Cook said. “They worked in yards, along city streets and in farming areas.”

Adding it was a “privilege” to serve beside them, he said he was thrilled to see yards, fields and streets filled with hundreds all working diligently to help those affected by the flood.

The youth and leaders cheerfully come together from 8 stakes spanning Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota to willingly give their time and energy to the victims of the Iowa floods on June 10, 2019.
The youth and leaders cheerfully come together from 8 stakes spanning Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota to willingly give their time and energy to the victims of the Iowa floods on June 10, 2019. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“One homeowner was surprised at the large group of volunteers that converged on the city,” Elder Cook recalled. “He rejoiced when they made it to his yard. He and a friend had just freed a lawn mower that had been stuck in deep mud, but there was still heavy debris throughout his yard, such as old tires, railroad ties, and construction materials. He wasn't sure how he was going to clear it away so he could mow the tall grass.

“He said, ‘What can one man do alone?’ With the help of the volunteers, the debris was soon hauled away and he was smiling and mowing.”

After working with the youth, Elder Taylor said he saw and felt the importance of gathering.

“You could see the great spirit of serving others in an organized way that you could tell was going to bless a lot of lives,” he said. “Visually, to see hundreds of yellow Helping Hands t-shirts up and down the streets was really touching, and you could see the power of organized unity in a cause for others and for Christ.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund ministers to volunteers before they go to work in a morning devotional on Monday, June 10, 2019.
Elder Dale G. Renlund ministers to volunteers before they go to work in a morning devotional on Monday, June 10, 2019. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

The entire day was filled with many examples of pure ministering, he added. The youth were engaged and enthusiastic in giving of their time on a summer morning without thought for themselves. With Elder Renlund’s devotional setting the tone, they were all the more encouraged to go and serve as Christ would serve.

“It was a blessing for Elder and Sister Renlund to minister to the area in a devotional,” Elder Taylor said. “Afterward, they took time to shake every hand of everyone who came after and I’m sure they were affected by it.”

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