Star Valley church ministers to tornado victims

By Noah Jaeger | Dec 4, 2023

Rim View Community Church was celebrating their annual Blessing Brunch service Sunday, Nov. 19, when a tornado struck the Star Valley community.

At 9:30 a.m., Rim View gathered their people together to worship, share testimonies, and feast on home-cooked meals. Around 9:45, the church received news of a tornado sweeping through the south end of Star Valley, causing severe damage to the community. Seven families were displaced from their homes. Fortunately, no one was injured.

“You had roofs that were completely blown off, trees snapped midway through that were laying on people’s houses and cars, [and] power lines that were snapped in half,” said Jeff Yungkans, captain paramedic with the Hellsgate Fire District. “One person was giving their child a bath when they felt a breeze; then their roof flew off.”

As the service ended, Rim View Pastor Dave Barber called several able-bodied men to him. Immediately, they began gathering tarps and roofing supplies to help the disaster victims.

Seeing the destroyed homes, Barber went to each home praying for the families. The fire district requested that Rim View bring food. Miraculously, the church had a feast ready.

“That was providential that we had all that food,” said Mike Ottero, seven-year church attender who helped during the disaster. “Instead of putting it in the refrigerator, some ladies put it out in front of the fire truck for anyone who needed food.”

Others volunteered to clear the sanctuary floor for displaced residents. Doors were unlocked so those needing refuge could enter. The trash was cleared and tables were put away.

Within 30 minutes of the service ending, sleeping bags were laid on the cleared floor, food was sent to the fire station, and help was dispersed to the various damaged roofs.

“It was an amazing thing,” Barber said.

By evening, calm fell upon the community. People were eventually turned away from helping and asked to go home. A total of seven families were temporarily displaced, but all found family or friends to stay with.

Upon reflection, Barber noted how ready his people were to serve.

“I was not surprised,” he said. “We have people with servant hearts at our church. It’s cool to see the body of Christ come together like that. If you’re in this community, we want to help.”

Coincidentally, Captain Yungkins had finished an eight-day training on incident management for unexpected disasters.

“Ten days after taking that class, I had a once-in-a-lifetime incident,” he said.

The Rim View congregation is no stranger to serving amid local disasters. Two summers ago, during a wildfire, the church opened their doors for displaced residents. People lived in the church building for up to three weeks.

“You never know when God is going to say, ‘Right now,’” Barber said. “You don’t have time to pray about it; you don’t have time to make a committee. It’s important to be in the spirit of being ready. We’re all called to serve. None of us know when God is going to call upon us in that way, so we want to be ready.”

Rim View desires to be active in the community every day of the week and ready to serve when called upon.

Noah Jaeger, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church and is the launch catalyst with Christian Challenge AZ.

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