Becoming servants: Students from Steamboat Christian Center aid recovery effort after Hurricane Ian

Two months after category 4 storm, youth group volunteers for impromptu mission trip

Hurricane Ian, the deadliest hurricane to hit the continental U.S. since Katrina in 2005, landed in Southwest Florida on Sept. 28. Students from Steamboat Christian Center traveled to the area in November to help in the cleanup effort.
Kyle Rebik/Courtesy photo

Houses were strewn around the landscape, as if they fell from the sky. Splintered wood was scattered everywhere, as if it was the aftermath of a giant game of Jenga. Some homes were gone with just a concrete foundation to hint that a structure ever existed there.

“I was on Google Maps when we were driving, and I saw some of the houses,” said Teddy Torello, a 13-year-old from Steamboat Springs. “I looked outside and they just weren’t there. … People’s lives just washed away.”

Torello and two dozen of his peers are part of the youth group MDWK at Steamboat Christian Center. While school was out for the week for Thanksgiving, these teenagers didn’t sit idle. They flew to Florida to help people who survived the deadliest hurricane to strike the continental U.S since Katrina in 2005.

According to NBC News, Hurricane Ian killed at least 148 people after it made landfall Sept. 28 in Southwest Florida. While the Steamboat students arrived nearly two months later for their four-day mission trip with the group Praying Pelicans, some areas appeared to show little signs of cleanup.

“When we were flying over, basically 90% of the houses were just not there or it was just blue,” said Jerimiah MacGray, 16, adding that “the blue” was tarps draped across badly damaged roofs. “In some areas, you can tell there was a bunch of trees. It was probably a beautiful area, and now there’s just some trees all falling over.”

“There was water everywhere, even in places I don’t think it should be,” said Ava Delhierro, 14. “You could see blank spaces where you could tell there were buildings.”

Students from Steamboat Christian Center take a group photo while on a mission trip to Southwest Florida in November to help clean up two months after Hurricane Ian.
Kyle Rebik/Courtesy photo

Kyle Rebik, youth pastor at Steamboat Christian Center, said the youth group meets weekly on Wednesdays. When he told the students there were 25 spots on an impromptu mission trip to Cape Coral, Florida, the list quickly filled up. More students added their names to a waiting list.

The group left on Nov. 19 for Cape Coral, which is just outside Fort Myers, one of the areas hardest hit by the Category 4 hurricane.

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“We went to a church in Cape Coral, and (Praying Pelican) had missions set out each day,” said Grayson Buccino, 17. “We all split up into a group of seven to 10 people, and then we would go to one of those missions that would be all over either Fort Myers or Cape Coral, and just help out the community.”

Hurricane Ian, the deadliest since Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, landed in Southwest Florida on Sept. 28.
Kyle Rebik/Courtesy

Addison Killingsworth, 13, said it was clear there had been efforts across Cape Coral to clean up after the storm. In Fort Myers, it was a different story.

“There were boats on top of boats,” Killingsworth said.

Killingsworth said the hardest part of the trip was when they met a woman named Wendy. The group was there to help her take down what was left of her house down. Rebik said that when they first met Wendy, she was still in shock, almost like a robot, as she tried to process what had become of her home.

“By the end, she was able to smile and laugh and be hopeful,” Rebik said. “Just their presence and their work changed her outlook.”

Students from Steamboat Christian Center help clean out a home in Cape Coral, Florida that was devastated by Hurricane Ian.
Kyle Rebik/Courtesy photo

While it was a quick trip, Rebik said he wants the students to think about how they can take the lessons they learned in Florida back to Steamboat.

As an example, Rebik pointed to 13-year-old Charlie Ormesher, who said he wanted to go on the trip to show people affected by the hurricane that individuals as far away as Steamboat care. After the trip, Ormesher started working with the Christian Center’s kids ministry group.

“We were really about not just helping there for a couple of days but also coming back changed,” Rebik said. “We didn’t get hit by a hurricane, but there’s still hurt and there’s still pain, and how are we going to be a part of healing? … They didn’t just go and serve; they’re becoming servants.”

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