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The following appeared in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Sunday. Steve Tybor is the founder of EDOH, and serves as an elder at Hope Church in Tupelo, MS.

By Adam Belz

Eight Days of Hope volunteer Earl Renshaw of Erie, Penn., sings during a worship service at New Covenant Bible Church in Cedar Rapids before he and 1,400 other “neon missionaries” put in their last day of work in the flood zones on Sunday.

CEDAR RAPIDS – Volunteers with Eight Days of Hope completed more than $2 million worth of work on 140 flood-damaged homes before the group packed up and left Sunday.

As many of them traveled home from Cedar Rapids Sunday morning — to Connecticut, Texas, New Hampshire, Mississippi — the organization’s president, Stephen Tybor III, held a final meeting for 100 or so who were gathered at New Covenant Bible Church.

“Make sure you love the homeowners,” Tybor said, repeating something he says often at the meetings that open the day of work. “They want someone to listen.”

Tybor told about a flood victim who overheard the men working on her house talk about NASCAR. To show her gratitude for their work, she gave what she could.

“Through whatever she had left, she found a couple little cars and trucks, and four books,” Tybor said to the group, his voice breaking, as he held up a toy semi.

The Eight Days of Hope are officially over, but the volunteers and organizers of the group believe the work’s effect will have a lasting effect, and not just as brick and mortar in the homes that were repaired.

There is already evidence of this — that help is more than help. It is “encouragement,” Tybor said, and it changes both the helped and the helper.

Seven flood victims — the people the organization came to serve — donated money to Eight Days of Hope, Tybor said. Somewhere around 600 locals joined the volunteers who came from around the country, bringing the total number to around 1,400.

A few dozen out-of-state volunteers will stay to work with a Christian Reformed relief group. Eight Days of Hope is leaving all its unused building materials for them.

Wayne Engle, a retired electrical contractor who lives in Marion, said 15 or so retired electricians who’ve been helping the volunteers with inspections have decided to finish as many electrical jobs as they can.

Completed jobs on yellow sheets — a water heater installed at a home in the Time Check neighborhood, a home rewired in southwest Cedar Rapids, six new windows at a home in Palo — were taped to the walls of the fellowship hall in the shapes of crosses.

A few unfinished jobs still hung on the bulletin boards, and project managers were making phone calls at 8:30 a.m., trying to find one last bucket of drywall mud.

Tybor predicted many of the Iowans who volunteered with the mission here will join Eight Days of Hope on future trips. The next will be to hurricane-hit parts of Texas, either in March or May.

He closed the meeting with a prayer, asking that the volunteers “finish strong,” and thanking God for Cedar Rapids.

“If it is your will, and we see each other again,” he prayed, “I know, Father, that we will count it all joy.”

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