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Crisis Response Team

Mountain Life’s Crisis Response Team
Let’s be honest. For those of us blessed with the ability to live in Park City, sometimes it’s easy to get complacent. When we awaken to beautiful blue skies and breathtaking mountain views day in and day out, sometimes we forget about all the people who are less fortunate. Or worse, have suffered unimaginable loss due to hurricanes, tornados or wildfires. And that’s where the Mountain Life Crisis Response Team comes in.

Under the umbrella of Global Outreach at Mountain Life, the Crisis Response Team (CRT) is made up of 65 volunteers who have a heart for serving communities impacted by natural disasters. Their outreach spans from North Carolina to Louisiana to Texas and most recently, Paradise, California. The team is led by Jill Story, who has been on a dozen mission trips herself.

Leader with a Servant’s Heart
Jill Story has a love for construction that started during childhood, ever since she was big enough to hold a hammer. Her father, a school teacher, bought land every summer and built a house on it to sell. Together with her brothers and sister, Jill would help in any way she could.

So, it was perfectly natural that she was part of the Crisis Response Team that Mountain Life sent to New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina. “We were still gutting homes then that had been sitting in humidity for over a year after having flooded. We had to wear full Tyvek suits because of the mold in the homes and looked like marshmallows in our white suits with hoods,” she recalls. Despite the harsh conditions, Jill loved the atmosphere and serving with her fellow team members.

“On crisis trips we do it all – painting, flooring, gutting, drywall and I’ve learned a lot,” says Jill, whose husband, an electrician, often accompanies her on mission trips. “Sometimes you don’t always get to see the final product, but sometimes you get to finish someone else’s work.” On her last trip to Lake Charles, Louisiana, Jill was working on the home of a single mother and was laying new flooring in her daughter’s room. Every day the little girl would come home from school and give Jill a hug when she would see the beautiful floor in her room.

In addition to her work with the CRT, Jill also volunteers locally for Habitat for Humanity, and has helped build a new home in Silver Creek Village. She is also the Volunteer Team Leader for the Wasatch Back Team of Operation Underground Railroad, which rescues children from sex trafficking around the world. Jill and her team educate people about sex trafficking and how to identify it, while building awareness. “There are more people in slavery today than in the entire history of the world,” says Jill. “Over 20 million people are enslaved and over a couple million of them are children.” Operation Underground Railroad conducts 2-3 operations a week worldwide rescuing children and putting criminals behind bars. The children are then put into an aftercare program where they get counseling, the love that they need and an education so they can find a job and support themselves.

When I asked Jill what motivates her to serve in so many different capacities, she responds with a smile. “It’s in my DNA, I can’t help it. It comes from my father who had a servant’s heart, and it’s what I love to do. I feel really blessed that I know what my calling is – it’s very clear to me.”
From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfire
While Jill leads the Mountain Life CRT, the actual day-to-day execution of the mission trips is led by EFCA Reach Global, affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America. Each site is staffed by fulltime missionaries who run the job sites and help cook for the volunteers who stay in local churches.

Applying their motto of “People Over Projects,” Reach Global’s staff ensures that volunteers focus on the people they are serving. “If you need to stop what you’re doing to talk to the homeowner for an hour and a half, they don’t care if you get the project done,” says Jill. “They really want you to love on the people.” Which means that volunteers who don’t have construction skills are needed just as much as those who do.

Jill’s goal for the Mountain Life CRT is to offer at least four to five trips a year. This past March they went to Corpus Christi, in May they were in Lake Charles and a team just returned from Paradise, California, a trip was especially poignant for all involved.

Located an hour north of Sacramento, the town of Paradise suffered a horrific fire in November 2018 that burned eight football fields a minute and wiped out the entire town in a 4-to-6 hour period. The CRT was warned that this was different than other responses because the homeowners had literally lost everything. Jacque Aper, who volunteered for the Paradise crisis response team, said that out of the 72 families in the congregation, 70 houses were gone.

She and the team worked to build a four-foot sidewalk around a family’s modular home that was just put on their lot. The father had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was a highway patrolman at the time of the fire. While he was trying to help people get out of town, his wife and kids were in a line of traffic and unable to move. Everywhere they looked was either on fire or pitch black at 10am in the morning. So, his wife got out of the car with both kids and ran to a parking lot where authorities were having people lie down since the parking lot was big enough that it wasn’t going to burn. She and their children lay in the parking lot and tried to keep under the smoke.

The husband and wife shared their story with Jacque at a community dinner during the trip. “It was really great that they opened up themselves to share their story with us,” says Jacque. “They both have PTSD in different ways, and every time they tell the story they are reliving it, but also every time they tell the story they also start to heal.”

Despite all the devastation in Paradise, there was a bright spot of hope. The EV Free Church, which the team worked out of during the recent trip, was miraculously spared any damage from the fire. “Even though there were plenty of trees and a few of those were burned, the only evidence of the fire was some steps made out of landscape timbers that were a little bit charred,” says Jacque. “Other than that, nothing else on the church was harmed. But if you look across the street from the church there is literally nothing left.”

Local Outreach
In addition to mission trips out of state, the CRT also participates in local projects. Last winter, they helped people move and even repaired an elderly woman’s furnace and hot water heater. “If someone needs a fence built or a deck torn down or can’t get a contractor to do a small drywall job, I can put a small team together to get it done,” says Jill. The recipients, if they are able, often make a donation to the benevolence fund and the CRT can then use that money for supplies needed on future mission trips.

“We can never have too big of a team,” says Jill. “You don’t necessarily have to go to Texas or Louisiana if you are part of the Crisis Response Team. You can do something right here.”

If you are interested in volunteering for the Mountain Life Crisis Response Team, please email Jill Story.
By Liz Yokubison
Liz Yokubison is a freelance writer and author. You can follow her on her website, www.lizyokubison.com.

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