When thirteen-year-old Jayme Closs went missing October 15 from her home in Barron, Wisconsin, congregants at Red Cedar Church (RCC) in nearby Rice Lake knew they had to help their community deal with the crisis.
Prayer came first. RCC, located approximately 15 miles from Barron, prayed together then united in prayer with other area churches and businesses.
Law enforcement officials asked community members to assist in their search for Closs by walking through forests and farmland. More than 2,000 people from the area responded.
The local 150 to 200-member law enforcement team quickly swelled with the addition of out-of-town officers arriving to assist in the investigation. RCC recognized a need and determined to serve “functionally and practically.”
Nick Ertz, RCC director of outreach and spiritual growth, saw “a unification of the Church working together to support law enforcement. Right away, individuals in our church asked how they could help.”
RCC volunteers saw a need and worked together to provide full meals served at the Barron County Justice Center to the law enforcement officers working 20-hour days during the 88-day investigation.
After Closs escaped January 10, it was learned that she had been kidnapped and kept captive in an area residence. Closs’ parents had been killed during the kidnapping.
The same volunteers who provided meals for the Barron County Justice Center took their generosity and kindness a step further by providing lunches at Jayme’s current and former schools. The teachers were focusing on their students and help with meal preparation allowed them additional time and energy.
“It was cool to see the church community come together, as well as see our RCC community come together,” said Ertz. “We’ve been praying as a body that the church would step up and be the church, and people did that in such a beautiful way. To see the community come together to pray and do whatever we could to help, that is a rare thing. We just appreciate what everyone did.
“The most important thing I hope we were able to share is that it was a beautiful thing to see the community of churches step up and say, ‘How can we help?’ It brings me to a place of awe in how people reflect Christ and just did things for those who were searching for Jayme and supporting the family.
“It’s not about one certain church. It’s about all churches being unified to step up in crisis. Let’s all show up together and do what we can to help others.”
Ertz and RCC plan to continue providing law enforcement acts of appreciation.