A tight-knit group of thoughtful and compassionate Waverly kids, who have been helping with the search for missing Dad and former Wartburg College music professor Mike Jensen, talked with me with parental permission after a tree-snapping, torrential storm cut short search efforts and chased volunteers inside the Riviera Roos Community Center in Janesville, Iowa, on July 9, 2020. Among my young interviewees, who ranged in age form 10 to 15, was Mimi Jensen, Mike's youngest daughter.
Mike, who battles a brain tumor and suffers from dementia, had left his care facility on July 6. He was reported missing shortly thereafter, and his family, friends, community members from the area and neighboring communities have all helped law enforcement in their search.
On day 3, the search centered around Janesville, as it is believed that Mike would be trying to return to his home in Waverly.
Law enforcement told me they had handled several credible sightings of a walking man with a helmet (Mike wears one to protect him in case he has seizures) and perhaps a slight limp, but area searches with drones, a plane and grid searches on the ground did not yield results as of this posting.
Like their parents, the kids were trying to process the ordeal their friend's dad and his family are going through.
A couple of years ago, the children and many of the parents took part in the making of a full- feature movie called "This Day Forward," which is based on Mike's battle with the tumor and his family's journey through faith.
The movie, which premiered in 2018, was filmed in Waverly, and during the shooting, the whole community contributed in its creation -- businesses provided locations, a church opened its sanctuary, Wartburg College students helped with the production, and many residents, including this group of kids, appeared in various scenes.
Admittedly, the movie making experience was a creative way to engage the community in the fate of one local family, but also allowed a Los Angelis crew and cast to get a taste Midwestern hospitality.
In essence, the movie built on Mike's motto, which is Everybody Love Everybody, both literally and in spirit.
After he went missing on July 6, the motto has taken on a new meaning...
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