WAPATO — The head of the U.S. Episcopal Church visited the Lower Yakima Valley on Saturday to learn how faith-based groups are helping their communities.

The trip was a chance to see firsthand how some of the church’s informal partnerships are working and how people are putting their faith in action, and to learn about the area’s needs, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said.

“I can tell their story in other places.”

Jefferts Schori and Bishop James Waggoner, head of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Spokane, visited sites that the church has been informally involved with to hear about rebuilding efforts after the area’s devastating 2011 fire. They included a homeless shelter and a Presbyterian-run mission in Wapato, and White Swan United Methodist Church. The organizations largely serve the Yakama Nation.

“By seeing it firsthand, we can respond” to the needs of the communities, Waggoner said.

The Yakima Valley is part of the Spokane diocese.

Noah’s Ark, a homeless shelter in Wapato, needs volunteers and stable funding, said Jan McCann, president of the nonprofit group’s board of directors. “When you’re relying on donations, it’s generally really up and down.”

Her most important job is to get enough money coming in to keep the emergency shelter’s door opens.

Noah’s Ark provides three meals a day and has 30 beds, said the Rev. David Hacker, an Episcopal priest who helped start the shelter.

That kind of social work affects not only the people receiving services but also the service providers, Jefferts Schori said. “Everybody’s transformed in the process.”

Carman Pimms is living proof of that.

Growing up on the Yakama reservation, Pimms had an unstable home life. She was the oldest of seven siblings, and her parents were alcoholics. Every summer, Christian missionaries came to the reservation, providing activities and services to the area’s children, including Pimms.

“I can remember church being a safe place for us,” she said.

But at the end of the summer, the missionaries left.

As an adult, Pimms got involved with Campbell Farm, a Presbyterian ministry mission outside Wapato that serves the area’s children.

“We need for these kids to realize that God’s not a part-time god,” she said.