Saturday, March 17, 2012

Being The Church

Just one week after severe weather ripped Marysville, Indiana apart, 13 people from the Highland Vineyard Church in Louisville, Kentucky went to see if we could help.  We even got on TV as you can see.  The best part, though, is that I got to do all of this alongside a cute girl in a pink 'Purdue' sweatshirt!  This is my perspective on that day.

Signed up, briefed on safety, equipped with gloves and sturdy shoes, we are ready to go.  Pulling up by the post office in Marysville, there is no doubt we are in the right place.  Several trees are missing their tops, telephone poles still sporting their wires are scattered in the fields.  Volunteers have lined the streets with cars and trucks.  The somewhat informal leaders find us a place to work.  "You see that house over there with the diamond window?" they ask.

We head off toward the farmhouse.  The diamond window as our beacon.  Things are looking worse all of a sudden.  The Community Center roof is completely collapsed.  The church has had its siding peeled off and is boarded over.  There is one house halfway to our destination that has no top whatsoever.  You can stand outside, look through the windows and see the cloudless blue sky.  In the yard, between the tree limbs and the debris, the crocuses and the daffodils are blooming as though unaware of the catastrophe surrounding them.  Perhaps, they arrived just late enough to have missed the whole thing.

The scenery is starting to sink in.  I stare around me and each moment I become aware of new things--new levels of destruction--that have been right before my eyes the whole time.  At first, I am unaware of the comprehensive nature of the damage.  I begin to realize that these houses that appear to be standing unscathed are not actually sitting on their foundations.  The church that is missing siding is also displaced three feet from its original location.  Then I notice some concrete slabs--former dwellings--now barely symbols of the structures they formerly supported.

I hadn't even noticed all of that, at first.

As we arrive in the field near the farmhouse there are mounds of rubble.  Mounds.  Not only are there mounds, but in the field toward the horizon there are bits of every kind of human possession strewn in a thin layer for as far as the eye can see.

As far as the eye can see.

A pizza cutter, a broken Barbie doll, bits of insulation, several chapters of Harry Potter, asphalt shingles, a Twilight DVD, and the list goes on.

Someone (or many someones) have begun consolidating this thin layer of debris into little piles.  About 100 feet in any direction and there is a pile, and another, and another, and another.  We step gingerly over the mud and around the piles to make our way to one of the tractors with trailers and we join a group in the loading of the debris.  It is loaded onto the trailer and moved to a large pile in the middle of the field, separated into metal and wood, and left for the next round of cleanup--a bonfire.  Actually, conflagration is probably more appropriate.

Before long, we're shedding our sweatshirts.  The sun is warm.  I can smell the onion sprouts as we trample them underfoot.  We get several piles picked up and loaded and then the tractor heads for the pile.  How good it looks with those piles gone.  Yet, how many more hundreds of piles are left?  More volunteers keep coming in droves and the tractors get kind of crowded.  With my level of coordination, I'm sure that I'm going to poke someone with a splintered piece of hardwood flooring.  I'm getting hungry, anyway.  Time for lunch.

The afternoon is much like the morning, working on the rubble from several houses that used to line this little country street.  Where to start?  We begin by filling 5 gallon pails from what looks like bare ground.  It is actually chunks of wall board, broken glass, silverware, National Geographic magazines--some dating back nearly 70 years, and a few pieces of jewelry that we recovered for a former resident.  You can fill a pail several times over without even moving from one spot.  Without even saying a word, we begin to form a method with these strangers working alongside us: emptying pails into wheelbarrows; rakes and shovels working synchronously to pile and scoop.

At the end of the day, I'm weary.  I survey the afternoon's results: It looks good.  Well . . . it looks better!  We head back to the car, no longer stepping gingerly, and I can't believe how far we've come in only one day!  There is bare ground along the street next to the farmhouse.  The piles out in the field are gone!  GONE!  No more piles.  As far as the eye can see!  But, as far as we've come, I can't believe how much more there is to do.  I can't wait to come back.  I have to come back.  Our work here is not finished.

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