By Ele Clay, Disaster Recovery Coordinator
When disaster visits your space and the single concern of the moment is rescue, relief comes much later in waves of thankfulness and appreciation. Meanwhile, something inside you knows a big piece is missing. You’re too weary to name it or own it, even as healing demands your attention. That’s when a unique corps of people stepping into your world, can bring life-giving energy that unveils the final R in recovery—Rejoice!
Lately we have had a burst of rejoicing in our Gulf Coast Synod as dozens of volunteers and thousands of dollars have poured into our lives from all across the country, lifting clouds of gloom left by the past summer’s deluge of tragedy. Even when two days of freezing temperatures and rain in January kept most of Houston off the streets, winter-savvy Iowans joyfully zipped through their rebuild assignment. They recreated the floor of a children’s ministry building to maximize a congregation’s capacity to serve their community. With tears in his eyes and a sob in his voice, one Houston construction project manager said, “I’ve never worked with any group of people like these friends from northeast Iowa. Nothing got in the way of the work they came to do and finish in record time.”
What does it take to recover from a crisis?
Joy! That’s what’s it. Another crew of northern visitors made our business their business as they hoisted themselves onto the roof of a home whose owners they’d only just met. They replaced roofing tile and shored up gutters; cut out molding drywall and painted ceilings after a 14-hour journey from their hometown to ours. God’s work. Our hands. is more than a cool tee shirt motto to these volunteers. In a community where local congregations have been building trust, our northern sisters and brothers lived out the words they wore on their backs. They brought love to life in a community skeptical of untried promises. They deepened the gift of the Spirit as strangers became friends in the wake of untimely destruction.
What does it take to recoup critical losses?
You! Your ongoing prayers, your listening ears, your monetary gifts. Without a doubt, people who surround us with practical support are the ground zero of recovery. Thousands of you have made it possible for us to experience the healing power of caring relationships. You’ve given us the capacity to extend food, books, and funds where needed in the last seven months. Through these you are working out God’s promise to care for us even as we walk through the blind valleys of loss and uncertainty. And it’s not over! In three months, 30,000 teenagers and their leaders will bring their energy to the city for the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering. With three days of interaction and community life; touring around the dozens of neighborhoods where they will live; and investing their energies in multiple service projects, we’ll be set to say This Changes Everything! and know exactly what it means.
Rescue. Remove. Repair. Rebuild. Relocate. These are some of the practicalities we confronted when circling bands of wind and water scrawled the words “new normal” across piles of debris that once were lifelong treasures. In spite of this, the final “R” is determinedly writing the last word. We REJOICE as caring friends and far-flung neighbors literally go the distance to take our burdens onto their shoulders giving us space to breathe, and grieve, and revive. We REJOICE when fear or despair is set aside in favor of a new kind of patience with ourselves and others around us. We REJOICE in the presence of God with us through the hearts and hands of you who share so fully in our story—“God’s servants, working together”.