2013 Tornado Rebuilding Mission Trip
Last year, after deadly tornadoes ripped through Henryville, Indiana leaving 1,400 families with damaged or destroyed homes, Joyce Showerman organized and scheduled our annual work camp mission through Volunteers Rebuilding Our Community (V-ROC).
After a blessing from Pastor Daniel and laying on of hands by the 8:15 congregation, on April 21, 2013, fourteen of us headed south in three pick-ups, an SUV and one car with tools, bed rolls, work clothes, coolers and empty hands hoping to make a difference in the lives of families by rebuilding houses. The 331 mile trip was sunny and uneventful. At 8pm, we joined together with a busload of Presbyterians from Bowling Green, KY, where we were welcomed by Kevin Cox, Director of Hope Crisis Response Network, and Kevin Moss, Construction Director. The tasks for our worksite team included hanging and finishing drywall, building deck railings, digging a trench, moving gravel, hauling away debris, burning brush and damaged wood, and blowing insulation. Our campsite team was assigned to helping in the kitchen and dining room, preparing and serving 120 people deliciously nutritious meals. We were ready to work and work we did. For the next four days, we all eagerly worked every assignment.
I could go on and on about how hard Donna, Eric and Murph worked drywalling under the expert direction of Ed Hall; or how Pat doubled as the “energizer bunny” showing her endless tenacity for work. Or how methodically Ron, Chris, Bill, Dave, Cindy and Mike worked to complete all the jobs on the list! I could tell you how delightful it was to be welcomed into the dining room each morning for breakfast by Joyce, Ruth and Judy. But it’s not about us or the work we did.
It didn’t take me long on the very first day of work to realize it’s not about something I love to do like “hammering nails.” It’s not even about building a house. It’s about repairing the hearts of our neighbors. Real people just like you and me, whose lives, through no fault of their own, were drastically changed when their homes, barns, schools, and businesses were destroyed in minutes.
On Monday, while we worked at Rodewigs, I walked up the hill to the neighbors’ house, the Lanhams, to use the bathroom. When I thanked Dale for his facilities, he told me, “I used to have a port-a-john on my front lawn for the workers. So many volunteers. Unbelievable. Now it’s not as many, so I had the “john” removed and I welcome volunteers into my home. I know how hard that is, working like that.” I said, “I am so saddened that you and your neighbors’ lives were so devastated by the tornadoes. We just came to help.” Dale replied, “It was hard, real hard. But seeing all the volunteers, renewed my faith in mankind.”
The next day I visited Dale’s wife and listened to more of their story. The only preparation was to take shelter. Running to the cellar at 3:00pm on March 2, 2012, is exactly what saved Dale’s and Cyndy’s lives when the tornado ripped through Daisy Hill at 3:05pm. They both sustained physical injuries and of course, emotional trauma. Their newly remodeled 2-story house, barn, garage, vegetable garden and trucks were all irreparably destroyed. Gone, just gone. Strewed all over. Cyndy shared with me the pain and frustration she felt on March 3rd, when the immediate responders were so anxious to clean up the scattered debris; they were just piling everything and burning whatever they could find. She cried, “I just wanted to find my stuff. It may have looked like trash, but those mangled things were all I had left.”
She searched through piles and found only a few of the quilting squares from the quilt she had been sewing. Cyndy had just made the final payment on the Ford Escape that was now an upside-down, smashed heap. They had recently bought a new washer and dryer from Lowe’s. Destroyed. On the dining room table, there was a check and $500 in cash. Blown away. Cyndy said, “I was able to get the check replaced; and at this point, today, the lost cash has been re-paid fifty times over by neighbors, the church and volunteers lending helping hands. I am thankful. A year ago, I couldn’t smile, but now I have hope. People have reached out. Some people still email and send cards. That means a lot. And by caring people coming into my life, I can begin to heal.”
The Lanhams still miss the old house, but they are thankful to live in their new ranch built by V-ROC and HCRN.
FUMER team spent most of our time working at the Rodewigs’ house. And on Thursday evening, we were blessed to meet Angie Rodewig and her three teenagers, Kaylin, 19, Brooke, 17, Robert 14. Angie was working about 25 minutes away in KY on the day of the tornadoes. Her kids were in school. Fortunately, after hearing the warnings, Padgett school administrators kept the kids over and then bussed them to safety. Phone lines were down, communication was limited. They all heard that the
tornadoes had gone through Daisy Hill where they lived. Rodewigs texted back and forth. “I’m safe… we’re safe… but how do we get home? …Do we still have a home?“ Angie finally got through to a neighbor and heard the bad news, “Your home is gone. Everything you have is gone.” What a frightening day! Of course, with a disaster of this magnitude, nothing gets repaired quickly. But with help of insurance and government funding, Rodewigs qualified for $88,000 worth of building materials, but not the building labor. Angie and her husband, Robert, prayed for help. And as we all know, God has a special way of connecting people and answering prayers. Somehow they contacted Kevin Cox. And now more than a year later, their new house, being built by volunteers, will be completed in about four more weeks. Praise God!
Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” ( John 13)
No, we’re not Jesus. But on Thursday night, when we were blessed to share dinner with “our families,” the home owners, we felt Christ’s love pour out. When you reach out your arms and hug someone, somehow God sends His love through you. And you feel Christ’s love come right back to you. I can’t explain it, but it’s powerful. When you ask yourself, “How can I love my neighbor?” The answer may surprise you. It’s about listening to stories of the hurt and healing. It’s about not judging anyone with a burden, but lending your shoulder to carry the load. Yep, that’s when you pick up your hammer and saw. It’s about giving hugs. It’s about rebuilding faith. It’s about smiling with those people who will soon live inside the house you helped build. It’s about the kids who will soon have a new house, a new bedroom, a new view. And new hope because many, many neighbors joined together to love one another.
May Christ’s commandment bless the families, the volunteers and the leaders who kept us focused. And the last thing I’ll say, “Thank you, Joyce! Sign me up for next year.”
One Blessed Volunteer, A.K.A Carol (Murph) Murphy