Sometimes I take a look at my life and I wonder, ‘God, why do I get the honor to do that for you?’ This week, it is in light of what I spent my time doing in Joplin on Tuesday and Wednesday. Last June, I was taking my first team to Joplin to work on homes and clean up when our project got off track. The delightful older woman we were assigned to help felt a group of 4 ladies couldn’t move her things into her new apartment, so I ended up back at St. Paul’s UMC to find a new project when I hear, ‘Are you Stephanie?’ After I got over the ‘How do you know my name?’ awkward issue, I said ‘Yeeeessss…’ And then God gave us a new assignment, though he’d had this one in mind all along.
At first, when I asked what this family needed, the list was just siding that needed to be pulled off (which is loads more fun than you would think), exterior sheeting replaced (lots of nails, FYI) and the roof replaced. Their home was in the path of the tornado, but got through with only damaged from debris being thrown into the sides of the house and roof.
As soon as we pulled everything off, though…it got worse…the tarp hadn’t gotten on the roof until a week later, after 4 days of heavy rain, and mold was everywhere. Their home went from getting repaired in a month to coming home after 5 long months. I took out a lot of their walls, pushed out their windows that were shattered and bent, and was knee high in fluffy insulation from their attic for many days.
Very quickly, Lynn & I became friends. It is amazing how you can bond over teasing my brother!
Last Monday they got carpet…and Tuesday, I was helping Lynn move in her kitchen! What a long couple of months it has been for them, after a horrific disaster that by the grace of God they are still alive.
It was one of the most amazing feelings I have every had to help her move things into her home…start the dishwasher for the first time…doing loads of laundry…helping my friend get back into her home. We were both giddy…her because it was actually happening…and me because I was actually getting to help! I cannot even count how many times I giggled with sheer joy when I thought of being there for the first time, and how amazing their home looks now!
As Lynn and I sat on the twin mattresses in the spare bedroom that had been the moldiest because of a tree in through one wall and out through the window…she said she’d been sweeping the day before when she was waiting for the carpet guys, and got emotional for the first time during the whole ordeal. Her mind had trailed to the first time I’d been there with a team, and when she’d come back to the house after it was being gutted.
She remembered the compassion of two of our team members meeting her outside the house to make sure she knew what was going on, and walking with her into the chaos that was happening inside. (Sorry, I’m ratting you out Lynn, if you are reading this…but honestly as we sat there…I was getting emotional too, because it has been such a journey that I’ve been honored to be apart of with you.)
And it is emotional…this relationship that we have with people when it is forged in a extreme situations, like a disaster area. But that is what going to Joplin…and anywhere else…is about…being compassionate, and caring enough about a complete stranger that your only desire is to help them. It is what Jesus calls us to when he sends us out of our own homes.
God forms friendships through some strange situations, and without WCC’s commitment to the city of Joplin, Lynn and I would have never become friends. I am posting some before and after photos…as well as the one of me in her kitchen last Tuesday drinking water out of her faucet, with ice from the new fridge and in a
glass that we’d moved from the storage unit! I love you, sister! And I’ll see you next weekend – I can’t wait to see the new couch!
PS – Thank you, Abba, for giving me new friends! You make me speechless sometimes in how you orchestrate things…