Hope means my present does not have to be my future. Hope means we are Easter people, and that we believe in resurrections and new life.
This is what happened when three of us from The Desert Southwest Conference (Larry Spade, George Cushman, and Nancy Cushman) joined an Early Response Team from the Cal-Pac Conference in Estes Park to respond to the needs of the Colorado community after a devastating flood.
What does hope look like?
We worked making a domestic violence shelter habitable again so that the women and children living there could find resurrection in their lives and feel the love and safety of their home once again. This meant crawling around in a 3-foot high space under the main floor removing debris, paints, and solvents while
wearing hazmat suits. We stripped old damaged flooring so that new tile could be laid. The shelter had no flood insurance, but because we were there, these families found hope and would be able to return soon.
At another site, we sorted through three dumpsters worth of trash, looking for memories or reminders of life before the flood. We neutralized the toxicity of dozens of cans of paints and solvents so they could be taken to the dump. But most importantly, we listened. At this particular site, the home owner shared her husband’s story about his narrow escape from a six foot wall of water. Minutes after moving their vehicles out of their garage and away from the rising water, a wall of water raged through the area and demolished their garage into the pile before us.
Hope allowed that same woman to share a couple of days later, with the water still a torrent, that she and her husband heard screaming from outside their home. They ran out and saw a man holding on desperately to his fiancée in the water as she was being torn from his hands. Quickly the couple locked hands and helped the screaming man pull his fiancé out of the water. They discovered later that she had been trying to commit suicide. That is what can happen when people lose hope. For the people that lived through the flooding, their memories can be just as damaging. Reliving of the torrential flood and the events surrounding it over and over again in their minds is brutal. But somehow sharing their stories with people seems to bring some healing.
Hope is changing Wesley’s statement of “do no harm” to “help prevent further harm.” In one home, we knocked out drywall in a flooded and mold covered basement. We removed entire walls, furniture, and clothing that five-six weeks after the flood were still saturated to ensure the mold was completely gone and no additional damage would come.
More than a month after the evacuation, many people were still not able to get back into their homes. Many were concerned that they might not even have a home to return to. Ours was one of the very first teams to come to this community. They were feeling very neglected and unimportant. We pulled up with a tool trailer with the Cross and Flame prominently painted on it, and they saw that the church cares about them. We were there to help them rebuild their community but we also helped them rebuild their hope.
UMCOR Early Response Teams are Easter people that show up in the midst of Good Friday and create a brighter future filled with hope, and sharing the message that resurrection is coming.