Cedar Rapids Flood
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Cedar Rapids Flood
The Rev. Margery E. Howell
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN
“When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)
Like Moses, we’re all afraid of things that we can’t explain, like a burning bush that wasn’t being burned up. So when Moses turned to look at the bush, he heard a voice calling his name! And his response, “Here I am,” seems to tell us that Moses knew it was God calling. And that’s the way God often calls us-in a fleeting moment, in an unusual way, in a way that our gut knows that it’s God.
God explains to Moses that he has heard the cries of the Israelites, who had been enslaved in Egypt since Joseph led them there, and Moses is to be the one to bring them home. Then Moses asks the question we would all ask in his place, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” In other words, “You want me to do WHAT?”
Here is Moses minding his own business, living a comfortable life, taking care of his family and keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, and an angel of God appears in a burning bush! Fasten your seatbelts because God calls all of us in the least expected way to do the least expected things, and then He promises to be with us every step of the way. God promises to graft in our hearts his love, to nourish us with all goodness and to bring forth in us the fruit of good works. All if we’ll just say “yes.” And so Moses-and we-basically say, “Here I am LORD, send me!” But be careful what you ask for because you just might get it!
But back to the story. Moses was feeling insecure and questioning his leadership abilities. Or he may have been trying to figure out a way to say no to God. But finally he felt compelled to step up to the plate and carry out the mission. God had chosen Moses to lead the Israelites because God had confidence that Moses had the faith and leadership for the job, but also because Moses loved the people like God did. By saying yes to God, Moses knew he would be leading the downtrodden, oppressed Israelites to the Promised Land. With every step, Moses would be acknowledging God and trusting that He would provide for all their needs.
When God hears the cries of his people who are in distress, He offers his saving hand to them through those He sends to bear His light in the darkness. God gives all of us different gifts so all of God’s people can be taken care of, and He expects us to go about freeing people who are caught in whatever bondage they are experiencing with forgiveness and compassion. As the prophet Isaiah says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4: 18-19)
People who have suffered disasters experience pain, trouble and desperation, to name a few of their emotions. Bearing God’s light in the darkness of despair for disaster victims offers volunteers lots of work to do. And where to start may be a good question to begin the journey. As God sent Moses to Egypt to free the Israelites from their suffering, he sent five members of the Disaster Emergency Response Team, better known as D.E.R.T., to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to make a difference for the flood victims.
God provided a way for us to get there-an anonymous donor graciously provided a fifteen-passenger van and the fuel. The tools we took were purchased with funds received through a Seeds of Hope grant through our diocese. A family, former members of Emmanuel, opened their private home to us, which provided a bed, shower, and meals for our stay, and a generous donation from this parish provided a gift for a victim. And we would be working with an international disaster relief organization, which has been working with the victims since the flood waters began to recede. It’s amazing how God provides what we need when we say, “yes!” Everything we needed physically was in line, so off we went to see how we might bear God’s light for those affected by the floods.
Our work meant lots of physical labor, removing water soaked walls and floors so the homeowners can begin rebuilding their homes, jobs and lives. And we went trusting God’s promise to always be with us, standing by our side as we go, no matter where He may lead us. We responded to God’s call by saying, “Here we are Lord; send us!”
Like Moses, it’s okay to feel scared and hesitant. God rarely calls us to serve inside our comfort zone. He will always stretch us so we will grow into the people He dreams of us to be. When we say, “Here we are LORD; send us!” we are accepting God’s call to serve those in need. He gives us the skills and tools to do the work He has given us to do because He knows what we can do. None of us are perfect, but we are capable of learning, loving and serving by sharing the gifts God gives each of us. Moses didn’t think he could go to Egypt to bring the Israelites home, but he went because God called him.
Hearing about D.E.R.T.’s disaster work in Mississippi and Tennessee aroused my interest, but I was hesitant, felt inadequate, ill-equipped to do anything. Who me? What can I do? An old saying puts it this way, “God doesn’t call those who are fit but makes fit those whom He calls.” So realizing that God had put all the pieces of the puzzle together saying, “Get in the van and go,” I responded, “Here I am, LORD, send me.”
The five of us, Liz, Berta, Link, Holly and I took on various work assignments as we worked on three houses in four days. Berta helped muck out a flooded, muddy basement while wearing a full-head to toe-body suit. This was the dirtiest job we encountered. At two houses, we all banged walls to remove plaster, used pry bars and hammers to remove trim around windows, doors, and lath, pulling out wet insulation-everything to the bare walls. I became an “expert” at learning to use the various tools, even surprising Ryan by finishing one wall while he helped with something else. And then there were the nails we removed! Nails and nails and nails! Three to five thousand nails in the subfloor of one house alone-ten of us on our hands and knees worked for more than an hour removing all those nails! Holly donned a hard hat to take on the most dangerous job-knocking down a ceiling fan with a crowbar that weighed more than she does! Link and Liz worked for a day and a half removing layer after layer of a kitchen floor. And there were many full wheelbarrow trips taken to the sidewalk!
We met many people along the way who were surprised that we traveled so far just to help them! One woman asked, “You came all the way from Virginia Beach to help? The people of Cedar Rapids need to know that,” she said. A man from South Carolina who works for another disaster group stopped one day. He thanked us for coming from so far and said, “God bless you for what you are doing here.” At church on Sunday, the priest announced that we were from Virginia Beach to help with the disaster relief. After church, a member first offered us a handshake, then changed his mind and gave each of us a hug. God and the Holy Spirit were with us every step of the way blessing all we did and giving strength to us and those we served as He stood at our side in the rubble.
As followers of Jesus, we continued the long Biblical tradition responding to God in spite of insecurity and fear to say, “Here we are, LORD, send us!” And we received a lesson in humility, all of us are only one step away from a disaster and need the gifts of others in rebuilding our homes, jobs and lives. We answered God’s call, and He led us where He needed us, helping us to hold his people in our hearts. In four days, we did as much as our tired, aching bodies would allow, blessing others, we hope, as we were blessed.
Like Moses, we learned that saying yes to God leads to unimagined possibilities because God has confidence in us even when we don’t have confidence in ourselves. Be on the lookout! Burning bushes are everywhere! God wants to hear us say, “Here we are LORD, send us! AMEN
Copyright 2008, Margery E. Howell. Used by permission.