by: Carl Drews
The mud last Wednesday was more than a foot deep outside the house in Longmont, and six inches deep inside. When our volunteer work crew arrived at 9 a.m., we could not even open the outer doors of the house. Our two foremen had warned us that the homeowner was very sad about his loss, and that we should be very respectful of him and his belongings, no matter how ruined they appeared to us.
A pair of teams started shoveling the mud away from the two front doors, and another team attacked the back portico. Thirty minutes later we gained access to the other entrances, and by 10 a.m. all 30 of us volunteers, organized by Samaritan’s Purse and Rocky Mountain Christian Church (RMCC) in Niwot, Colorado, were busily digging at the sea of mud with shovels, buckets and wheelbarrows. (Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. After the St. Vrain River flooded last week, Samaritan’s Purse set up its local flood recovery operations at RMCC in Niwot.)
The interior of the house was ghastly. A creek 220 yards away had overflowed its banks and carved new river channels among the cottonwoods there, flooding this residence with waist-deep water and depositing six inches of caked mud throughout the ground floor. Furniture and possessions in every room were jumbled, as the flood had left them, with unrecognizable soggy masses scattered among the wreckage. “What a mess!” I thought to myself.
Then I spied an acoustic guitar above the water line, apparently undamaged. At that moment the homeowner came into the room, and I leaned on my shovel and talked with him. “My 12-string guitar has a lot of memories, and I’ll bet your guitar does, too. It looks like that one will play again.” He smiled and spotted a few other items that had stayed dry. He was encouraged by the progress that we 30 orange-shirted strangers had already made. In places, he could see the floor again.
By noon there were large piles of mud outside the house, carried there by efficient volunteers using buckets and wheelbarrows. Our foremen directed us to carry furniture outside for the homeowner to decide whether to salvage or discard them. We made progress, but our energy flagged. Then reinforcements arrived in the form of eight big guys, college friends of the homeowner’s son. They had heard the news and could not stand idle while a family friend was in trouble. With renewed vigor, the crew chewed into the diminishing mud flats. I worked on the other side of the house for an hour, and when I returned was amazed to see the progress they had made.
As the house was transformed, so was the homeowner. A few smiles appeared on his face as he walked around, and he thanked us for all our hard work. Yes, there were piles of possessions for him to sort through in the coming days. But he could imagine his home being livable once again. We pulled up sodden carpets, heavily soaked with water and mud, and hauled them outside the house. I could even picture calling in a contractor for the rebuild.
Our two foremen were very pleased at what the work crew had accomplished in just one day. You could actually walk through the house again wearing regular shoes! They set quitting time for 3:30 p.m., giving us time to gather up tools and return to the church. We gathered in a prayer circle and held hands. The homeowner gave thanks to God for his house now being on its way to becoming a home again. He thanked us all warmly for our help, his face beaming with gratitude. Amen.
Volunteers are gathering every morning at 7:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday, at the north end of RMCC in Niwot. Once there, volunteers form teams and make their way into Longmont for a day of hard but satisfying flood clean-up work, helping people in great need of assistance and comfort. The current plan is to continue recovery work through October.
All photos taken by Carl Drews
Learn more about Colorado flood relief.