Extreme Home Makeover, Joplin, Missouri

Posted: October 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Nancy Miller threw her hammer in the ring and then was selected to participate in the seven day, seven house Extreme Home Makeover in Joplin, Missouri. She worked Wednesday night, the late shift, 8:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. As a veteran of many church-related mission trips in many places of great need, Nancy brings a broad perspective few might boast. So her reflections on this experience, a qualitatively different one, is both informed and informing:

This build was different:  a one-night stand, of sorts.  The common thread was thinner, more commercially appealing, and–for the volunteers–more distant from the family who would live in this house; no conversations with the new owners as we hammered on hurricane straps or wrapped the walls with Tyvek. 

But the stories were different too–the volunteers were also the survivors. 

“My sister and I  drove the streets all night looking for people…so many streets we couldn’t get through…”
“I had to check the animals at the vet hospital where I work; it was so close to St John’s  ….”
“I looked out the back door and from clear across town I could see St John’s–we could never see it before because so many buildings had been in the way…”.
“When my husband saw the school, he dropped to his knees…”

Stories of loss, of death, of near misses.  Their reasons for working on these houses were not for fifteen minutes of fame; the cameras weren’t rolling at 1 a.m.  The stars were not on the roof nailing down the decking. For these volunteers the work was part of their own  healing and of making a new story of hope.  “When you have done it for the least of these, you have done it for me.” And for yourself, I imagine Jesus adding.

Those from other places had stories too:  from far corners of Missouri, from Wisconsin, from Connecticut. 

“I was away but my family was here visiting when the tornado hit…I rushed to get here and ended up staying.”
“My boss is heading the crew on this house.  He said, ‘why don’t you come along?’ “
“I remember what it was like in 1993 and people came to help us battle flood waters.”

It may only appear to be 7 families helped with these houses, such a small drop in such a huge bucket, cynics might say.  But it is really a help for the entire  network of human community.  The volunteers are the real receivers.  And when they heal, we all heal.  In this important way the stories are more universal than they are unique, played out in every  Eagle, New Orleans, Galveston, Greensburg, Cedar Rapids, Nashville and Joplin, and giving us all the chance to drink from that cup and remember who we are and Whose we are.

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