Saturday, June 18, 2011


Today, Evan and my in-laws went with our foursquare church and our outreach program to help out a local community that was severely hit by the storms three weeks ago. I walked away speechless at the damage and the stories and the hopelessness I felt at the destruction and the ever rising river merely feet from people's houses.

It was a sad day.

We helped at the Crow Reservation. And, I don't know what things are like in your area, but in ours there is a stigma between Native Americans and "white" Americans. For the most part, and yes, there are exceptions, these two groups of people don't really get along. It's sad because we live 45 minutes away and it's almost like going from my neighborhood to Ethiopia. It's practically a third world, 45 minutes from my doorstep. Any why? So frustrating.

Anyway, so this stigma. I'm not going to get into it, I don't want to offend anyone, but it's there. It's not good.

Evan and I plus his family plus two others went to a house literally 50 feet from this river that had flooded. Their entire basement had been flooded and was covered in mud and water. There were cardboard boxes filled with clothes and papers and food that we just had to throw out. This family just watched as we hauled their broken memories up the muddy stairs in flung toys and garbage and shirts and pictures into the back of a trailer.

These things that they had just stored in their basement because of whatever reason, now destroyed. Couch cushions, mattresses, bibles, books, sewing patterns, dolls, teddy bears, t-shirts, shoes. All ruined.

Luckily they had a cement basement (unfinished?) so there is no structural damage, or if there's any it's a tiny amount and easy to fix.

So there we were, masks covering our faces, throwing away this stuff we deemed as junk while the mom and daughter sat on the couch upstairs weeping at their possession being thrown away. I didn't realize until later in the day that the mask was covering my smile. I kept smiling at them but they couldn't see it. How inconsiderate of me.

Back to the stigma, I'm sure they don't appreciate these random people just throwing away the stuff I've labeled as junk. To them it's memories, possessions, life. I was scooping up papers and little broken toys with a shovel when the mom walked downstairs and I just couldn't. These things have no meaning for me, but to them they do. I couldn't disrespect them anymore so I had to get on my hands and knees (or just as close) on the moldy, soggy carpet and pick up glass and paper and broken toys. I was really worried that I would be viewed as some rich white girl who just does this to look good. That's not true, but does the fact that I worry about that make it true? I spent a lot of the day arguing with myself about who I was and the state of my heart.

Our party had to leave early but by lunch time we got half the wet items out of the house. Almost half the basement was emptied and the back rooms weren't as badly damaged as the front rooms. But, we did have to deal with moldy carpets and moldy food, some very unsanitary issues, and some not very pretty smells.

It was a hard day.

I was out of my comfort zone, but I was so in awe of everyone around me. Everyone, including my husband, just picked soggy boxes up like it ain't no thang (that's my new saying, homies, thanks to Evan), rolling up the moldy carpet, and carrying these wet, heavy items all over the place, not caring if the wet touched their skin or not. And here I am, tippy toeing around so my pants don't get too wet (because I'm not too bright and didn't think to roll them up before I waded through the water...) and carefully carrying up the light, dryer boxes so I don't get too dirty. Because I'm not washable or anything.

The family was so upset about their belongings and the state of their house that they sort of confined themselves away from us. I didn't get a chance to talk to them, or pray with them, or ask if there was anything I could do later on. Disappointed, again.

When Evan and I got home, we talked about whether or not we thought they appreciated us. It's so hard to give up your day off and get down and dirty and then feel like no one even cares. That is not what it's about, clearly, but we were struggling.

And you know what Evan said to me? "Larissa, we're going to do this for the rest of our lives. And there are going to be people who don't appreciate this. We're going to have to learn to not let that bother us." Because it's so true. It's not about whether or not they care. I believe Matthew 25:40 says, "Whatever you did for the least of these, you have done for me." So I'm doing it for a greater power, who does care.

Today was a hard day. But I like being uncomfortable. It makes me thankful. It wrecks me. It opens my heart. It fills my heart up.

And then, sometimes God goes above and beyond and plants a song at church that spoke right to me:

"We want to hear your voice, oh Father, 
go where you lead, oh Father, 
to the sick and the needy, Father, 
to carry your kingdom."

Yup. That's all I got. That, and God is good. All. The. Time.

photo credit: Evan <3

4 loves:

  1. Lady, you are amazing. I'm sure they appreciated it. It would have been ten times harder for them to clean up their house all by themselves, and it would have been harder for them to let go of those things. You guys are just speeding up the process and making it less painful!

    I hope there isn't a natural disaster in my area any time soon, God willing, but if there is I will definitely take part in helping out those who are in need of it.

  2. You ARE amazing Riss. I love seeing the heart that you and Evan both have for serving others. You both show God's love to those around you and it's wonderful to watch. I hope I can be just like you when I grow up :-)

  3. Thank you, thank you, girls. Your words mean so much to me.

  4. This is soooooo well written. You and Evan really are amazing. <3