Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Of Tornadoes and Floods

This week has been... eventful? That hardly seems like the right word, but it's the only one I've got right now. It started with tornadoes on Monday, perhaps you heard of them? There were two in the Nebraska towns of Pilger and Wakefield, which devastated Pilger. I heard one person say that 80% of Pilger was gone, and the other 20% wasn't in good shape. Wednesday was kind of awful, with two of our investigators dropping us. Ouch. It might not be a literal drop, but it hurt, nonetheless. On Thursday there was the potential for floods. The community we live in, Dakota Dunes, is right at the confluence of the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers, and we've had so much rain that the waters were rising pretty rapidly. The Big Sioux River looked pretty scary, and there were huge dump trucks filled with dirt going through our neighborhood to the river to build levees. When we saw the levees, Sister Larson and I thought of Alma 50:1--"Moroni did not stop making preparations for war... for he caused that his armies should commence in digging up heaps of earth roundabout all the cities." Only, instead of preparations for war, it was preparations for flooding. Sister Larson and I prepared for flooding by moving all of our belongings out of the basement where we lived. Then we went to a nearby neighborhood to fill sandbags. It was hot, humid, and (ultimately) unnecessary. The levees held and the damage that could have happened didn't. But everyone prepared for the worst outcome, and we all were pleasantly surprised when the worst did not happen.
On Saturday, missionaries and members headed down to the Pilger area to help with cleaning up tornado debris. We didn't end up in Pilger but in Wakefield. So much of the attention has been on Pilger, apparently, that Wakefield has been somewhat neglected. So we went there to help a farmer clean up his fields. As we traveled we saw some of the devastation: some homes completely stripped to foundations, a car that looked like it had been hit by a semi, and one home that was partially gone, but half the house remained. It was like a can opener had opened up the house and peeled the front walls away. The farm we went to had most of their buildings intact, but the farm across the way had been obliterated, and all of the house, outbuildings, and belongings had been distributed across his fields like confetti. 

At one point, I stood on a hill in the middle of his bean fields, and I could clearly see the brown path the tornado had taken for miles in each direction. It was crazy to imagine. We spent several hours following behind pickup trucks in his corn and bean fields and putting all of the things we found in them: shredded 2x4s, a baby quilt, ribbons from the county fair, the twisted remnants of a ceiling fan motor, a broken doll's foot, the fender of a bicycle, a knitting needle, Christmas ornaments and tinsel, broken cupboard drawer fronts, twisted sheets of corrugated metal from silos, glass, pottery shards--everything you find in your home, except this stuff had been put into a blender and then spread across acres and acres of land. It was sobering. 

From where I stood on one hill, I could see the other farmhouse, or what was left of it, which wasn't much. We worked alongside other members, nonmembers, and missionaries, and it was definitely sad. I've never seen a tornado, but I have now seen the devastation that one causes. It was humbling to think of what had happened, and how much more needed to be done. The people there probably won't be done cleaning up for months. I think sometime we imagine that things like this are finished as soon as the news stops mentioning it, but in reality they continue for months and years. 

So, pray for the people who are affected by things like this every day, and then--if you can--get to work and help them out. I'm grateful to have this time as a missionary to be able to say, "There is actually nothing in my life today more important than helping out here." It is a luxury I appreciate, and I hope that after my mission I can continue to help people when I need to and when they need it. I am glad that I learned the value of work and service from my parents. who always served and encouraged us to serve. 

I love you all! Stay safe, and keep writing! I have been terrible about writing back, but as you can see, this week has been a little crazy. Don't fault me too much! 

Sister Loradona May

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