This summer we took the Collegiate United Methodist Church Middle School Youth Group on a mission trip to assist with tornado and flood damage clean-up and reconstruction in northeastern Iowa. The Hazelton area was hit by the same tornado that destroyed Parkersburg, Iowa, in May 2008. Shortly afterwards, the area received roughly 20 inches of rain in the span of one week that resulted in widespread flooding.
The youth were split into two groups that alternated between working at two different sites. One site was a farmstead, where we tore apart, sorted, and loaded lumber from a barn and several livestock sheds that were severely damaged by the tornado. All of the children were sad to have to take apart what remained of the barn, which was built in the late 1800s. The barn’s timbers were hand-hewn and jointed, and held together with large wooden pins. The other site was the place where we stayed for the duration of the mission trip. It was an old church that was in the process of being converted into low-income housing when its basement was entirely flooded.
We assisted with reconstructing individual rooms, performing tasks such as building door frames and hanging doors, hanging cabinets, putting up drywall, and taking on an unplanned all-night task. Shortly after getting the children settled down and all of us were finally at rest in our sleeping bags, the boys woke me up. They said, “There’s a person or an animal outside, in front of our basement window.” I asked why they thought there was such a problem, and they replied, “There is something making a sound, sort of like wurga-wurga, at the window.”
I thought that maybe they were rudely awakened by a frog or toad, but I went to check out the problem anyway. As I walked close to the window, I heard the tell-tale “wurga-wurga” sound, but it wasn’t from the window, it was under my foot and I could feel movement! As I focused my tired eyes closer on the window, I found water streaming from the basement window and along the wall, where it was filling the space between the concrete floor and the slightly-elevated subflooring.
Another intense storm had hit in the night that filled the church’s window-wells with water that flowed over the roof’s rain gutters. For the next several hours all of us were mopping, vacuuming, and baling water to protect the reconstructed walls and flooring from the need tobe demolished and replaced again. It brought back many difficult memories of fighting the 1993 floods, but this time we won. The children expressed many concerns for the people in the Hazelton area for the hardships they have endured in losing their homes and rebuilding them, and a lot of appreciation for their own good fortunes.