"God, come close and hold my heart"
By Jessica Vix
It is October 23 and I’m sitting in my dorm room at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan. Almost exactly four months ago, on June 22, I was sitting at a stoplight in my hometown of Minot, ND, listening to the sound of sirens ringing through the air. These sirens warned residents of the Mouse River Valley to evacuate and signaled the beginning of the worst flooding in Minot’s history. That night, I went home and wrote “A Quiet Disaster,” my attempt at organizing my thoughts into words. As I read it today, all of the memories come rushing back. Little did I know then what the next months would bring.
For nearly a week straight, we had the television on all day. The images were almost too incredible to believe. The fair grounds, the baseball fields, the schools, the churches and the homes—so many homes. Everything sitting in water. In my essay, I wrote of people who would be out of their homes for weeks. However, those weeks would eventually turn into months. The city of Minot was heartbroken.
The week that people were allowed back into the flood zone, I was in Minnesota with friends. I sat in our motel room and looked at picture after picture of houses still filled with the putrid brown floodwater. The night that I got back to Minot, my parents took me to our church (Bible Fellowship Church). From the outside, the building looked the same as when I left except for the line of grunge that marked how high the water had reached. It was nearly to the door handles. The curb was lined with everything from books to tables to toys from the nursery, everything deemed irreconcilable.
I stepped inside, my parents behind me, and immediately was hit with a smell that I will never forget. I could hardly recognize what I was seeing—not pews or pianos or hymnals. Instead, the carpet was covered with a layer of slime and littered with pieces of the walls. This was my beautiful church. The enormity of what had happened hit me hard, and I broke down.
Flood cleanup is hands-down the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The first day was hot and humid (by North Dakota standards) and overcast. I was dressed in a pair of ratty jeans and an old t-shirt, ready for a long day. All of us who were working that day donned masks as protection against the mold that had grown up the walls. I was put to work with a crowbar, but it wasn’t just the physical labor that made it so hard.
The first time that the crowbar smashed through the wet sheetrock, I almost had to stop. I stared at the hole I had made and felt like crying again. There was something deeply painful about purposefully destroying the walls of my church. In my mind I knew that the building itself was worthless—that the value of the church was its people—but my heart was still struggling.
We carried out countless loads of debris and dumped them into my dad’s grain truck to be hauled away. I was sweaty and covered with dirt and bits of damp sheetrock and insulation. The mask was scratchy and made it hard to breath. I finally stepped outside and pulled it off so I could take in some fresh air. My grandpa’s pickup bed was loaded with a few shelves that had been untouched by the water. They were a few of the only things that had been saved. As I stood there, smelling the all-too-familiar scent of mildew and mold wafting out of the church, it suddenly began to sprinkle. Then it began to pour.
We attempted to cover the shelves but ran out of blankets. I stepped back inside and just watched as the broken, crumbling pews sitting on the curb once again soaked up water. And I wondered. Why did God let this happen?
Suddenly the words of a song from Tenth Avenue North popped into my head.
“One tear in the driving rain, one voice in a sea of pain,
Could the maker of the stars hear the sound of my breaking heart?
One life, that’s all I am. Right now I can barely stand.
If you’re everything You say You are
Would You come close and hold my heart?”
I miss Minot. I feel disconnected and sometimes I forget for days at a time about the ongoing struggle to restore what was lost. When I return home in December for Christmas break, the first thing I want to do, after hugging my family, is go to my church. I want to walk through the bare rooms and be able to know that things are getting better.
God has a plan. I don’t understand why he allowed my church to flood. I don’t understand why he allowed thousands of people to lose their homes. I don’t understand why he allowed so much pain and devastation in my city. I don’t understand why he couldn’t have just held back the water. All I really know for sure is that he has a plan.
And that’s all I need.
Jessica Vix is a freshman at Tabor College. Follow this link to her first essay.