REGIONAL - Lanny Bosma of Woodstock went with a group of about 20 area residents this past weekend to help with flood relief in Nebraska.
The group hailed from Woodstock, Pipestone, Edgerton and other regional communities. Bosma said it was a joint effort between several church congregations.
Conditions are bleak for our Nebraska neighbors, Bosma explained.
“It’s what you see on TV, only it gets worse when you see it,” he said, adding that some houses are still completely underwater, and it will be some time before everyone in the area can receive the needed help.
The group focused on inspecting homes for damage and then tearing out sheetrock, insulation, everything - right down to the studs. Depending on the height of the water, some upper cabinets could remain.
Nebraskans dealing with the aftermath of the flood are still in need of plenty of supplies, Bosma said. Among the specific needs are clothes, wheelbarrows, scoop shovels, squeegees, brooms, hand sanitizer, hay, sump pumps, generators and transfer pumps (those used for trash).
Area pastors can help connect people who are interested in donating and/or volunteering.
“Honestly, one of the biggest needs is comforting people,” Bosma said.
Bosma said many homeowners first wanted to search through their belongings and find specific items. They wanted documents like Social Security cards and property deeds, but also sentimental keepsakes if there were any worth saving.
After grabbing the essentials, residents had to endure the trauma of losing everything else.
“They need somebody to just take a walk down the block,” Bosma said.
He added that it was particularly difficult for children, who just wanted to play but had lost all their toys and been displaced from their homes.
“That’s the kind of stuff you don’t really think about,” he said.
Teams of insurance company and FEMA representatives were out inspecting the ruined houses, Bosma explained.
Each door was marked green, yellow or red to designate its status. Green meant the house was OK to save. Yellow meant it would need a second opinion, while red signified it was structurally unsound and couldn’t be salvaged.
Bosma said mold is already starting to form, although the cool temperatures are slowing its spread.
He and a fishing buddy of his have been participating in disaster relief since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017. Bosma’s friend invited him to go, and when he prayed about it, he felt that going to help was what God wanted him to do.
Since then, Bosma and his friend have been to Texas at least a dozen times and have also taken a group to North Carolina for relief efforts.
Bosma said a big difference this time is that Texas and North Carolina were inundated with sea water, which is cleaner. In Nebraska, houses are full of river silt, which is much more difficult to remove and clean up.
Although Bosma loves helping his neighbors, he said “it’s really about the ministry.”
As he helped people take the next steps to move forward with their lives, Bosma said he witnessed people return to or begin faith in Jesus Christ, which is the most fulfilling part for him.
“It takes all kinds of people (to help),” he said, noting that there’s plenty of manual labor to be done, but the emotional labor takes a special kind of person, too.
Bosma shared a story about one family he and the group helped. He said there were about 30 volunteers at a particular farmhouse. The homeowners were distraught and couldn’t participate in the process of demolition and cleanup. While the volunteers did their work, they took turns sitting with and comforting the family.
Bosma said when they left, the family looked different. They were filled with hope for the future.