All my life, I’ve wanted to be a part of a demolition crew. Shows on TV always made it seem so empowering. You knock through drywall with a sledgehammer and you’re the strongest girl in the world. But you know what they don’t show you on TV? The lives of the people who owned the house. They don’t tell you that this home you’re destroying has memories and love wrapped inside it.
Last weekend, I went to help with Hurricane Harvey relief in Beaumont, Texas, and was part of a demolition crew. Our job was to knock out all the drywall that became wet-wall during the flood. Demolition loses its appeal when you realize just how much a family has lost.
Floods take everything. They don’t just ruin clothes and dressers and furniture. They destroy the home’s very walls. When you rebuild a house after a flood, you have to gut it down to the wooden frame. You tear out the flooring, the cabinets, the bathroom tile. Everything must go. Except in this case, this is less of a sales pitch and more of a wounded cry. There’s something about the sheer loss from a flood that guts a person, too.
While I was in Beaumont I met a man named Marcus who showed me Jesus in ways I never expected. He was a recovering alcoholic who sold everything he had to move to Texas and help with flood relief. He was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, but what stood out to me the most was his desire to make connections with the families we helped. He recognized the loss they were facing and understood that they needed more than just physical help; they needed emotional support too. He made an effort to show them we weren’t just there to tear down their walls; we were there to serve them. He was willing to put down his hammer to talk with homeowners for however long they needed to talk. He showed them Jesus without ever mentioning Jesus’ name.
He practiced what one of my teachers calls faith-laced love. It’s a love that is pure and from God but doesn’t shove God down the throat of the receiver. It’s a love that makes you question how it could be so deep. It’s a love that makes relationships and opens doors for Jesus without screaming his name in your face. It’s what our church needs more of. Yes, the church is faith-based, and that is a great thing. But in order to reach our society, a faith-laced approach may be more beneficial.
We don’t need shirts that declare we’re part of the church of Christ here to save the day. No, we need arms open wide ready to carry heavy sheetrock but also ready to give and receive hugs of thanksgiving and loss. We need to remember that we can be witnesses of God in our deeds through our faith-laced actions. When choosing a card to leave as encouragement for our homeowner, we sought one that wasn’t overly religious. Then we filled it with love and prayers of encouragement from each of us. Rather than giving them religious ramblings from a card company, we gave handwritten reminders that they were loved, prayed for and thought of.
I went to Beaumont to knock out some walls — and I did — but in the process, God used the people of Beaumont to knock the wind out of me. He humbled me and stirred inside me a deep desire to reach out to the hurting hearts from this disaster. He opened my eyes to the hurt so close to me. He reminded me that just because it’s no longer on the front page of the newspaper doesn’t mean it’s not still a problem. It will take years for this area to recover physically, and even once it has, it will still face economic struggles and reduced property values. It will feel the pains of this disaster years to come, and I don’t want to forget that.