This week I worked on a Flood Recovery team in Missouri. The house we were working at had over 5 foot of water in it just days before. After getting 9 inches of rain in less than a day, a severe flash flood tore through this family’s neighborhood leaving behind mud, debris, contamination, and a lot of water damage.
This house had moldy drywall, ceilings, and 2 inches of mud when we got to it, all of which had to be removed for the safety of those living inside. The first thing that needed to be done was to remove the mud.
We shoveled for hours.
The family that lives in the house was adamant about saving as many of the materials in the house as possible. They wanted to save the cabinets, doors, and countertops. They were trying to save money by salvaging these items, not knowing how much harm could come if they didn’t get rid of them. They were teary eyed, almost desperately trying to convince us to help them save what we deemed as unsalvageable and unsafe.
Here is the deal with flood damaged houses: they are contaminated and need cleaned. When flood waters enter a home, they soak the flooring, studs, insulation, drywall, and cabinets. Flood waters are usually very contaminated, as they contain bits of everything they have flowed over and through. Cow poo. Asbestos. Mold. Chemicals. Gasoline. Nothing you want your home marinating in.
What we do as a flood recovery team is remove all those contaminated items. We go in, tear out the trim, drywall, and insulation. Next we take out the cabinets, appliances, toilets & sinks. Then we rip or pry up the flooring (carpet, laminate, tiles, etc) and we remove the sub floor if it is damaged, leaving the bare bones: studs, floor joists, and ceiling. We power wash any surface that is left & was touched by the flood water. The final step is to spray a substance that kills the mold.
To clean the houses, you have to gut them: remove all the contamination and grime. You must let go of what’s damaged to fix the problem. In fact, if you don’t remove the wet, dirty materials, they are certain to grow mold, creating a health hazard. Once the mold forms, it will continue to grow until it consumes and deteriorates the structure. The building you used to take refuge in will begin to harm you from the inside. It’s a problem that only compounds with time.
This is such a clear picture of how we handle things sometimes.
How often do we try to keep things in our lives that we don’t need? We stand there on the verge of tears, desperately trying to cling to what we think we want. Things like bitterness, anger, jealousy, greed or fear. Often we think letting these things stick around will help us, when they are actually toxic. A ticking time bomb. We need someone to rip out the walls and fix the problem at the source.
Sometimes when we finish up a house, it’s hard to look around and see nothing. It’s stripped clean and bare. Although there is nothing inside, it is a clean start. It’s fresh. The family can do anything they desire with their house. Sometimes the vision they see of what their house could be is totally different from what it was. They begin dreaming of what could be and they start putting together plans for rebuild. They have hope. Fresh, clean hope.
As much as we are helping the homeowner, it’s also a hard process. With each armload of insulation and drywall that we carry out, we are carrying out chunks of their life. We are helping, but at first it feels like the opposite. After a while though, it becomes easier. The more contamination we remove, the lighter their load becomes.
God is our flood recovery team. He knocks on our door to say “let me come in. I can help you. I can carry this load”. He steps inside and begins to remove the contaminated, broken parts:
Bitterness: cut away
Anger: carried out
He kills these things so they can’t grow any more, and pushes us toward recovery. It’s not always the easiest process; reducing something to bare bones is hard work. It stings at first, and it’s uncomfortable, but when we let him continue the hard process, we have the chance to start fresh, with renewed hope.