After disaster relief volunteers broke for lunch, one homeowner took a moment to appreciate their work.
by Nikki Miller, a Samaritan’s Purse staff writer who is in Colorado covering our work to help people recover from the floods
We just stood there in silence for a moment.
Mere seconds ago the place was crawling with a team of nearly 40 volunteers all shoveling mud that had filled the entire house’s first floor. But now after hours of hard work, the volunteers stepped outside to break for lunch. They were there in Colorado responding to the flooding from earlier this month.
For the first time all morning, the house was completely empty. Except for the homeowner, Monte, and myself.
When I first stepped into the house earlier that day, my breath was literally taken away—and not because of the wafting aroma of raw sewage that filled the air. After walking through a mini-river to get to the actual house, one would think we would have been prepared for what we saw. But even the experienced disaster relief workers there agreed—no one had ever seen anything like it.
The house was filled with more than a foot of mud. It wasn’t your normal kind of mud-out. In fact, this first floor resembled the kind of damage we usually experience in a basement after flooding. Couches were thrown across the room and then half buried in the muck that was more cement-like than soggy in most areas.
But there were still some really wet patches. At one point, I accidentally misstepped and sunk nearly knee-deep in the mud in the dining room. It was unbelievably heart wrenching.
Monte was awesome, though. The people who had assessed the house told me that he was particularly distraught over the whole ordeal. After seeing the site, I don’t blame him. But when he heard that I was a writer and Samaritan’s Purse also sent a video crew to spread the word about how we are helping people like him, he was more than obliging. He told his story. He smiled. And he thanked us all over and over, saying how appreciative he was that Samaritan’s Purse was here to help him. Despite his own sadness, he really was a trooper because he wanted his story to help someone else.
But after a morning of talking to everyone around him, chatting with me as I helped him run errands, and speaking about his ordeal to the camera, we finally had a moment of peace.
The cameras had gone. So had the people. The only thing you could hear was the creek running behind his house, which hadn’t existed until the flood. And now, he just took a moment to glance around his home. I could tell he didn’t want to be alone because he kept looking like he was on the verge of saying something, even though no words actually came. Flashes of sadness would sweep across his face, but then surprisingly, would just as quickly transform into an expression I couldn’t quite put my finger on. That is, until he finally found the words to speak.
“This is just absolutely stunning, isn’t it?” he finally said with tears nearly welling up in his eyes before he moved closer to one corner of his house while pointing.
“Yes, it is,” I said, realizing now that the expression I couldn’t quite put my finger on was really a renewed sense of hope that wasn’t there earlier.
“You saw it. You saw over there. All that mud?” he continued. “I can’t believe it’s already almost gone. It’s just stunning.”
The house was still muddy. Many rooms were still under a foot of muck and even the room we were in, while you could now see the hardwood floors, was still very muddy and would probably have to be torn up later to prevent the floor from warping and mold from growing.
But in that quiet moment, that room was beautiful to Monte.
Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers don’t just clean houses for people. They also don’t simply hand a Bible to a homeowner and call it a day. Instead, it’s a greater mission of sharing love, giving hope, and sometimes even simply being there for the homeowner. It’s really living up to our namesake Bible story where the Good Samaritan meets a stranger in need and just gives his all to make sure he’s taken care of.
Seeing past the obvious grime, I had to agree with the man. After sinking almost to my knee to now getting to see what those beautiful floors used to look like, it really was incredible what some hardworking volunteers could accomplish in just a few hours.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to get back into this house,” he said. “Now you guys have me thinking that maybe I can. Isn’t it amazing?”
“Yes, Monte,” I said. “It really is.”
Read the story of two other people who received help from Samaritan’s Purse in Colorado here.