Woodlawn CC

Woodlawn CC

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Helping out in Wakefield Nebraska / Clearing debris from the tornado

This past Friday I traveled to Wakefield, NE along with other American Baptist Men from Churches in Omaha, Lincoln and Norfolk.  We spent our time there helping to clean up debris from the Tornadoes on June 16th.  The town of Wakefield itself was very lucky as the actual twisters very, very narrowly missed the town.  But unfortunately, they did impact some residential areas outside of the village.  Several farm homes were destroyed and a great number of farm buildings were heavily damaged or completely demolished.  There was a great deal of shredded steel from granaries littered across the fields.

Tornado Damage near Wakefield, NE

On the farm where we were helping there were two large machine sheds that were ripped right up and entirely torn to bits.  The tractors, combines and other equipment remained behind and amazingly enough suffered very little damage.  All the buildings in that location were either completely destroyed or very heavily impacted save one building.  That building happened by providence to be the location where five individuals took shelter.  Even more remarkably, it was located adjacent to the two large machine sheds that were ripped down.  All that remained of those two sheds was the bases of the poles that had supported the sides of the structures.  The brick home on the property was leveled to the foundation and scattered, the man that lived there survived by taking refuge in the basement. 

American Baptist Men helping clean up fields near Wakefield, NE
I am on the far left side of the photo with my back to the camera.
We were able to clear several fields for the Farmer that we were assigned to assist and he was very appreciative of all our efforts.  Large sections of the fields we were in will have to be torn up and replanted as soon as possible.  All the wreckage, wood, brick and steel will need to be removed first or else it will run the risk of damaging the equipment used in replanting.  I am afraid though that some of the areas aren't going to dry out sufficiently in the time frame needed in order to replant.

Cleaning up after the Wakefield Tornadoes
American Baptist Men of Nebraska
American Baptist Men helping clean up fields near Wakefield, NE
I am to the left of the tractor with my back to the camera.

I did ask and this farm was insured so they will not have a total loss from the storm, whether or not they are able to replant.  Of course there is no way to be made completely well from such a disaster, the loss of man hours and the expense of cleaning up is just over whelming.  Thankfully, these days most farmers opt to carry crop insurance.

Tornado damage near Wakefield, NE
Besides the American Baptist Men, there were also a number of other organizations with people in the Wakefield area assisting with the clean up and recovery.  It is a wonderful thing to see the outpouring of assistance that these natural disasters bring to the forefront.  I should also report that members of our congregation 'Sunset Hills Baptist' also sent members to Pilger on this past Thursday.  At this time I do not know what type of work they were assigned to but Bob Slechta and I drove through Pilger on our way to Wakefield and it was obvious that cleanup there will be ongoing for quite sometime.

Video of twin tornadoes that hit near Wakefield, NE

As terrible as the effects of these storms are they provide us with the chance to demonstrate and to truly be 'the hands & feet of Christ'.  It's in our responses to these misfortunes to our fellow man that we best model to others the love, grace and care of our God the Father.  Praise to God, that so very many have and do respond at these times of need.

Tornado damage near Wakefield, NE

Tornado damage near Wakefield, NE

On another note, this afternoon I started reading a new book.  It's another book by Bart Ehrman entitled "Peter, Paul & Mary Magdalene".  It's an in depth look into just what we do and don't know about these figures in Christianity.  Ehrman is the chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Ehrman is widely considered a leading authority on Early Christianity, Jesus and the New Testament.  He is however, a controversial figure in that he is currently a professing 'Agnostic'.  I will point out though that he has received his seminary training, ordination and has served in an American Baptist Church as a minister.   Ehrman is one of my favorite authors due to the depth of his knowledge and his engaging writing style.

Well it's getting late and I need to get going.  May this blog post find you all well and blessed by our Lord.

In Christ,

Tornado Warnings Today

Update: June 30th, there is currently a tornado in Wayne County, NE.  Please pray for those in the affected areas.  Another day of rough weather in Nebraska.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Short Update

I just wanted to post a brief update today as it's been a spell since I put up a blog post.

By now everyone has heard about the tornado damage here in Nebraska as well as the damage up in South Dakota in and around Wessington Springs.  Well Monday night here in Omaha several local Pizza Shops did a fundraiser for the tornado victims in and around Pilger.  So Gail and I pushed our workout night to Tuesday in order to go to 'Old Chicago' to be a part of the fundraising effort.  I hear that all told the various restaurants raised over $72,000 that night.  I can believe it as our waiter told us that his restaurant had raised over $10,000 so far that evening.  We did go pretty late in order to miss most of the crowd, so I suspect they were about done for the night.

Friday I will be taking the day off of work in order to go with the Baptist Church from Norfolk to Wakefield, NE.  Wakefield suffered significant damage along with Pilger, but unfortunately since Pilger has gotten most of the press Wakefield has had fewer groups coming in to help out.  I'm looking forward to lend whatever help I can that day and hopefully it will make a difference to at least one or more of the good citizens of Wakefield.  Please continue to pray for those affected by the storms as it will be a long, long process for many of them to get back to any resemblance of normality.

I don't have much time to blog right now as we're busy here at the shop this week but I did want to report on my mother and mother-in-law (Mary).  Mother had a mild heart attack as I reported in my last blog post but she's bounced back and she's as fit as a fiddle once more.  There was no blockage that required treatment so they gave her some medication for clotting and she's good to go.  This past Sunday my mother-in-law suffered a fall in which she broke her right wrist and broke some bones in her cheek.  She has some disability on her left side from previous strokes and not having the use of her right hand is a real problem as her left hand isn't much use to her. 

Mary has been in the hospital but will be going to a Nursing Home today.  She'll have to be at the Nursing Home until she is able to regain some function in her right hand.  All prayers for her healing would be much appreciated.  Mary is a couple of months younger than my Mother but having suffered from strokes she is in much poorer health.

I'll come back and blog again after going to Wakefield on Friday.

May you all have a wonderful and richly blessed week.

In His Abiding Love & Grace,

Here's a video link from Pilger showing an entire house being picked up and tossed to the side.  Incredible!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

It's all about how we look at life...

Well, today certainly was a productive day at the Karlen household.  This morning Gail and Maddie were not feeling well, so I went to Benson Baptist by myself for their 8:30 am service.  I was running late and on top of that when I came to the Maple Street exit I discovered that Maple Street heading east was closed for repairs.  Now let me admit that for a second I thought about hopping the curb and driving through the vacant lot that was there and around the section of street that was torn out, these are the kind of thoughts that one has when one drives a large SUV.  But, my better sense came to my rescue and I instead detoured west to 108th Street and jumped onto Blondo Street, and from there continued my eastward journey.  All in all I was only a few minutes late and I wasn't the only one sneaking into the back rows at that time anyway, so it all worked out just fine in spite of the detour.

After Church I came home and started working in the yard.  It was only by good fortune that I chose to do the yard work early in the day as this afternoon a pretty good storm rolled through with winds gusting to 70 mph.  It seems we've gotten into one of those routines where we have bad weather every Sunday afternoon.  

While Maddie and I were outside working on the yard, she discovered three baby blackbirds that had fallen out of their nest.  One was dead, one looks to be injured and one seems no worse for the wear of falling out of the apple tree which they were laying underneath.  Look as I might I was unable to detect any trace of a nest in the tree.  But, that tree has very dense foliage and has branches going every which way, so it was no real surprise that a nest could be completely hidden.

I picked the two live birds up for Maddie and put them in a shoebox for her.  Once I'd finished the yard work I then ran to Petco and got a box of small mealworms which Maddie has spent much of the afternoon and evening feeding to the remaining two baby birds.  Realistically, I don't think the one that is injured will make it through the night, but the other is very lively and just might have a chance if Maddie is able to keep it fed and watered.

After finishing the yard, I gave Gracie our elderly Cocker Spaniel another bath.  She's become somewhat incontinent in her old age and we have to crate her at times and limit where she sleeps now.  I really have to stop and reflect on sweet Gracie.  Gracie is just the happiest little old lady you could ever hope to find.  Even though she has a long list of infirmities related to her advanced years, she is just completely content and never lets her limitations get her down.  Her face is entirely white with age, but her eyes are bright and when she sees you her tiny stump of a tail goes a hundred miles an hour.  She seems to love life in spite of all the maladies that plague her in her old age.  Quite honestly, I think if she were any other dog we'd have had her put down by now.  Certainly she has enough issues that we could justify it in our own minds, but gosh darn it all, she is just so happy and doesn't seem to be suffering nor in pain.

There is certainly a lesson to be learned from sweet petite Gracie, attitude is extremely important in how we approach any and all limitations in life.  A sad reality of all of ours is that as we age, we will encounter more and more limitations and infirmities.  But, we can choose to not allow those things to define us nor to limit our enjoyment of our lives, and those around us.  Gracie just adores our daughter Maddie and she is thrilled that she is now back home and at times it seems for her just being around Maddie makes everything else worthwhile.  Look to the good in your life, look to that thing that brings you joy, that thing you love, that thing that makes all the troubles that life can bring seem small and insignificant.  Now hopefully for most of us there is a long list of things that we can look to.  I prayerfully hope that for each of you reading this post that your love of God and the ability to enjoy His creation is near the top (if not the top) of your list.

Often the 'Motivational Gurus' tell us to write down our goals and aspirations, like them, I encourage you (I know that I will today) to write down all those things in your life that make it all worthwhile.  The mere act of writing it down will strengthen you when you find that life is getting you down.  Just remember little Gracie, if anyone has a reason to be tired and ready to give up on life it must be her.  Yet sweet precious Gracie just keeps on going and keeps on loving all of her family in spite of her failing health.  She's an inspiration as well as a remarkable little dog.

While writing today I've been listening to this group that I stumbled upon quite by accident.  I really enjoy their music and I'm going to have to Google them and learn more about them.  Take a listen, I think you'll enjoy it.

Earlier today, I learned that my mother had a small heart attack during the night.  She's doing fine today, but last night my youngest brother drove her to the hospital in Chamberlain, SD.  They are hoping to release her in the morning, though she will likely be going to see a specialist in Sioux Falls as soon as possible.  I would very much appreciate any and all prayers for healing for her.  She's been in remarkably good health for an 87 year old woman up until this incident.  To be honest though, I'm not too worried about her.  She's always enjoyed robust health and I know she'll bounce back quickly.  Her father had a heart attack in his sixties and then lived to be ninety-seven without another incident with his heart.

May this day find you all well and filled with the spirit of love and the unfailing grace of our Heavenly Father.

In His Care,

6/2/14 Update:  I have not heard yet if Mother has gone home but, I am happy to report that both baby birds survived the night and seem to be much stronger today.  I am frankly shocked, but Maddie tells me she woke up in the middle of the night and fed them again, so perhaps they'll actually make it through.

6/2/14 Additional Update:  My sister Julie tells me that they are taking my Mother to Sioux Falls today for more testing.  My cousin Jeff is a Doctor in Sioux Falls and he apparently has gotten somethings lined up for her.

6/3/14 Update:  My Mother had an angiogram but everything looked fine.  They are just going to put her on medication no stints were needed.
Sad to report both of the baby birds died yesterday.  Wild babies just don't do well without their mothers.