After the floods

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

“Öl” somebody has chalked in orange onto the side of the gutted house, it’s vacant, eye-like windows staring at the devastation that used to be Ahr river valley. Careful, whoever is going to tend to this ruin of somebody’s livelihood next – likely, there is a burst oil tank in the basement, and the oil has got mixed in with the water that flooded the basement. And the ground floor. And the first floor. All the way up, almost to the ceiling. This demands special attention from the clean-up teams working their way from door to door, from flooded basement to flooded basement.

Whoever owned and ran this Pizza parlor on the river probably needs special attention, too. The glass front of the small place is gone, nothing inside remains. The windowless gap a silent scream. A ‘greasy spoon’ we would have called this in Canada, jokingly, but this is not a time for joking. Not by us, anyway. This place was certainly not a Sodom, but there are some pillars of salt standing here and there, and we tiptoe around them as best we can in our boots.

Maybe the proprietors found shelter with the landlord and -lady of the Kalenborner Höhe, up above the torn-up valley. Who already during the night of the flood started making space for those who had lost everything. Who cancelled all reservations, sent their hotel guests home, and turned their place into a shelter. Some of their guests – the old couple, still looking dazed but grateful at breakfast, families with children and nowhere to go – have been there ever since. Others moved on, but Lord, was there ever a place in the tavern for them when they needed it. This is the extreme other end from Beith Lehem’s stable – in fact, the stables at Kalenborn have since been torn down to make room for twelve container homes that were located by helpers somewhere in the vicinity, left behind by a refugee camp that closed shop. “Wir schaffen das.” We can do this. Alex and Gaby Zimmermann may have never heard of the Epistle of James, but if they have faith, it is definitely one that comes with works (Ja 2,14-17). And if Jesus came along, he’d be welcomed – a carpenter, that’s great, we sure need you here, man. Sit down, have a coffee. Have you eaten? — If you don’t feel welcome here, maybe it’s your own mistake.

We’ve come to help, to bring tools and supplies. Pumps. Diesel generators. There is tacit understanding, a gruff solidarity based on a collective first-name mode of address; we’re all in this together. Do I see Jesus in the grimy faces of the Technisches Hilfswerk guys coming to us for a beer and a bratwurst in the evening? No place for spiritual meditation, this here. Some of these faces look like they have seen a lot more than they should have, but we all share a smile when the crazy elderly lady starts singing again: „Wir lieben das Leben, das Ahrtal und den Dreck / wir glauben an den lieben Gott – und morjn es alles weg…“ (“We love life, the Ahr valley and the dirt / we believe in the dear God – and tomorrow all will be gone..”)

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