Looking a little grim my wife handed me the phone. Our youngest daughter Courtney was on the line. “Dad, the basement wall collapsed – but everyone is safe!”
I couldn’t believe what she was saying. It was about 9:00 on a Wednesday night in the middle of August. It had rained buckets that day. In fact it had been raining heavily off and on for several weeks. I asked her to repeat what she had just said. In more detail she explained that the entire 30 foot length of their basement wall had collapsed but that everyone was ok and that they were going to be staying in the fifth wheel camper that night.
The next day I took off from work and went out to see what had happened. It was just an ugly sight. Broken concrete blocks, mud, dirt, and debris partially filled their basement. A 30’ span of their home was now unsupported, the freezer was blown over on its face; the plumbing was ripped off from the bottom of the toilet. On top of all of that it was still raining – the cloudy and gloomy day seemed to mirror our spirits.
The insurance adjuster showed up at about 6:00 on Thursday night, a day after the collapse. He was pretty frank in his assessment that he didn’t think their policy would cover what had happened. As soon as he was gone my son-in-law Gus and I began to brace up the floor with some landscape timbers. Amazingly the now unsupported span of their home did not collapse or even drop down. We dug out the freezer, set it upright and plugged it in. Remarkably it still seemed to work.
I took off that Friday also and went out to help brace up the floor some more and begin the task of digging out. The insurance company sent out an engineer to check out the collapse – and probably to validate why they were going to deny their claim. (A few days later our daughter was told that if the entire house had collapsed the insurance company would have paid……say what?)
Over those first few days we braced up the floor so that it was safe to be in the basement, we pulled out as many of the concrete blocks as we could and just tried to clean things up as best we could. On Tuesday (6 days after the collapse) that portion of the basement was excavated, the debris was hauled out and a good sized trench was dug so that we could begin rebuilding the basement wall (Gus and Courtney decided to go with a plywood basement). While the rebuilding was going on, our daughter and son-in-law and their three children (ages 3 months to 7 years) and their yellow lab Auggie lived in the fifth wheel trailer camper next to their house.
Sometimes it’s really hard to see how God is working. Really hard. Gus had been furloughed from his job at the ore docks for several months and was working very little. Courtney was a stay at home mom with the three little ones. And now this. How were we going to get all of this done? How were we going to rebuild the basement? On one of the Saturday’s before we began work we all gathered in their makeshift home for prayer. I read from Matthew 6:25-34 – the passage that talks about not worrying about where your food and clothes and housing are going to come from. That’s kinda hard to do sometimes. And then in verse 33 it says this, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” I got a little choked up when I read that. And I changed it around just a little bit. The Vander Ark version of Matthew 6:33 reads this way, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the pieces of your basement will be added unto you!”
That Wednesday night when we found out the wall had collapsed I sent out prayer requests to as many people as I could think of. You may disagree with me, but I believe that God cares about basements! Prayers for the basement collapse went up across Minnesota and Wisconsin and North Dakota. I even received an email from a missionary friend in Germany that they were praying. We needed God’s help! Over the next couple of weeks we saw how God could bring things together and give Gus and Courtney a new basement. Volunteers came from a church in Hawthorne, Wisconsin and a church in Floodwood, Minnesota to lend a hand. People just “seemed” to show up just when they were needed. Family members worked hard; my son-in-law Gus and his dad George worked especially hard.
I guess when something like this happens you have a choice: you can curl up into a ball or close the window shades and sort of ignore the mess. Or start digging. God can perform wonders, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to work our fingers to the bone. Miracles can start by just picking up a shovel or a hammer.
Remarkably, about three weeks after the wall had collapsed and about two weeks after the site was excavated, the basement wall was rebuilt and the big hole in their backyard was all filled in!
Sometime during the rebuilding process Gus turned to me and said, “You know, Courtney was praying for a dry basement.” I think I replied with something like, “So she’s responsible for this?!?!?” God answers prayer in some pretty unconventional ways. And so when our daughter prayed for her basement, God probably thought, “OK, you asked for it!” and sent one of His angels to give that old concrete block wall just a little bit of a push.
I later asked Courtney, “There isn’t anything else you’re praying about that I should be aware of, is there?”
Dan Vander Ark
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