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Belief in the face of disbelief

Family members couldn’t believe their eyes as they watched the flood waters rise, but their Christian faith moved them to action.

Dayton Hamann

Simeon and Heidi Wolf live on a farm in Mazomanie, Wisconsin. In August 2018, heavy rains hit the area. Their fields, barns, and house unexpectedly flooded. Though the surrounding land occasionally pooled with rainwater in the past, no storm had prepared the Wolf family for this one.

When asked what emotions ran through their heads at the time, Heidi looked to Simeon and said, “Disbelief. Is that what you were going to say?”

Simeon replied affirmatively: “That’s what I was going to say.”

Thankfully, to pull them through this time of disbelief, the Wolfs had their shared belief in their Savior.

The flood

On the night before the flooding, newscasts predicted heavy rains but gave little indication that the neighborhood near the Wolf property would be in danger. The next morning, Heidi drove into Mazomanie to see if other homes were affected. As Simeon was preparing his breakfast back home, Heidi returned, simply saying, “Mazo’s under water.”

Simeon was skeptical. Yet he looked outside and saw the water rising, quickly approaching a nearby building. This worried him. “I thought to myself, It’s never gotten that high.

Simeon, Heidi, and two of their children who were home from college began to take precautionary measures. They pulled bundles of shingles from their garage to create a makeshift barrier and hold back the water. They drove the family vehicles to higher ground. They gathered school supplies, family photos, and financial records from their basement just as its windows broke open and water poured into the house.

“It was total chaos. It was so surreal. We had no idea what was happening,” Heidi explains. “This was the last house to flood. They never said they were evacuating people from Mazo. The police didn’t come out this far. There were no tornado sirens to alert people. You think of all of the emergency systems that are out there to contact people, and here we felt like we were alone.”

The basement filled up with nine feet of water, the surface of the water within one inch of their home’s ground level.

“There was nothing we could do, and that was the most helpless thing for me,” Simeon says. “I usually have a ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’ for things that go wrong. I had nothing. We just had to stand out on the road and watch.”

All of this occurred in less than a few hours.

The aftermath

That evening, the Wolfs were able to return to their land and home. The basement was still submerged. Their farm’s irrigation system alone suffered thousands of dollars worth of damage. Two 250-gallon gas tanks along with other debris had drifted across their cornfield, breaking through a fence.

The Wolfs developed a plan and took action. The first step was to pump the water from the basement using seven sump pumps.

The next day, when only about a foot of water remained in one section of the basement, crews from WELS Christian Aid and Relief and the Wolf’s church, St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., arrived to help. Simeon, Heidi, their children, WELS volunteers, and members of the church tore out carpet and drywall and removed debris from the land.

“We had an army of people,” Simeon says.

“I can’t tell you who was here or how many,” Heidi explains. “People were just appearing to help us.”

The Wolfs weren’t the only family this crew helped. The weekend following the flood, more than two hundred volunteers donned neon-colored shirts that read “Sent 2 Serve” and helped residents all over Mazomanie. Heidi and her daughter, Julia, joined them to take a break from the recovery efforts on their own property.

“Sometimes it’s easier to clean up somebody else’s mess than your own mess,” Heidi says.

Not only did they assist dozens of families across the city, but members of St. Andrew also were asked about their church and faith, providing them a wonderful opportunity to share the love of Christ with the troubled citizens of Mazomanie.

The reflection

The Wolfs continue to receive support from St. Andrew through gifts of money, meals, and greeting cards. Meanwhile, they are helping fellow community members get back on their feet.

One Mazomanie gentleman needed to restore his home after the flooding, but he did not have family or friends in the area to assist him. Simeon repaired the man’s drywall, trim, and floors, and Heidi painted. The Wolfs are just now starting repairs on their own home.

The entire experience has been all too familiar for Simeon. Through St. Andrew, he has assisted with flood relief efforts across the United States. After the Mazomanie flooding, his empathy for those affected by floods has only increased.

“I have a lot bigger understanding of what those people go through,” he explains. “People talk about floods coming in and you think, Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s just water. You can get over it. Now, I’ve got a new sense of respect for how much loss you have. Things aren’t quite the same. It disrupts your whole life.”

Both he and Heidi credit their faith for their resilient and loving attitudes during these difficult months.

“If I didn’t have my faith, I would probably be going crazy,” Heidi notes.

“We can’t do anything without his help,” Simeon continues.

When seeking comfort from God’s Word, Heidi likes to turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Simeon looks to Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Elizabeth Zambo of Christian Aid and Relief visited the Wolfs shortly after the flood. To her, their story is a testament to God’s presence and work during tragedy.

“Simeon and Heidi have been shaken by floodwaters, but their faith in their Lord and Savior remains grounded firmly on the Rock,” Zambo said. “They allowed their love for Jesus to rule their hearts and minds and stepped out in faith to help those in need while putting their own need on hold.”

Zambo notes that there are opportunities to help others everywhere, not just in the wake of sudden devastation.

“For those interested in serving as a volunteer for WELS Christian Aid and Relief, I would encourage them to follow Simeon and Heidi’s example and share Jesus’ love through their actions,” she explains. “But don’t wait for a disaster to strike in another part of the country to begin serving. Pray for God, our heavenly Father, to open your eyes to the needs of those whom you come in contact with on a daily basis.”

Unfortunately, the world will continue to face trials like those that Simeon and Heidi faced. Thankfully, God will also continue to work through his people, encouraging them to act with enthusiasm and kindness, just has he encouraged the Wolfs.

As she reflected on her family’s efforts to assist others in Mazomanie, Heidi simply says, “To be there and to help people is totally amazing.”

Author: Dayton Hamann
Volume 106, Number 5
Issue: May 2019

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