GIBBON — The emotional toll caused by two devastating floods within four months caught up with some Gibbon residents Sunday, even as they paused from clean-up work to do something normal — attend church.
At Faith United, Janee Montgomery began her “Time With Our Children” message by playing a few bars of recorded music that quickly were identified by another congregation member as a “Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood” tune.
Montgomery said the children’s TV show focused in the importance of being good neighbors.
She then became so emotionally overwhelmed she couldn’t speak. Her friend Jodi Sell left her pew seat, joined Montgomery and the children on the steps at the front of the sanctuary and continued the presentation about the Bible’s “Good Samaritan” story.
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Montgomery was able to close that part of the service by saying, “The world is in need of a neighbor. I think we showed this week that we are neighbors.”
Earlier Sunday morning, Linda Keiper had said she was thankful “we had so many angels come out and help us.”
The first angels came to her house on the west edge of Gibbon Friday to help pump water from the basement and relocate furniture and other belongings to the garage.
More than a dozen flew in again Sunday afternoon, primarily to remove water-soaked drywall. Keiper cried as she stood in her driveway to hug and thank each volunteer.
As she acknowledged that it’s easier for her to give help than ask for it, a departing helper told her she needs to get better at asking and the group will return when the basement is dry enough to start restoration.
Mike Evans, pastor of Faith United Church, had spent Friday and Saturday organizing work crews and helping with cleanup for several people — some members of his congregation, some not.
He acknowledged that he didn’t spend a lot of time preparing his sermon in a week that was “a special kind of busy.”
Several people who later shook his hand as they left church told Evans it was his best one. The topic was “Endure.”
In the morning scripture from Colossians 1:1-14, the Apostle Paul told the people of Colosse they were not alone and, even though he could not be with them, he kept praying for them. In some Bible translations of verse 11, Paul writes about having “great endurance and patience.”
Evans said it’s important now that people in Gibbon know they are not alone.
He talked about helping last Tuesday as volunteers surrounded a huge sand pile next to the Gibbon Fire Hall and filled sandbags they hoped would help protect homes against the coming Wood River floodwaters.
Even if the sandbags didn’t work the way everyone wanted them to, Evans said, “it mattered that as a community we tried, together.”
He smiled when he said, “I hope you don’t think less of me as a pastor when I say, ‘Endurance stinks.’”
That’s because people get endurance only by experiencing tough times. No one can control such times, Evans said, “but we can choose how we handle them.”
Earlier in his sermon, he said there were times in the past week and after the March flood when he wished he could have helped people more, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Evans told the Hub after church that Sunday’s message was more emotional than usual, which reflects the struggle and loss Gibbon people are dealing with — some for a second time in four months.
One of those second-timers is Faith United member Nancy Kollars, who lives a half-block south of the Wood River.
As she stood in her basement, where many things are stacked on tables and holes between rooms show where wet drywall was removed, Kollars was asked if dealing with a second flood restoration before the first one was completed had shaken her faith.
She choked up and said, “Four years ago I lost a son in a car accident. If I was going to lose my faith, that would have done it.”