God’s servants in action. That’s the thought that keeps coming to my mind when I think of our most recent work day held on Saturday, May 19, when 27 volunteers gathered on our property in Bastrop to help us out with tree cutting and hauling debris. What an amazing group!
The day started at 7 am as I pulled up in front of the property. Waiting for me was my friend from Giddings, Jason Hard, ready with his chainsaw to begin work. As I later found out, he had taken time to come out and help our family, even though his mother was in town visiting that weekend. A short time later, my former college Communications professor and friend, Philip Hohle, arrived with his chainsaw. He also had volunteered to come out and help, despite the fact that he had a wedding to attend later in the day. I’m so grateful for both of these men and their commitment to help out.
They started to work right away. We needed to fell enough trees prior to other volunteers arriving so that we had some debris for them to haul. After all, that was about all there was left to do on our property at this point: clear the dead trees.
Prior to the work day I had done a rough count of the remaining trees on our property. I had counted about 100 pine trees still standing, 12 “stubs” of pine trees (partial trees that had burned or broken off during the fire itself), 30-something cedar trees and an odd number of remnants of yaupons and other brush-like trees. Now keep in mind this is what was left after Bluebonnet Electric and the county had already cleared off a number of trees from both the front and rear of our property late last year and earlier this year. After the fire our insurance adjuster had initially counted approximately 286 pine trees on our property.
Before long, the center of our property, right where the house once stood, was piled up with 10-12 fallen pine trees.
As chainsaws went to work on cutting up the fallen hulks, Tracy and the boys arrived. The boys were excited because they knew their friend, Kevin, would be coming today to help and the ‘Three Musketeers’ would have an opportunity to band together and play.
Tracy, my dear wife, was such an invaluable part of the day. She took care of so much: bringing the snacks and water; coordinating everything with the ordering, pick-up and delivery of pizzas for everyone for lunch; greeting volunteers as they arrived on-site; helping out with some of the debris clean-up; monitoring the kids around the work-site; and in general, just being an all-around supportive wife. I am so thankful for her presence. Without her, the day would not have come off as smoothly as it did.
Other volunteers began arriving throughout the morning: good friends of ours Gary & Susan and their son, Kevin; Phil, another old friend from my Concordia college days; Jordan Boessling, the Minister of Creative Communications from our church, Christ Lutheran in Austin; also other fellow members of our church: John & Connie, Gideon & Allison, Bill, and Nathan.
The volunteer group from our church switched to help our family out when plans to work on another Bastrop relief effort fell through. It was truly a blessing having that whole crew there as well.
In addition, Erica Speckman-Green, another friend from my Concordia college days, came and coordinated securing 9 volunteers from her church and youth group from Grace Lutheran Church in Killeen. Wow. What a great group of kids and adults! I have never seen such dedicated youth before. They took to the task at hand, hauling branches, lifting logs, and even teaming up to coordinate rolling huge logs with their feet. They worked hard in what quickly turned into a very hot sunny day. By the end of the work day I think each and every one of them were covered in the black soot that so easily rubbed off the charred trees. Thanks Grace Lutheran Church and Youth and thanks Erica! You all made a difference in our lives.
Everyone made a difference. It was amazing to see so many dedicated servants working hard, covered in soot that – even 9 months later – still rubbed off from the trees, sweating and laboring under the hot sun to help our family out. We were blessed by everyone’s presence that day – and more than a little humbled.
I recall a moment during the morning where I looked up and saw my boys, along with Kevin, taking a break from their play to help out with hauling branches. There they were marching in line, their arms loaded with branches, carrying them to the debris pile. That made me smile in pride.
By the end of the work day, over 30 pine trees and 10 cedar trees had been felled, cut up, moved and piled up at the rear of our property. Our family could never have done it without the help of such a dedicated group of volunteers.
My one regret is that I didn’t have enough time to really talk at length with everyone out there. I had brief moments here and there but with so much to do those moments seemed fleeting. I am grateful, however, to have had even those moments. It was wonderful to spend time with old friends, new friends and people who cared enough to take the time to help out a family in need.
The Ristow family is truly thankful for everyone’s tireless efforts on that hot Saturday in May. You graced our lives with hope and love, and gave our family yet another glimpse into what living a life of service for Him can look like, as servants of the risen Christ!