When the river rose, it caught us off-guard. I never knew how people in floods could get caught by flooding. How could they not know it was coming? Why wouldn’t they just leave their houses? Now, both of those questions seem different to me.
I was planning to share this “Mary Story” with you this week, before our neighborhood became a disaster zone. Somehow, it still seemed appropriate. Mary’s stories often involve God’s careful protection of her house, and all of us need this reminder now.
Mary was telling me a few weeks ago how she was awake praying until the early morning hours. We were talking at her kitchen table where her insulin pen and medications were laid out. As she talked, she popped an occasional Russell Stover foil wrapped candy in her mouth. I couldn’t tell if they were diabetes-approved or not.
“See, He kept saying, ‘Go downstairs!’ Lil and Michael is already upstairs in the bed.
“I came downstairs, and when I came downstairs, Katrina, the door was unlocked. It was UN-LOCKED. The screen door wasn’t locked or nothin’. And so I locked the door and I came on over there and sit in that chair and I just kep’ on praying. Kep’ on praying,” Mary repeated, her voice wavering. “Then one minute I just got silent, didn’t say nothin’. Then all of a sudden I heard this–somebody come up on my porch.”
“What?” I interjected. I shouldn’t be surprised by Mary’s stories anymore, but I always am.
“And then–Katrina, it was a man, and he was just pulling my door and pullin’ my door and he was pullin’ my door and he was callin’ some name.”
“At, like, 3:00 in the morning,” I inserted.
“Yeah. I think he got the wrong house. I think he was looking for that drug house. Anyway, he was drunk or something and he was pulling my door and pulling my door. And then I say, ‘Who, who is this?’ And I didn’t open the door or say nothing or nothin’. And then pretty soon he went off the porch. And then I looked out the window. You can’t see me looking out the window because it got that stuff on it you know, but I can see you. And wasn’t no lights on, cau’ I didn’t turn no lights on, I was sittin’ in the dark. Okay. And then he come back up on my porch, and he went down the steps and he stood right there at the plant at the bottom. And then he went on that way.
“And I said, ‘Oooo, my God!’ I say, ‘If that door would have been open, that man could ha’ got in here on us! And I went up there and I told Lil and Michael, ‘You know what? Ya’ll better start locking these doors. This man was on our porch pulling, trying to get in our house. And I had came downstairs and locked the door.'”
“Because God told you to,” I added.
“Did you see where he went?”
“He went that way, he went that way,” Mary said, pointing south. “He went to that house over there.”
“And you say that’s a drug house?”
“Yeah, that’s a drug house, they sell drugs over there.”
“Well how do you know?”
“Katrina, I know that. That’s a drug house. You can see all nation of people comin’ and goin’ and all time of day and night, buying drugs and all that stuff. And the house been shot up for drugs and all that kind of stuff.”
“Shot as in… bullets?”
“Yeah. So you know what it is, the police know what it is. But I thank God. That’s why I always pray! I will never forget these two words, ‘Lord, build a hedge around us, so that the old enemy can’t come near us.’ He wouldn’ta got in! Cau’ God wasn’t gonna let him in. There’s a hedge around here, that devil can’t come in. God put a hedge around–when you ask God, God say, ask Him for what you want or need. He already know our needs but okay, I ask God, put a hedge around this door, that the old enemy can’t come near. And that’s one thing, I don’t ever worry about nobody comin’ in. Cau’ I believe God gonna do just that, put a hedge around my door. And he protects us, Katrina, He protects us. God protects us. He protects, cau’ he know I’m sincere in my heart.”
I left home Wednesday morning planning to go to Goshen after I was off. I drove my normal route and saw no closed roads. The schools were closed, and I explained to my little patient that only in Venice do people go places through the streets by boat, hence the closure.
In the evening, Marnell and I both abandoned our evening plans. By the time we got home, our neighbor was out boating in our street, going places. We spent the evening helping jump vehicles to get them out of the flood, hefting sand bags into a wall around our basement furnace, and watching the water rise.
“Seems like yesterday was the worst day of my life,” Mary told me when we caught up on Thursday.
She had gone to Indianapolis for a doctor’s appointment. The doctor’s daughter had an accident and the doctor was called away and unable to keep the appointment with Mary. Mary knew from Lily’s messages that the water was rising. When she got home, she went to her street and begged to go home.
“Officer,” she said, “I just need my machines and my medications. My sleep apnea machine and inhaler and the expensive medications I just picked up for the month.”
“I’m sorry ma’am,” he said, “but you’ll have to get them another way.”
Mary went to relatives.
“Katrina, I barely could sleep last night,” Mary said. “Seems like I’m in a dream or something. I have no one to check on the house, and you know how people loot. I just need to trust God more. I know God’s gonna work it out.”
We talked for awhile, and Mary’s spirits improved the longer she talked.
“Katrina, we can’t be saying, ‘How could God do this to me when I’ve been living right?’ Katrina, God doesn’t need to explain what he does to us! God’s gonna work this out!”
This is a story we are still living, so there is no pretty ending yet. Not for Mary, whose basement is full, or us whose furnace and hot water heater are off, or our many neighbors who lived closer to the river than we do.
“The water in the street is dropping, but it’s filling our basement,” our next door neighbor tells us. We gather at a basement window and Marnell holds rope as her boyfriend drops the pump in.
“Menards is running out of sump pumps.”
An email from Amazon: “Your package is still on the way, but it will arrive later than expected.”
“We can’t get to our house,” says another neighbor holding out a photo on a smart phone. “We just live right there.”
A soggy squirrel waddles close to us, his un-bushy tail sliding gracelessly behind him.
I tell Marnell I want to walk over and check on Mary’s house because the water is falling. He tells me he doesn’t think it’s possible yet, but goes with me. I plunge ahead.
“You should test the ground before just putting your foot down,” he says. “There might be a hole.”
He’s right on both counts, and we’re easily a block away and my tall rain boots are already nearly filling. I learn the art of walking slowly without splashing.
A man steps off a rowboat clutching a plastic garbage bag with a bulge at the bottom.
“Are you giving rides?” I ask the driver. “I just want to check on my neighbor’s house.”
We slide down the street in the thin metal boat with bright yellow oars, and close to Mary’s house. We pass the tip of the yellow fire hydrant that stands on her corner.
“At least I can tell her the windows aren’t broken,” I say. The top three or four porch steps are visible.
We pick up a man sitting on the porch steps of another house on the way back. I grab the porch post to pull us in.
The boat driver is a landlord, and his insurance doesn’t cover floods.
He drops me off and I thank him.
We walk back to the edge of the flood zone where black hoses connected to basement pumps pour water into the street.
Strange vehicles, lights, and noises continue on into the night, and Marnell and I press our foreheads to the window, wondering what is happening, hoping no one is looting.
But, like Mary insists, God is still working, even now.
Mary went to CVS Pharmacy and told them what happened with her new medications and the evacuation. They told her they understand her situation, and called a special hotline. They gave her a month of the expensive medication for free.
The words from her “Man on the Porch” story a few weeks ago could not be more pertinent now.
“I believe God gonna do just that, put a hedge around my door. And He protects us, Katrina, He protects us. God protects us!”