I’ve been to Greensburg, Kansas three times. The first was maybe in the year 2000. I was just passing through and stopped to look around. It seemed like a neat, normal Kansas town. I remember being impressed with an antique store that was in a former Christian church. I remember seeing signs for the world’s largest hand-dug well.
My second visit was in 2007, a few months after the big tornado hit. I was part of a team of youth and adults from the church I was pastoring at the time. We worked on clean-up and debris removal, and we worked hard. Greensburg looked completely different from my first visit. Buildings and houses were in ruins. The trees had been stripped of bark and branches, and leaves were growing back in odd-looking patterns. They called them “Dr. Seuss trees”.
My third visit was last summer on my sabbatical tour of Kansas. Again it looked completely different from before. There are lots of vacant spaces in Greensburg, but the buildings that are in place are state-of-the-art. I was very impressed with their rebuilding work, and especially with the new local history museum that now surrounds the world’s largest hand-dug well.
There are places and times of life where rebuilding is necessary. As it can happen with a town, so also it can happen for people and families. The sudden loss of a job, the end of marriage or long-term relationship, a time of bad health, a period of incarceration, or a move to a new location can all necessitate some rebuilding. The rebuilding work of the Kansas City Royals culminated in last year’s World Series championship. The KU football team has been in rebuilding mode for several years now, and we can always hope for good things.
What does God have to say about rebuilding? A good place to look in the Bible is in Isaiah, chapters 56-66. These prophecies were given after God’s people returned from exile – a time of slavery in Babylon (now Iraq) that lasted from 587 to 539 B.C. In some ways it was a dream come true for the Israelites; it was an end to slavery and a chance to come home. But it was also a really hard stretch. These people were former slaves, dirt-poor, and they were returning to a town that had been ransacked and then deserted for decades. Imagine the challenge of repopulating a place like Bushong or Dunlap. This kind of thing would not happen quickly or easily.
So what does God have to say? Here’s a sum of Isaiah 56, phrased for Christians and churches of 2016 as we go through our rebuilding times…
If you’re going through a rebuilding time of life, may the Lord make your paths straight as you trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). And may God use all of us to be a blessing to people as they go through the rebuilding times of their lives.
Andrew McHenry, Pastor
First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.