Nebraska flood survivors give thanks for OGHS grants

The Gillming family, house and garage.

By Angie Gillming

Editor’s Note: Floodwaters breeched the home of Angie and Tom Gillming, Gibbon, Neb., twice in the Midwest storms of 2019. They were among the beneficiaries of One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) Disaster-relief grants that American Baptist Home Mission Societies provided, on behalf of American Baptist Churches USA, to the American Baptist Churches of Nebraska region.

In February 2019, my husband and I sold our farm equipment and ended our farming operation. Farming is something that both sides of our family had done for generations. This act alone would be enough to break some people.

Then came the bomb cyclone—an extratropical cyclone responsible for the blizzard over the Midwestern United States on March 13. Water came up quickly in our street, and clumps of slushy snow swam down the street like frozen alligators. As my son and I moved things higher in the garage, we debated how to get the car out, as the water in the street was already too deep. I decided I couldn’t risk getting stuck in the lot behind our house, but, in a few minutes, our way out the back was gone and my car was flooded into the garage.

We carried things from the basement and moved other items to higher shelves. The look on my brother-in-law Jerry’s face was panic. “You guys need help,” he said. He helped us carry more items from the basement. All the while, we watched the water inch closer to the front sidewalk.

The gas company shut off the gas, and we no longer had heat. Firefighters arrived and said we could leave with them. With Jerry’s pickup up the block, we had a way out. So we packed as much into laundry baskets as we could. Have you ever thought about what you would need to take to evacuate? We grabbed food, medicine, clothes, towels, bedding, other items and waded to Jerry’s pickup. We got safely to our farmhouse, which happened to be empty at the time. We had heat, water and a place to sleep.

The next morning, we waded back to the house to get a few more things and assess the damage. Amazingly, there was little water in the house, but the water outside was knee deep. As the water slowly receded, we thanked God that the damage wasn’t too bad. We put fans all around the basement and began to put our lives back together. We were advised not to plant a garden in the flooded garden spot. So we planted at the farm, which turned out to be a wise decision.

On July 9, we were at a medical appointment in Omaha, when the boys called and said that rain would result in flooding in Gibbon and that sand bags were available at the fire hall. We told the boys to take everything out of the basement and to the farm. This flood was predicted to reach a higher level, and we couldn’t take chances. So the boys moved a bunch of items. Once again, we were evacuating!

We loaded what we could and moved lots of items to the main level. We piled things on top of things. This time we got all the vehicles out and left before the water rose. On July 10, I drove into town to check on the flooding, which was further west than the time before. I couldn’t get within about three blocks of our house, and water was all I could see. I went to work, knowing my house was filling with water but being unable to do anything about it. I spent the day calling people from our church to ask about damage and to see if they were okay.

When we went back to our house, we waded in through knee-deep water swirling around our legs and water coming up like a fountain from the manhole cover. The water, mixed with sewer water, was about two-feet deep in the basement this time. Because our yard remained full of water, we couldn’t start pumping. It was heartbreaking. It took several days for the water to recede. The ground was so saturated that it kept coming up into the basement.

Finally, the water stopped coming in. We tore out the sheetrock, exposing mold. Now we had a new problem. I spent hours on the phone with insurance, mold remediation, furnace repair and waterproofing companies. Many of them had long waiting lists. I was trying not to panic and  take only one step at a time. But I was fighting panic the whole time.

In the process of moving things up and down stairs, I wore out my right knee. On Aug. 19 my knee was replaced, which meant I could no longer help at the house. We are waiting for the waterproofing to be completed so that we can begin the remodeling process.

Any one of these events would be stressful to anyone. We have endured and survived them all, only by the grace of God. Isaiah 43:2-3 says: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… . For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

We are thankful for the gift from One Great Hour of Sharing. We are going to use it for a new water heater and other needed supplies.