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Greensburg: The Take Home Lesson
Wednesday 20th of April 2011 08:06 AM

By Kim L. Fritzemeier

KFRM Central Kansas Reporter

Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line

A quote found on the wall of The Green Bean Coffee Co., Greensburg, Kansas

It's been almost four years since an EF5 tornado swept away 95 percent of the Kiowa County community of Greensburg and took 11 lives.

Until my recent trip, I hadn't been to Greensburg since the tornado May 4, 2007. Neither Randy or I wanted to go. I sent cookies for the workers. We made donations. But we didn't go. At first, I didn't want to be among the gawkers in Greesnburg, the people who flock to disasters just to see the destruction. After that initial reluctance, though, I don't really have a good excuse.

It's a good thing the people of Greensburg have more courage than I do.
And it was an inspiration. For me, the theme of the day was faith. It is the faith and courage of the people of Greensburg that is helping them rebuild.

Wind turbine outside Kiowa County Memorial Hospital

One of our stops was the Silo Eco-Home, which houses Greensburg Greentown's offices.

Ruth Ann Wedel was our tour guide. She showed us all the "green" features, which are mighty impressive. But I was most impacted by what she said, not what she showed us.

"This town was put back together with faith," Ruth Ann said. "The Bible tells us that you don't see faith. You just believe it. We believed that someday, Greensburg would be as big as it was before the tornado. We believed it could be better."
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

"The churches were among some of the first buildings to be rebuilt," Ruth Ann said. "It was a way of being normal, coming together as church families. In many cases, the churches were rebuilt before the families were back in their own homes and businesses."

Greensburg rebuilt eight churches. The congregation leaders built them with the faith and hope that the residents would return and again fill the pews and do the work of the church. Before the tornado, there were in the neighborhood of 1,400 residents in the county seat of Kiowa County. Today, four years later, approximately 900 people call Greensburg home.

For a freelance writing project in 2008, I did phone interviews with some Greensburg United Methodist Church members who were rebuilding their church and their lives. One of the people I interviewed in 2008 was Jan West, who served on the Greensburg United Methodist Church stewardship team.

"The tornado has blown a fresh new appreciation into my life of all things beautiful that before, I only gave lip service to. Before the storm, I blindly lived each day, putting one foot in front of the other. My world had narrowed to petty habits and minor issues. The purposes of my life were 'I'-centered. I do not want to go back to that. Today, I have a new purpose. I put myself into the path of my church family on purpose, and I want to continue this journey with purpose."
It's a message we can all heed. Hopefully, it won't take a tornado or some other crisis for us to realize it.

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