Faithfully Yours - Let's heal together


By Neil Strohschein

This past week has not been an easy one for residents of two southern Manitoba communities.

In Neepawa, one business was destroyed, 12 jobs were lost and four families lost their homes and all their belongings when fire destroyed the Home Hardware store on Mountain Avenue. As I write these words, piles of twisted metal and charred bricks are all that remain on the site.

Meanwhile in the little community of Kane (west of Morris on Hwy 23), the entire population is in shock after four children died when their home was also destroyed by fire. There are no words that can adequately describe the grief their parents must be feeling at this moment. They are not alone. Their grief is shared by people across this province who this past Sunday, in churches of all faith traditions, offered prayers for them and asked: “How can we help?”

While I was serving my first church, the homes of two of our families were destroyed by fire. In less than 72 hours after each fire, the victims had found alternative accommodation and were receiving donations of food, clothing and household effects from the community. Trust funds were set up at the local bank. Area churches accepted donations which were then forwarded to the victims. In each case, the victims were overwhelmed by the love and support they received.

That’s one of the things I love about living in a small town. When tragedy strikes, we become more than a community—we become a family and the solidarity we display is second to none.

I am seeing that same solidarity in Neepawa and in Kane. Random acts of kindness, encouraging words, handshakes and hugs will be a tremendous help as the victims of these recent tragedies begin to rebuild their lives. So will the gifts of food, clothing, furniture and housewares given to community agencies like the Salvation Army, who will then use these gifts to help these families get established in different homes; and share what they don’t need with other families who do.

I want to conclude by sending a message to those who lost a business, jobs and homes; to the parents of the four who were lost in the fire at Kane; and to their siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends.

I want you to know that you are not alone. You are part of a caring community. You are our neighbors. You are our friends. We are family. We ache with you. We grieve with you.

We promise to be here for you. We will not smother you. We will give you the space you need. We will respect your privacy. We will let you heal at your own pace.

We have shoulders for you to cry on and Kleenex to wipe away your tears. If you need to talk, we will listen. If you need help, ask—and we will do what we can to assist you.

We may not be able to answer all of your questions. We won’t have any magic words that will make your pain go away. But we will stand with you and stay with you as long as you need us.

We are motivated by love and gratitude. We love our communities. We love the people who live in them. We love you! We are grateful for the things you have done to make them better places in which to live. In the past, you have been there for us. We lovingly offer you the gifts we have received. Let us walk with you; let’s heal together.