Flooded Basement Lessons

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When you do God’s work, especially evangelism or missions, expect Satan to attack, since he could not stand people being snatched out of his hands into the kingdom of God. We were on top of Mount Alishan in Taiwan, just a few days from wrapping up our short-term mission, when we received a message from our son – the inlet pipe of our hot-water tank had burst, and water was spraying everywhere! Water was falling from the ceiling of our furnace room like a rain forest, and soaking everything in that room – the furnace, our pantry, and my books, lots of them!

My first thought was, “Is everyone safe?”, then “Is everything under control?”, and then “What a waste!” Good thing the electrical panel was not damaged by the water, and no one got electrocuted! Our niece quickly turned off the water main, and our son called a plumber and an electrician for repairs. Everyone chipped in to bring the emergency under control, as we waited helplessly half way around the world.

Every cloud has a silver lining – we learned several lessons from that disaster. First, God’s providence. Our nieces stayed at our house while we were away. Had they not been there, our insurance company may deny coverage. God is good! Second, succession. To parents, their children will always be children, even when they are grown and have children of their own. But challenges can reveal who people are and what they can do. Our son handled the emergency and dealt with all the people – the adjuster, the tradesmen – in an excellent manner. We felt relieved that things will be alright even when we are gone, in more ways than one.

Third, worthiness. I don’t have a lot of assets, except books. About 2,000 books and booklets, a fraction of my library, were damaged in the flood. Some I’ve read cover to cover, some I’ve skimmed, and some were purchased for reference. All were soaked and damaged within a few minutes. What a waste! Those I’ve read and learned from “stayed” with me even when the books are gone. Others are gone for good, with no trace in memory. It reminds me of the projects I’ve done. Some were completed satisfactorily, some got started and then put aside with the intention of going back to it later, and some never got off the ground. Watch what you invest in – how you spend your time – it’s your life. Is it worth it? Does it have staying power? Time is more valuable than money. Money when lost can be earned again, time can’t. It’s irreversible.

Fourth, appearances and values. The adjuster asked us to file a “schedule of loss” to establish our claim. This involves listing all the assets destroyed, together with their replacement value. Some were easy enough. We can get the prices of canned and packaged food from grocery stores. But books? They were purchased over a period spanning four decades, some of which are now out-of-print. We resorted to searching used books online at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. There were lots of surprises. Some books by popular authors that I paid $20-30 for listed for only 1 cent, while the delivery charge was $3.99, 399 times the value of the book! However, some rare booklets that cost me $0.75 now fetch $75, a 100 fold increase! Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. It’s the same with people. I’ve met some externally impressive people only to find them quite empty, while some unassuming, plain folks are really amazing people doing fantastic work for God. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

In the end, we settled with the insurer for a very reasonable amount, and we received very good service from the emergency service people. It was very inconvenient and not something we wish to repeat, but all’s well that ends well. The same goes for life. Make sure you finish strong and it ends well.

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