Contingency Plans


by: Paul Lewis At this point in my service, things tend to run pretty smoothly. Everyone knows what to do and how to get things done. Teams are efficient and no project or task seems to catch us off guard or unprepared. This month, however, one variable proved to remain inconsistent: the weather. Some days were gorgeous and sunny with temperatures allowing (and necessitating) the team to toil in short sleeves. Other days brought bitter cold, wind, clouds and plenty of precipitation. It was this precipitation, snow in particular, which provided my team with the opportunity to be great. We were serving at a site that was a long drive from our housing. Much of the trip was on hilly, curvy, back-roads and the trek finished with a 30-minute hike. During one day of service, snow began to fall in the morning.

Being a light snowfall and having only just lighted off a number of burn piles, the idea of leaving early to beat the snow never even crossed our minds. When the end of the day arrived, the ground was covered in a beautiful layer of snow a few inches deep. As we began our treacherous hike to the truck, our minds began playing out scenarios of being stuck in the field where we had parked or sliding off of the road on our drive back. Miraculously, the truck (NOT a 4-wheel-drive vehicle) got us out of the field and to the road without any issues.

This road, however, would prove to be the biggest test. While trying to navigate the winding road, we hit a hill with far less momentum than needed and proceeded to lose all traction on the icy pavement. Not wanting to be stuck in the cold snow for the evening, the team immediately went to work scraping ice from the road in front of the tires and finding twigs to place down for traction. This worked, but we were not able to get enough speed to carry us up the hill and we were once again stuck. This time we worked feverishly to scrape out paths for the tires all the way to the crest of the hill and once again found sticks to help get us going. With great relief, the truck crested the hill and continued on to the main highway. Unfortunately, this had not been plowed or sanded. Considering the daunting hills and treacherous curves that lay ahead, we decided to wait at the corner for a plow truck, prepared to spend the night in the truck, if need be.

Finally, a plow came by in the opposite direction as our destination, but we made a group decision to attempt to follow the highway to the nearest town and find a different route back. If this was unsuccessful, we agreed that we would find a cheap hotel to stay at for the night. Thankfully, this was not necessary, as the other roads were plowed and very passable. To see my team work together with such determination and fervor even after a full day of service was truly inspiring.

photo by: Kelly Kauffman