“Well, what do you think, John?” asked the pastor.
“I don’t know Sam. The leak could have come from several places because it is a wide spread leak. We know this is part of the original exterior wall. And that adjacent brick structure was the chimney that was part of the original boiler. This church is over 100 years old, so I won’t know anything until I get in there,” said John as he looked through the attic beams trying to pin point where the leak was coming from. The trails of water were still damp where then ran down the length of the brick wall.
They came back out of the stairwell that went up into the attic to see that the leak had not bothered anything on the second floor. For some reason, it bypassed everything upstairs flowing down the brick of the chimney to show itself in the stairwell by the sanctuary doors.
John looked over the wall downstairs where the leak left its ugly brown stripes on the white plastered. “This plaster will all have to be removed and replaced once we find where the leak came from. No sense in doing it now. The congregation will just have to look past it until we find the source.”
“Do you have any kind of time line when you can get started? I know you are slammed right now. This was a bad winter.”
“I will look over my schedule. This is my church too, so I get it. I will call you next week.”
“Thanks John,” said Sam as the last of the talkers were leaving the sanctuary.
The Sunday service had slowly been growing, now that people were getting vaccinated and the pandemic itself seemed to be slowing just a bit. But this leak was the last thing Sam wanted to see. The past year had been an uphill battle but he was grateful that he had an IT team that was able to create the ability to stream the services. Some churches were faring a lot worse than they were because they had not seen the need for this technology. Now many were scrambling to catch up, and some found it easier to just close their doors for a while hoping to recoup once they could reopen.
As Sam came through the greeting area, he saw Miss Edna with her walker making her way to the door. Her daughter was following by her side.
“Good morning, Miss Edna. How are you and Jessica doing today?”
“Oh, I am fine as frog hair,” she chuckled in her upbeat voice. “I am so glad we were able to get back to church in person.”
“She doesn’t see the computer screen well,” said Jessica.
“I am ninety three years old. I want to see people face to face, not through some contraption on my dining room table. But,” she nodded gently, “for those few months I was glad we were able to at least hear the word. Thank you for that, Pastor Sam.”
“You are always welcome. You are an inspiration to us all with your happy and determined spirit.”
“That’s how you get to be ninety,” she chuckled as Jessica hit the elevator button to go down to the main floor. “So tell me, have we got squirrels again?”
Sam looked at her oddly wonder what she meant. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand what you are referring to.”
“The stains on the wall. I remember back in the 1930s when I was a child, we had that tornado that came through. The one that knock off the steeple. There was a family of squirrels that got in there during the rebuilding and made a big ole nest in the old chimney that caused a leak like that. Might want to check that out.”
“Well, I have John working on it. I will let him know.”
“He is a good man. Alright then. We will see you next week.”
“Are you not going to come on the zoom call on Wednesday?”
“Oh, yes. We will be there,” assured Jessica.
“It ain’t the same. I will be glad when we can come back on Wednesdays too.”
“Me too, Miss Edna. Maybe by fall. We will see.”
“Well it makes no sense to me,” she stated emphatically. “We are open for Sundays and less people come on Wednesday. You should…
“Let it go, Mom. Pastor is making sure everyone is safe. And he is following the guidelines set up by the state.”
Miss Edna shook her head. “Sorry Pastor. I know you are doing the best you can.”
“It’s okay. I am glad you care that much. I am afraid some will now use this technology as an excuse to never come back to church. They would rather stay in the pajamas and watch it online. Or go play and watch online when they feel like it. It kind of loses its impact if you get lazy with it.”
“That’s right, God don’t care for laziness,” said Edna as she got on the elevator.
Pastor Sam chuckled as they left thinking about what she said. “A squirrel? I don’t think a squirrel could cause that amount of moisture damage we saw in the attic,” he mumbled to himself as he walked back to his office.
The following Tuesday, John called the church to let Sam know he could have a crew to at least investigate where the moisture was coming from on Friday morning. Depending on what they found would determine if he would be able to fix it.
On Friday morning, the church was surrounded by large equipment with ladder extensions and a crew of five men. Sam and the office ladies were amazed as they watched the men move about in buckets and across ladders as they searched the south wall of the church. At lunch when they took a break, John stopped by to see if they had any status breakdown at that point.
After John finished talking to his crew, he came inside to speak with Sam.
“Afternoon John. Do you have any clues yet?”
“Nothing definite except for the one thing we knew about that we have been discussing at council meetings. The mortar on that side of the building is in bad shape. That side of the building gets hit with the sun all day and it’s taking a toll. There are some spots that you can almost see daylight through. Two of my smaller guys are going into the attic after lunch. Some of those spaces are tight and I would like as close a check as possible. I will let you know what I find.”
“Watch out for squirrels,” teased Sam.
“Have we got squirrels in the attic?”
“I don’t think so, but Miss Edna remembers them building a nest once in the chimney causing a leak.”
“Yeah, I don’t think this leak has anything to do with squirrels but I will let you know,” he chuckled as he left.
By the end of the day the team agreed the bulk of the problem was a desperate need of tuck pointing for the entire south side of the building and there were also some flashing issues around the chimney.
“My recommendation, Sam, is to start off with tuck pointing the entire south wall. The roof is under warranty so they are coming to repair the flashing. I talked to them about an hour ago. I think your biggest culprit was the thirty four inches of snow that fell this winter. It never got a chance to melt as the temps stayed in the teens for six weeks turning the snow to hard ice that created pressure points against the brick. Then it melted all at once when the temps got into the mid-thirties.”
“So there was no real damage?”
“Not severe, but if we don’t get this mortar fixed soon it will make for bigger and more costly repair. It needs to get done now.”
“Can you guys do that?”
“No, but I have called in two companies to come by and give you a quote. I trust both of them so you pick who gives you the best price.”
“Okay. Thanks for all you did today.”
“What do you want us to do with these boss?” said a young man as he came in the Pastor’s office when they were talking.
“Oh, yeah. We found these up there. They are both really old.”
The young man handed John an old baseball and an old broom. The baseball looked to be homemade and the broom was the kind you saw by the fireplaces of old country kitchens.
“Judging by the size of this baseball, I think it was one made in the twenties. They were not standard sized back then and some pitchers made their own,” explained John as he showed Sam the ball.
“It’s bigger than a baseball of today. And you are right, it does look homemade but it is still tight,” said Sam. “Interesting.”
“This old broom was just leaning against the wall up there. It has some carvings on it that I thought were cool. Kind of dirty though. It’s been up there a long time.”
“The office girls love old stuff. They will probably get a kick out of this,” said Sam.
“Okay, well at least we know what we are dealing with. Let me know if there is anything I can do,” said John as he left.
The following Sunday as Sam was greeting the people coming in, he saw Miss Edna and Jessica get off the elevator.
“Miss Edna, good to see you this morning. It looks like our leak is just bad mortar on an old brick building,” he teased.
“No squirrels,” she chuckled. “That’s disappointing.”
“No. The only thing they found was an old baseball and old broom with carvings.”
Miss Edna snapped to attention looking intently at the pastor. “What kind of old broom?”
“The old kind where the straw was tied around the handle. It had some interesting carvings on it like you would see on the flutes of Native Americans.”
Miss Edna just stood there frozen. “Mom, are you okay?”
“Do you still have this broom or did it get throw away?”
“I have it in my office. Do you want to see it?” Sam asked cautiously see the reaction on Miss Edna’s face.
“Wait here,” he said as he went to his office to retrieve the broom. As he brought it back out, a smile and a glow came across Miss Edna’s face.
“I thought this was gone forever. I can’t believe it is still around. Where did you find it?” she asked.
“John said it was leaning against the wall by the chimney.”
“Oh, wow,” she whispered as she examined the carvings.
“Mom, it filthy.”
“I don’t care. This is Grandma’s broom,” she said tenderly. “You see these carvings? When my dad was a little boy, he and his buddies were learning to carve. They had a friend that was a native Indian and he was carving a love flute for his to be wife. He was showing the others how to carve. Dad grabbed Grandma’s ole broom. She got mad about it too. She made Grandpa make her a new broom that didn’t hurt her hands. But dad kept carving that broom. He gave it to Mom before they got married. Mom always treasured it.”
“Then how in the world did it get into the church attic?” asked Jessica.
“I have no clue?” she said.
“Well, I tell you what. Why don’t you leave it in my office until after church, then you can take it home.”
“Thank you, Pastor. This gift of love still has power of love in it,” she said as she patted the pastor’s hands before going on into the sanctuary.
Sam placed the broom back in his office marveling at the beauty of remembered love still having power to give from an old broom thought to have been lost forever.
After church, Miss Edna and Jessica went by the pastor’s office to pick up the broom. “The only thing I can think of is, when we had the massive cleanup from the storm damage, dad must have used this broom to help clean up and then forgot it was there. Now I get to enjoy its power of love as it has been given back to me.”
“That is a true blessing,” said Sam.
“Indeed,” said Edna and Jessica together
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Inspiring tale. I kept expecting squirrels to play baseball then clean up after themselves.