When Christal Hall says this year has had its ups and downs, she’s not just referring to the water levels in her basement and fields.

Although there was that.

With the extraordinarily wet spring this year in Dickinson County, the fields of the farm she and her husband, Travis Hall, bought a year ago August flooded four times.

The water table rose and filled the basement to a depth of 3-4 feet. The sewer main cracked, leaving the Halls without a sewer — or air conditioning.

“We were basically camping for two months,” albeit in the house, Christal said, with their three girls, ages 8, 6 and 2.

Nehemiah steps up

This was a job for a Nehemiah project.

“In keeping with the church’s mission, the ‘Nehemiah Project’ is a way to share the love of Jesus with a local family by renovating, repairing, decorating, and cleaning up the selected family’s home and property,” said Gordon McClure, pastor of Emmanuel Church. “The idea of the Nehemiah Project is to inspire church members to spend a weekend helping out the selected family through the work of more than 100 volunteers.

“There’s no strings attached. It’s an opportunity make a difference.”

Choosing a project

Nominations for the family were taken in May, and the Halls were chosen early in June, McClure said. The family could not be a member of Emmanuel Church.

“The church does have ways to help our people,” he said, and this was a way to reach into the community not associated with the church.

“This one (the Halls) resonated with us because of the three small children and both are veterans,” McClure said.

Christal served four years in the U.S. Navy during Operation Enduring Freedom. Travis served six years in the Army, being deployed to Iraq and Korea.

In recognition of their service, one wall of the dining room will be decorated as a wall of honor, and a church group has made them a quilt with a patriotic theme.

McClure said 110 people, from ages 13 to older than 70, had signed up before work started at 5 p.m. Friday.

It ended at 6 p.m. Sunday when the Hall family returned from a mini-vacation in Wichita and saw all that had been done.

The list included painting, clearing brush, building a children’s play area, repairing various items in the home, decorating, landscaping, installing a bathroom and several other projects.

Flood after flood

The first flood was “not terrible,” Christal said, but it crossed the driveway and washed away the gravel.

Their 15 acres should have been pasture for the horses.

“We had some brome,” she said. “We now have barren fields of just dirt.”

After four floods, the brush pile was stuck in trees.

“It washed up just so much stuff, logs and stuff,” she said. “And the sludge. The sludge was awful. It was gross.”

The church had started collecting funds for the Nehemiah Project on Christmas Eve so there money to repair the HVAC unit and sewer line before hand, McClure said.

Christal was delighted to have a functioning sewer line again.

“I get to run my dishwasher. I get to do laundry,” she said.

The chore she looked forward to most, though, was being able to scrub the toilets, she said.

Surpassing goals

The goal, set Christmas Eve, was to raise $10,000.

By this weekend, the church had collected more than $12,500, in addition to donated paint, landscaping materials and crib sheets.

“It’s really resonated with our congregation,” McClure said.

The pantry is being restocked with canned items and meat.

“The crib sheets are to cover dog beds for what Christal calls her four “house horses,” Great Danes.

A Kansas City girl, Christal always wanted horses so, in addition to the dogs, she has four horses, 15 milk goats, four geese, 16 ducks and 40 chickens.

The chickens are almost old enough to start laying, she said. She’s a month behind because a feral cat wiped out all but five of her first flock.

Travis had more country experience, growing up on a farm in Jackson, Neb.

This was the first house they owned. Home ownership has its ups and downs.

But the farm and house is being put back together, the hens are about to start laying, and she expects baby goats in January.

“We are just so grateful,” Christal said.

Contact Jean Bowers at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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