Empty buildings

I am “spooked” by abandoned buildings. The word is inadequate. I can’t describe the experience.

When we pastored in northeast Iowa, several of our parishioners worked at Rath Packing in Waterloo, Iowa. Rath was a major employer as was John Deere. The Deere work force declined from thousands to a couple of hundred. I don’t think Rath exists in Waterloo any longer.

We worked several tours in the Rust Belt in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Mother Nature—vegetation and animals refused to notice the padlocks on the fences and were recapturing what cement, bricks and steel had squatted upon. I’ve been told that some of the buildings and factories of Detroit are being “reclaimed.” I really dislike abandoned or unused buildings to the point of being “spooked”—or whatever.

My family ate lunch across the quiet street from the boarded up Rath administration building. Four unoccupied floors. I could look out the small restaurant window and see the boarded up windows and abandoned building. I thought I would have to order tranquilizers for dessert. That building upset me. Since I couldn’t fix it, I wanted to get away from it quickly.

Has a study been done on the commuter who must daily travel past that building with the blocks of former useful industrial buildings, factories and homes? Does the blight affect their moods or productivity?

When I needed a new publicity still, Doug chose an abandoned building downtown as backdrop. Depending on which shot you’re looking at you will see portions of the brick or walls of a 1900 constructed building. Last winter I had a “vision” or “dream” of a carriage house of my youth. It got a hold of me as if I were to find a specific shaped building and build a ministry there. Although the downtown building is a 3-story brick structure, I parked in front of it dozens of times to see if God would explain why the attraction and what I was to do about it. I prayed, listened, looked through the windows, checking the door. One day, I noticed words painted and fading on the west wall advertising CocaCola and that the primary business was a carriage and wagon manufacturing and carriage painting. Maybe that brick building was the specific carriage house, I questioned

I tell the story of the carriage house of my dream in my book Depot. It is a significant story. My book called Carafe Conspiracy uses that 3-floor downtown building as a dumping place (second floor) for a body. For months that building has been a curious attraction and thorn. I’ve been totally unsatisfied by the silence following, “God, what is this all about?”

Last week a local Facebook page called “Pictures of Burlington” chose that building as their Facebook Cover page picture. Now I have floor plans, history and estimates of rehab. I don’t get it! (Literally and figuratively.) It would cost a million plus to make it workable for anything. There are three parking places—hardly adequate for any enterprise. I feel taunted, harassed and stalked.

Fifteen years ago in a rare and remarkable way, I was confronted by Isaiah 58. It was kind of like a destiny revealing event:

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Isaiah 58).

My plans today include note-taking on that downtown 3-story brick building, a new seminar building built on pilings over a small river and the porch of a log lodge. I was reminded a few weeks ago that my ministry is about people, not buildings. However, it is difficult to do ministry without buildings. (And a white board!)

I’m hoping there is a prophet in this tribe and someone with the gift of knowledge—“this is what God may be saying and here is where the money can be found.” Do you hear anything? Do you know something that I should? Revelation? Knowledge? Wisdom?

©2015 D. Dean Benton—writer, wonderer, confused Isaiah 58 person.



Twitter: @DeanBenton

Email: benfammin@mchsi.com

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