When she walked away from a Colorado farmhouse last week, the biggest change Megan Newkirk noticed was the smell.
Most of what had been in the house was still caked in mud and lying in ruin. But the stench of rancid food and dead animals wasn't hanging in the air anymore. That, by itself, was a success.
Newkirk, 19, was one of a group of Oklahoma Christian University students who spent the university's fall break doing relief work in areas affected by the recent Colorado floods. The group worked at a farm near Greeley, Colo., that had seen major damage.
The group spent the week cleaning up dead livestock, building bonfires to burn trash and mucking out buildings that were carpeted with mud. The mud had washed into the buildings during the flood, and by the time the group arrived, it was everywhere, she said.
“When everything's covered in mud, it's hard to make anything clean, really,” she said.
Newkirk comes from Aurora, Colo., a suburb of Denver. When she arrived in her home state last week, she saw broken fences, cars that had been washed off the road and houses that had toppled over. In some places, entire sections of the road were missing, she said. In other areas, it looked like nothing had happened at all.
The students worked with Westview Church of Christ in Greely and the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team to arrange the trip. Marcus Kehn, an OC freshman, organized the group after receiving an email from the disaster response group asking for volunteers.
A St. Louis native, Kehn had done mission work with his high school youth group in Joplin, Mo., after a tornado ravaged the city in 2011. The trip was funded by a donation the university had received for mission work, he said.
While he was in Colorado, Kehn and his group shoveled a layer of mud out of a guesthouse on the farm. Seven people carried mud out of the building by the wheelbarrowful, he said.
“There was mud a foot and a half high in the entire guesthouse,” he said. “It was disgusting.”
Kehn's group also worked in another home that had been flooded. The house was in a low-lying area near the railroad, and had been badly damaged, Kehn said. He and a group of eight students tore the walls out of the house and cleaned a foot-thick layer of mud out of the basement.
Although the damage was staggering, Kehn said he appreciated the opportunity to help people when they needed it.
“It was really an amazing experience,” he said.