Keith Mannes: What Living Next to a Doomsday Prepper Taught Me About Loving My Neighbor

You could see the vent-stacks from the road, their turret-like, rounded-metal covers just visible above a massive mound of dirt and grass behind the house. In front of those turrets, planted on the top of the mound and painted white, was a 15-foot-tall wooden cross. Strange.

The house itself was strange, too. The three-stall garage was on the left, parallel to the road. Then there was a section that looked like a normal front entrance to any home. Perpendicular to that section, however, and jutting out straight toward the road, was something that looked like one of those small strip motels you see sometimes in rural towns. The only thing missing was a neon “vacancy” sign. And there they were, behind the little strip-motel wing of the house: those turrets. On top and in front of it all stood that cross, bolted to the ground with heavy metal cables.

Guy had built this complex with his own hands, just an eighth-of-a-mile from the church, one year before I moved into the parsonage. Though this all happened nearly 20 years ago, Guy and his particular view of Christian life have often crossed my mind. Especially lately.

Because most striking of all is that underneath those turrets and that cross, buried in the mound, Guy had built a bomb shelter. The door into it was on the house side of the mound.

Guy and his wife did not attend our church. Well, he did try it a few times, but I will admit, he found me lacking as a preacher. In his view, I didn’t have enough grit. I didn’t display enough serious displeasure with the moral slack of America. (True enough, I suppose). Guy was blessed with wealth, and I could tell—from his own words, and sometimes from his deeds—he was a committed tither.

I don’t remember how or why, but there came a day when Guy came over and sat down on the front porch of the parsonage with a sheaf of papers. He skittered off the rubber bands and unrolled maps of the continental US. He pointed to the cities he believed were major nuclear targets, and then he showed me the wavy, dotted lines that depicted the projected fallout patterns from mushroom clouds. Then his finger landed on our region of the world, and sure enough, according to Guy’s projections, our country road would get way less nuclear fallout raining down upon it than almost anywhere else. And that was one of the reasons Guy had decided to build his complex and its bomb shelter right there in our neighborhood.

I guess it made sense. Our neighborhood was rural. The half-mile stretch from the corner of our church to the corner where Guy’s houses were built contained a total of five homes and the township graveyard. Our road was asphalt, but the intersecting roads were all gravel. Nobody would waste a bomb on us.

More skittering, and Guy rolled open another sheaf of maps, these displaying another array of concentric, wavy lines. These were sea-level maps, and sure enough, the three-mile radius where we lived was the very highest elevation in our whole state. Who knew? So, Guy said, when the world’s ice melted and the flood waters came, they would not reach us. This too is why he built his shelter here. Guy’s survival was meticulously planned.

I’m not sure what storm was threatening in the early 1990s, but I guess it was pretty bad because other people, too, had survival-defense on their minds. Another Christian man I knew quietly revealed to me that he had dug holes on his property and shrink-wrapped and buried major weaponry and ammo so that “When all hell comes down, we’ll be ready.” Guy, however, had taken that approach to a new level when he dug a very big hole and hired cement trucks to pour the walls of a shelter into it.

Guy told me all about those walls—their thicknesses and the overall dimensions of the shelter—on another summer day as he once again he sat on my front porch steps. He un-banded a third set of papers: the blueprint-layout of the shelter. With his finger he stabbed the page from room to room—the one that contained the treadmill for generating electricity, the food-storage room, and the little bedroom. He told me what the door was made of and what its hinges were like and what kind of the force the door could withstand.

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Source: Christianity Today