Well, our week in Diamond has come to an end. We have mixed emotions... we're anxious to get back to our families, but we have had a wonderful week here. It's so good to be able to help "heal brokenness" for some of those who lost so much in the hurricane. We made new friends with the other crews that were here this week from Canada, Ohio, Virginia and even Germany--strangers just a few days ago, and now friends who labored together. It is amazing how much we enjoyed getting to know these other teams. There is a couple from Virginia that has worked with Hope crews at other MDS sites and they would like to come visit us at Hope some Sunday.
On Friday, the crews worked until 3 or at the same houses that we've worked in all week.
We returned to clean up the vehicles, the dorms, and get ready for our "last supper".
Pat, Katiria, Sarah, Sue, and Mark went south to visit with Jim and Wendy, a couple whose house was worked on by a team from Hope more than two years ago and who still stay in touch with the Hope team members. Pat wanted to see the house they had worked on during that trip, which is now Jim and Wendy’s home. Then we got a good night's sleep anticipating getting on the road. It'll be good to rest and kick back (while Pat, Mark, and Ray do the driving!).
We left Saturday morning around and got to Knoxville, TN around . We had beautiful sunny weather today, no accidents to slow us down, and then a steak dinner! So, one more night before we're back in our own beds. Thanks for your prayers and support. See you soon!
Day 6: Thursday
Here it is Thursday already; time is going so fast we hate to see our week with our friends in LA come to an end... and yet we are starting to long to see our families.
For now, let us tell you about our day. Some of us are seeing our projects, like the new Benoit home, come near completion. It is a rare day in MDS when, as a short-termer, you are actually there to see the finished project, and so this is gratifying for us. After 2 1/2 years in a very small trailer, Lloyd and Sue Benoit are beyond excited about moving into their new house shortly. Sarah and Pat have done so much painting this week that when installing closet door handles and AC vent covers today, we would holler for Susan to get it on camera.
Mark has been a VIP this week as crew leader of 10 people. After breakfast, he could be seen in the tool shed with a clipboard in hand as he and his crew gathered the necessary equipment for the day. His skills and leadership have been very appreciated by the staff here at Diamond. Mark's team was missing at base camp dinner tonight because they were treated to local fare by the homeowner they have been serving. On the menu was turkey necks over rice....the WHOLE neck[s] over rice. Seems to be a delicacy down here,and the report was they were tasty. This writer would prefer jambalaya and gumbo, I think.
At the Parker house, Ray and Barb prepared for drywall by putting up strapping [lathe] which was necessary because the rafters were built 8 inches too far apart by an earlier group. Did earlier bloggers tell you how those who know Doug from earlier trips recognized Ray as his dad? Katiria is in her element. She loves her latest fashion... the basic tool belt. She wants to stay here; Jim and Wendy Morgan offered to adopt her. What do you think, Lynne??
We are about to have gusty thunderstorms again; the lightning is flashing through the window. Hopefully, rain tomorrow won't hinder our progress too much. Friday is usually a short day of work and then cleanup of vehicles, bedrooms and baths. That's all there is until Barb blogs from New Orleans tomorrow night. See you soon!
Day 5: Wednesday
We're at the end of another hard working day.
We returned early from our jobs today for a special meal
and fellowship time. As mentioned last evening, Wendy
and Jim prepared a hometown meal for us that was
fabulous! We had gumbo and jambalaya.
The seasoning was not too hot, but gave a light fire to
the tongue. It was loaded with shrimp, lobster, chicken,
sausage and crab meat. When our stomachs were full
and satisfied, we gathered around the TV to watch a
DVD of "before and after" video of the damage to their
home. It was meaningful to see just how far this family
has come these past couple of years. They lost their
home, their livelihood and their hope. When a group of
MDSers came and wanted to help them gut their house
and start to help with the rebuilding, they started to feel
a sense of hope returning into their lives. When they
shared and expressed their gratitude, we were all moved
at how the Lord has worked in their situation. They were
a great encouragement to us as we serve in this
community. We closed the evening with a hymn sing
from the Mennonite Hymnal. It was good to hear four
part harmony again.
Well, it's off to bed where 10 women are packed into a
small living area and the nightly noises will soon begin.
You sure get to know someone pretty quickly in such
small spaces. The men, on the other hand, have wide
open spaces in their sleeping arrangements; but the
noises that come out of there are unspeakable. Again
thanks for your prayers this week.
Till next time,
Day 4: Tuesday
Today was a beautiful day after some nasty weather last night. We had a severe thunderstorm blow through that seemed to rock the foundations of the church we're staying in. The thunder was so loud that it sounded like canons being shot off outside our window. Our project director, Jim Byler, was standing guard in case the tornado sirens went off. Some of us slept through it, and some of us couldn't sleep. The rain and wind sounded so loud at one point that we were thinking of a place to go to if a tornado hit. But the Lord was good to us, and we made it through the night unharmed.
Some of the work groups went back to the same homes as yesterday. Ray and Barb did insulation and readjusting of some air vents that had been placed wrong. Pat, Sue and Sara continued their painting, and Mark and Kateria tried their hand at laying laminate flooring. Some of the teams got to meet their clients, which is always one of the highlights of an MDS trip. One of the clients is a lady who has raised 12 children in a little two-bedroom home. She is thrilled to be moving soon into a new three-bedroom home.
On the critter watch, Mark saw a snake today, and Barb had a lizard jump at her as she was putting up wall insulation. There were also sightings of a few armadillos and standard 2-inch roaches, but other than that, it's been pretty uneventful with critters. Tomorrow night we're looking forward to some local seafood that will be prepared by some local residents who were helped previously by some of the MDSer's that are here helping in this area once again. This evening, the ladies walked up on the levee to watch the ships go by, but unfortunately our view was blocked by Katrina-twisted trees. After another delicious meal and musical chair rummy it was off to bed for a "peaceful" night of sleep.
Day 3: Monday
Welcome to southernmost Louisiana, where azaleas are blooming and the hum of lawn mowers can already be heard. Ask Kateria.... when our trucks pulled out this morning, she was handling a push mower on the camp lawn. Kateria was part of a crew that worked [and sunbathed] at the base camp today.
The rest of Team Hope was spread out among 4 worksites:
Mark worked on building front and rear decks of a home after the homeowner tried to talk him and his men into knocking down inside walls that she wanted moved. She was kindly told that this was not their decision. Perhaps this is why our director advised us last night not to make promises. But who can blame the people for trying?
The Benoit [pronounced ben-wa] home—a new build—is where Susan, Sarah and Pat spent the day....Sarah and Pat painting trim and doors, while Susan assisted Peter from Ontario installing electrical outlets and ceiling fans. She may have learned a new marketable skill or two.
When Barb returned to camp, we put her ahead in the shower line since she was suffering from installing itchy fiberglass insulation at the Parker home. Barb reports very much enjoying being with a Virginia couple Steelman and Arliss Ketchum whom some of you know from previous MDS trips. Ray Kurtz, Doug's dad, was at the same site quietly and steadily getting lots of work done.
It was warm today, unofficially at least 75 degrees. The strong wind caused by an approaching front helped to offset the warm temps. Considering the long roadtrip we just took and a day of hard work in the heat and we are a tired bunch tonite.
Tonight as we were finishing dinner, Jim and Wendy from Buras, which is about 25 minutes down the road from here, stopped in to see us. As some of you know, this is a couple whose house we cleaned out during our March 2006 trip. They are still gushing with thanksgiving as they tell everyone that our work that week gave them the courage to start over despite huge odds. Jim and Wendy are an example of why MDS trips are so rewarding......our Lord uses us to give hope to hurting people and sometimes we make lifelong friends.
Take care, family and friends in PA, we miss you. We are praying for you and appreciate you doing the same for us.