Thursday, June 26: Working for the Weekend
On the fourth day of site work, fatigue started to set in--even as the volunteers saw the hope of finishing projects and giving their residents some peace of mind that by the end of this summer, their homes will have become sounder and better for living. Water breaks tended to be longer in order to help youth pace themselves, and one youth needed to go back to the school to rest, but is doing better. A few work groups returned to the school around the normal time in order to get ready for the picnic for volunteers and homeowner clients, but a couple groups are just returning now because they were making such good progress that they didn't want to cut it short until the last possible moment. We have one more day of work, and here's a brief description of what each group has accomplished:
April and Jay: new front ramp completed and reinforced; back deck/ramp just needs planks
Michele and Pete: finished the subfloor work and only has some tiling left
Tom and Mark: preparing to install the tub, which will finish the bathroom project and are finishing as I type one half of the re-roofing project
Ray and Laurel: finished digging the drainage trench and installed the mesh lining; will drop the rocks in tomorrow if they arrive
Keith and Carolyn: making more progress on the Sheetrock installation
Craig and Peggy: ripped out the kitchen ceiling, installed the new exterior stairs, pulled the roof and installed new roofing and will add more if more supplies come
During this week, we haven't as many opportunities to gather together in our small groups to decompress--things are more scheduled through ASP than at other mission sites of recent years. When we've done some of our decompression, we've let people share what Jay calls, "Happy, crappy, God" moments. Usually people have been able to find examples of each, but especially at the beginning of the week, youth in particular were have a hard time pinpointing god moments. This is totally fine, however, for two reasons: first, they have seen so,e intense poverty that makes them wonder how a God would allow such conditions to arise; second, oftentimes it's later that we can say, in the words of Jacob, "Oh, God was there, but I just didn't see it!" as we slap ourselves on the forehead. That's where family and faith community are helpful, in helping young people process their experiences and notice how god may have been present in different ways and continue to be with them and their resident-clients.
Wednesday, June 25, Part Two: Two Youths' Experiences on Work Sites
Team Brumby - After 3 days, we've made awesome progress at our work site. Our mission has been to build a handicap ramp on the front of the house and to tear down and rebuild a deck on the back. As Jay says, "We're cookin' with gas!" The front ramp is only missing finished wood for the railings and a bit of cement for leveling the sidewalk. Best of all, the deck is back up. After yesterday's demolition, we dug the post-holes in the (thankfully) rain soaked soil, framed the deck, and connected the base boards with joists and a lot of teamwork.
Although we've been working hard, we've definitely had time to have fun on the work site, too. Our family has 7 dogs, 2 of which are the cutest puppies I have ever seen, and they get their noses into everything. When we're not shooing them away from the power tools, they're playing with scrap wood, asking for snacks, and stealing all of hearts! The Kentucky River runs right through the yards of our family, and on Thursday we walked down to the riverbed. Being in nature, skipping rocks, and taking selfies was the perfect way to decompress while we were waiting to pack the cargo van and head back to base camp. By the end of the week, we hope to cement the end of the ramp, finish the deck, and maybe come back to Connecticut with one of the world's cutest puppies! We still have 3 days here, so who knows... (Editor's note: No puppies shall return with us to Connecticut.)
Team Oldenburg - Today on our worksite we created a flower box next to the new steps that we had created the day before. Also, we sanded the new wooden steps and spray painted the new side railing for the steps. We were also able to lay 3/4 of the front side of the roof with tin (on Monday we had gotten the supplies for the tin roofing and laid half of the back side of the roof). Tomorrow we plan on staining the steps so that they will be able to last for a long time with the family and the house. We will also be able to add the drip edge to the roof.
While we have been on the worksite, we have been able to create friendships that will hopefully last for a long time. We have been able to connect and discover more about fellow peers that we would not have had the opportunity to create if it was not for this mission trip. We have also bonded with the family more than anyone of us would have thought possible. The owner of the house explained how grateful she was for our hard work and determination to complete the stairs that she said she would remember what we had done for her every time she walks up those stairs.
We never could have thought we would have had such an influence on a family in need of help.
Wednesday, June 25, Part One
The morning began with a somber remembrance during morning devotionals of the two month anniversary of Maren Sanchez's death. Today at work many youth and advisors are really hitting their stride in the projects--tonight a few of them will describe what they've experienced.
For now, here's a brief description of the town we're living and working in. It's a town with most of its public buildings tucked together on a steep hill--schools, library, police station, court, local dining and other small mom and pop stores. At the bottom of the hill you find an ice cream shop next to a gas station/Wendy's. There by the gas station is an intersection with a two-lane highway. Turning left brings you to other chain fast food restaurants, while going right takes you to the lumber store, Walmart and IGA (grocery store). One work site is in the main neighborhood; two,others are a mile or two away; the other three are over five miles out of town. The people here are almost without exception very friendly and courteous to us. The folks at the lumber store knew immediately, as many apparently know, that we're volunteers from ASP. The local KFC is also a Taco Bell. The Social Security office is across the highway from the McDonald's. Campaign signs can be found on most telephone polls, with candidates for jailer, magistrate, coroner and sheriff among others. The Methodists have a larger church, and there's a medium sized Catholic Church off the highway, but otherwise most of the churches are non-denominational and can range from bigger ones with large parking lots to little family-sized congregations. We've noticed that lighthouses tend to be a common theme at churches here, signaling that religious community can be a salvation from the rocky wasters of life. The roads are narrow around here but the hearts of the residents alongside whom we're serving are open wide with appreciation. You can read more tonight about the work we're doing here.
Tuesday, June 24th: Gaining Momentum
Here's what our daily schedule looks like:
7:15 AM--Wake up call
7:30 AM--Morning devotional
8:45 AM--Head out to work sites
4:00 PM--Clean up work sites
4:30 PM--Take showers/relax/play basketball
7:15 PM--Base group decompression time (discussion)
7:30 PM--Evening Gathering
8:00 PM--Free time
10:30 PM--Quiet time
11:00 PM--Lights out
Here's what each group is up to:
Laurel's and Ray's group: digging a ditch to redirect rainwater to run off the hill away from their clients' house; tiling floor and insulating under the house
April's and Jay's group: building a ramp off the front porch to replace the old ramp off the back
Tom's and Mark's group: redoing a bathroom, replacing a tin roof that has wasps underneath it
Michele's and Pete's group: ripping up and replacing flooring
Peggy's and Craig's group: replacing an exterior staircase over some rock and concrete and replacing roofing
Carolyn's and Keith's group: installing Sheetrock
Each night the volunteers participate in an evening gathering led by the ASP workers. Tuesday, however, is culture night, so for the evening gathering we were asked to drive to the local park to watch a local magician and bluegrass players perform, highlighting the flavor of local culture. Kentucky Magic and three musicians who each have their own group. The youth group from North Carolina brought a broom along so that, on the faster-paced songs, people could take turns dancing with the broom before passing it off to someone else. E
ventually some of our members were invited to take the broom and dance, and some of them accepted and tried. Tom, however, thinks that we Connecticut Yankees should kick up our heels some more (Tom also says that people tend to have far more regrets over things that they haven't done than things that they have done). We're hanging in there and still love each other, so we're in pretty good shape!
Monday, June 23:
Work has begun! The youth got a good night's sleep and were excited to start the work and meet the families with whom they'll be spending the week. Groups of seven (five youth and two adults) spread out throughout the area to get to work while Rev. Adam serves as a floater, delivering lumber, tools, and extra lunches to the sites. One group is building a ramp on the front of a house; another is rebuilding a tin roof; while another is ripping up and replacing flooring. A fourth group is installing drywall for walls and ceilings, and they want you to know that when you're five foot six it's hard to hold drywall up for ceilings! Hopefully some pictures will be posted shortly from the weekend. Thanks for your pragers!
Sunday, June 22:
Sunday morning, we woke up early and cleaned up our messes before sitting down and listening to John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads". Rev. Adam invited us to enjoy God's wonderful creation on the day's part of the trip. After a lunch at the A & W in Grayson, we arrived in eastern Kentucky at 2:45 PM. Then the orientation began and acclimation to living in a school with another youth group (from NC). The advisor and youth team leaders scouted out where we're to work and everyone was looking forward to good sleep and the beginning of work tomorrow.
Saturday, June 21:
The trip started a half hour late due to the chaos of getting 43 people set in all our vehicles, but after that delay and the prayers and blessings of family and church folk, we set out on the first leg of our trip. Our stop in Hamburg, PA, allowed us to stretch our legs and for a few youth to pick up some camouflague gear. In Maryland we refueled the vehicles before arriving in West Virginia for the night at a gracious United Methodist Church. Don, an active member of the church, toured us around the facilities and helped us get some pizza for a late dinner. The youth played some basketball, foosball, and volleyed a volleyball around to burn off some of the calories from all the snacks they ate in the minivans. Jay and Mark were glad to have successfully steered the cargo van through the steepest parts of the Appalachians. The night's rest felt well deserved.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
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