I have returned from Mississippi and I am getting back into the swing of being a full time husband and Dad. I will resume work officially next week. However, I have a couple of appointments lined up for this week.
I am a little at a loss of what to say…God has used me…stretched me…grown my faith tremendously…and allowed me to use my gifts, talents and abilities beyond my capacity. I have seen peoples lives change…I was privileged to work with and meet people from all over this great country. I met volunteers that the first thing they would say was “We are here to serve, put us where you need us!” Of course I also met the challenging people as well… “my tent’s hot”… “the A/C is too cold”…”the showers are yucky”…that is really where God stretched me. My all-time favorite request from an incoming volunteer was “we have two vegetarians coming, so please have alternate meals available for them” (that request was denied by the way).
One of my recent favorite homeowners that we helped was Elisa Coleman. Elisa is 88 years old and her husband, 84, live in a neighborhood where the water was 4′ deep in all 130 homes in the neighborhood (they did not evacuate, they live two miles inland). They did not have flood insurance and received very little money from their insurance company…they were offered a thirty year loan from the SBA though. They live off Social Security and a nominal pension from his former employer. Her husband has two forms of cancer, one being bladder cancer, and due to the high risk of infection they can not share the same bathroom. Therefore, they could not use a FEMA trailer (they have just one bathroom). They had to rent a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment which made their monthly expenses exceed their income. We began the job the end of May and by the time we left the end of July, we had re-roofed their home, updated the electrical, finished the drywall, installed new exterior doors, painted the whole house, installed trim, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, installed plumbing and electrical fixtures, and had the house in move in condition! We were also able to furnish the house with the donated furniture that we took down and used during the time my family was down. The greatest part of this is we were able to do all of this work AT NO COST to the Coleman’s! Elisa was also particularly blessed by one of the work teams that took her to the optometrist and bought her new glasses when they found out she had lost them during the storm and had not gotten new ones yet.
The people I will never forget:
My all time favorite homeowners were Catharine Garriga, Pam Greer, Vera Lomax, Joanne Richards and Shirley Altman…though there were so many others.
There were so many volunteers that I connected with that came down: Ron and Jan from Petoskey, Ernie Siefert, David Roan, Dale Ledbetter, Mike Hibbs, Pastor Singer, Jamie Bampfield, Bob Waldrop, Madelyn Russ, Dan Hibma (how’s the finger Dan?), Carl Jensen, Shane Hines, Rick Kraft, Burt Badenhop, Glen Cooper, Dale Demaster, Daryl Yoder, Suzie Martin, Richard Jackson, Nick Vietri, Hank and Mary Campbell and many many more.
The locals that volunteered there time:, Suzy Grey, Gina Woods, Ray VanValkenberg, Kim Stewart, Rudy Fink, and Nancy Lemon.
The staff of St. Paul that made us feel welcome: Mitchell Hedgepeth Sr. Pastor, Mark Gerhes (without Mark nothing work, literally) Katharine Thornton, and Paulette Baudry.
The staff of CORE:Mike Malkemes, Eric Cummings, Curt and Mary Cruff, Todd Brach (my former 2nd cousin-in-law 3 times removed), Skip Davis, Bill Ware, Matt Gorman, Austin Nelson, John Brogden, Glen and Pat, Don and Alice, Nicole Vietri (daughter #6), Emily (daughter #1), Ashley and Kimberly, Cindy and Kim, Thomas, Pierre, Ryan, Paul, Jimmy, and Marshall Bakker. If I forgot anyone, please charge it to my head and not my heart. The bonds between myself, Todd and Eric were particularly close. We worked together through some very tough emotional times early on and will always be brothers.
I would like to leave you with a few closing stories. Please check out the link:
Churches mix drywall, evangelism in Katrina-stricken area
I am not sure what the future will hold for me, none of us really are. I know that because of my experience God has given me greater capacity for compassion, work, faith and hope. I am certain that God took me through all of this for a reason; I know he is preparing me for something even greater in the future; we are truly privileged when we see God at work in peoples lives and get to see that change “stick.”
THANKS AGAIN TO ALL OF YOU that supported us with your resources and prayers, with out you we would not have been able to participated in this unbelievable work that God has begun along the coast.