Friday, July 23, 2010

Rich: As we close out our ninth week in N.O., some reflections on what has made our summer special. We have been blessed to interact with many wonderful Christians, who have similar faith journeys, yet have arrived here from different circumstances. The group this past week was from Aylmer, Ontario. Their family stories were migrations from Russia, to Mexico, to Canada. Most of the group had been born in Mexico, yet the German ethnic influence was profound. Almost all were fluent in low German, and are determined to pass in on to their children.
Yet what motivated them to come to N.O. in the middle of the summer resonated with our own reasons for coming. I was impressed by the vision of the pastor, to have a MDS service possibility for the congregation twice a year. He felt that it is important to place before his congregation, the thought of "Rebuilding Hope", (an MDS slogan} regardless of your situation.
Lois: As we ate our lunch today and looked around the house, one of the short termers commented," It is amazing what you can get done in a week." We did accomplish many things this week. It is important for me to think of that instead of wishing I had finished that last bit of mudding and sanding. Several rooms were completely painted and flooring finished in 3 large rooms and tile laid in a bathroom and a laundry room. Rich and Keith also tiled around a bathtub. The women from the group all went with us and helped with mudding, taping, sanding and painting. The men from their group went to a different job site where they put on a deck entrance and siding and put in some windows and doors.
The pictures we have chosen for this week show Rich putting down bamboo flooring and me doing a job that does not usually fall under the MDS job description. The pastor, Albert, really wanted a hair cut and the cooks had their clippers along so after Albert refused to let his friend do the job I said I had given many haircuts so I would help him out. He seemed to trust me more than he trusted his friend.
And so ends a week of hard work but good fun and fellowship.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On Thursday, I was wondering what I could write that would be new and different. Basically the week was going along at a regular pace doing the same as before with a few exceptions. Then Friday morning we had a wild and wet experience. Three of us were going to assemble some kitchen cabinets here at the MDS house and then transport them to the B house on Clouet St. Well, the guy that showed us how to assemble them said it would be better take them over in the boxes and work on them in the house and then he could install them. That sounds like a very good plan - protects the finished product and takes up less space on the truck. When we left there were very dark clouds in the sky and I was worried about driving 15 minutes on Interstate 10 and making it before the rain. It has not rained here for 10 days but today it poured and made up for lost time. When I got to the house where the others were working I saw a truck close to the building and so I called Rich's phone to ask them to move the truck so we could get closer. He said, " You are where?" I said, "Here at the house." The next thing I knew I was no longer talking to anyone and Rich and Keith were racing toward our truck in the street and grabbing cabinet boxes off the back. We (three of us) jumped out and helped lug these boxes into safe and dry shelter. Needless to say this is not what we envisioned when we thought about delivering cabinets to the work site. Five of us were soaked for a good portion of the day - I'm sure our shoes are not dry yet. The challenge then became getting them out of wet cardboard to prevent warping,vacuuming up water that we brought in to the house. It was a new and "exciting" experience. There were jokes and comments about our appearance but soon work was going on as usual.
Work was sort of going on as usual but there was a difference. The four college students that I have talked about before are now finished with their 8 weeks and this is their last day. They are happy to be going home but we are going to miss them. They were trying to get the drywalling and mudding in a good stage for us to finish next week. We were also trying to clean out 3 of the rooms to get ready for flooring next week. I do hope that is a success story I can report about next Friday.
Some floors were done this week. The kitchen, bathroom and laundry room were tiled. Rich did some of that for the first time ever. Looks good. So this house will probably be our project for the remainder of our stay and other short term volunteers coming will be starting to put on vinyl on a new project. We hope to be able to report about that later.
The one picture shows a house we are helping only with labor as the owner has funds. We painted his unique ceiling and walls. The other picture is assembling cabinets in our wet clothes.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On Friday, July 9, at 9:30am we drove away from Mr. S's house on Eagle Street for the last working day. Karen, a short term volunteer and I spent Thursday and a couple of hours on Friday cleaning walls and floors and putting up towel racks and other miscellaneous things. The electricians were there to put up light fixtures, switches and outlets. It is starting to look like a home. The plumbers have to come and then I guess there will be an inspection. This process has been long and full of details but one step at a time and now we see the end. It is a satisfying feeling. I was very happy to meet the owner of the house this week for the first time. He seemed pleased with the progress, so I hope he can move in soon.
We joined Rich's crew at Mrs. B's house on Clouet St. All volunteers are there - short term and long term. Actually we have only 2 short termers, a mother and daughter from Manitoba here for 2 weeks and there are 12 others here considered long term. This coming week is the last week for the Hesston College and Canadian Mennonite University students. Nine of us go out on the jobs besides the project director. Two of the 12 are cooks, one is the office manager and the director's wife keeps the unit running smoothly.
At the house on Clouet St. Rich and one of the college girls cut the last piece of drywall to be put up. They won't put it up until they figure out how the moisture is getting in beside an old window. Other people have been painting, mudding drywall and sanding. Security bars have been installed on some of the windows and doors. Rich and another guy worked long hours Friday on installing a security door.
Thursday evening we had a guest for supper and she shared her story of involvement with MDS with us. They had a contractor who started building for them and then suddenly quit working on their house. They were discouraged but as they were driving in the city they saw a house being worked on with an MDS sign out front. They stopped and asked about getting help and MDS stepped right in and finished what the man had left. She was extremely grateful and overcome with emotion as she expressed her appreciation for all that was done.
We can not imagine what it is like to lose everything and then have some one help you with out taking advantage of you. She commented that Katrina was a bad thing but in a way it was a blessing. She is learning to not take anything for granted.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010
We have had a good week. One more day to spend with Sydney, Lynette and Reuben. I hope they have enjoyed it as much as we have. I am going to get Lynette to write on this blog today.
A big change for us this week was getting up one hour earlier to go to work. This was for the purpose of beating the heat. I will say it was hard at first but after learning to go to bed earlier it wasn't too bad. The irony was that this was the coolest week we have had, and the rainiest. Since Alex was in the Gulf it affected our weather very much. At the house I am working at we usually did our sawing outside but at the first of the week we had to stop work a little early because we couldn't be out there. So finally we cleaned out some junk from the neighboring apartment and made space for our saw and board painting and then things went a lot better. Kitchen cabinets are now installed and most of the floor trim and so things are looking good for a finish next week. The rain prevented Rich's crew from being on the roof except for Monday and Thursday so they worked on what drywall they could.
We spent the day Friday in Diamond, LA with Mike Wilson who had been here at NO for the first couple of weeks. Lynette will comment more on that trip.
Lynette: As we drove down the Parish towards Diamond, LA the landscape drastically changed from the New Orleans city landscape. We stayed not 200 yards from the Mississippi River and got swarmed with mosquito minutes after getting out of the vehicle. We traveled around Diamond talking to the locals and went further down towards the Gulf. After stopping at a marina we talked to a shrimp boat captain about what the oil spill has done to his business. The effects of the oil spill to the shrimpers and the people surrounding that area are greater than I had imagined. The trip was a real eye opener of how this catastrophe has effected a great deal of people.
The beginning of this week was a big change of waking up earlier and we got a fair share of hard work in the heat. Although they said the temperature dropped it still felt like an oven inside the house where we were working. I learned how to put up trim but don't think I will be hired professionally anytime soon. This trip has made me aware that even though Katrina has been over for 5 years there are still so many people in need and now with the oil spill there will be an even stronger need for housing and most of all love and support.
Lois: The speaker we had this week for Wednesday Bible Study would have emphasized this need for support. She said people may wonder why they come back. She said if you go somewhere else - especially where you are not wanted - you want to go home. They want to be where they know.
Sometimes when work on a house seems slow or I see many houses that need fixing I wonder if what I am doing makes a difference, I remember what she said, "Never take for granted what you are doing." We often pray here at the unit that our work would be a glory to God so I will end with that thought.

Friday, June 25, 2010

This has been a week of surprises. But after 5 weeks here we should not have been surprised when things were not easy. Right? The biggest surprise was at the house Rich was working at and the one we talked about last week. We had been dry walling there at our pace and then this week Rich had an experienced worker with him. ( I went back to the other house.) They had just measured and tried to fit up a piece and saw that it needed trimming. When they had it down it started to rain and the rain came through the roof. So after much discussion the group moved to the roof for repair. The heat was too much for some but on Friday five persons left at 5:45 am to work until 2 pm.
My surprise was less dramatic and was not really a shock at all. Our goal for the house on
Eagle St. was to paint and get the floors covered. Painting went superbly well and we "excitedly" opened a box of laminate flooring. We soon learned it does not go down as easily as an infomercial would have you believe and not on a floor that resembles an ocean wave. After a day of trial and error, other volunteers, who had just finished their floor came and showed us how to get it in. By Friday quitting time we had it nearly finished and it looks ok. Our bathroom and kitchen floors were also tiled this week by two of the short termers.
The short term group that was here this week was a Brethren In Christ church near Lancaster,PA. Rich's group was knowledgeable about the the various construction tasks that were tackled.
One of the highlights this week was our Wednesday evening meeting, where Mrs. Bradley (the home that Rich is working on, shared her story of how her family was impacted by Katrina and its aftermath. For many homeowners, the tragedy was that the flood waters stayed in their houses for six weeks. This was the case with the Bradley home, and then the city would not let her demolish the home because it was an "historical" one. Her personal family story is that her husband found out, shortly after Katrina, that he had cancer and then passed away several years ago. Her hope is that the home will be finished by Christmas, which looks like a good possibility, even though there are few volunteers scheduled through July.
We are excited about Sydney, Lynette, and Reuben coming to New Orleans this weekend (they arrived safely) and are anticipating both work and some fun time with them this coming week.
The pictures are of Mrs. Bradley, Rich eating "soul food" and Lois' group putting down floor.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

We have come to the end of our fourth week here in New Orleans. It is amazing how familiar the city feels in that short amount of time and yet we continue to see new places and sights. Today some friends of the present directors are taking us on a tour of different places of interest around the area. This week our unit consisted of 13 long termers and 7 short termers. Some of the short termers worked with us a couple of days, but mostly they worked with their "sister church" here in the city. They are from Koinonia Mennonite Church close to Phoenix.
Rich and I worked with 2 - 3 students this week mudding and sanding in one house and then hanging drywall in another house. I am beginning to feel more comfortable with a dry wall gun than I did when I first learned how to use one. That is not to say all of the attempts are perfect.:) Old houses do not have straight walls so putting up and angled piece of drywall that fits makes me feel like I have accomplished something. The homeowner's brother stopped in one afternoon and was glad and appreciative of the progress. Meeting the family makes the work more meaningful.
This week we were privileged to attend a home dedication and listen to another homeowner whose homes had been worked on by former and present MDS workers.
The dedication was for an elderly woman (pictured) in an older home and involved all agencies associated with the rebuild. She invited us to stop in at any time and tried to get Rich to promise that he would.
The other couple shared supper with us on Wednesday evening along with another pastor from the city. They related their stories of staying during the storm, leaving and eventually coming back to ruined homes. The pastor said he spent 2 days in the building we stay in because it is the highest building in the area. It was a church meeting place before the storm.
They both related incidents of "contractors" promising work but leaving with the money before work was done. Even with these experiences they were positive and determined to go on and continue to reside here - their home.
These stories encourage us in the efforts of MDS.
(The first picture is of a parrot we have seen and heard on our walks.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Today, Saturday, was a fun day after a hard week of work. Rich was involved in hanging drywall and I was mudding and sanding. You can see a picture of my crew or at least part of the people who worked with me in the house on Eagle Street. We actually left on Friday evening with every thing mudded at least once. Everything that is except the bathroom because the shower surround has been changed a couple of times and the last one that came was damaged. I guess that is part of the building process but it would be less stressful if everything was right the first time!! All in all it was a very enjoyable week working with a group from Tennessee. Their church, Grandview Christian Church has been going to MDS projects for nearly 20 years. This group of 13 was fun to be around and good workers.
There are 13 long termers here now and we all went on a swamp tour this morning - you can see a picture of one of the alligators we saw and then there are 2 pictures from the beach at Pass Christian where we spent a few hours. The water was very warm and shallow. We could walk a long way out and enjoyed watching some fish jump. It was good to relax and enjoy a break from working.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A few notes since the last post.
I (Rich) am working on a new job site with a group from Johnson City, Tennessee. The couple leading the group are Kevin King's in laws. His mother in law knew Gene and Edie Rhodes, formerly from Harrisonburg, at a church they had attended. The house we are working on is a "shotgun" house. An historical home that had been part of shipping down the Mississippi, and then used for housing after reaching NO.
The shotgun designation was because one could stand at one end of this 70 foot home and shoot a shotgun out the other end without hitting any walls. After this home is finished now, that won't be possible. The home has also been in renovation for 4 plus years, which gives some idea of how slow some of the restoration goes. We are insulating and drywalling and with the heat and 10 foot ceilings, the work is steady, not rapid.
Lois is enjoying here job and the workers. She is learning to tape and mud drywall, but not looking for that kind of employment when we return. Her crew is 2 Hesston disaster students and a retired female elementary teacher and a seminary professor both from the Johnson City group.
This week Jerry Klassen, MDS Disaster Coordinator, and Paul Unruh -MDS Board Chair, were a part of a tour with some other church agencies of the BP oil disaster. They went to Plaqueminies Parish and visited some of the affected communities, where MDS has done some rebuilds from the recent hurricanes and there was a boat tour to examine some of the substance in the water. Upon returning, Paul gave a brief report of the residents distress and their helplessness. He quoted a young girl, about 10, who said, "I am worried about my home, and I don't mean my house. This event is affecting livelihoods for many people in life changing ways.
He also said that he is now convinced the affects of the disaster are greater than what has been reported.
Over the last 3 sunday's, we have visited different churches, first Baptist, then Mennonite, and this past sunday, a Methodist. The Methodist church, in NO was extremely friendly and the pastor was very engaging. It has been insightful to see how different churches focus the worship service.
So long for now.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

If you have been "eagerly" checking this blog and not finding anything, it is partly because we have been in Weir, Mississippi. There was a tornado there on April 25 and 5 lives were lost and many homes were damaged. MDS asked the New Orleans unit for help so Rich and I along with 4 students from Hesston and CMU went to do some roofing. We tore off and replaced the front half of a roof on a mobile home in two and a half days. The girls had done roofing on other MDS sites and were good workers. You can see a picture of us at work and the finished job! The other picture is of the Community Center of the Millspring Missionary Baptist Church. Their church building beside it was totally destroyed. Now we are back in NO and are expecting a full week of work. We have permits for 4 houses and a large group of short term volunteers coming. Tomorrow we will go to a local Methodist Church and on a nature hike in the afternoon. Goodbye for now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

For an update I will let you know that I did two new jobs today. First, I put up insulation between the ceiling joists. Then I learned to put up the drywall with a power tool, a drywall screw gun. The guy that taught me had to have patience because at first I had problems. Then he put up the dry wall on the wall instead of the ceiling and that went better until I learned how to manage the tool. On a note of humor, the porta potty at Rich's job site was not lady friendly so being crew leader involved driving to camp a few times. You never know what you might get to do!! We have been taking walks in the evening when it is a little cooler. There is always someone who is up for exercise - especially the cooks. The cooks are doing an excellent job and I am enjoying the break from cooking. I hope we have some more exciting adventures to share the next time.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Our first day of work is history, and it was a hot one. Rich and a crew of 4 others put on drywall compound in a very small house. Lois and 2 young ladies cleaned a house that is now ready for final inspection and the owner to move in. Then they went to another job site to join a crew of 7 to do some outdoor painting. In the shade of the house it was bearable, but we drank quarts of water. There are about 20 people here at the unit with us. It is always fun to get to know new people. It is time for dinner so I will sign off for now.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Preparation to leave

We are in the process of getting ready to leave for New Orleans on Friday May 21, 2010.
We are planning to be there until August 1 with MDS working on Katrina restoration.
This blog may or may not stay current. We will see! Lois