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.