Friday, August 26, 2016

The Joy of the Lord

Have you ever dreaded completing a task? I mean, before you even started, you just absolutely know it's gonna be the worst thing ever? How did you respond? And how did the task go for you? 

After working the majority of the day gutting a home, I was tired. My face was dripping in sweat. My eyes were irritated with the sawdust that had blown in them.  My arms were covered in drywall dust and dirt. My nostrils were still filled and burning with the smell of a fridge dripping 2 week old floodwater. My back was hurting from hauling things out to the curb. It was hot. I was hungry. And I had to pee. 

Cue job site #2 for the day. 

 In the morning when I recieved her name and number from our site coordinator, I was told Delores needed help moving her washer and dryer into storage because she wanted to save them.  Even after being told they wouldn't work and shouldn't take up space in her storage, she wanted to keep them anyway. I immediately pictured this stubborn old lady who wasn't in touch with reality. Someone who couldn't face the truth about her situation. 

When I called this lady on the phone, to confirm she would be home, she informed me that yes she had a washer and dryer, but also a stove, microwave, AND A FRIDGE that she wanted moved. My heart sank.  "AHHHHH!! Boo! I am SO DONE with nasty fridge juices for the day! Please God don't make me do this. Nope. I give up." I thought to myself. 

The five of us load into our tiny car and start driving. I regretfully inform my crew what we are about to walk into. It's a trailer, we need to move these appliances out for her. She thinks she can save them. I can tell my crew has the same immediate feeling as I did because the car was silent. After about 30 seconds of dread my husband says, "lets pray. Let's pray for her and us and what was about to happen." He lead us in a short prayer asking God to give us strength- and for us to be able to speak and act with love. That God would give us the words to speak. 
 I felt rejuvenated. Like we could conquer the world. Like we were going to walk into this place and help this lady see the truth about her nasty broken appliances. 

Boy was I wrong. Ok. Are you ready for this? Are ready to hear what happened next?  I don't think you're ready ... But here goes anyway. 

We pull up to the trailer and I drag my feet as I get out of the car. I walk up the 5 steel steps- my heart sinking deeper with each one. And I knock on the door. I wait about 30 seconds and I don't hear a response. I think- perfect! She's not here, lets go home! But I decide to knock one more time to be sure. 2 seconds after I finish my last knock the doorknob turns. 

When the door opens I am greeted by the biggest smile, brightest eyes, and most excited "hello" I have seen all week. 

"Are you Delores?" I say. 
"I sure am!! Come on in! I am so glad you are here! Thank y'all for coming!" 

Her trailer literally smelled like flowers. Beautiful, clean, delicate flowers. It was spotless. Almost everything was removed, the carpeting was out, there were fans and air conditioning units running to help dry out the cupboards. 

And her fringe was BEAUTIFUL!! It looked like it had just come out of the box from the store.  You could tell she had wiped down and cleaned every inch of that trailer. She had put so much time and effort and love into her home and possessions! 

"Wow. You have been working so hard in here!" I said to her. "Are you tired?"

"Well, you know," she responded, "Sometimes I try to go to bed at night, and I can't sleep. I've been waking up at 2 in the morning and I just start cleaning. But the joy of the Lord is my strength!" 

Her smile suddenly transferred to my face- and I couldn't wipe it off. 

"I have a question for you." She asked. "How do you think I should pack up my photos?" 

She showed me to the bathroom where she had delicately laid out the photos she could save. She had closed the door and put an air conditioner in there. 

As I looked through each of the photos my heart just broke for her. There were photos of her high school graduation, and her sitting on her fathers knee. She was so beautiful in each one of them. 

Delores continued to speak with us as we moved her appliances for her. She was so appreciative of us being there to help her complete this 15 minute task. She had prepared for us to come. She had worked so hard to get everything ready for our arrival. She was tired, yet she was delighted to see us. She hugged us and smiled at us. She gave us Popsicles and asked to take a selfie with us. 

She truly had the joy of the Lord as her strength. 

I left almost not even knowing what happened. How did I enter into this situation with complete dread, and leave in complete joy? God worked through Delores to show me joy. He knew exactly what my heart was feeling, and what I needed at the end of a long hard day. I didn't even ask him, but by his grace, he provided for me. 

"The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God cannot sustain you." -Billy Grahm 

Denham Springs: Howard and Dee

This is Howard and his wife Dee. Howard is a retired builder, who loves to paint. He and his wife moved to Denham Springs from Baton Rouge after their 3 children grew up and moved out. He built this house himself.  His wife Dee always dreamed about having hardwood floors and a microwave- and Howard was finally able to give her the house of her dreams. Dee loves to cross stitch and Howard loves tending to his 13 chickens. 

On Saturday morning, August 13th, Howard's sister in law, who lives a few blocks away, called him. It had been raining for 2 days straight. She said she fell and hurt her knee, and that the water was coming up into her home. Howard left his home in his truck to drive to go get her- but couldn't get there because the road was blocked with rushing water. He returned home and he and Dee frantically tried to put everything up higher in the house. Howard kept watching the water rise out his kitchen window. "We gotta go!". He told his wife. So the two of them rushed to the front door. When Howard tried to open the door he couldn't- there was two feet of water pushing in on the other side. He told his wife she would have to help him push with everything they had. They did- and once the door finally opened the rush of water almost knocked them both over. Howard helped his wife to their truck- water rushed into the bottom of the cab as they opened the door. They prayed it would still start- and it did. They drove out down their street to try to get to the highway- but someone stopped them in the middle of the road telling them they would get washed away if they kept driving. So, Howard turned around. As soon as they pulled into their driveway the truck stalled and would no longer run. 

Howard had a boat on a trailer in his yard- but he couldn't pull the starter on it. He struggled to get it off the trailer. Just then two boys walked by his driveway in waist high water, towing another fishing boat, full of people, with no motor on it. 
The boys assisted Howard in getting his boat off the trailer, getting him and Dee into the boat, and pulling the starter. They then towed the second boat towards higher ground. They had to go a mile and a half against the current to try to get to a bank that was acting as a rescue point. O their way they saw a man who was loosing his swim against the current. He was too out of reach for them to grab him in time. After a while they finally made it to the bank. When they got there Howard saw many people- including his sister in law! She had been rescued by another man in a boat. 
Also at the bank- Howard saw a man weeping. He asked him what was wrong. The man told him that his 14 year old son was stranded on the highway by himself and he had no way to get to him. "Here- take my boat. Go and get your son. When you are finished with it, tie it up in this post." 

Howard and Dee spent a night at a shelter, a night at another woman's house, and then we're finally able to return home to see their house- and they spent the night in the truck. The water reached a height of about 6 feet in his home. 

(Notice the waterline in the drywall)

Since then, Howard has been sleeping in what he calls his "Taj Mahal", a tent he set up behind his house by his old, now empty, chicken coop. His wife see, after spending a few days in the hospital from dehydration and stress, is staying at their daughters home. 

Howard has been cleaning and gutting his house mostly alone for the past week.  When we got there all but the bathrooms, laundry room and two closets had been emptied. Two of the rooms were down to the studs and most of the flooring had been removed. 

I the kitchen, Howard needed help removing the counters, cabinets, and gutting. 

The living room needed the tv and fireplace removed, and then the drywall taken down. 

The bathrooms needed to be emptied, and gutted. 

We loved talking with Dee and working alongside Howard. They were such loving, happy people. They were discouraged about their loss, but hopeful about the future they still had together. 

Howard's boat was tied up just where he hoped it would be. 

Guest Post: by Mandi Molt

Karen lives in Springfield LA. About 40 Minutes from Walker LA. The street she lives on is like a community village in the middle of nowhere. Tiny houses on a slab of concrete. Her house is about 900 square feet. She has her 19year old son and mother with dementia living with her. Karen told us the area is surrounded by two rivers and a lake so often floods on the street but never her house. Springfield actually got less rain than Walker and Denham Springs but they are down stream from these overflowing rivers so it came to them. 
When they realized they were flooding she was able to stay at a Nieghbor trailer three doors down that didn't flood. They were trapped in the trailer for 6 days until the streets cleared of water.

Now two weeks later Karen's home has still not been gutted and as of two days ago she had nowhere to go. 
Two mornings ago things began to change;
Karen was at a Red Cross point and met a lady asking if anyone needed help. Karen opened up that she had none. With in hours we were there!

Also Karen went to every hotel in town with all saying "no room here". The last place she stopped said they had two rooms but they were on hold. As she walked out her mothers friend walked in gave her a big hug (unknown to her he's the owner of the hotel). He got her a room for as long as she needs!

As a team of 9 we worked had removing the massive amount of stuff from the home. That took all of day one. She has more stuff by the road than people with houses three times as big. It's all so overwhelming. She expressed her overwhelmed state. We were so proud of her ability to be able to throw out things of value to her. At the end of the day she said two days ago I couldn't see the light but now I do. 
Thank you God for showing up for Karen! Continue to be a light for her path! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Denham Springs: Cindy

Our first assignment was to assist a lady named Cindy. Cindy's home is in a Suburb called Denham Springs. In this area 87% of homes and 90% of businesses were damaged- most of which ended up with around 3 feet of water. 
It is overwhelming to drive down the streets. Every bulding has piles of belongings, furnature, flooring, and insulation lining the curb. Some piles are over 6 feet high. 

Cindy is a photographer, and her husband works for the city. Because of this Cindy has been home alone much of the last 2 weeks, while her husband is out helping others. Because of help from neighbors and family, Cindy's home, which had 2 feet of water in it, had already been emptied and gutted, and was currently drying out. Cindy is currently living in their RV that is parked in their driveway. 

But Cindy also had a garage/studio and a large shed that had not yet been cleaned out. It was our task to help her accomplish this. A couple years ago Cindy lost one of her kidneys to cancer. Recently, she has been having difficulties with her other kidney. This leaves her very tired and weak. She expressed how daunting the task of emptying, sorting, and cleaning out everything was. She said it seemed so overwhelming she didn't even want to start. It was emotional as well. 

Along with many tools and decorations , Cindy had boxes and boxes of photographs that were in storage. Many of which were completely ruined. 

At one point we overheard Condy talking on the phone saying, "I've got 13 strangers here hauling my stuff out to the curb." It was after this we tried to slow things down and really have a conversation with her about everything. Cindy explained that her sister, and brother and father were all currently going through the same thing. That she wanted so badly to go and help them and ignore the work that had to be done at her own home. She talked about how she had about 10 minutes from when she saw the water rushing down her street, to when it started entering her house. She said she tried to move as many belonging up high on counters and shelves as she could. 
After our work and conversations were done we had the chance to pray with and over Cindy. We thanked her for the opportunity to serve her.  She seemed very touched by the fact that this group of 13 people from Michigan, would drop everything and come down to Louisiana. We finally understood why God was telling us, "Just go. Be there." 
It was a hard, emotional, rewarding experience to be with Cindy for these 2 hours. It seemed like we did so little- just carrying stuff, mopping a floor. But to Cindy, it was a huge relief. It was a burden that was looming over her, that was lifted. To Cindy, it was an expression of love. 

Lion King and Revival Temple

After leaving Rockford MI at 9:30pm we entered Louisiana around noon. We drove straight to our lodging. We are staying at a place called the Lion King Retreat Center. It is a beautiful haven that is tucked 35 minutes away from the city of walker. The house we are living in is called the mission house. 

After stopping to drop off our things we headed into town to go the church. We started to see signs of flooding on our way. A washed out road over a creek, mud lines along the bushes, businesses closed. Once in town about three-quarters of the businesses were back up and running. All of the restaurants that were open had signs posted in the windows verifying their sanitation. 

The church we are working with is called Revival Temple Church. The church has a chapel, a family life center and a main building. Once the waters started to rise on Friday, the church opened their doors as a shelter and distribution center. The national guard dropped off over 200 people that they had rescued. But as the waters continued to rise the church had to send people and donations away, as the water began to come into the chapel and family center. By the time the water had reached its peak, the chapel was under 4-6 feet of water, the family center had 2-3 feet of water, and the main worship center had 10 inches of water. The chapel had just recently undergone $90,000 worth of renovations. It wasn't until Sunday evening the water began to recede. This past week the church was able to fully clean and gut out their main building in order to still hold Sunday service, but the chapel and family center still have some gutting to be done. As of now the family center is back to serving as a distribution hub, providing cleaning supplies, water and meals for volunteers who are helping with clean up efforts. They are focused first on serving the 82 families from within their congregation that have water damage, but also have a list of community members that is growing by the day.   

After receiving a quick orientation, we were given a name and an address of our first worksite! We grabbed some cleaning supplies and hit the road! 


Monday, August 15, 2016

An Open Letter to my Special Students

Dear students, 

It's 3am and I can't sleep. You see, today was the first day I went back to my classroom since summer break. And now, I can't stop thinking about you. 

I'm so excited about the year ahead. We have a clean slate, a fresh start. I am excited for you to meet your new homeroom teachers, and make new friends with your classmates. I look forward to helping you get used to your new schedules and how you can best manage all of your new materials. 

My mind is racing as I think about how I can organize my classroom to best support your needs. I think about the reading groups we will have, the writing workshops, and the math practice. I think about how I can provide your test accommodations, and what classroom routines we will want to set in place. I am already planning what I will say when I meet with your classroom teachers to talk about you. 

I think about all the goals you will work towards this year. I am excited to have you fill our your data folders so you can see your progress.  I look forward to celebrating your successes, no matter how big or small. I am anxious for the day I can tell you, "You met your goal!" It will be so great when we can write new goals. 

 I imagine how we will get through those tough days when you say "I can't do it." And I hope and pray that we can make it  through together. I promise you I will do my best to encourage you and give you the tools you need to be successful. I will stand up for you, even when you don't stand up for yourself. 

I also wonder how we will get through those tough days when I think, "I can't do this!" And I hope and pray we can make it through together! I ask you to be patient with me when I get frustrated. Please help me be joyful always, and forgive me when I mess up. 

No doubt we have hours and hours of hard work ahead of us. There will be tears. There will be mistakes. But there will also be laughter, and those "aha" moments when we finally get it. There will be times when I look at you and I can't wipe the smile off my face. Because I will look at you and see all of the amazing things that make you you.  Those are the moments that make it all worth it. 

So, my wonderful, unique, beautiful students, I must say thank you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life. 

This year is going to be awesome. 
Let's do this. Let's make it count. 

With love, 
Your resource room teacher. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Crew 4

Crew 3: Team Hashtag 

Our crew has been working at Heather Holley's house this week. Each day we are greeted by Heather's youngest daughter Lilly, and their dog Lucy. 

 Heather and her husband Robert, along with their two children Julie and Henry were home when the F5 tornado hit in 2011. After hearing the sirens, they ran into their bathroom and got into the tub. Julie laid over her children and pulled a twin mattress over them while Robert sat outside the tub and held onto Heather's leg, and the doorknob to the bathroom door. 
After a few minutes there was a lul in the storm. They thought it was over. But it was just they eye of the tornado. The wind picked up again and it was loud and dark. Heather spoke of the fear of not being able to tell her children that it was going to be ok. but God protected them. When the storm settled, this door was the only thing between them and the rubble. 
Their house was completely destroyed.  They could see the watertower that was 5 miles away through the studs of their walls. 
Heather and her family ended up purchasing a home that was about a mile away. They only needed to replace the windows and the roof to make it livable. 

We had two jobs this week. Siding and drywall.  In the backyard we removed siding that was ruined from tornado storms, and replaced it with new siding. 

Taking off the old siding 

Putting on new siding. 

It was hard cutting the new vinyl siding! 

Inside we worked on repairing crack in the drywall. It was on the ceiling upstairs above the stairwell. 
Our firsts task was to remove the cracked drywall. 

But once we removed the drywall we found that the framing around the chimney was rotted out. So we had to remove and replace the moldy wood and insulation. So that put us back a few days. But we were able to work together to complete the project. 

On the last day, the leaders stayed back after working hours to finish the siding on the shed. Although it started down pouring rain, we were able finish it! 

All in all it was a great week at Heathers! We loved using our hands (man veins) and hard hats to serve the Holley family!