Yesterday was a challenging day. We arrived at our work site ready to go and were confronted by the reality that we would spend this week doing what we could on a mobile home that I think all of us would deem unlivable, if we had encountered it on our own. However, thankfully this week we are being led by Hal and Kevin, the two amazing project managers with the Oklahoma United Methodist Church Disaster Response Team, and they know that this is the only home available to the family we are serving this week, and so put us quickly to work trying to make it better for them.
The trailer was struck by a small tornado in 2015 that peeled half of its roof over onto itself. The roof was resecured at that time, but not fully repaired so water has been getting into the ceiling and walls of the home these past two years and has done damage over that time. Our first jobs were to work on replacing drywall throughout the home.
We began in the kitchen, where we realized that two of the roof trusses had been damaged in the storm. Ric, the engineer in our midst, later commented that that had to be the location where the roof had folded over, the pressure of that bend causing the damage to the roof’s structure. Job number one was getting the old ceiling board and insulation out so we could assess how to repair the roof. Ric and I suited up to take on the dirty work.
Let me just say, if you think it is hot in the summer in OK, put on a Tyvek plastic body suit and you will experience a whole new level of heat! Thankfully, the job was a quick one and we soon got busy bracing the broken trusses, putting in new insulation and hanging the new drywall, which is how Tom, Ric and I spent the rest of the day.
One of the things mission trips teach you to do is trust each other. In that last pic, Ric is holding an electric drimmel cutter and Tom is holding a T-square so Ric could cut a straight line (we didn’t always get the cuts right the first time on the ground :)). Tom put some blind trust in Ric to not cut his fingers – everyone walked away with all 10 fingers yesterday, so the trust was well deserved.
While we were busy in the kitchen, the rest of our group was busy in a back bedroom mudding and texturing a ceiling that already had new drywall hung. The previous drywall workers were about as experienced as us, so there were plenty of imperfections to try and cover up with the mud. By the end of the day, there was more mud on the ceiling than on our drywallers (just barely), which felt like a win!
Thunderbird Lake State Park is just a short drive from our job site, so we got to have a picnic lunch by the water. It was a nice break with some beautiful scenery in the midst of our day.
Shortly after we pulled into our host families place at the end of the work day, we were greeted by our reinforcements.
So glad Mark and Dave arrived safely and are joining the team for the rest of the week. We cooked a big spaghetti dinner that we shared with our host family and enjoyed another evening of good food and conversation together. Then we were off the deliver some of our Harper Bears in Midwest City where we are staying.
It was powerful to get to share Harper’s story with the fire fighters and police officers of Midwest City. They promised to get the bears into the arms of children who needed them. We have more bears to deliver today…stay tuned to see where!
We closed out our day with a time of reflection and prayer. In the midst of it we talked about the challenges of our work day, how hard it was to see how dilapetated the trailer was and how there would still be so many problems unresolved after we finished our work. Into the midst of our wrestling, the youngest member of our group, Danny our recent high school grad, spoke a beautiful truth. She told us that even if our work this week won’t last forever, even if it won’t completely fix all the problems present in this home and family, we are doing what we can. She said, its kind of like putting a bandaid over a wound, the bandaid doesn’t take the wound away, but it does help heal it.
We hope that through the work we do we will leave the trailer better than we found it and that we will help aid healing in the life of this family. We hope we can be Christ’s body here, present to show Christ’s love and grace through our work and our words.
As we left our work site at the end of the day, the man who owns the trailer had landed in his recliner in the living room and was looking up at his new kitchen ceiling, “I have a real ceiling again,” he proclaimed with a satisfied smile on his face.
We are loading up now to keep working on that ceiling…continue to hold us up in prayer.
Geoff, Whitney, Cole and Kinsley – we have been praying for you as a group this whole trip and are carrying you close on this day. Today we remember and give thanks for your little Harper’s life and we carry your grief with you. Know how much you are loved.