Drywall? Check. Painting? Check. Electrical? Check. Group cooking? No check.
It was mid-April and I was selecting my skills for a trip to Lumberton, NC, to help rebuild homes. The town had been hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and declared a federal disaster area, and in a few weeks I would be onsite to assist in the continued clean-up efforts.
My interest in attending a work camp piqued since tackling many projects as an avid DIYer. I have my own tools and often help others with small projects, but wondered if I was ready to participate in a larger renovation. When I heard that local churches were sending people to disaster zones throughout the year, I signed up and was connected with Brethren Disaster Ministries. BDM is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren and raises funds through an annual fall auction at the local Lebanon, PA, fairgrounds. The raised money helps with emergency relief efforts by subsidizing construction costs. BDM contracts with local supply houses to purchase the building materials and relies on volunteers to do the work.
When we arrived, our group of 20 volunteers was split into separate houses for the week – some replacing a roof, others finishing drywall, still others painting, and my crew was responsible for installing a new floor, doors, and trim. The house I was assigned had suffered a foot of water damage, and although previous teams had already performed the clean-up work and drywall repairs, the owner hadn’t moved back in yet. My team developed a plan, then quickly and rhythmically went to work.
When I saw the estimate for my home’s repairs I was shocked at the cost, and humbled because I knew the owner couldn’t afford them and needed our help. I pondered how many hundreds of others were in this situation. One day at lunchtime our homeowner showed up at the house with a full meal of chicken, salad, and dessert to show her gratitude, as was custom in her native Puerto-Rico. I realized then that this trip wasn’t all about having skills or experience; it was also about giving of time and sometimes an ear to listen. We all had a specific job to do – even a cook prepared all the meals for us – hence the ‘group cooking’ survey category. Joining with strangers to rebuild a whole house for someone in need was a fulfilling (and sore) experience of a lifetime!
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). I feel blessed in having a nice home, a good and healthy family, and the ability to help others. Knowing that Candoris offers a volunteer time-off policy to enable us to share our talents outside of work is a gift you rarely hear about, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to use it. As such, I’m already planning to join in on another upcoming mission trip opportunity – I hear that this time it may be to Florida!