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Interstellar Adventure
Adventure: the pursuit of life — Daniel Roy Wiarda

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Mission Trip, Part II

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A continuation of my Mission Trip Tales. I would have to say these were probably the best two years in my memory. Every trip was worth it, but, as the first was my 'indoctrination' to Mission Trip, and the second one of the most moving and eye-opening experiences of my life, these two stick out in my mind. 9th Grade Mission Trip: San Marcos, TX I was so excited to go work for an entire week. Well, 5 days. The mission work-week was Monday-Friday. Our youth leader would find some local organization in the city we chose (or we were 'chosen' for) that could help with the coordination of 100+ volunteers, supplies, lodging, etc. and knew where the work was needed. That year it was the Southside Community Center in San Marcos. Yep. You read right. 100+ volunteers. Ours was a large youth group. We had a lot of active members, and other not-so-active members. Some kids were 'forced' into service by their parents (builds character). Not me. I jumped at the chance and was always ready to work to pay for my mission trip privilege. It wasn't cheap sending us all to wherever we needed to go, and we would work garage sales, pancake breakfasts, fish fry's, concession stands at Cowboy games, car washes, whatever. Yes, not only did I give up one week per summer, I spent an entire year working toward it. We packed up into a bunch of 15 passenger vans and made the drive down to San Marcos. Once we got there, we divided up into 'families'. These were our work-crews and worship groups. We would stick with the same group of people for the entire week, working together and bonding. The leaders divided kids up so as to put them with other youth and leaders that they maybe didn't know so well. This first year, I learned how to do roofing. My group was to replace the entire roof on a house. So, we grabbed some shovels, climbed a ladder, and started by stripping the entire roof of shingles. Once we'd cleared off all the shingles and tar paper, we pulled off the rotting roof deck. Down to the attic studs. We cut replacement boards, hauling them up and down the ladder, and nailed them in place. One nail at a time, with a hammer. Yeah, I got good at driving a nail. After we'd replaced the decking, we laid down new tar paper. Now, remember, this is San Marcos, TX, in June. Looking back at the weather data from when I think we took this trip, the high daily temps were 97, 99, 100, 100, 93. We were on a roof. With no shade. Laying black tar paper. What was I wearing for shoes? Well, this was 1989, so of course, I was wearing Keds. Yes, my shoes melted and stuck to the roof. I also almost passed out and fell off the roof. But, I didn't, as so am still here to torture you. We stapled down the tar paper, laying down little silver aluminum disks to protect the paper from tearing when we whacked the stapler down. Tar paper done, we started shingling the roof. We carried the bundles of shingles up the ladder. I remember these being really, really heavy. We laid our starter strip, measured out the rows, snapped our chalk-lines, staggered the tabs on the next rows, and the next thing you knew, we had shingled a roof. One nail at a time. Yep, even did the ridge cap. In fact, we finished the roof in four days time, so we were able to help finish the roof on another house. Five days of hard, sweaty, manual labor. And I loved every swing of the hammer. 10th Grade Mission Trip: Chavies, KY This year, we went to Chavies, KY, and worked in conjunction with the Appalachia Service Project. This was probably the most profound year for me, as I saw sights that I would never imagined I would see in our country. We stayed in an old school building in one of the smallest towns I've ever been in. They had a post office, a gas station, a small market, and that's all I can remember. One of those places that if you blinked, you would miss it. Literally. Don't believe me? Click the link on Chavies above, and then zoom all the way in on MapQuest. Yeah. I think I counted 10 streets. The people that lived in this community were coal miners. They were the poorest of the poor. The uneducated. The 'backwoods' folk. Their children were dirty and hungry. Their bikes ran on the rims, as there were no tires to be had. There was no food in the kitchen. The house was heated by a coal-burning stove. The coal was stacked in a pile in the front of the house. There was no yard. Only dirt and the side of a hill. The house had three rooms. The main room, with the only light-bulb in the house. The bedroom that slept the entire family. The kitchen, with a sink that had no running water. A hose snaked into the kitchen window. The hose was hooked to a series of hoses that wound half-way up the side of the mountain to the only source of running water. This is how they did their dishes. The floor was bare wood, knotted and dusty. The walls were bare sheetrock, with no insulation. Walking out the back steps, you encountered their bathtub. With a firm layer of dirt indicating that the bath had not been used in some time. Continuing to walk down the path from the back of the house, you came to the old outhouse. You had to walk past this to get to the new outhouse. The first thing we did was fix the pitch of the roof. We tore out the ceiling and re-braced the studs, headers and joists, replacing sections that were too rotted to be simply braced. We also replaced their chimney flue. How their house had not burned down the previous winter we don't know. We then insulated their walls. Even with long sleeves and baby powder, I itched for the rest of the week from the fiberglass insulation. We sheet rocked the walls and ceiling, even staying late on the second to last day to make sure the job was done. You see, the building inspector came around, just as we were finishing early. During his inspection, he realized that someone had given us the wrong nails. So, we had to carefully remove the sheetrock from the ceiling and put it back up with larger, bracketed sheetrock nails. We also dug a trench around the side of the house. You see, it was built on the side of a mountain. One side of the house was on stilts to keep it level. We braced these too. But on the mountain side of the house, water runoff was rotting the wood siding. They needed an irrigation trench. It was to be two feet wide and three feet deep according to the building inspector. I dug most of this out myself with a pick-axe and shovel. One of my friends carried the dirt to the other side of the house in a bucket. This went around the new bracings. The homeowners were old for mountain people. The husband had a beard that ran half-way down his chest, white and grey and grizzled, with a red streak down the center. Dyed by tobacco juice. He and his wife were mostly raising their granddaughter, aged about two, fathered by their 18 year old son, their youngest. In those five days, I feel that I did more good than I've done in any five days before or since. Why places like this exist in our country, I don't know.

8/16/2005 08:18:00 AM :: ::
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