Archive for September, 2006

Below are a few pictures from our mission trip. I will continue to weed through the ones we all took and post those that tell a story.


Here is a final picture of the house we worked on. While most of the work occurred inside, you can see the improvement just from the front. No more huge weeds and dumpster. In fact, it actually looks like someone lives there. On Thursday, the meter reader guy was driving by and passed it up, but then had to back up and actually went to check the meter cuz he thought someone had started living there. That’s a good sign we did something right!

Here’s the wall art we left at the camp. They have a hallway that has become signature hall because almost every group has left artwork, inspirational messages and signatures.

We took a tour of the shoreline in Biloxi and here is an example of some of the damage one year later. This strip mall was, er…. stripped.

This is all that is left of Redeemer Episcopal church. It was a beautiful facility prior to Aug 29. All that’s left are the supporting iron, the hurricane Camile memorial and the bent flag pole.

And finally, while hurricane Katrina wrought the most damage of any natural disaster the US has seen, the resilient spirit prevails. Here is proof. It says “I love the coast. Here to stay.”

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

I continue to be amazed at the timing of impactful messages on my life. Some messages are repeats that reinforce the direction of my spiritual compass. Others are meant to change my heart and challenge me.

Below is a story from today’s sermon. It talked about happiness and serving others. Very appropriate given the mission trip we just all returned from.

It was great seeing my fellow teammates at church today too. I really bonded with them and even though it was very hard work, we enjoyed ourselves. I would go back with each of them in a heartbeat. If they are reading this, thank you to each of you for the person you are and the person you shared with me during that experience.

Sermon story —–

Marion Preminger stumbled upon it and wrote about where lasting happiness is to be found in her autobiography ALL I WANT IS EVERYTHING. Born in Hungary in 1913, Marion was raised in a castle, surrounded by wealth, servants and the notoriety of an aristocratic upbringing.

At a Viennese ball, she met a handsome young man, the son of an Italian doctor. They rushed into a marriage that lasted only a year.

She returned to Vienna to embark on a career of acting. There she fell in love with the German director Otto Preminger. They married and she followed him to America where he began a promising career as a Hollywood movie director. But her new Hollywood lifestyle could not sustain her marriage and Preminger eventually divorced her.

Marion returned to Europe to live the life of a Parisian socialite until 1948. Then everything changed when she read that Dr. Albert Schweitzer was visiting Europe from his home in Africa. She determined to meet with the notable missionary doctor.

She first encountered Schweitzer doing one of the things he loved to do best while visiting Europe — playing a church organ for his own enjoyment. He invited her to dine with him. After the meal, Marion knew she had finally found what she’d been looking for. She accompanied Schweitzer every day during the remainder of his European visit. He invited to come back to Africa with him and work as an untrained staff member in the Lamberene hospital.

She left her life of status and ease and moved to Africa. There…the girl who was raised like a princess became a servant. She changed bandages, bathed bodies and fed lepers. She gave her life away to the poor, and because of it, found the happiness she’d craved for so long.

It was Albert Schweitzer who asserted, “One thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

However, wherever and whomever you choose to help is unimportant. There are those in need everywhere. But when you figure out how to help other people, you’ll have also learned how to be happy for lifetime.

How true! In looking up this story, I also ran across this :

Someone said this about happiness:

To be happy for an hour — take a nap.
To be happy for a day — go shopping.
To be happy for a week — take a vacation.
To be happy for a month — get married.
To be happy for a year — inherit a fortune.
To be happy for a lifetime — help others.

Go be happy! I’ll let you pick how long you want to be happy.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

I need to take this time to acknowledge those who were pivotal in my mission down at the Mississippi gulf coast.

First, thanks to God for the abilities and resources that allowed me to get involved. Thank you for moving my heart to get involved. The sacrafices and experiences will build me into a better person.

Secondly, thank you to my wife who “held down the fort”. Without the support of the other half of my home team, I would not have been able to take vacation time (away from the family) to help out down there. For anyone going on a venture like this, it is vital to have the full support and commitment of your better half. Their job is, in a way, harder than yours. At least you have the distraction of a new experience and work to get you through. They are doing the normal everyday routine — minus a resource. Kudos to my wife.

A huge thank you to my Dad who taught me the skills I used heavily while down there. Who woulda thought many years ago that at age seven, hauling brick in the Texas heat would give me the work ethic to work through the Mississippi heat and humidity. And from there every skill — carpentry, masonry, tiling, flooring, mechanical, problem solving to name a few — has been used extensively. I thank my Dad for sharing these skills with me throughout my life so I could leverage them for a positive impact last week.

And finally, thank you for those who prayed and thought about me and my team last week. I truly believe that we were kept safe and used to God’s glory to help those who needed it. I also very much appreciate those who financially support me and the team going down there. Without your generous contributions, we would not have been as effective.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Well, I made it safely home late last night. And just in time too. An hour or two later, we got hit by some of this year’s nastiest storms. The Louisville metro area is cleaning up floodwaters in areas. Both major freeways — the 64 (east/west) and the 65 (north/south) — were or are closed. And I was on the 65 just hours before. In fact, one person was swept away in their vehicle and drowned on the 65 last night. And there was tornadic activity from northern ‘Bama through Kentuckiana. It is amazing to me that we just went through all that hours before. We were certainly blessed.

So between the numerous lightning strikes, thunder, tornado warnings, heavy rains and winds, it seemed like I was getting a thunderous welcome home. I’m glad I was here for it though to make it easier on my wife. This morning there is some cleanup to do. We got about an inch of water in the basement. And more storms are expected tonight so preparations are a must. And even though I got longer and more unbroken sleep at Camp Victor, it was just so good to be in my own bed.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Lots to post about. But we are hitting the road early to make it back to Kentucky. I hope to use this weekend to catch up with the family, relax and get my ideas, stories and experiences shared and journaled.

If you are on highway 65 through AL, TN or KY, honk and we’ll wave.

Thanks again to all who supported us in any capacity. Your contributions and prayers allowed us to be tools for good down here where they are still much needed.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

This morning’s devotions had a nice story in it. The pastor giving it was from a volunteer church, here to do a mission just like our group.

There once was a well-to-do woman who hailed a taxi from the airport to return home. On the way home the taxi driver took the woman on a shortcut through the more run down part of town. As she looked out the window, she saw a little girl playing outside. She was ragged, looked disheveled and had on dirty clothes. She had bare feet and was playing in the dirt. The lady asked the driver to stop.

She said “The mother of that child must not love that child very much.”

The driver looked over at the child and recognized her. He replied “I know the mother of that child and she does love her very much.”

The lady looked at the driver with a bewildered look.

The driver went on. “You hate the dirt, but do not love the child”.

He continued, “The mother doesn’t mind the dirt, but she loves the child”.

That is what God calls us to do. Love the child…..and each other.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

While the weather cooperated with us yesterday, today was just downright spectacular. Sunny but not too hot with a nice breeze which made the upper 70’s/lower 80’s temps just perfect. About the only time I really got hot and broke a sweat was when a friendly stray dog came by and I played with him and rubbed his belly. Other than that, we enjoyed the day and took advantage of it to get quite a few things done. Our initial push on several of the big projects were capped off with time consuming finishing details — but the kind that makes you proud of a job well done. Today was a bit different because our entire team was at the job site, not some at the distribution center and some at the job site. It was nice because the other ladies could see what we talked about Monday and Tuesday evening. We got lots of pictures and hope to wrap up most of the non-professional odds and ends tomorrow. Once they get a professional plumber and electrician in, the house should be ready to move in. There is some cosmetic brick work and, of course, some yard landscaping to take care of. But both those items could be done with the homeowner living there — maybe by the homeowner themselves.

I guess the one disappointing fact with this house is that we haven’t seen anyone there. We have had a little direction by the camp but they have been so overwhelmed with all the other logistical tasks. I think they realised that we were self starters that could run with this house. We also haven’t seen the homeowner. I don’t know their story but, from our perspective, it would be nice to have that personal story which would give us more purpose. I know a lot of the other teams got that from their job sites and it motivated them. It’s not a terribly big deal because we all didn’t come down here for the feely, touchy, Dudley-Do-Right feeling. We came down here to make a difference. However, it would be nice frosting on the cake.

Prior to dinner I encountered another story that requires it’s own post. So stay tuned again and insert following post here.

Our dinner took us to a widely recommended BBQ place called “The Shed”. They had really good BBQ with great ambiance. It was a great hang out and, again, the weather was perfect for our outside table with lotsa folks there enjoying a beer and some blues music. We were stuffed coming back and looking forward to our last work day down here. Thanks for the BBQ treat, Doug!

Thank you again to all who have supported and prayed for us. We are so blessed to be down here and are really enjoying the spirit of the camp and each other.

Please say a special prayer for a church group from South Carolina — Wittenburg Lutheran — who are hitting the road tomorrow and returning home. Pray for a safe journey back to their loved ones.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

This story is from Tuesday, Sept 19.

One of the items on our list is to tackle the front and back yards. They are severely overgrown with anything but grass varying from 2 ft to 5 ft tall. It makes it really hard to believe that someone could actually live in the house. In addition, getting it all cut down is a nice psycological motivator — some instant gratification visually as well as being able to check something off our list.

So being at the beginning of the day and full of energy and enthusiasm, I set off to cut, mow, weed-eat, whatever, the front yard. I started with the weed eater. Things were going ok if not slow. But at least I could look back and see where I had been. I was eating through line though and my lower back was beginning to hurt even though I was switching hands and sides. It finally became evident that I was not going to be able to even get the driveway done, much less the whole front or even think of doing the back.

So I decided to follow the old adage – “Work smarter, not harder”. I told one of my teammates that I was setting off to a neighbor’s to see if I could beg, borrow or rent a mower.

The house directly across the street was a logical choice. They have a direct view upon the eyesore house and I figured there would be some incentive for them to lend or rent me their mower since they would enjoy some of the improvement benefits. So I sauntered up to the house, all the while their little ankle biter dog yipping at my presence. I knocked on the door and an old man answered. In my humblest request, I told him I was a volunteer from Kentucky working with Christus Victor doing hurricane relief and could I borrow or rent his mower. His one word reply was “No” followed by the door shutting. Deflated, I wanted to take it out on the yipping little mutt who mocked me all the way back to the street. I was bummed — my hope in southern hospitality knocked down a peg. A quick survey of the house kitty corner revealed no one home. I wandered down a side street looking for help. As I walked down the street, I could see in the back yard of the crotchedy old man neighbor and there sat a fairly new Craftsman riding lawnmower. Trying to focus on my previous test of “not judging” I tried to rationalize his response by the possibility that the mower was broken and I had just interrupted a long distance call to his daughter.

Further down the street, I came across a home that had quite a bit of stuff in the front yard. Amongst the building supplies, blow up pool, lawnmower, etc were three crosses about 6 to 7 feet high. I had already passed the house but decided to give it a shot. Halfway up the driveway the owner came out and I recited my previously failed request. He immediately offered up his weed-eater lawn mower and we began to conversing. He too had some damage to Katrina but felt blessed that he could still live in his home. He just got the kitchen finished — with help from church youth groups — and was proud to show me the completed room. He still had dirt in a side room but continued to include the word blessed in the conversation. He has a son in the Air Force and two son-in-laws in the Army. He is a very typical God fearing, Jesus loving, military supporting, cheerful giving, southern hospitable guy. He even offered me gas for the weed-eater and additional line strips. We also talked about NASCAR and how his faith in the Lord saved him from gangs, drugs and alcohol. I asked him if he was going to be home all day and he replied “yes, unless I go out to take one of my older friends to the Dr or an appt”. How cool is he? After a little while, I walked away with the mower and just marveled at the circumstance. Had the first neighbor said yes, I would not have had the pleasure to meet Martin or hear his story. I said a little prayer for Martin as well as for his family serving our country in the military. As I write this, I continue to be amazed at the way God weaves things into our lives.

Thanks for saving the day, Martin! I really appreciate your neighborly sharing and southern hospitality. I will never forget your quote — “If we say we have faith in Jesus, we need to give back when asked.”

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

Being veterans of one day, we got a much earlier start on our duties today. Luckily, one of my teammates was on his game because he saved us a few times. First, as we were leaving, he remembered to get the key. The rest of us were focused on the punch list of items we needed from the warehouse and we did a great job of getting all those. But that one little piece of metal was key to getting us in the house (I know, I know — a very bad pun). And my teammate made sure we had it which saved us a whole trip had he not remembered.

Secondly, as we were getting off the freeway, he remembered we needed gas for the generator and the weed eater. Again, he saved us some time and effort. A quick stop at the kwicky gas mart and we were on our way.

And finally, he was instrumental in taking care of the many little jobs that appear to take 15-30 minutes but are time sponges costing 1.5 to 2 hours of labor. He hit all of those inside the house and on top of it including the roof, while my other teammate and I completed the laminate floor (complete with some very custom cuts and positioning) as well as tackled the hideous jungle of a front yard.

We were very lucky with the weather today. It cooperated and at times was downright pleasant. We still had to drink lots of water and sweated out most of it. But there were times in the shade with a nice breeze that I would almost not be swealtering and actually enjoying the day. We were also working smarter today and got quite a bit done. The house will still need a professional plumber to come in, probably for a day or two, but after that the house should be almost quite inhabitable. And that is the frustrating thing — access to professionals. That appears to be the holdup on quite a few things down here. All the volunteers in the world can be made available but things won’t progress further until bureaucrats and experts get on all these jobs. These places needs permits, expert installs, sign offs, signatures and release for occupation.

Lots more to write and describe but technical computer issues have also hampered my jumbled thoughts. And I have been busy from lights on (6am) until lights out (10pm). It’s enough to get your days work done, clean up, grub, prep for the next day and wind down before lights out. The neat thing is the nice socialization that happens all over. The folks here — both staff and volunteers from all over — are great. There are church groups here from South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Indiana, and Ohio — Ohio. Let me tell ya about Ohio. Those folks know how to volunteer. One church is down here on their 4th trip! And they’ve raised over $15,000! And looking at the map, there are an unbalanced amount of pushpins rising up from the state of Ohio than other states. An interesting note, the only two states missing pushpins are Idaho and Rhode Island.

That’s ’bout it for tonight. Lights out soon. Stay tuned because I had a great blog post story today that needs a post of it’s own.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net

For those of you that have offered spiritual and financial support for my trip, you are getting your efforts and monies worth. I spent today with two of my teammates at an outlying house quite a ways from here. It took a while this morning to get organized and figuring out what out tasks were. The house was a previous hurricane Ivan victim as well as a hurricane Katrina victim. Quite a bit has been done and the house is on the bubble of move in condition. However, it needs electricity and because the power has been off for so long the property needs a perk test. It made me wonder how much bureaucratic red tape has held up rebuilding and reconstruction efforts. I know rules are rules but Katrina bent almost every single one of them and we need to be creative and flexible in getting things back to normal.

I had an enjoyable but very hot time putting down some laminate floor with a teammate of mine. She hadn’t done flooring before but she is a Habitat for Humanity weekly regular and very skilled. She and I tackled that floor until we A) ran out of planks and B) encountered a curved step stair section. Tomorrow we hope to get that room done and move on. While we were at the house we drafted up a materials and tools need list so we will be much better prepared tomorrow.

The list for tomorrow is:

  • complete laminate floor
  • kitchen sink drain (fix a prior mistake where someone put the cabinets OVER the drain
  • level all cabinets
  • possible kitchen countertops
  • locate and position the kitchen island
  • mow or weed-eat the 2 foot high front yard
  • mow or weed-eat the 4 foot high back yard

Probably the hardest thing for me to do is follow an instruction that came up in our orientation yesterday evening. One of the camp directors told us that we needed to help out with an open mind and not judge, jump to conclusions or otherwise Monday morning quarterback anyone who is in a state of need down here. Our job is to help — and that is it. So I really focused on being a tool of God and not second guess a homeowner, person who stayed during the storm or person who choses to stay down here. That has been hard for me but I pray for strength to do my part, help out and make a difference — not meddle, second guess or all the other paths of least resistance. I think I’ll call it — “Shut your piehole and get involved.”

Lights off in 5 minutes so I’m hittin’ the sack.

…..Dan at aslowerpace dot net