Friday, July 21, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV - Day 6


Before getting our activities for today, here are some notes from how we finished out our day yesterday...after I posted the blog for the day. The church that we are staying at is in the heart of Charleston. Yesterday, the merchants in the city were hosting an art walk. Pretty much, all of the stores stayed open late and the local artists were out showing their handicrafts.

Official Downtown Charleston Art Walk

Here is one of the musical venues with a little West Virginia picking going on.

We ended up at the local art museum, Exploratorium, and convention center where the Charleston version of Comicon is going on this weekend. One of the volunteers with the event took a picture of a group of us having some great discussions about Orthodoxy.

Orthodox theological discussions in progress.

Today, we continued the work on the mobile home, with predictions of rain for the day. We accomplished as much as we could, be then the storms started rolling in.

Roofing team back at it and trying to get the roof ready for the coming storm.

Decking team pressing on.

We also got the siding team started up today.

And then came the rain.

So, what is the best thing to do when it starts to rain of the site...have lunch?

So, today we start coming to that melancholy day of the trip. The team members have worked through many difficult and challenging events. They have built new and lasting relationships. And...tomorrow we all start to head home. As we did our daily debriefing today, it was obvious that this group of people, many strangers to each other, have become close friends. Tomorrow will be a bittersweet day. Alyssa, our IOCC team leader, will be flying back to Seattle. Brittany, the school teacher from Alaska, will be driving back to Oregon to spend a little more time with her family before she goes back to Alaska. Dylan and Peter will be driving back to New York, and back to work. The Dayton crew will be headed back to Ohio to get our normal lives back into the swing. We will be leaving be some very rewarding work, some of it completed, some of it for the next team to complete. The most important part will be that none of us will be going home the same. We will have changed because of the work that we have been able to accomplish and the new family that we have found. This is why we choose to do this work.

This will the last blog post for a couple of days. I head back to my regular job and continue with the wonderful life that my Lord has blessed me. I will write one more post and give some after the trip thoughts. Thanks to all for being on this journey with us...maybe you can join us some day to come and see what this is all about.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV - Day 5


Today we continued to work on the mobile home that we started yesterday. The objective was to get one side of the roof completed and the deck in the back completed. Other than that is was pretty much a stay focused and get the work done kind of day. We should be able to get these jobs, plus the siding completed tomorrow before we start heading home.

Here is where we started on the roof (about 50 feet to go).

Even though the day was hot and humid, the roofing team pressed hard. We got all but the final piece on each end, plus the end caps completed today.

Every good roofing team deserves a break once in a while.

My role was leading the roof team, so that made it difficult to take pictures of the other crew. Here they are continuing on the deck extension.

Today was one of those days that kept us focused on our work and not much else, so I will give you a break from a lengthy blog. Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV - Day 4


Before I get to the work that we did today, I would like to skip to the end of the day and share a little bit about the flood. Since it was so hot today, and due to the kind of work that we were doing, we quit around 2:00 and took a tour of the town of Clendenin, where the flood hit everyone so hard. Carl, our VOAD host shared the following picture from a house a little further downstream that was also caught in the flood.

Flooded Home

This home is about 60 feet above the river. The river at its normal stage is about 50 to 60 feet across. This picture is showing a width of the river of about 150 to 200 feet. This has been identified as a 1,000-year flood. Because of this, there really was no opportunity for flood insurance. As we drove through town we saw all kinds of homes, business, schools, and other structures that were closed and condemned due to the damage from the floods. There were several other teams working as well. The picture below is one of our cars parked on one of the city streets that runs parallel to the river. The majority of this city is pretty close to the same elevation of this road. The level of the river during the peak of the flood would have covered the top of this car. This was hard to imagine. On top of this, all of the creeks and hollers that feed into this river in the area were also way above flood stage.

Peak of Flood was Above this Car

Now back to our work day. Today we went to another site. The mobile home in the picture below was about 2 feet lower than it is now and sitting closer to the ground. This area is next to what would be called a holler. The water in this area was 4 feet deep in this trailer. The owner cleaned it out, had fill scrapped off of the hillside, and raised the mobile home to the level that it is now. He also added on the extra section on the right end of the structure. Our jobs at this site are to put on a new metal roof, put siding on the trailer, and extend a deck in the back. The team divided up and went to work.

Mobile Home Project

One team started cranking on the roofing. By the time we go to the site it had already heated up to the mid-80's. The team put the furring strips on the roof and were able to get a couple of sheets installed before we called it a day due to the heat.

Roofing Team at Work

I lead the team that started working on the decking in the back of the home. Since I am the one that is writing this blog and usually using just the pictures from my camera, I am not usually in the pictures. However, I always try to sneak in one picture of me to prove that I actually did participate in the trip. So here is that picture.

Deck Work in Process

Tomorrow we will be heading back to this site a little earlier to try to beat the heat. The team is doing great, the morale is great, the camaraderie is awesome and our neighbors are being loved and served. Thanks to all of you for your generous support.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV - Day 3


In the business world, I often hear people referring to Wednesday as hump day. The work week is over half done and we are now on the downhill side of the week. I have had the privilege to participate and lead many of these trips...actually, I am finding that I have lost count, which is a good thing. What I have found is that the second day on the work site is typically the hump day for these trips. The first day is usually filled with spending time getting to know each other, especially when they come from different areas of the country and different age ranges (we have a 50-year spread between the youngest and the oldest). The second day, which is the first day on the work site, is filled with the excitement of being part of a new adventure, getting to know each other, and being asked to do new things. It is today, that second day on the work site, that hump day often kicks in. The day seems to be hotter. The tasks seem to be more challenging or mundane. The team seems to be more tired. This is usually the perception, but the light at the end of the tunnel is what comes tomorrow, the day that the team starts to click and become a unified community. This trip has proven to be no different.

Today, however, we did start off with a new process that set us all on the right path for the day. The priest of our host church invited us to a short special service for us and the work that we are doing. We had prayers, sang responses to his blessings, and end the service by being anointed with myrrh from a streaming icon in Hawaii. What a special way to start our day.

Sanctuary of St. George's Orthodox Church

Our plan for today was to divide into two groups. One group would stay at the home that we were at yesterday and focus on putting in crown molding and do finish work (spackling, caulking, and painting) to try to finish the job. The other team was going to go to another home and install insulation under the home in a 24" crawl space. Well, the second home did not work out. Our VOAD host felt that the work site was a little too precarious for a team of volunteers. So, we ended up with all of us working on the finish work. A lot got accomplished today.

Cranking Away on the Detail Work

Sometimes You Just Need to Sit it Out for a Little While

When we got back to our temporary home we all pitched in and pull together our "Taco Tuesday" dinner. Rich brought some fresh vegetables from his garden, so that was added to the meal...including some fresh grilled, super hot, jalapeƱos. Just what the taco needed.

Fresh Vegetable Chef at Work

Hamburger and Fajita Chicken Team at Work

After dinner was completed we walked a little further down town and met up with Fr. Matthew, the priest for the local Greek parish, and his wife and three daughters for an ice cream treat. What a great way to end a hot day.

Ice Cream at Ellen's

Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. Tomorrow is a new day, a new home, and a new adventure. Glory be to God!

Monday, July 17, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV - Day 2


One of the things about this kind of trip, is that we don't necessarily know what we will be doing each day until we get to the site. This trip is being coordinated with the West Virginia Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD). We found out that every state now has a VOAD group working in that state. This allows for local people to be the ones that coordinate the work that is needed for local people.

Today, we went into the town of Clendenin, WV...well actually in the outskirts of this town. It s a very hilly and highly vegetated area. In June of 2016, when the major storm rolled through the area, it dropped 8 inches of rain in 18 hours. Many homes in this area were devastated and are still being put back together.

Our project today was to help a couple that has been married for 55 years rebuild their home. In the picture below of the FEMA trailer, you will see that is where their former home was. The flood was enough that they had about 4 feet of water in their home. According to FEMA, that meant that they should have been able to cut the sheetrock up to that line out and then repair everything. Since this was the appraisal, and the home deemed salvageable, their allotment was about $26,000. However, by the time that they were able to get into do anything with their home, black mold had made it all the way up to the ceiling. They had to bulldoze their home and start over. The home on the hill has been mostly worked on by the two of them and their family and neighbors. Our organization (IOCC) has been working with them and VOAD to do most of the detail work (sheetrock, painting, trim, doors and windows, etc.).

They will be able to stay in the FEMA trailer (about 10' wide by 40' long) until the end of the year. Today our team focused mostly on putting in trim and hanging doors. Today was the forming/storming day for the team. We are still getting to know each other, find out what our skills are, what our limits are, etc. It is always amazing to watch, and sometimes coach, total strangers to step into a strange environment, doing strange things, and work together, becoming a close knit family. This came to fruition very well today.

Rich and Dillan hanging a closet door.

James, Alyssa, and Christina putting in trim and caulking tools, new tasks, and new experiences.

The best time of these days is always the fellowship. During lunch, with sandwiches that we all made for ourselves, we take time to share stories, ideas, experiences, and our lives with each other. This is where you see the true nature of the body of Christ.

Tonight, our dinner is going to be pizza that is being provided by one of the members of the local parish. Even after a hard day of work, the guys still have the energy for a pick up game of basketball. But then, we have no choice...we have one shower and 5 women and 5 men. Time to line up in the queue and take that long coveted, hot shower when it is your turn.

Tomorrow we tackle the crown molding in the home and hopefully get our basic work completed. The next house we are told needs some insulation installed under the floor in a 24 inch crawl space. It should be another fun day.

Please continue to keep our team in your thoughts and prayers, but more importantly, the people here who are still suffering from the loss of their homes and their possessions over a year ago.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV - Day 1


Today was a pretty straight forward day...get the team all rounded up after our church service, load up the van, take out the extra stuff because we don't have enough space, and head to our destination. That destination is Charleston, WV. Why are we here? Last year this area had some very significant flooding (

When homes are lost in an event like this the FEMA contribution to replace the home is about $30,000. That leaves most home owners with a long way to go to replace their lost home. That is where organizations like the IOCC come into play. Our team is here to help these home owners try to get their homes rebuilt. Tomorrow our task is to do some finish work (carpeting and trim) in some of these homes.

We are being hosted St. George Orthodox Cathedral in downtown Charleston. There are 10 in our team, 1 from Seattle, 1 from Oregon, 2 from New York, and the 5 of us from Ohio, plus the ministry leader from Minneapolis. We have taken over the basement of the church and are all settled in. We had dinner at Outback, and adventure in itself, and now bedding down for the night. Tomorrow the real action begins.

We definitely appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

Half of our group...

The other half of our group.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Mission Trip to Charleston, WV


It has been a while since I have posted on my Journeys of a Redeemed Child blog. I used to use this blog to record my trips while I was working as a full-time missionary in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. If you are interested in those adventures then please review my older blog posts.

Since I have left that work and returned to the corporate world due to the lack of funding, I now do short-term missions activities with my parish at St. Paul's Orthodox Church in America. This year we have a team of 5 people that will be going to Charleston, WV to do construction work on homes that were damaged by floods last year. We are doing this work through the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Our team will be departing on Sunday, July 16th and will be returning on July 22nd.

As in the past, I will be doing daily blogs, posting pictures of our team and the work that we are doing. This gives us an opportunity to bring along (virtually) on our trip our family and friends who support us in being here. I hope you enjoy the journey.