Sunday, November 23, 2014

Habitat for Humanity: Nicaragua

Check out our team's blog for our latest husband-wife adventure! I love my husband's perspective on why we do these things:
I started attending Crossroads Christian Church in August three years ago, after my new bride and I moved to the city from Wisconsin.  I met a very large group of inspiring and gentle brothers and sisters in Christ whom I hope to stay in relationship to for a long time to come.  These people and Pastor Mike, as well as the book "Radical", given to me by a WELS friend from Milwaukee, brought out a godly desire in me to serve our Christian brothers around the world.  At first I was not sure how people can help others so far away, and indeed there are also those in need so close by.  But I believe God would instruct us that fellowship and giving is not constrained by material or logistic concerns, and that service knows no barriers within the heart.  Hopefully, what I can contribute to the kingdom here on earth, will be to leave a small impression of the glory from above.  Our group is coalescing to help a family build shelter.  Housing is a need much like basic sustenance: without it we are tempted to despair and we suffer physical pain.  Our group is blessed to be a part of answering the prayers of this family in a time of need.  Although reports refer to Nicaragua as one of the poorest countries in the world, it looks certainly beautiful from the photos, videos and personal accounts available.  I intend to make the most of our time in the country and hopefully make friends we can bring with us to heaven. 

Off we go! Hola Nicaragua!

Between Adventures

Much time has passed since the last blog post, but another service adventure has inspired me to write again. My hands are always eager to do God's work, whether building, cooking, gardening or knitting. Before I dive into our next adventure, here's a little show and tell what my eager hands have been up to.

One of my best friends was married last fall and asked me to make, or rather remake, her wedding dress and bridesmaids' dresses!  Her mother was married in a beautiful, though dated wedding dress.
What an honor to be trusted with such a remodel! It took such a long time to decide what to do with that neckline, and how to do it.
 What a beautiful bride!
I'm especially happy with my dress! Original design!
Then on to Christmas knitting!
The highlight of the winter was the opening of my Etsy shop, Eager Hands Workshop! It hasn't been filled with goodies, but getting started was the hardest part. Hooray, I'm a business owner!
Having my own shop inspired me to work on some more simple but original designs.
Baby gifts!
And a sweater for Hubs and one for me!
So now, off to Nicaragua! We are building a home through Habitat for Humanity with several friends from our church in Chicago!

Hope Springs

We went to the site of Plaza Towers Elementary School where seven children were killed by the tornado. 
Here is an overhead view of the area prior to the tornado
and after 
 The destruction was just so complete and terrifying. It's amazing that anyone survived inside that crushed building. According to a CNN story, many of the students who survived, survived because they were huddled and protected underneath their teachers. First responders pulled a car off one teacher, only to find three children under her. Another teacher kept an entire wall from crushing her students, and not without injury. Although I have lost the source now, I recently read a quotation in the Moore Monthly Newpaper from another teacher that went something like, "When the roof came off, I felt myself being sucked up. I knew that if I went, all the students under me would go too. So I just held on. I held on for dear life." I can't imagine the terror that these teachers, students, and their families experienced.

The message traveling throughout media coverage and conversation is one of hope, and you can see evidence of that in the photos above.

"If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us." 2 Chronicles 20:9

As we prepare to finish our work here, it is evident that this experience has been a blessing to so many. God is glorified in the heroic acts of of his people during the disaster and the disaster recovery. I am so impressed by the faith of this entire community, and so thankful to be a part of it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

There's Work To Be Done

Nearly two months after the storm, much of the debris has been cleared, condemned houses have been abandoned or demolished, and much of the big work is done. Our assignments are smaller projects – fixing fences, painting, patching holes, and removing debris from less traveled areas like gullies. However, there have been a few days where we have really been scrounging for projects. It seems that Moore is getting to a point where there is more help than there is work to be done, excluding work of professional contractors of course. What a great sign! 

We spent a day and a half painting this house that had hail damage. We were just about done on the first day when it started to rain! At first we thought we could just paint through the drizzles, but then it started to pour. It poured so hard that I could rinse the paintbrushes in the water pouring from the gutters of their small shed. A smaller group of guys, including Ryan, returned the next day to find some of the paint rinsed off but not as much as we expected. It was so terribly hot the day before that the paint actually dried quite quickly before the rain came.
The owner of the home was so pleased, she called Serve Moore the following day to let them know that our group did such a nice job, she wondered if we could come back and paint a few rooms inside! How sweet. She wasn’t the only one that appreciated our work. The men who finished painting the second day went to a nearby diner for lunch, where a kind, anonymous fellow paid their bill. He just saw the fluorescent volunteer vests and was moved to show his appreciation for our presence and our work in the community.

That day, the rest of us worked at the house we’ve been living in. The church will be putting it on the market shortly after we leave, so we thought we could boost the curb appeal a bit as a token of our gratitude for having a comfortable place to stay. Judy is our in-house horticulturist and came up with great plans to spruce up the entire yard.
We added a few simple beds of mulch around the existing plants and trees in the back and on the sides of the house. We removed sagging bricks around the patio and moved them to a more useful place by the fence door. We trimmed and pruned the overgrown bushes. We painted the entryway. We did all sorts of things! It looked so nice when we were done.
Several smaller projects fill our days as well. We’ve fixed several fences, cleaned lots of debris, and even built a patio.
After every project we finish, we give the homeowner a handmade quilt made by the women of Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS). They have been so well received. Even more than the volunteer work we do, these quilts have brought a few recipients to the verge of tears with thankfulness. Of course, handmade gifts of this type are especially dear to my heart. I hope the homeowners we’ve been working with understand how much more thankful we are to have the opportunity to share God’s love with them. It is a priceless experience. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Matters Most

According to the volunteers and residents of Moore and Oklahoma City, this is what matters most.

What matters most is Jesus Christ, who is shown and glorified in all of these good things.

What matters most is SERVICE
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
-Galatians 5:13
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
-John 12:26

What matters most is LOVE
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
-1 John 4:7-9
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
-1 John 3:18

What matters most is FAMILY
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
-Galatians 6:10

What matters most is FRIENDS
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ  
-Romans 15: 5-6

What matters most is HOMES
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
-Isaiah 32:18
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
-John 14:23

What matters most is SAFETY
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
-Psalm 27:5
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
-Proverbs 18:9-11

Friday, July 19, 2013

First Day on the Job

At 7am we start our day eating breakfast and packing lunches. We meet at the church at 8am for morning devotion and then we pack into vans and trucks and head to Serve Moore.
Serve Moore is an incredible Christian organization and ministry that serves as the volunteer headquarters for Moore, Oklahoma City, and the surrounding area. Now that the Red Cross has left the area and volunteers continue to pour in to support the relief and rebuilding efforts, a few local churches  decided to create this ministry. The things that God has done through these people are absolutely wonderful! The Christian community has such an impressive presence in this region.
The Serve Moore building is filled with supplies – everything from sunscreen and bug spray to chainsaws and wheelbarrows. Every day volunteers are divided into three groups. Some scout for new work orders, a few make phone calls and pair volunteers with projects, and the majority do the physical labor. I would love to just sit for a few minutes to watch the logistics.
We began our first day clearing some brush. Our group is very special in that we have a lot of experience and expertise. Chainsaw projects are no issue for us.
After that project, we took some time to look at the surrounding area to get a better understanding of the devastation. A total of 1,025 houses in Moore alone were completely destroyed with close to 500 more in Oklahoma City.  The Moore Monthly newspaper quoted a local meteorologist who said, “This is the worst tornado, damage-wise, in the history of the world.” We only looked at one community. Too much of this at once would be terribly overwhelming, even for an outsider coming nearly two months after the damage was done. 
Our group split up after lunch. We were given a project with a request for women only to help a “recovering hoarder” clear out her house. This was far from what I had in mind as relief work, but this required even more compassion and dedication than the physical labor I did expect. Two of the women from our group were at the house making dinner, which left four of us to take on the project.

We were not the first group to help this woman. Serve Moore volunteers have been coming every few days for the past five weeks, and they have changed her life. The first group showed her more compassion than she has felt in many years. They ended their workday by joining hands in prayer and asking her to lead. She had been away from the church for quite a while, but she embraced the opportunity and with a powerfully peaceful and joyful feeling from deep within, she received the Holy Spirit! That pure joy that can only come from the everlasting, saving love of God Almighty was pouring out of this woman! We were so blessed by the opportunity to spend time with her and help her rebuild her life.
One of the men we are working with said today that he almost felt selfish by coming here to volunteer because he enjoys it so much. God is blessing us in a major way, and it is no surprise. God blesses his workers, wherever we are and whatever we do for His glory. He is great.