I spent the week of July 11-22 serving the people of northeast Mississippi who were affected by the tornadic storms that hit the area at the end of April 2014. My husband Dennis and I volunteered with Eight Days of Hope XI, and joined 3000+ others to help with the reconstruction and cleanup, particularly for the underinsured and uninsured home owners. We were able to stay with my parents, who were fortunate to not suffer any damage at their home in West Tupelo. The hardest hit areas in the county were located in East Tupelo, particularly in the Joyner neighborhood, Sharon Hills, and then Mooreville and Auburn, and many others.
We traveled from eastern North Carolina with our daughter Mallory and granddaughter Erin (2.5yo), so my parents were able to enjoy a visit with our kids while we were dedicated to long days at job sites.
Dennis and I have volunteered with 8DOH before, so we decided ahead of time that we would do drywall work while there. We brought tools primarily to do drywall, even though many crews came to do roofing, painting, landscaping and tree removal. Dennis's cousin Neil and his wife Melba and daughter Makenna along with Makenna's friend Jenna also volunteered from Florida and met us for a week of family "vacation" and service. We met a couple from Montgomery, LA, as well as another volunteer from Louisiana who wanted to do drywall. We all worked well together all week.
At our first job, we hung drywall for a church that was adding a fellowship hall. It was a nice open space, and went pretty fast. Another team came behind us and did the mud work and finish work, while yet another team primed the walls for painting.
Then we moved to a home on Old Saltillo Road. The home owner's primary home was a new construction that they'd just completed when the tornado struck and obliterated it. A small guest house was badly damaged but was repairable. The home owner and his wife are going to live in the efficiency apartment in the little guest house until they can rebuild their home again. So, we hung another 30 sheets of drywall as a team.
The team went on from job to job all week. Dennis and the team completed seven jobs in eight days.
When a job is completed, a bright orange paper that says, "DONE!" in the center is posted in our dining facility at the main headquarters for 8DOH. Nine completed jobs form a cross on the walls. By the end of the week, the walls were covered in crosses.
We ate breakfast and dinner together every day, and had sack lunches at the work sites. You can imagine that the logistics for 3,500 people is pretty involved. Everything ran very smoothly!
Eight Days of Hope began after Hurricane Katrina and has grown with each subsequent trip. Two years ago, we were in Pamlico County, NC, just an hour from our home, and I brought a team of middle school girls to serve. Dennis and I have done our best to model the Spider-Man mantra, "With great power comes great responsibility" for our children, and my schoolchildren were no exception.
Of course, it is actually Luke 12:48 where Jesus reminds us that the one who is given much is also asked for much, and given even more, asked even more. We believe in our gratitude for our gifts, we are called to give back not only money, but time. Not only remotely, but in a personal, messy, sacrificial way.
It is our goal to love God, and love people with all our abilities...and even our inabilities. I'm so astonished even after 28 years of marriage by the buckets of talent and ability my husband has. There are no jobs he cannot do and do well and do wide-open without regard for his physical comfort or needs. I keep myself busy handing him things, or holding the other end of something bulky, or picking up supplies needed so he can keep going. And all the time, he teaches young girls the skills they need to do the job--whistling while he works--and just gets it done. It is a privilege to see how these simple acts bless the hurting, and remind them that God provides for them and loves them.
Eight Days of Hope XII is on the horizon, because disaster response continues to be necessary. In the meantime, there are local ministries to serve, neighbors to help, and lots of ways to use your talents and gifts to glorify God and love His people. I challenge you to get messy using the great power you have been given in your own personal "great responsibility."