Marianna, FL – Weekly Report – Nov 4-8, 2019

November 12, 2019

In the 1970’s Harry Chapin was one of the most popular and highest paid musical artists in America.  His career was ended in 1981 on the Long Island Expressway in a crash with a semi-truck.  Among his many songs was “Circle”, which became the standard sing-along ending for his concerts.

All my life’s a circle;                            Sunrise and sundown; 
Moon rolls through the nighttime;       ‘Til the daybreak comes around.

MDS just completed the first week of our traditional response with the base located in the town of Marianna, Florida, hosted by Rivertown Community Church (RCC).  We are responding to the needs created by Hurricane Michael of October 2018.

This is my first time to spend any time in Jackson and Calhoun Counties of Northern Florida, it feels very much like another time around the circle… another location… another storm… another group of people who are suffering… another community trying to help those neighbors who cannot help themselves.

To start this response, 8 people arrived from Pennsylvania, Manitoba and Michigan to set up the base, assemble the beds, arrange the dining space, organize the tools and prepare the work for our first clients.  The 9 foot 4 inch tall kitchen trailer was able to get through the 9 foot high door and into the RCC building, but that is a story for another time. Out of those 8, 6 had served together in other locations.

It seems like I’ve been here before;      I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;               That we’ll all be together again.

To provide the energy and skills for this first week, we had a group of 15 from Virginia join us. Many in this group were regular MDS volunteers and leaders in the Virginia MDS Unit.  They felt like long lost friends we’d never met.  Early conversations were about prior MDS locations, common friends, and in some cases, mutual family members.

The clients this first week were all unique and lovely individuals, with stories that were familiar to those frequently involved with disaster response.  Each had a compelling account of their encounter with Hurricane Michael.  Each had needs that our crews were able to address with good progress from the very first day.

At one job, we spent most of the week gutting the inside of the house down to wall studs and subfloor.  In one large area, we went deeper and replaced some termite infested floor joists along with a lot of squishy subfloor. 

At the other jobs the work included replacing damaged metal roofing, repairing leaking roofing, and replacing wall and ceiling surfaces that had been damaged by rain leaking through the roof.  By the end of the week, we had expanded into helping a client finish his rebuilding, plus assembling a ramp for another client to safely enter and exit the “new to them” home.

Fueling all of this effort was a common spirit of doing the work God has prepared for us.  Excellent daily devotions ensured we were aware of working for God as well as the clients.  Also fueling the efforts were delicious meals prepared by two cooks who live fairly close in Manitoba but had never met. They quickly formed a team that fits exactly into the space of the MDS kitchen trailer.

Another circle was completed as our volunteers were blessed when clients shared a meal with us.  It is a theme that MDS volunteers always go back to… No matter how much you are able to bless a client with your work, you will invariable leave being blessed by the clients you’ve worked for.

No straight lines make up my life;       And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;          And so far no dead-ends.

The path forward here in North Florida certainly has lots of bends and will have more.  We pray that we can navigate all of those and achieve a beneficial ending for our clients and volunteers each week.  This first week set a good example we can go back to throughout our time here.

From Marianna, Florida

Anne, Roger, Bob, Carol, Tom, Laura and Carl