Friday - Finished Building & A Stunning Story of Hope

war_73We pounded thousands of nails on our final house today. The exterior walls were erected and we put up most of the interior walls. It is now ready to be sided with board to firm and square it up so the roof trusses can be attached. We worked along side several college students from Canada. We named each wall, signing them in marker with our children's names. This made it much easier to talk about which wall was which. At the end of the day, we took lots of photos with friends and the project. These will be shared at church, with National Ministries and the Suffield Observer (see the April 2007 front page issue and two-page photo-spread). We wish we could have worked for days more, but all good things must come to an end. We still had the energy to work well into the evening. It felt so good to make even this bit of difference.

On our final evening we met with Alice and Gay Martin who are seventh cousins to Suffield's Art Sykes. Their grand seaside home in Ocean Springs across the bay from Biloxi, was completely wiped away. It had survived Hurricane Camille in 1969, but that storm, while a category higher, was stronger only in wind-speed. Katrina's duration, geographic size, force and storm surge were far worse. As she arrived, many people gathered at homes which had survived Camille. People in the region now say Camille killed far more people in 2005 than in 1969. The morning Katrina arrived, the Martins were ready to sandbag the foundation and pump water out of the basement as previous owners had done in '69. At one point the storm surge had come across the shore road and into their front yard - that signaled a fifteen foot surge like Katrina. However, a mere hour and a half later, they jumped from the last remaining bit of roof to one of the remaining large trees behind their home. They clung to it for a few hours waiting for the storm to pass and the thirty-five foot storm surge to recede. While they were shocked by the surreal experience, they never panicked and give credit to their faith as their primary source of strength. The Martins have purchased a new home, much smaller than the first, and are not sure whether they will rebuild. While they once had had a beautiful home full of precious treasures, they have gained a new appreciation for what is most important in life. The home and its contents "were just stuff."

As Alice martin finished her story, she showed us a bag of glass beads she recovered from the site one at a time over the past year and a half. She said, "As I gathered these glass pieces, I dropped them into a vase. While it was hard to see the difference in the vase after dropping in one or two at time, over time it was clear that my effort made a big difference. I want you to remember that because there is so much damage here, that it might not seem like your work on a few houses makes much of a difference. But your work is like these beads, it all makes an incredible difference. We could not do it without you, and we appreciate your help so much. It is a sign of God's mercy to us. Thank you, and y'all come back next year."