A location for our Fall mission trip plan was still unknown. We contacted Lutheran Social Services – Minnesota. (We had been in touch with them last winter about our spring trip, but there was not a project that would keep our group working for a week.) We talked with Ruth and she said there was a great need to get an elderly woman and her daughter back into their home. Heavy rain had flooded their basement, and now, almost a year later, plans were underway.This project was not a fit for our fall plan, but after prayers and communications, a group of 21 answered the call. It became known as the “Miracle Trip”.
Watermark Mission Group Members who participated in this mission trip:
Leaders: Gary & Rosey Asher, Wisconsin
Minnesota: Bill H, Dan K, Phyllis O
South Dakota: Pat S, Geo and Gloria W, Tom and Irma L, Myra C
Wisconsin: Joe F, Dick and Jean K, Deb and Greg W, Jenny G, Dick S, Kim W, Danette J, Steve A.
Watermark volunteers have many skills in building and rebuilding, including carpentry, demolition, electrical, plumbing, heating, flooring, sheet rocking, mudding, painting, and construction assistants that perform well with guidance, and go-fers, needed to keep materials and tools flowing, and of course, the members who volunteer to cook for us!
We all gathered Sunday from the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota at Holy Trinity - Missouri Synod Church at Janesville, MN where we were guests for the week. We set up cots and air mattresses in the church basement and ventured across the street to scout out the shower facilities at Holy Trinity Lutheran School. It was great to be housed together in one location and have access to shower facilities after a big day of rebuilding work. We were delighted to be able to use the new, well-appointed church kitchen and coffee bar.The church had a recent renovation and expansion.
Little did we know how generous and accommodating pastor Larry Griffin, the staff, and the congregation would be. Besides providing us lodging and access to their facilities, women from the congregation prepared and provided us with several scrumptious meals and we had an informal after work gathering at Pastor Griffin’s home. Additionally, some members of the congregation volunteered to help finish up work we were not able to totally complete. We felt really blessed and are appreciative. Trinity Lutheran Church truly lives their mission: “Trinity Lutheran Church seeks to be a loving, friendly community that worships God, and serves others.”
Sunday evening, we gathered at a local eatery, the Purple Goose, in Janesville for an evening meal and to learn more about the work we would be doing, and meet both Pastor Griffin and his wife and Associate Pastor Muther and family.
Below, find the highlights of our work for the week.
Monday through Friday, after breakfast, we gathered in the chapel to ask for God’s blessing over our work, to protect us from harm and to remember in prayer the people we are here to serve, our benefactors, as well as pray for the special intentions of all our Watermark mission members and their families. Gary led the prayer service and Jenny G provided the music each morning.
Projects for the week:
· The approximately one acre site had not been mowed for over a year and there was a jungle of ragweed, cockle burrs, dead trees, walnut saplings, thistles and nettles to be removed.
· Inside the house the walls on main floor had been gutted and built-ins removed. Ceilings and walls needed to be sheet rocked and mudded to be readied for painting.
· All electrical, outlets, boxes, lights, and smoke detectors on main floor and basement needed replacement.
· Upstairs knee walls needed to be placed on both outside walls to provide much needed storage space.
· The cement steps to the house were totally off kilter would need to be reset and leveled with a new cement foundation.
· A dilapidated shed with wood in it was coming down and needed to be dismantled while saving the firewood.
· The breezeway between the garage and house was in need of new walls and windows to aid in energy efficiency.
· Flood related debris and damaged household goods needed to be gathered together and put in a large commercial dumpster.
Bill and Jenny wielded the weed whackers and crew Irma, Pat and Deb began the two day lawn/property reclamation project. Kim filled major ruts in the lawn. Bill, Danette, Pat and Kim continued on by felling some dead trees, unwanted saplings and clearing brush. Their work made a huge difference in the looks of the home site.
Rosey, Phyllis, Kim, Gloria, Gary and Deb worked for a day and a half dismantling the wood shed and safely got the building down but for one incidence with a nest of bees which Jenny (our beekeeper) safely relocated into a wooded area.
Joe, the electrician in the group, started on day one by running electricity to a couple of outlets where we could charge all the batteries for power tools and hook into for the table saw etc. He then went about the large task of replacing all the electrical boxes in each room making countless trips to the basement to the main energy box. We cheered as each room got electricity making it easier to do our work. Joe was able to complete this work by weeks end.
Greg, Dick and Myra removed a not needed chimney. By day two all the nails and staples were removed from ceilings and walls. Now plastic could be fastened to the studs and the process of installing sheetrock could begin. Dan, Dick S, Dick K, Steve, Greg and Myra did the heavy lifting of hanging the sheetrock with Jean, Pat, Phyllis and Rosey assisting. Once each room was sheetrocked the mudders began to tape and mud the seams on the ceilings and wall which requires several steps of application and sanding. Gloria, Rosey, Jean, Jenny, Danette, Myra, Irma and Phyllis worked to complete the mudding in three stages.
On day two the husband and wife team of Deb and Greg went upstairs to begin building and sheet rocking four knee walls and inserting four door openings all along upper walls in the upstairs. They worked diligently at this completing the task by end of the day on Thursday. And yes, they are still talking to each other (just kidding); they work super well together.
Removing the cement front steps from the home, leveling the area, pouring a foundation, moving the steps back onto the foundation was a multiple day process tackled by Bill, Danette and Kim. They fabricated a sturdy railing for the steps. And installed window wells and landscaped so that water would move away from the house rather than into the basement.
Thursday was a big clean-up day. A large commercial dumpster arrived early morning and most of us worked to fill it with the debris and garbage we had collected into piles during the week. By 11:30 AM the dumpster was filled and gone making another big difference in the looks of the property.
Tom, George, and Steve worked on rebuilding the breezeway to the house including rebuilding the walls, replacing doors and installing replacement windows. By end of the week this area was done and ready for siding.
All during the week our leaders Gary and Rosey were in communication with Tom and Ruth from Lutheran Social Services arranging for the dumpster, soil, and building supplies we needed. Lutheran Social Services disaster recovery staff brought us needed supplies and checked in with us during the week. Gary, Rosey and Jean also made several trips to pick up additional needed supplies throughout the week.
Watermark Mission leaders Gary and Rosey were guests at the Janesville Rotary Club to speak about Watermark’s mission and work since its early formation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The evenings were filled with fun, fellowship and rest.
As a group we were able to provide and estimated 720 hours of onsite rebuilding for this family.
A solar outdoor lawn light was presented to the family as a symbol that there is brightness to every darkness and this light will continue to shine on long after we have left, as they continue on with their recovery journey, from the flood that changed their lives in so many ways.