The real work begins!
We were up early in order to be on time for breakfast at 7:30 am and to be down at the work site by 8:30 am. After eating breakfast we each packed a brown bag lunch to take with us to the work site. The meals have been great, and we have also had time to talk with the other two groups with us, one from Michigan and one from Wisconsin (one is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, and the other is from an RCA Church).
Today was a beautiful and warm day. We drove down to Main Street in Prattsville and parked alongside 3 houses that are presently being worked on. Travis, Win and Sarah went to work removing shingles from the roof of a porch that needs to be rebuilt. Leonard helped with yard work and debris removal. Nick, Efrain and I went into a house to help with flooring (we got to talk with the homeowners, Mr. And Mrs. Vetter - see our video). We were digging holes in the dirt in order to install posts to hold up support beams to secure the old, original floor beams. Following that, the three of us went to remove some debris that was encrusted in a fence behind the house. While we were doing this we heard "BANG! BANG!" We were right next to State owned land and someone was hunting across the field from us. Thankfully, he saw us and went away. We all thought it funny that while "country people" probably think the city is dangerous, we "city people" are thinking that perhaps the country is more dangerous!
After finishing that task, our smaller group moved down Main Street to work. We were assigned to spruce up the front yards of two rental houses. One of these houses is home to a young family, the other to an elderly man named Ed whose wife is confined to a wheelchair. We raked, pulled up weeds, disposed of debris, removed a dead tree and pruned back an overgrown tree. Then, a dump truck from the Huntersfield Center brought 5 huge piles of dirt! We shoveled and raked and evened out the soil over the property - this will be topsoil in which we will plant grass tomorrow.
We broke for lunch at 12 noon, and ate with our fellow workers and volunteers at the local Methodist Church. In addition to our bag lunches, the staff provided pulled pork sandwiches (which I hear were delicious!)
We went back to the dirt - and while it may not sound like much, we were absolutely exhausted by 4:00 pm. I better appreciate all who perform manual labor on a regular basis! I also have a better understanding of what is behind the walls and below the floors of a very old house!
We drove back to the Huntersfield Center, just in time for the smoke alarm in our hallway to go off! (false alarm - all is well). We had another delicious dinner in the dining hall (including some stellar brownies). I chatted with a woman named Rose from the RCA Congregation in Michigan: she plans the church's mission trips. They hold one for adults every other year and one for high school students as well. We talked about her experiences leading and organizing the trips, and about the many places where we all could serve in the future. Both groups are leaving in the morning, so it will only be our Marble group at the Huntersfield Center Saturday into Sunday.
Following dinner, Greg and Becky Town, the co-pastors of the Reformed Church of Prattsville, gave a presentation in the chapel. With them were their two young daughters and Becky's parents. Greg showed a video he made that tells their story and experience of the flood. It tells how they made it out of town with barely a minute to spare as the flood raged through. They showed photos of the damage in their church, the parsonage and of the town immediately after the flood. Some of our fellow volunteers hadn't seen photos of the damage, and audibly gasped at how bad Prattsville looked and how badly damaged those buildings were. But the video also showed progress: Greg, Becky and their daughters moved back into the parsonage exactly a week ago, and other neighbors have moved back too. Afterwards, Greg spoke about how the tragedy has united neighbors and how it has inspired a revisioning process for the town, and even for the church (for example, how can the church better serve the needs of the community?) Greg used the song "Blessed be Your Name" in the video, stressing "You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, blessed be Your name." This song has had special meaning for them and for their congregation, as they've faithfully found their way through this disaster. (we will be getting a copy of this video when we worship with them on Sunday, and I look forward to sharing it with the Marble community). We ended by us all laying hands on Greg and Becky and praying for them.
Later our Marble group gathered in the lounge to reflect on the day and the work, then we said our evening prayer. Now, Travis and Efrain are shooting hoops in the gym, several others have made a run to the drug store, and I am taking in the peace and tranquility of a full moon over the Catskills! The frogs and crickets are singing - the stars are out - it is a beautiful night. Thanks be to God! We are happy to be here, and looking forward to what tomorrow brings.