[For my last year of undergrad, I’ve been experiencing many firsts and lasts. Among those experiences include activities with the Campus Ministry- Winter Retreat, playing guitar for Mass and Adoration, and the most recent, Alternative Spring Break. This year’s domestic trip took place in Tri-Cities, TN while the international half ventured their way out to Lima, Peru. Here are some thoughts I wanted to share.]
I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Tennessee and it was only two weeks prior to the departure date when I decided to go. I thought to myself… I was asked at least three times, there are still five vacant spots, I had extra money saved up, I’ve never been on an ASB before, and I didn’t have plans for spring break anyway! Done deal. For years I’ve been serving God through the CFC-Youth community on an evangelistic and pastoral level, but one of the reasons why I really wanted to push through with this was so I could explore another type of service… a more hands-on/manual labor, yet still relational type service for those that really need our help within our own country. Though I lacked experience with power tools and climbing up ladders to heights beyond my comfort zone, I knew I’d still have a great time getting exposed to the building technology and construction. After all, I’m an interior design major and I did take a course on building tech. Perfect? Pretty much, haha.
There were four Marymount work crews overall, each at different sites throughout the Tri-Cities of TN. My group was incredibly blessed to serve such a great, humble resident. His name is Jerry. He lives on his own in a small house that had a deteriorating roof to go with it. Plumbing is a problem, too, alongside other things. But our first priority for his house was to give him a brand new roof. And so for three days that week (we got rained on the other two days), we gutted the old, flimsy tin roof with holes patched up with either tar or worn out duct tape in places where Jerry tried to avoid water from leaking into his house during storms. It was evident that a new roof was needed for this man.
Aside from the tearing down of the previous roof (tin snips are amazing), the reinforcement of the rafters already in place, and the sheathing of new osb boards that were to be placed underneath brand new tin the bonds created within the work days were tremendous blessings. When I wouldn’t be hammering down the osb boards to the rafters because I’d hit my thumb one time too many, I would go over to Jerry (he kept us company every single day) and strike up a conversation. After hearing about his life and the trials he has gone through and is still going through, he began to share his new-found faith in the Lord and how everything is now falling into place in his life…and how we were a part of it. I wasn’t expecting to hear any of that so when I did, peace overwhelmed my heart. I knew in that instant there was no place I would rather be spending my spring break.
Jerry’s first roof had many problems with it. It was old and the material was just so poor in quality that it made it twice as difficult to maintain or repair it if needed. Because I was a part of such a wonderful team, we were able to cooperatively iron out some of the kinks of Jerry’s roof after multiple trials. Looking back at it now, it amazes me how we all worked together to finish his roof in three full work days!
My week in TN was very humbling. Sleeping in a narrow hallway of a basement of a former church (with supposedly rats…) to our daily ice-cold 1-2 minute showers made me realize how blessed I am. I often take for granted simple things like a comfy bed and hot showers while at home when times throughout my week in TN I longed for either or…so, so badly. And of course, how blessed am I to be living in a house with a strong roof, heat, breathable air, etcetera? Very. Those are just the necessities, too. We are so blessed, folks.
It was also humbling to get to know Jerry better without having to speak with him all the time, but through observing how he has his house set up. To me, he’s the prime example of making the most with what you have. He loves to keep his yard tidy. He had flower bulbs ready to bloom for the springtime. During the summertime he would sit out on his picnic table and read (ok, he told me that). In his bathroom he has up these mini jazz posters framed (he discussed music briefly, too), and he even has a small workout area for himself. Recognizing all those things made me smile. The initial sadness I may have felt because of the poor conditions of his house like his roof, plumbing, air & heating, electricity – you name it – was turned into great hope because of the richness of his soul and of his heart. Every day, he goes out of his way to make this house his home. And piece by piece, we’re (my group and groups in the future) able to be a part of making his home a better living environment.
Right before our goodbyes on the last day, he said that we helped him. We were even told by his friends that dropped off a dessert for us (how blessed are we?!) that we were Jerry’s angels. But in my opinion, he helped us. He helped me. He not only helped by creating a bonfire to keep us warm or putting on music for us to work to or providing us with lunch on the last day, but for reminding all of us that the simplest things in life can bring about the greatest amount of happiness and joy.
May God continue to bless Jerry! And if you get a chance to, say a little prayer for him. Much appreciated. :)