Project Christmas House

In our Christmas Vacation recap post from last week I mentioned that Scott and I traveled down to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to help build a house for a family that had theirs destroyed in February 2013. We traveled down there the day after Christmas and stayed and worked for three days.

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Over the last couple of years we have heard of a group of people from local churches in our area that leave the day after Christmas and work for a week building a house for a family in need. The locations vary each year depending on where help is needed, but the task is mainly the same: build a house in a week.

Like I mentioned in my last post, one of our goals for 2014 is to be more intentional in giving to and loving others … not just when it is convenient or easy for us. We tend to be self-serving and only give of our time when we don’t have anything else to do, or help others when it sounds like a good idea and we have the resources to do so.

So, when this project was presented to us at the beginning of November, we decided that we were going for it. We had no idea what to expect and were flying by the seat of our pants going into it. All we knew was the timeframe of the trip, where we were staying and that we were going to build a house. And surprisingly enough, we were okay with this. Our minds and hearts were completely at peace with this decision.

We had to cut Christmas short with our families and made the 8.5 hour trip down to Hattiesburg. We arrived late that evening and quickly assembled our blow-up mattress and sleeping bags in one of the Sunday school rooms at the church we were staying at. Everything seemed fine, but some anxiousness started to creep in about the upcoming week. Thankfully Scott was there and we reassured each other that this would be fun!

We were all snuggled up in our sleeping bags and both of us fell asleep relatively quickly … and then it got cold. Like really cold. I guess the guys in the other rooms were hot and rather than turning down the furnace, they turned it off! We froze our little butts off. I slept half underneath Scott and he was literally my blanket. When 6 a.m. rolled around we were tired and weren’t sure how the rest of the trip would play out.

We ate breakfast and headed to the job site.

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As the day progressed we started to get to know everyone, where they were from, what they did for a living, etc. It was about 35 degrees out, but work was going pretty quickly. A few members of our group included: David – a general contractor, Terry – who owned a flooring business, Phillip – a brick mason, Bob – who has been building houses for 50 years, Jim – a carpenter, and Bill – the main organizer and the man with all the tools. There were others that were part of the group, but these men ran the show … and I’m happy they did! They were extremely patient with us in explaining projects and had a wonderful attitude.

One of the ladies and I decided to go around and pick up wood scraps and debris and build a fire to help some of the guys warm up.

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About 30 minutes after arriving on the job site, all the lumber showed up. I guessed they sensed organization in me so they handed me a list of everything they delivered and I had to go through and make sure it was all there. That was a learning experience!!

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Once everything was accounted for, the plans were laid out and we got to work.

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After a couple of hours the homeowner and her daughter came out to the job site with snacks and coffee. It didn’t take long after talking with her to understand that she had been through a lot. She and her husband are in their 60’s and their home survived Hurricane Katrina where other homes on the block did not. When the tornado in February 2013 hit, their house was completely destroyed. Her husband served in the military early in their marriage and this tornado triggered a severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) episode that they had to hospitalize him for. After a couple months in the hospital he started to show signs of aggressive dementia.

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I can only imagine what it would be like to lose your home that you had lived in your entire adult life and also your husband through dementia within a couple months. This woman has such big faith and understanding!

After a couple hours the flooring trusses were starting to take form. Bob (below) is 65 and he was ridiculous!! I know I couldn’t keep up with him. He quickly became one of my favorite people. 🙂

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As we were laying the floor trusses the local news station showed up and we all made it on the news that evening. Ha!

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Once the flooring was laid, walls were ready to be put up.  Here is the first one!

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Once 5 p.m. hit and the sun started to set we made a decision to stay for the long haul that evening because there was rain forecasted for the next day. We were able to get the rest of the walls put up and when 7:30 p.m. hit, we were exhausted. We had worked over 12 hours and were ready for a hot shower and a bed!

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Once back at the church I talked with one of the ladies and learned that all the women were staying in a house next to the church and there were plenty of rooms open … and heaters! I convinced the ladies to let Scott come with me and we were able to stay in our own room on a couple of cots. Thank you, God! We were warm and toasty that evening and I don’t think I’ve slept so well in my entire life.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast was right and it rained, and rained, and rained the entire next day. Scott and I went and bought rubber, knee-high boots and ponchos so we wouldn’t get soaked. As soon as we got to the job site, another lady and I started up the fire again. The guys really loved this and would come and warm up/dry off throughout the day. It was a site to see because everyone was soaked, but the fire was hot, so standing next to it make you look like you were smoking! Haha! It was just the steam though, and somehow I managed to melt my poncho by standing too close to the fire. Whoopsie! We ended up working for about 10 hours and called it quits for the day. Everyone was soaking wet, cold and exhausted.

I didn’t get any photos from that day because of the rain, but we mainly put up the OSB on the outside of the house while the guys secured all the walls. Here is a photo I took the next morning as soon as we arrived at the job site.

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On the third day of this project, mud was the name of the game! Because of the sandy-dirt mixture, in some places it would suck your boot down into the mud. Those rubber boots were worth their weight in gold!

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Because of the rain, not much progress was seen because we couldn’t use some of the power tools and a lot of the work was hammer and a nail. However, on this day it was bright and sunny and a high of 60 degrees! Needless to say, we got A LOT accomplished.

Once all the walls were secured, the strong men started lifting the roof trusses up onto the house while another lady and I used 2×4’s to push the trusses to the other side of the house. Scott was one of the guys chosen to climb the ladder with the trusses. Boy, he was tired!

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Once all of the trusses were up and secured, it was time for the roof decking. Scott was in charge of the super nail gun and was up on the house for a couple hours securing all the boards.

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By the end of day three the roof decking was secured and ready to have shingles laid. Unfortunately for us, it was time to head back home.

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We were so happy to have gone on this trip and met all the people that we did. Here is a photo of our motley crew:

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Although we were only down there for three days, it was sooo worth it. God blessed us so many times and it was wonderful to meet all these men and women of faith. We left with hearts full of gratitude and a few sore muscles, but we are definitely itching to do this all again.

This trip was a great way to kick off 2014 and keep us mindful that there is always something that we can do to serve others. We hope to carry this mentality through 2014 and keep stretching our faith comfort zone.

What about you? Any ways you are stretching your comfort zone in 2014?

– Allie

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