Day 37 – Back Home

Sunday, August 4, 2019

I woke up at 5:30 am, having slept for 4 hours, but I felt well rested.   I went into the ‘ Loves ‘ store, washed up, picked up a coffee and a container of pineapple and I was back on the road again.   At 9:30 I pulled over at a rest stop that had wireless internet and posted my journal from the previous day, before continuing the drive east.

The drive was mostly uneventful until the I 94, just before the interchange of the I9, near the Indiana border at the southern tip of Lake Michigan, where the 4 lanes of traffic had slowed down to a stop-and-go scenario for 30 km ( 20 miles ) until I reached the construction zone where it merged down to 2 lanes.    It cleared up for a while and then there was another slow area of congestion caused by construction lane closures.    This happened a few more times along the way.   They obviously didn’t know that I was driving home!

As I approached the Port Huron/Sarnia bridge to Canada, a sudden rainstorm forced the traffic to slow down and many of the cars pulled off the road and put on their hazard lights due to the decreased visibility from the flood of rain.    I continued to drive slowly through the wall of water watching the traffic ahead of me and a few minutes later I was in bright sunshine.  I had no issues crossing the border and I didn’t stop until I reached the Onroute service centre on the 401 near Woodstock.    I finally arrived at home, just after 10 pm.

Abby sent me some pictures that I wanted to include in my journal.

This is a picture of Justin and Jon with 4 of the youth outside of Kirk Walter’s house.  From left to right: Cassie, Justin, Jon, Caiden, Christina and Emily.

Jon worked at Barbara McClelland’s house during the week.

John Koehn helped us for 2 days the past week to do some carpentry work and Barbara’s house.

This is Robert Prinse at the Fillo house.

This picture was taken after Maria and Vanessa brought ice cream for myself , Gordon, Sarah and Olivia after mudding and sanding at Jesse and Courtney’s house.

The picture below is the group of volunteers during the last week of July.  This included all of the youth from Surrey area.  Ike had left on Tuesday morning and John and Denise Koehn had left on Tuesday evening, before we took the picture.

It’s hard to believe that 5 weeks have passed since I left home for Grand Forks.   The people of Grand Forks have been exceptional.  In the 14 years that I have been serving with MDS, I have seldom witnessed a community as thankful as the people of Grand Forks.   Many of the homeowners have been at their houses while we have been working on them and several have worked with us.   Kirk Walter’s sister helped at Kirk’s house, as well as some of the other houses that were affected by the flood and she her house had not been affected by the flood.   People from the community have helped, as well.

Radek mentioned several times that God had never done anything for him before and he couldn’t believe that we were actually there to help him.    He was very grateful for everything we had done for him.

Kirk Walter was very distraught after the flood and he didn’t know what to do.   By the time I arrived at Grand Forks, his home almost finished and he was very happy and grateful.  He was at the house almost every day, helping where he could and doing some of the dirtiest jobs.    His sister also helped and his mother brought cookies and desserts almost every day for the workers.   Some of us from the other jobs would come to the Walter house for lunch to visit ( and get some cookies, of course ! ).

Kent Tough’s story is also very unique.   MDS was criticized for helping him because he had a very sordid past, however, Peter felt that he needed to help him, as much as any one else, in order to rebuild his life as well as his home, which is the mandate of MDS.   Kent was wandering about aimlessly in his house when Peter first met him in the Spring.   Since then, he has been helping do most of the dirtiest jobs, when he’s not working and he has changed into a person who has purpose and is trying to improve his life.

Most of the people had house insurance but not flood insurance because it wasn’t available to them so they lost everything.   House values in the flood zone dropped to as low as 75% after the flood.    Houses worth $200,000 before the flood dropped as low as $55,000 after the flood.  For someone who has a mortgage and the insurance won’t pay for the loss, it can be devastating.

When I was first asked to give up 4 weeks of my summer to help rebuild homes in Grand Forks, I was hesitant to go, but I felt that I needed to go and now I know why.   Having met my ‘ neighbours ‘ in Grand Forks, who needed help, I was glad that I was able to do something to help rebuild their lives.

Note: I drove  more than 11000 km and spent almost $900 CDN in gas money ( which included my trip to Surrey and driving around Grand Forks )

Day 36 – Bozeman to Iowa

Saturday, August 3, 2019

When I woke up at 5:30 am, the temperature had cooled down to 11 C ( 52 F ) and it was a little damp outside.   I cleaned up a bit and left the rest stop shortly before 6 am, heading towards the sunrise.

I had driven an hour before I got tired again, so I pulled over at a rest stop, reclined my seat and rested for a while.   When I woke up, one and a half hours had passed, but I felt refreshed, so I continued my journey.

The landscape slowly changed from rolling foothills to prairie grasslands and as I got closer to South Dakota there was an infestation of motorcyclists converging on the Sturgis area.   They were coming from all directions in various size groups, mostly riding, with a few people trailering their motorcycles. I noticed that a large number of the riders had very little safety equipment, especially helmets but they may not have anything to protect.

I sped  past the Wall Drug area, driving at the posted speed limit of 80 mph ( 128 kph ), however, it is also construction season and it seemed that every time that I had just gotten up to the posted speed, there was another long construction site with a single lane and a reduced speed limit.

I continued driving east, only stopping long enough for gas and some rest.   At one of my stops, I noticed that I had entered the Central Time Zone and ‘ lost ‘ another hour.    As I entered Minnesota, it was after midnight and I looked for a rest stop on the 218 south but I didn’t find anything, so I kept driving.   It appeared that there weren’t any rest stops or even hotels in the area, so I opted for another option.   At 1:30 am, I pulled into a ‘ Loves ‘ gas station/truck stop, parked my car, pulled out my sleeping bag and pillow, crawled into the back seat and fell asleep.

My GPS indicated that I had driven almost 15 hours and it would take another 13 hours of driving left to get home.

Day 35 – Grand Forks

Friday, August 2, 2019

We had breakfast and devotions, as usual, before heading to the job sites.   Peter was flying back home around lunch time from the Castlegar airport so he didn’t go to the Fillo job site.  Robert went there by himself and left from there to go home for the weekend.

Jon went back to Barbara McClelland house and continued his work there.

Justin went to Kent Tough’s house and continued the painting.   Gordon and I went there as well,  so that we could try to texture the living room ceiling.   Justin and Gordon taped the walls to avoid splatter from the texturing, getting on them.   I went to the Redding house and picked up the leftover drywall mud for the texturing.  Below is a picture taken from the outside of Jesse and Courtney Redding’s house.

When I got back, I rolled the mud on the ceiling while Gordon textured the surface.  Everything was going well until we noticed that some of the drywall tape on the ceiling was letting go from the ceiling and starting to hang down.   We added more mud under the tape and continued texturing.   When we were almost finished we noticed a bubble in the ceiling that was getting larger.   Gordon took a putty knife and tried to remove it but the more he scraped, the bubble grew.    It appeared that the paint on the drywall was softened by the mud and was releasing from the ceiling in the area.    We couldn’t reach Roman or Mark Rempel ( the new director ), because they had left to drive Peter to the airport, so we stopped the texturing and I rolled a small section on one side of the bubble to see if it would stick to the unpainted ceiling.

It might be possible to clean it up and continue texturing the ceiling but we weren’t sure if we should continue, so we cleaned up the equipment and drove to the Redding house, where Gordon did a little more drywalling and I cleaned up the equipment from the previous day and put it in my car so that we could put it in the storage trailers before returning to camp.

We got back to camp about 12:30 pm, had some lunch, cleaned up our rooms, showered and packed up our things.   By the time we were finished, Roman and Mark had returned to camp and Gordon explained the situation to them and suggested that they consider drywalling over top of the drywall on the ceiling and then painting it.

We said our goodbyes and then Gordon, Maria and Vanessa drove to Rosedale, BC to visit family, while I headed back home.

I drove the 15 minutes it took to get to the border and waited my turn in line.   The border guard was very friendly and extremely talkative.   I waited while he took his time with the people in the two other cars ahead of me.   When it was my turn, the guard noticed that I was from Niagara on the Lake, so he talked to me about Lewiston, New York, fishing in the area and good seafood restaurants that he knew, as well as, suggesting that I was taking the short route back home with access to cheaper gas along the way – both of which were true.

I made it across the border unscathed and started my long journey back home.   The trip should take 38 hours of continuous driving and I plan to drive back with only a few stops to rest and eat.   I always enjoy driving through the beautiful landscapes in US and Canada.    I started driving through the mountainous  Rockies, covered with evergreen trees as I passed through Washington, Idaho and Western Montana.   When I reached Montana, I was entertained by a lightning show behind the mountains that I would have to cross.  Behind me, I saw a spectacular sunset, but I couldn’t get a picture of it so I committed it to memory.

As I got closer to the light show, a large rainbow appeared over the highway and it started to rain.  The rain quickly became a downpour and I couldn’t understand how the rain could make so much noise on my car until I noticed that there was hail coming down with the rain and it was pounding my car.   Fortunately it only lasted a few minutes and then it was only a hard rain.   It rained on and off after that and I was starting to get tired when I noticed that I had passed through a time change and instead of it being 11 pm, it was midnight so I stopped at the Bozeman rest stop for the night and joined the many other people who were doing the same thing.    The parking lot was full and there was no one in the rest stop.

I dragged out my sleeping bag and pillow, reclined my seat as far as it would go, made myself comfortable and fell asleep by 12:30 pm.

I had completed about 8 hours of driving and there would still be 30 hours of driving left when I woke up.

Day 34 – Grand Forks

Thursday, August 1, 2019

After another very good breakfast we said goodbye to the youth, before they left to head back home.   They took Sam along in order to drop him off in Chiliwack, so that he could attend his brother’s wedding.

With the youth gone, Justin returned to Kent Tough’s house by himself to continue the painting.

Jon went to Barbara McClelland’s house to continue casing the doors and windows and frame a new door with Roman.

Peter and Robert went to the Fillo house and finished installing all of the windows.

Gordon, Maria, Vanessa and I returned Jesse and Courtney’s house.   We all helped to sweep the walls,

and then we wiped them down with wet towels and vacuumed the floors.

Maria and I started rolling the ceilings and walls,

while Vanessa painted the edges for us.

After helping to clean the walls and floors, Gordon continued adding drywall the basement walls and almost finished them.

We must have tired out Vanessa because at lunch, she decided to take a nap.


At 1:30 pm she woke up and continued to paint the corners and edges for us

By 4:30 pm, we finished priming all of the ceilings and walls.   Courtney and Jesse were very happy with the results and kept looking at the primed walls and ceilings.

I took a picture of Gordon, Jesse, Courtney, Maria and Vanessa in the living room before we returned to camp and cleaned up for supper.

Castle Hardware and a local pizza restaurant wanted to thank us for the work we were doing in their community by donating pizzas for us.  This had allowed Maria and Vanessa to come to our job site and help us with the painting.

After the pizza, we reviewed the progress at each site and then we had a wonderful ‘ No-Bake Berry Icebox Cake ‘ dessert that Maria had made for us.

After Justin, Abby and myself cleaned up the few dishes we had used, Peter, Justin, Maria and myself played a game of scrabble before going to bed.

On Friday, we are planning to come back to camp for lunch and clean up the camp site, after which I plan to start my long trek home.

Day 33 – Grand Forks

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

It was a typical day in Grand Forks, a cool morning, breakfast, devotions and off to our job sites.

When Gordon, Sam, Jake, Olivia, Sarah and I arrived at the Redding house, we found Jesse helping a contractor and his crew install his new septic system.

We did a little mudding and sanding and by afternoon, we started to clean up for painting.   Olivia and Sarah cleaned to floor with brushes and brooms while I vacuumed the floor, outlets and windows,

while Gordon, Jake and Sam installed drywall in the basement.

At lunch time, we took a picture of our crew.

From left to right:

Back Row: Jake, Gordon and Sam

Front Row: Olivia and Sarah

At 3 pm the youth from three of the job sites returned to camp to clean the showers and their rooms.   Gordon and I finished the drywall sanding and installed some more drywall in the basement.    We returned to camp by 5 pm and showered before supper.

Jon, Caiden and Emily went to the McClelland house during the day.  Jon installed trim, while Emily and Caiden installed flooring

Justin, Christina and Cassie went to the Kent Tough’s house, where they continued to paint the walls.

Peter, Robert, Jacob and Benjamin drove the 1 hour to the ‘ Fillo ‘ house.   Jacob and Benjamin installed siding, facia and soffits, Robert installed windows and Peter supervised and helped co-ordinate all of the jobs.    The owner and her son also assisted with the work.

Unfortunately, Wes had twisted his ankle before he had come to the project and he had worked the first day painting boards but his foot had swollen significantly and it was decided that it would be best if he stayed at camp and not strain it any further.

Kent Tough and his girl friend, joined us for supper and told his what had happened to him during the flood.

From Left to right: Roman, Mo ( Kent’s girlfriend ), Kent, Justin, Robert, Sam, Abby, Peter and Gordon.

Kent’s story started with him coming home at 8 pm on the night that the flood occurred.  A friend had dropped him off, noticed that there was water on the yard,  but Kent hadn’t thought anything of it.   He woke up later that night to the sound of running water and when he checked it out, he found that there was a few feet of water in his yard and his crawlspace was flooded.   He built a raft using two stacked skids with some insulated doors in-between for floatation.  While he was preparing to leave, he saw some rescuers go by, but they hadn’t paid attention to him or asked if he needed help.   He grabbed some clothes, put them in a cooler and set out on the raft using a long pole from his fence to push himself along.  He said that it was a beautiful sunny morning, other than the fact that his house was being flooded.   He was able to make it to safety and later he borrowed a friends aluminum boat to go to his house and rescue some more items.   His house had about 3 feet of water in it and when he left again, he decided to  cross the river, not realizing how strong the current was.   He came upon a large log that was wedged in place and as the water pushed him towards it, his boat capsized, so he grabbed the log.  He struggled to get on top of it but the current was very strong and was pushing him under it.   After a lot of effort, he made it on to the log, he was eventually rescued.

We spent a little time after supper reviewing the reports for each of the job site and at 8:15 pm the youth, Justin and Jon had prepared an evening service of singing and testimonies.

It was the last day for the youth at Grand Forks, as they would be leaving in the morning to go home.   It was a pleasure working with them.   They were friendly, polite, willing to work and learn something new.  What more can you ask for?    Maria’s cooking, learning some trades, interacting with the team and experiencing MDS were expressed as their highlights for the time they had spent in Grand Forks.   The leadership team was happy that they came and we all enjoyed having them volunteer with us to help rebuilt the homes and lives of people in Grand Forks.

Day 32 – Grand Forks

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

After breakfast and devotions, Gordon, Olivia, Sarah and I drove to Home Hardware to pick up some sanding blocks before going to the Redding house.  When we got there, Sam and Jake were waiting for us and we continued to sand and ‘ mud ‘ the walls.

Gordon almost finished most of the final coat in the living room, while




Sam and I continued to sand and mud in the other rooms,

At 8:30 Sam and Jake took some garbage to the dump and picked up a few things that we needed.   While we were taking a break at 10:15, Courtney showed up and we talked with her for a while.   A little later Jesse delivered some stone for his septic bed and talked to me about the bathroom tile and the storage of his appliances in the unfinished basement.

At lunch time, Sam, Olivia, Sarah, Jake and I went to see Jesse and Courtney’s pigs and then we took the short walk down to the river .

In the afternoon, we had a nice treat when Maria, Abby and Vanessa showed up at the house with some ice cream bars that Roman bought for us.   A little later, Courtney showed up and I asked her about the original house and their accommodations.  From the picture below, taken at the back of the house, the little building to the right is where Jesse and Courtney live.   It is their kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom, all rolled into one small building.    They used to live in the house  in the background at the far left of the picture.   During the flood, the water had risen to 3 feet in the house and everything in it was destroyed, so they decided to build their new house much higher so that now the bottom of the basement of their new home is now 3 feet above the height the river had reached during the flood.

The day passed quickly and we started to pack up at 4:45 pm and then Sam took Jake, Olivia and Sarah back to camp while Gordon and I went to the Tough house to meet Roman in order to determine if the living room ceiling should be textured or stipled.   After deciding that stipling would be the best option, we returned to camp and cleaned up before supper.

Supper had been made by ladies from several of the churches in Grand Forkes and consisted of potato salads, ham, raw vegetables, quinoa and sponge cake with berries and whipped cream for dessert.

After supper, each of the groups gave a report, regarding the status of the work at their job sites, before we dispersed.   During the evening, Roman, Peter, Gordon, Robert and I sat outside for a while and discussed a variety of topics, while the ” young folks ” when swimming and ‘ tubing ‘ at Christina Lake until dark.

Day 31 – Grand Forks

Monday, July 29, 2019

It was 13 C ( 55 F ) when I woke up but the forecast indicated that the high temperature for the entire week was supposed to be in the low 30’s C ( high 80’s ).

Gordon, Sarah, Olivia and I drove my car to the Redding house and before I went in, I opened the windows in the car to help keep it cool.

We started sanding and mudding the drywall.  Gordon started with the living room ceiling.


and Olivia,

two of the young adults, started sanding and later they mudded.   They were enthusiastic, willing to work and enjoyed conversing with each other while they sanded.

I put on the second coat of mud in the bathroom and then helped sand the living room ceiling.

Sam and Jake ( one of the youth leaders ) went to the ‘ Darcy ‘ house to rip up some flooring and shortly before noon, they joined us with sanding and mudding.

Sam and Jake drove into town at 4:30 pm to pick up a door from home hardware before they closed.   At 4:40, we started to clean up to return to camp.   When I went to open the trunk of my car to put in the coolers, it wouldn’t open.   I looked for my key and found it in the ignition, in the accessory position….the battery was dead.    I phoned Sam and asked him to come back with the truck to give me a boost, however, Gordon  noticed that Jesse had left his truck and when he found the keys in it, he drove it over and we were able to start my car with the booster cables I had fished out of my trunk from inside of the car.   l called Sam and told him that he didn’t have to come back and then we headed to camp.   We had just left when I realized that I had put my phone on the truck bumper while we were starting my car, so I had to drive back to the Redding house and get it.   We finally left and arrived at camp by 5:30.   We quickly took showers and were ready for supper at 6 pm.

After supper we reviewed what everyone had done during the day.

Peter and Robert Prince had 4 young adults with them at a new site, which was about an hour from the church where we are staying.   The homeowner and several friends and neighbours helped during the day to clean up,  install siding  and paint trim.

Jon had four people helping him. John installed cabinets, Denise installed vinyl flooring with one of the young adults and Jon installed trim.

Justin, two of the young adults, as well as Kent, the owner, painted the walls and prepared the ceiling for stiple at the Tough house.

After our reports, Ike handed the keys and the official MDS hammer, to Roman, who would be the project director for the rest of the week.

It was a typical relaxed evening.

I had received a picture of the volunteers for the previous week .

They are, from left to right;

Back Row: Sam Dyck, Jonathan ( Jon ) Wiebe, John Close, Ralf Hamm, Gordon Martens,  Randy Blaskovich, Mike Davis

Middle Row: Ike Epp, Justin Marchand, Alice Close, Jack McDonald, Sheila Davis

Front Row: Abigail ( Abby ) Thompson, Vanessa Martens, Maria Martens, Stella MacDonald

Day 30 – Grand Forks

Sunday, July 28, 2019

It was a comfortable temperature in the morning but it turned out to be a hot day.   While most of the crew attended the River Valley Community Church service, Sam and I drove to the Pines Bible Camp where the MB Gospel Chapel and the First Baptist church were having a joint family camp and service.  After the service, Sam visited with some friends before we left to meet the other volunteers at the Golden Chopsticks for lunch.

The food was very good and we had so much that we took several containers of leftovers, back to camp.

Sam, Justin, Jon and Abby went to play board games at a local establishment in town before returning to camp, while the rest of us drove back and relaxed during the afternoon.

We made ourselves supper from the leftover food in the fridge at camp.  While we were eating, two short term volunteers, John and Denise arrived.   At 6 pm, Robert Prinse, a long term volunteer, arrived and a little while later, 3 youth leaders, with 7 junior youth ranging in ages from 14 to 18, arrived to assist us for next 3 days as short term volunteers.

AT 7:15 pm we had orientation, after which we had a crew leaders meeting.

It was another relaxing evening before the adults went to bed.   I am not sure how long the young people stayed awake.

Day 29 – Grand Forks

Saturday, July 27, 2019

It was Saturday morning and we were on our own for our meals, so Evelyn and I decided to help stimulate the local economy and go to the ‘ Wooden Spoon ‘ restaurant for breakfast.  I had my standard 16 oz Cappuccino with my breakfast, however, she opted for a non-standard ‘ beetroot latte’  ‘.

When we returned to camp,  Sam, Justin and Jon had driven to Osoyoos for the day and I helped Ike and Peter move some equipment and trailers before lunch.   We made lunch from the leftovers from the previous week and then Peter, Susan, Evelyn and Vanessa went to Christina lake for the afternoon, while Ike, Gordon and I went to the Son Ranch Timber company museum.

I had a hard time finding the museum and at one point I had to return to town to get more gas so that we could continue our search.

The museum was interesting for us guys.

The owner had hundreds, if not thousands of chainsaws, some that were brand new and had never had gas put in them; others were antiques.


One of the old Husqvarna chainsaws had a large hole in the middle so I took a picture of Ike through the middle of the guide-bar.   We have not been able to figure out the significance of this special shape.

There was also a hand-carved, toy, wooden truck and motorcycle on a trailer that had been made to scale, apparently by a ‘ convict ‘ while he was serving time in jail.  The doors of the truck opened, there were hidden compartments, the inside was upholstered, the parts were removable and there were even pedals, a gear shift that activated a hidden compartment and small wooden tools under the seat of the truck.

We also toured his shop where he cut and prepared wood for special orders.

Outside he had a ~110 year old Harley Davidson engine in a old mini race car.   The owner started the engine for us and I was amazed at how quickly and smoothly it ran.

He also had some other old vehicles on his property,

as well as, some more chainsaws.

He showed us some shipping containers that contained hundred’s of more chainsaws that people had sent him.

We also saw a bus converted to a mobile home that was very unique, but I forgot to take a picture of it.

We weren’t there very long and on our way home we stopped at the ‘ Tastie Treat ‘ restaurant for milkshakes.  By 4 pm we had returned to camp and the crew that went to Christina Lake returned shortly afterwards.    Most of us had supper together, consisting of the leftovers from the previous week.   When Sam, Justin and Jon returned from Osoyoos, they also made themselves supper from the leftovers.   Afterwards, Sam put on a bicycle helmet which had a stuffed lion toy attached on it as he rode a bicycle around the dining hall before heading outside to go for a ride.   I joined him and we rode for a few kilometres before returning to camp.

Most of us conversed for the majority of the evening or relaxed in our rooms, while Maria and Vanessa played scrabble, before we slowly mad our way back to our rooms for the night.

Day 28 – Grand Forks

Friday, July 26, 2019

It was cool again in the morning but by 11 am it reached 34 C ( 93 F ).

After breakfast and devotions, we all went to our perspective job sites, with instructions that we would return at 11 am to clean up before going to the house dedications.

I continued working at Donna’s house and I finished grouting the bathroom tiles at 11:00 am.

Before I left, I cleaned up the floor and then returned to camp, took a shower, changed and drove to Radek and Geordie Grundel’s house for the first dedication, where I met the other volunteers, case workers and some friends of the family.

Above: Geordie’s granddaughter and Geordie in the foreground in the house.

Radek had started rebuilding his house before he had suffered two heart attacks.   It was hard for him not to help, but with his condition it could have been very detrimental to his health.    With the help of the case workers and  MDS we were able to rebuilt his home.

Before we started the ceremonies, we had a very nice lunch and then Stella presented Radek & Geordie a quilt, I presented them with a bible and Jon presented them with the book ” The Hammer Rings Hope “.   This was followed by a prayer of dedication by Evelyn and comments by Radek and Geordie, thanking us for rebuilding their home.

Afterwards we walked over to Kirk Walter’s house for their dedication.

Roman Huft, the former project director, had returned for the ceremonies for the formal signing of job contract signifying that the work had been completed.

Alice presented a quilt to Kirk and his wife Wendy.

Kevin ( Kirk & Wendy’s son ), Wendy and Kirk took a picture with Justin, who had worked at the house for 3 weeks.

Mike Davis, who had also worked at Kirk’s house during previous weeks, presented the book ” The Hammer Rings Hope ” to Wendy and Kirk.

After the dedication we had some cake and visited for a while before returning to camp to clean the trucks, bedrooms, showers and dining area.

Maria prepared the ingredients for each of us to make tacos for supper, after which we had some sharing and then interacted with each other before some of the short-term volunteers left to go home.   The rest of the group took the opportunity to relax before going to bed.