Day 7 – Kamiah

Thursday, August 18, 2016

After breakfast we headed to the house and arrived there shortly after 8 am. We had a very successful day. Carl, Clyde and Richard finished the siding while the rest of us finished the insulation, the ceiling drywall and a good portion of the perimeter walls.

While we were working, the lady that we helped the day before, came to the house. She said that our organization could probably use millions of dollars but, not having that much, she wanted to donate $50 for MDS to use. She also told Cletus that she felt that we were the skin of Jesus, to which he replied that we are not qualified to be the skin of Jesus but we allow ourselves to be used by Him so that in some way we are symbolically His hands and feet on earth, trying to do a little of the practical work that needs to be done.

After we finished for the day, we cleaned up and headed back down to our site. The elevation at the house was 945 meters ( 3100 ft ) and the temperature was 32 C ( 89 F ). When we reached our home base at the church, the elevation was 390 meters ( 1270 ft ) and the temperature was 37 C ( 99 C ).

We had another wonderful supper, after which, Carl, Mark and I dropped off Spencer and Braeden at the side of the river that runs through the town, so that they could go ” tubing ” while we went fishing. The results for the fishing weren’t very good, as none of us caught any fish, however, Spencer ( wearing his father’s work boots?? ) and Braeden had a good time floating 2 miles down the river on the inner tubes. We picked them up at the side of the road at 8:15, just when it was starting to get dark, and headed back to camp.

Kamiah is an interesting town and it has a very detailed website describing almost everything about the area –

Day 6 – Kamiah

Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

After a hearty breakfast, we were able to make it to the job site without any detours and immediately started our jobs.

Braeden continued the insulation work. Mark, Spencer, Clete and myself installed the drywall on the ceiling, while Clyde, Richard and Carl continued to install the siding.

Our Site Director and expert ” roto zipper “, Cletus Yoder, cut the holes around the electrical boxes:


Mark putting up drywall:


Shortly after we started working, Bob, the homeowner arrived at the house with his daughter and Cletus reviewed a few items with them:


While we were having lunch, a lady stopped at the house and asked if we could help tow her Subaru out of the ditch about a mile from the house. We drove with her to where the car was stuck in the shallow ditch, pushed the car out of the ditch and then we boosted the battery because the starter wouldn’t turn over. Before she left, she thanked us for helping her and for the work we were doing on the house for her neighbour.

We had a very successful day. Everyone worked very hard and we got a lot accomplished. When we returned to camp, Mark and I went with Carl to get our fishing licenses and then we returned for another wonderful meal of Hawaiian chicken, rice and Mediterranean salad and a wonderful frozen fruit dessert made by our vegetarian cook, Barbara.

After supper Carl, Mark and I went fly fishing in the river next to the camp. We each caught some fish although I won’t say how big they are because size doesn’t matter.

Day 5 – Kamiah

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

We got up around 6 am, packed our lunches, had breakfast and reviewed the plans for the day’s activities.

The church in Kamiah where we are staying ( sleeping accommodations were in the building at the back ):

Our sleeping accommodations:

When we started loading the trucks to go to the job sites, someone noticed that the site directors truck had a flat tire. He suggested that we all go up to the second house to unload the drywall that was going to be delivered for the day, so we headed to the job site, or so we thought.

We drove by the first house and then continued up the hill. After a while, the landscape didn’t look familiar so we backtracked, retraced our steps, took a wrong turn, called for instructions, retraced our steps and we were back at the top and we didn’t recognize anything. We talked to the site director and he gave us the critical information we had all missed. We needed to keep going past the road that went up to the first house and follow it for 12 miles. When we had gone to the house yesterday, we had followed the site director and we hadn’t paid attention. On the bright side, we had a scenic tour of the mountains.

When we reached the job site, we found the truck with the delivery of drywall had been waiting there for 10 minutes. We unloaded the 21 sheets of 4 ‘ x 12 ‘ x 1/2 “, 8 sheets of 4 ‘ x 8 ‘ x 1/2 “ and 16 sheets of 4 ‘ x 12 ‘ x 5/8 “ drywall, which was the most labour intensive thing we had done, but we had wasted 1.5 hours getting to the job site, so once the unloading was done, we continued our different tasks. Carl, Clyde and Richard continued to install the cement siding, Mark installed some baffling in the attic by the porch and Spencer, Braeden and I, installed insulation in the walls and air vents to the attic. In the afternoon, I worked on the porch ceiling and Mark helped me when he was finished installing the baffles.

The house:

Braeden cutting insulation:


Spencer and Braeden installing the insulation:


Carl, the retired phycologist, measuring and cutting the siding:


Clyde, the retired social worker, Richard, the retired owner of a larger tree nursery and Carl, nailing the siding on:


It became hot in the afternoon, with temperatures around 37 C (98 F), but it we had lots of cold water to drink and we all worked in the shade as much as we could.

In all, it was a very good day. We were also privileged to have the home owners stop by with their daughter to see their house. They expressed their appreciation to us for what we were doing and asked to have a picture taken with us. Braeden, Spencer and I, also had the opportunity to have a nice long chat with them. They told us that their family and friends were very surprised to hear that we were doing this work voluntarily.

We cleaned up around 4 pm and headed back to camp. As we headed back, I took some pictures on our way down the mountains. We had some spectacular views of the valley and Kamiah.



When we got back we cleaned up before supper and enjoyed a delicious meal which consisted of roast beef, baked potatoes, creamed broccoli, and a salad. We finished our meal by making our own ” sundays ” out of different ice creams, granola, etc. Needless to say, I never loose weight when I volunteer for an MDS assignment and I am positive that won’t change this week either.

Day 4 – Kamiah

Monday, August 15, 2016

We got up early after a relatively good sleep for some.

After we had packed our lunches, Barbara Johnson, our cook, served us a wonderful breakfast.

The site director reviewed the orientation and then gave us our job assignments. We loaded the trucks and headed to the job sites. First of all, we went to the house were Spencer and Braeden were working under the direction of Mark.


The view was spectacular from where the house was being built.



Spencer and Braeden’s job was to ” mud ” the house to get it ready for painting.

The rest of us drove further up the hill to another house and the view was even more spectacular. We worked on siding, putting a ceiling on the porch and some odd jobs that needed to be completed.

The temperature in town was in the mid teens when we got up in the morning but it reached 36 C ( 97 F ) by mid-day. Fortunately we were working up in the mountains and the temperature was a little cooler, but not much.

In the afternoon, the Region IV director showed up with the director of the first response team, to check out the job site and talk to the site director, Clete Yoder.

At 4 pm, we packed up our tools and headed back to camp. We had time to take showers before we had a wonderful meal of marinated pork chops, potatoes, creamed cauliflower, salad and a delicious pineapple/cherry upside down cake with ice cream.

After socializing for a few hours it was time to call it a night.

Day 3 – Trip to Idaho

Sunday, August 14, 2016


We got up early an Sunday morning, packed up our tents and headed out of Billings on the I90 West.

We had some insightful conversations about everything from business news, entertainment to politics as we drove through the prairies and enjoyed seeing the large farms and ranches, as well as the rolling hills and mountains of Montana.

We stopped in Bozeman and had brunch at the Western Cafe ( ), which we had found as we cruised the main street for a good place to eat. The cafe was packed with people at 10 am, which was a good indication that it the food was very good and we were not disappointed.

After a full meal, we left Bozeman and we were back on our way. It wasn’t long before Spencer and Braeden fell asleep, to allow their stomachs to rest after the meal.

As I drove down the highway, there were a few deer along the side of the road and I watched them to make sure that they didn’t want to play a game of chicken with me. Fortunately, they decided to keep eating the grass on the side of the road and not venture in our path.

Braeden woke up in time to see a crop duster as he crossed our highway about 15 feet above the road to make his turn for another pass across the field. Spencer woke up shortly afterward and didn’t see it but he was able to enjoy the last of the plains as we started to enter the foothills of the mountains.

When we reached Missoula, we turned onto highway 12, drove through the town and headed into the Rocky mountains. The scenery was spectacular and as we got closer to Kamiah, we particularly enjoyed the view of the river alongside the road.

We had entered the Pacific Time Zone as we entered Idaho and we arrived in Kamiah shortly after 4 pm (PST).

Unfortunately, we didn’t have the street address for the MDS site and to top it all off, our cell phones didn’t work. Verizon is the only cell service in Kamiah and it didn’t work with our phones, so we couldn’t call, text or email anyone to find out where the site was, with our phones. We stopped at a shopping area and asked one of the ladies at the customer service desk if there was a pay phone nearby and she told us that there was one at the gas station, next door.

There were two phones next to the gas station but both of them were out of order. The young lady behind the counter at the gas station offered the use of her cell phone to make the long distance call so we called the cell number we had on the border crossing letters. There was no answer, so we left a message and asked the young lady for advice regarding a place to get a meal. She recommended the Hub Bar and Grill, which was close by, so we drove there, ordered some supper.

The temperature in Kamiah was 37 C ( 100 F ) and extremely humid when we got there.

While we were at the restaurant, we asked about a pay phone, but they only knew about the one at the gas station, so one of the young ladies offered us the use of her cell phone to make a call. This time I was able to contact the site director, who gave us directions to the site. After we finished our meals, we drove to there and checked in.

The sleeping accommodations were in a building next to the ‘ Life Centre Pentecostal Church ‘ and the kitchen/dining area was in the church. We set up our beds on the cots they had provided and read a bit until the director returned from picking up one of the volunteers from the airport. In total there were 7 volunteers ( all but Braeden were 60’s or 70’s), the site director and the cook.

It wasn’t long afterwards that we were all sound asleep, except for the occasional snoring.

Day 2 – Trip to Idaho

Saturday, August 13, 2016


We left the Rochester hotel at 8 am and continued our journey west after filling the car with gas. We had to keep reminding each other that we needed to fill the tank with gas when we stopped because we had forgotten a few times and we had to quickly find a gas station.

We were fortunate that we had gained an hour when we traveled through Chicago the previous day because that allowed us the time to drive a little longer. With almost 13 hours worth of driving behind us we had just over 20 hours of driving left and a couple of time changes.

Our goal was to drive approximately 12 hours in order to reach Billings, Montanna and find a campsite there before nightfall. The fact that we would travel through another time zone ( from central to mountain time ) should give us enough time to reach our destination before the sun set.

We drove several hours through the plains of Minnesota before we stopped for a nice brunch. We then continued to South Dakota until we reached the badlands, passed the famous “ Wall Drug “ store (that was advertised for 100 miles) and then reached Rapid City.

It was mid afternoon and we decided to have an early supper and when we saw the sign for “ Fuddruckers “, we all agreed that we would like one of their world famous hamburgers. After we ordered our 1/2 pound hamburgers, we sat down in a both that was surrounded by Elvis memorabilia.

Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that Carol Miller, Spencer and Braeden’s grandmother, met Elvis Presley many years ago when he was still quite young and he kissed her on the cheek??? Hmmm….

For those of you who don’t know Spencer, here is a picture of him at one of our stops.


And here is a picture of Braeden.


We left Rapid City with full stomachs and headed towards Wyoming. We crossed the north east part of Wyoming before entering plains and the rolling hills of Montanna. We got to Billings just at dusk, so when we reached the KOA campsite, we had to set up our tents in the dark.

It had been another long day, so shortly after we set up the tents we were asleep.

Day 1 – Trip to Idaho

Friday, August 12, 2016


I had been asked by the youth leader at Orchard Park Bible Church, Sharon Heidebrecht, about arranging and MDS trip for the youth.

On July 2nd I flew to the Yukon Territory tor a couple of weeks as to work on an MDS ( Mennonite Disaster Service ) project to assist with rebuilding a house that had burned down a few years earlier. While I was in the Yukon, I contacted the MDS office and they put me in contact with the Regional Director that was in charge of the organization for a disaster in Kamiah, Idaho, where some homes had been burned down by fires. I was able to arrange for us to go there for a week in August.

When I returned from the Yukon, Sharon had sent out an email to the youth and she had positive responses from two of the youth, Spencer and Braeden Miller. Together with Sharon and her son, Dylan, there were 5 of us ready to go to Idaho.

Unfortunately Sharon became ill, shortly before we were about to leave for our trip to Idaho, so she and Dylan were not able to join us.

Spencer, Braeden and I got together on the Wednesday before our departure and we planned to leave by 8 am Friday morning so that we could make a 3 day trip to Idaho in order to break up the 33 hours of driving into a more relaxing pace.

It was 29 C and muggy when I arrived at the Miller residence, shortly before 8 am and after loading the car, we were on our way.

We reached the border shortly before noon. Armed with our letters from the MDS office stating that we were “ volunteers”, we got into one of the customs lines at the Port Huron border. We each made guesses as to how long it would take us to get through the line and clear customs. Based on the numerous times I have been pulled over and fingerprinted, eye-scanned and put through FBI checks, my guess was 2 hours. We were all wrong.

Getting through the line was a breeze. I had finally picked the right line and we got to see the customs officer in 10 minutes.

Clearing customs went very smoothly, The customs officer was very pleasant and thorough. After giving him our passports, the letter of consent for Braeden and the letters from MDS, he sent us on our way and told us to drive carefully. To my surprise, we didn’t have to get “ paroled “ like the previous 5 times that I had volunteered for MDS in the US.

We left the border and headed West across Michigan. When we reached Flint Michigan, we decided to stop for something to eat. We were listening to Spencer and Braeden’s grandfather, Roger Miller, singing “ King of the Road” when we noticed that the street we were turning off at was called Miller Road. Well, that clinched it; It was definitely “ Miller “ time.

After a bite to eat, we continued southwest towards Chicago and the south end of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, our luck at the border meant that we would hit Gary Indianna and Chicago, Illinois at rush hour. We encountered several slow sections but we never stopped had to stop, just drive slowly.

And then, when we were almost past the outskirts of Chicago, it rained and rained. We encountered more rain than the Niagara area has had all summer. The rain finally subsided as we got near our destination for the night, Rochester, MN. We found a nice hotel and stopped for the night.

The weather was cooler and drier in Minnesota, but not by much.