Day 7 & 8 – Lafayette and Trip Home

Friday, Nov. 25, 2016

Maria went with Gordon, Spencer and myself to Mary’s house, to help with the work there, while Peter and Margaret went to another house to finish up some drywall work.

Spencer and I trimmed the metal roofing to make it fit around the relocated chimney and then installed and caulked the flashing for it.



Maria and Mary painted the wood that had been installed to replace the rotten wood around the bottom of the house.

Gordon removed a window that faced into the garage and replaced it with a door.


Bruce came to help by mid-morning and he relocated some wiring that ran under the window that Gordon had removed.

During the week, Spencer had enjoyed occasionally playing with Mary’s dog, Champion. Spencer would let the Champion bite his glove and then he would pick him up with it.


At 1 pm, Bruce drove Spencer and I back to the campsite so that we could clean up and pack our bags for our trip back home. Spencer and I left Lafayette at 2:15 pm CST (3:15 pm EST) for the 20 1/2 hr drive home. We only stopped for short breaks or to fill the car with gas, however, when we reached Kentucky, we were both very tired so we stopped for an 2-hour rest before continuing on our way. With the stops, it took us an extra 3 hours so that we were back home just before 3 pm on Saturday afternoon.


Spencer and I had a very good time in Lafayette and we were glad that we had made the effort to go. Everyone had been very good to us, the food was outstanding and we had both learned a lot of new things. Although we had taken time to go to Lafayette to help in whatever way we could, we both felt that we had greatly benefitted from the trip and had received more out of it than we had given.

The team for the week is pictured below:


From left to right: Spencer Miller, Joan Dyck, Ralf Hamm, Margaret and Peter Goertzen, Maria and Gordon Martens, Bruce and Marj Weber.

Day 6 – Lafayette

Thursday, Nov. 24, 2016,

Although it was American Thanksgiving, our day started the same as always, making our lunches, having breakfast and devotions, packing our tools on the truck and heading to the job site at Mary’s house.

Peter and I worked on repairing the roof,

while Gordon and Spencer finished building the frame for the fireplace.

In the afternoon we worked together in order to route the chimney stack through the roof and then re-install the the steel roofing.


By the end of the day Gordon and Spencer had the fireplace installed, just before Mary came home from her Thanksgiving lunch. She was very happy to see that she had her fireplace back because it was one of the few things she wanted to keep.

We returned to camp a little early so that we could have Thanksgiving dinner together with the family of one of the flood victims, whose house MDS had repaired a few weeks ago. After an excellent dinner the clients and some of the volunteers played a game of scrabble.

We found out tonight that the large group of Amish men and women from Indiana were not going to be able to come next week because they didn’t have a driver. Bruce asked me Spencer and I if we would be able to stay next week because they would only have 2 short term workers available. I told him that I would see if it would be possible, however, I had made a commitment for Monday back home.

Day 5 – Lafayette

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016,

It was warm enough in the morning that I was able to wear my T-shirt on my walk to the building where we have our meals.

The place where we are staying is part of “Our Saviour’s Church” in Broussard ( ). The church owns a large property and along with the church building, there is a very large hall where we have our meals, many large buildings with sleeping accommodations, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and several large parking lots. The church was able to collect over one million dollars after the flood hit the area and they have partnered with Love Acadiana for the ongoing relief efforts of the flood ( ).

Peter, Gordon, Spencer and I returned to Mary’s house and we worked on finishing the wall we had removed. However, by mid morning, it started to rain forcing us to work indoors. The rain continued for several hours, so we completed some electrical work, put in some insulation and replaced some boards. When the rain finally stopped, Pete and I went back outside, completed building the outside wall and installed the window.


Meanwhile Gard and Spencer continued the work inside. They put up insulation and some drywall and then they built a frame for the platform where the fireplace will be located.


We finished just before dark and headed back to camp through the rush hour traffic. We had a quick shower before supper, which consisted of pirogies and sausages, with ice cream and cake for dessert. After supper, several people spent time finishing the jigsaw puzzle and others played scrabble.

Tomorrow is the American Thanksgiving and all of the stores will be closed, however, we have enough material at to keep us busy all day.

Day 4 – Lafayette

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016

It was warm and sunny when we got up and by mid-morning is was 23 C (73F).

Gordon, Peter, Spencer and I went to Mary’s house and started removing the rotten, termite-infested wood from the wall around the fireplace. We carefully removed the siding so that we could save it for re-installing later.


After that we started taking down the rotten areas of the wall and roof. However it didn’t take us long to figure out that the whole wall was rotten and needed to be replaced, so we removed the fireplace and part of the chimney before remove the remnants of the walls. At one point it became obvious that the walls around the chimney were barely holding on to the roof and it would come down on its own if we touched it anymore, so we cleared the area while Peter and Gordon persuaded the walls to come down. Spencer took a video of the incident, which can be seen at the following link.!Anh-wX1eFJ-8nx5tmMpev7Eflpip






Mary had made us some meat pockets for lunch and after lunch, Amy stopped by with some donuts. It is always a challenge not to put on weight when volunteering for MDS.

In the afternoon, we cleared all of the debris, rebuilt the floor, trimmed the roof and started to rebuild the wall. After a discussion with Mary regarding the fireplace, we decided to place it inside the room. Before we left to go back to the campsite, we had finished the floor and a good deal of the wall.

Margaret and Maria had spent the day at Sean’s house ( the same house they were at on Monday) where they continued to “mud” the walls. They had made good progress.

We arrived back in camp, just in time to take a quick shower before supper. Joan had prepared a roast beef dinner and Maria had baked some pies for dessert. I have yet to go on an MDS mission where I don’t put on weight!

After supper most of the volunteers spent some time exchanging stories, while putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Day 3 – Lafayette

Monday, Nov. 21, 2016

I got up at 6 am and checked the weather outside, only to find that the car was covered in frost. It was just below the freezing point but it warmed up quickly. By early morning it was quite warm and the temperature got as high as 22 C (72F).

Our site director is Bruce Weber and his wife Marj is the office administrator. They are from Kitchener, Ontario. Maria Martens, our cook, is from Steinbach and Joan Dyck, who is from Winnipeg, is the assistant cook. Peter and Margaret Goertzen are long term workers from norther Alberta. Gordon Martens, Maria’s husband, is also a long term worker.

Last night we heard a little about the disaster that devastated the area.

On August 12 and 13 of this year, Lafayette had 2 consecutive days with 10+ inches of rains and then continued to have storms, off and on, for the next several days. The high levels of water were referred to as a ‘ 1000 year rain ‘ and the worst national disaster in the US since hurricane Sandy. Thirteen people lost their lives, 30,000 residents were evacuated and tens of thousands of others were stranded in their homes and vehicles. Its estimated that 146,000 homes were damaged by the flooding, which is unusual because the area is not in a flood plain and most local insurances do not offer flood insurance for that reason.

Spencer and I both had a good nights sleep and I was thinking about the devastation that had affected the area as I got ready for the day.

We made our lunches at 6:45 and had breakfast at 7 am, followed by devotions. We packed the trucks and left for our job sites shortly after 8 am.

Spencer and I joined Peter and Gordon to work at a house of a lady called Mary, although she said her name was actually George, which is what most locals call her. She is a single mother in her mid 50’s, who has 4 children, although they are all grown up and live near by.

Spencer and I started by removing the subfloor in the kitchen and dining room and then removing all of the staple remnants from the floor.


Peter and Gordon worked on some electrical work and worked on securing the foundation.



In the afternoon we removed some of the floor and the walls around the fireplace that were rotten and had been infested with termites.

We packed up around 4:30 pm and headed back to camp, but on our way, we stopped at the house where Joan and Margaret were ” mudding ” the drywall. Peter and Gordon ( sounds like a 60’s singing group), inspected the work, while Margaret and Joan continued to work.


Eventually we all headed back to camp, cleaned up and had supper with Amy who is the case worker for Love Acadia, the organization that arranges the cases for us to work on. She came from New York and she was hired by the Love Acadia organization that was formed by the church where we are staying. After a delicious supper, we spent the evening discussing many different subjects, including the situation in Lafayette and the opportunities available to serve here.

At one point in the evening I received a ‘ 1-800 ‘ phone call, which I ignored until they called again. The gentleman told me that he was calling from the RBC bank and he informed me that my credit card had been compromised. He asked me if I was in New York and after telling him that I was in Louisiana, he informed me that several charges had been made today to my credit card from New York so he was going to, reverse the charges, cancel my card and send a new one to my house. When I checked my credit card online, I found that there were several charges between $25 and $200 pending from New York stores on my credit card. I was glad that he had called and that I had answered the phone.

Day 2 -Trip to Lafayette cont’d

Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016

The temperature was below freezing in Dickson ( -3 C or 28 F ) but we had clear skies and the temperature reached 17 C ( 63 F ) in Louisiana.

We left Dickson at 7 am and headed south along the highway 40. We stopped for gas and “ brunch “ at 10:30, before continuing our journey.


At one point we decided to stop for a break and since we hadn’t seen any signs for a rest stop, I suggested that we just stop at a McDonalds. I mentioned to Spencer that usually when I decide to stop somewhere because I didn’t find a Rest Stop, it was only a few miles down the road. That is exactly what happened to us. When we got back on the highway, we spotted a Rest Stop a few miles from the McDonalds where we had stopped.

Apparently an accident had occurred near Baton Rouge on Highway 10 where we were headed so google maps suggested an alternative route, which we successfully took and it gave us the opportunity to see some of the Louisiana countryside.

As we drove farther south and the weather got warmer, the autumn colours began to disappear and we started to see some palm trees.

We stopped for a bite to eat in Lafayette and we arrived at the campsite shortly after 7 pm. We put our bags into our dorm and then attended orientation. We visited for a little while, before we headed to our rooms for the night.

Day 1 – Trip to Lafayette, LA

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016

I have embarked on a new short adventure.

I had started volunteering in 2005 with Mennonite Disaster Service ( MDS for short ) during the American Thanksgiving because I had found out that it was during this week that they had the hardest time getting volunteers, due to the holiday.

After serving for 6 weeks at 3 different locations this summer, I wasn’t planning on volunteering for disaster service again this year until I found out a month ago that no one had volunteered to serve in Lafayette, Louisianna during the American Thanksgiving week, so I decided to volunteer. I sent out an email letting some people know that I was going and Spencer Miller contacted me to express an interest in going.

At 7 am on Saturday morning, Spencer and I left Niagara on the Lake and headed for Louisiana. We reached the border at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo around 8 am and after presenting our passports and reference letters to the guard, he directed us to the immigration office. During our 20 minute wait in the immigration office, a guard entered the room with a drug sniffing dog and proceeded to walk past all of the chairs in the waiting room. The dog stopped at a seat behind me which made me question if there was anything I had that was attracting his attention. Eventually they gave up and left and it wasn’t long afterwards that we were called forward by a border guard named Aakil, who entered our information into the computer and sent us on our way.

The weather was a cool 10 C (50 F) when we left home but it quickly cooled down even further to 3 C (37 F) and it fluctuated between 0 C (32 F) and 6 C (43 F) during the day as we headed south-west. We had periods of rain, snow and sleet in Ohio but it was mainly dry, cool and overcast in New York, Kentucky and Tennessee. With a change in the Louisville area to Central Time, we eventually stopped for the night in Dickson, Tennessee at 8:30 pm. Just before we stopped for the night, we caught the sunset through the clouds at our last rest stop.


We had stopped a couple of times during the trip for a bite to eat and we had been eating some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and an assorted nut mixture that we had brought along, so we opted to skip supper and get some much needed rest. It is a 9 hour drive from Dickson to our final destination and we wanted to leave by 7 am to make sure that we were there in time for orientation at 7 pm.