Though all love originates in God and is for that reason God's own love, yet we are permitted to catch and reflect back that love in such manner that it becomes our love indeed, in much the same way that sunlight reflected from the moon becomes moonlight. - A.W. Tozer

Friday, January 23, 2015

Games and Chit Chat

Making friends with the volunteers has been one of the biggest rewards of our MDS experience. We've met so many interesting people, from all walks of life, and it has been a lot of fun to interact with them at meals, on weekends, and in the evenings. (A big thanks to Mim W. for sending me some of these pictures!)

Sometimes the kids are able to talk people into playing a game with them. This time it was Uno. These lovely ladies had just taught us to play Dutch Blitz as well, and they were so fast! They had to slow down a bit for us beginners, but sometimes forgot in the heat of competition. 

A family from PA brought their marble board last week, and we had a good time learning a new game. Here Aaron plays with two father/son teams and a pastor from another PA church.

Ms. Michelle (whose story is told previously) brought her grandkids over last week. Zaya and Mim were pretty excited to other children! They all played while Ms. Michelle told her story to a new group of volunteers and we discussed the day's work on the houses.

This week we had quite a few young volunteers, and the arm wrestling that began at the boys table spread. Here two young ladies hold out for quite a while, proving that girls are tougher than they look. I especially like how the guys in the back are getting a laugh out of the spectacle. They were too scared to challenge the ladies, though.

Ms. Wilma helped Zaya and Mim have their own little contest. I won't tell you how that one turned out. One of my children would be happy for it to be public knowledge, but the other would just as soon preserve his reputation.

 Everyone enjoyed visiting, and Ms. Wilma taught Zaya a few new riddles to use for stumping other volunteers and generally getting a big laugh.

On the weekends and during the work days we get a chance to visit with the other long term volunteers who stay here at the camp. Ms. Jo works in the office, and Mr. Sam helps his wife, Ms. Pat, and his sister-in-law, Ms. Rachel, in the kitchen. He also does handy man jobs around the site. Last week he helped Zaya and Mim put up the suet bird feeder Zaya got for Christmas. (He asked for it. It wasn't just some weird idea of mine.)
While we haven't actually seen any birds on it, (It's winter. It's cold.) we have high hopes, and keep a careful eye out the dining room window in the mornings and afternoons.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Field Trips Galore

We don't always hang around the camp doing school and cleaning. We've been able to visit several places in the area, sometimes for a few minutes, and once for a whole weekend. Some of the pictures below have been posted previously, but here are all our little side trips in one big post.

After we had been in Maryland for a few weeks, we were invited to stay in the guest home of a new-found volunteer friend in Lewes, DE. It was a fantastic weekend, if a little cold. At nearby Cape Henlopen we saw the actual Atlantic Ocean, as opposed to some part of the Chesapeake Bay, and toured the old WWII gun installations and look-out tower. The town of Lewes itself is a great place to visit, and I would love to go back someday in the summer.

WWII Watchtower
The Atlantic Ocean - Brrr!
An Actual Icebox

In Pocomoke City, MD, we visited a tiny one-room schoolhouse called the Sturgis One Room School. It was used for 37 years by African-American children in Worcester county. We enjoyed walking through a 100 year old school, which had been filled with authentic desks, books and such. There was also a tiny share-cropper's cabin next door with furnishings that might have been found in houses of the time.

Textbooks for a Previous Generation
Mr. Reuben Gave us a Tour

That same day we went out to Chincoteague and Assateague islands. The kids were very excited to see the actual Atlantic Ocean again, and although we saw only the backside of a few distant ponies, it was still neat to just be there in the area, remembering my history lessons as a kid. We visited a nature center, as is our wont, and heard more about water birds than ponies.

Eagle's Have Gigantic Nests!
Pocomoke City also has the Delmarva Discovery Center .  (For my Okie and MO frinds, Delmarva is what this peninsula is called. Can you guess why?) The kids and I went to visit it yesterday, and we were very impressed. They had quite a few displays about the native tribes that inhabited the peninsula before the Europeans, and then a lot of information and well-made displays about the animal life of the area. There's a section about industry through the years, with two model steam ships, a pit where kids can try to tong for oysters, and a little shack for making duck decoys, among other things. NASA's Wallops Island has an exhibit too, with space flight information, model rockets, and some activities.

What Kid Wouldn't Like a Beaver Puppet?
Meet Cornelius
Since we were the only visitors on a brisk Friday morning, we had the place to ourselves, and we were very impressed by all the workers there. Everyone was so friendly, bringing out a snake for the kids to meet (He's a corn snake. His name is Cornelius.), and inviting us into the back room to see all the water-life that would normally be out in the aquarium, but had been moved for remodeling. I think it was even more fun to see them back in their tanks in the work-room than it would've been standing in front of their huge tanks.

There are local things we've enjoyed as well, like the docks near our camp, and the marina downtown, where someone made a Christmas tree out of crab traps.
Wind and Water

If Life Gives you Crab Traps...

There are a lot of historical sites around the area, and when you stop at a historical marker in Maryland, it's generally worth it, like the two churches from 1700 that I mentioned in a previous post. I'm still so impressed by how old this grave is that I'm going to post the picture again.

Died in 1748!

 I'm sure there's a lot left to see, and we hope to take some time on our way back home this spring to visit some of the bigger historic and natural sites out here in "the east", but for now we're enjoying the things in the area and enjoying all the field trip opportunities that I couldn't have imagined a year ago.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

In Which I Learn a Lesson

The Dauntless, Daunted
Most of what we've done so far in this grand adventure has been just that. Selling the house, the furniture, and most of the random things that had cluttered up our lives was actually fun. There was stress involved, but it was more of the "how am I ever going to get this done" variety. The process was, in the end, not as much of a sacrifice as you might think.

Leaving our friends was difficult, and I won't pretend that I don't miss them and the joy they brought to my life, but we have met many new friends as well, and I have never worried about losing friendships with distance. They will be with me forever in one form or another.

Living in an RV (aside from the smell left by previous owners) has been fun. It's like the forts I made when I was a little girl. How can I fit my life and my family into this tiny space? Where should I put this, that or the other thing? It's exciting and a joy. Our family is close-knit, and we like to snuggle, so the tight quarters have not been a hardship.
The Pier by our Camp

Travelling to Maryland was quite a trip, and driving home for Christmas and then back was a little hard on the backside, but the scenery and the opportunities to see the country more than made up for the inconveniences. The road trips have not felt like a sacrifice.

Doing the work with MDS has also been a pleasant experience. Crisfield is a beautiful, friendly town, and our co-volunteers are good people, kind and patient. They work hard during the day, love to sit around and talk or play games in the evenings, and understand what we're doing and why. Aaron's work load is, by far, the most difficult of the four of us, but he enjoys it, waking up happily in the morning, ready to do something that he knows is important for the kingdom of God.
The Frozen Bay

I say all of that not to brag in any way. I say it to explain why, up until this point, I have not felt like we were making much of a sacrifice. Some of my friends and family think we're crazy, and I'm okay with that. I have had many people tell me they can't imagine doing what we have done, and I suppose that's understandable. But for us, the decision was actually easy, and we have not regretted it for a moment. We are off on a grand adventure, and the fact that it is also a momentous life change, or a self-abnegation of any kind, hasn't actually hit us.
Small Boats Harbor, Immobile

I started to get a glimpse of that this week, however, and to see just what a selfish being I really am. That's because this was the first really cold week we have had in Maryland, and I do not like to be cold. I really, really do not like to be cold. My hands are cold, my feet are cold, and my bones are cold when the temperature outside hits a certain level. More than once this week, as we struggled to figure out why our RV heater is so inadequate, I caught myself thinking, "Maybe I should call up the head office and tell them we can't do this after all for the new year. Maybe eight weeks last fall was enough. Maybe we could get re-posted to Florida."

Mim Watches the Ice Bound Sea Gulls
Then it hit me. We are here because we felt like we should make a sacrifice for the sake of others. It is not noble or praiseworthy if you are doing something fun because you enjoy it. Working for others is easy when you're comfortable and having a great time. But being cold is my first real sacrifice, and once I realized that, it was all so much easier to bear. I am not out on the job sites, and I cannot drywall a house, much less hang trusses or pour a foundation, but I am here so that my husband can do those things, and when I am cold, I can remember that we are giving of ourselves because we want to show the love of Christ to the people of Crisfield, MD, not because it's vacation-time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

If Toast Were Flexible, It Would Just Be Bread

The Twins - Unplugged and in Disgrace
When we first arrived in Crisfield last October, there were three words written on the white board in the MDS dining room. They were: Kindness, Flexibility, Patience. Our Project Director at the time, Mr. Alvin, always emphasized those three words, and how important they would be to a successful time for both the short-term and long-term volunteers.

He was right, of course, because when you have this many people coming in and out of an area, expected to pick right up with jobs that may be difficult or new, you must be willing to allow them, and yourself, the freedom to have opinions and do things their own way. We all still work within the parameters of the policies of MDS, and on the job sites things must be done correctly so that the homes of our clients are the best they can be, but here at the camp site we find that every long-term volunteer who comes to spend two weeks, six weeks, or sixteen weeks, comes with their own favorite methods and expectations.

No where is this more true than in the kitchen and dining room. We've now had the opportunity to be fed by four different sets of MDS cooks, and every single one of them has had their own take on how a kitchen should function, where the food will be laid out, and what constitutes a good meal. All of them have been wildly successful as far as I can tell. The food is always excellent, there is always enough of it, and my family is slowly putting on weight.

But - lest I leave you with the impression that it's always easy to change, be flexible, and have patience with your fellow volunteers, let me tell you about the toasters. Now, first you must understand that I really like a good piece of toast. There's something about toasting bread that makes it twice as tasty, and you just can't beat toast for spread-ability. You can put jelly on even the softest slice of bread when you toast it.

Every cook recognizes that the toasters need to exist. They understand that some of us will want toast at any given time during the day. (Most people use them for breakfast, but I'm not so bound by tradition.) However, they absolutely do not agree on where the toasters should be. Every time a new cook arrives, the toasters move. I walk into the bunk-house dining room and look over towards the end of the table, expecting to see the comforting gleam of the two toasting twins, and *gasp*, they're gone!

This begins the great toaster hunt as I carry my forlorn slice of bread around the dining room, prep room, and kitchen looking for the toasters. Once I came in to find that they had been put into a cardboard box! "Why are the toasters in a box?!" I cried in fear and trembling. They were returned to the table, and there they stayed - that is, until the next cook regime came and moved them somewhere else.

The toasters are now in the prep room near the kitchen. They are unplugged, because our cook (Ms. Pat, who is as nice as they come and will, I hope, forgive my youthful rebellion) believes in a socialist kitchen where the government will dispense toast to the deserving. I have started my own revolution by pulling a toaster out and plugging it in at the drinks table every time I want to make a piece of toast. Since I then return it, unplugged and forgotten, to its corner, my revolution affects the running of the regime very little, but I feel like I've held one up for democracy and the fight of the common (wo)man.

I'm trying to be flexible; I really am. Perhaps this struggle is the kind that will bring perseverance and the rewards of a life of sacrifice. Or perhaps I've come to be just a little too dependent on toasted bread for my peace and happiness. Further evaluation is needed, and for that, I will need toast.