My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I hit snooze. It was still dark outside and I wondered how on earth I would get these teenage girls up and out the door by 5:45 a.m. I flipped on the light after warning them with a 3-2-1 count and then I ran to get in line for the bathroom we shared with about 20 other females in the area to which we’d been assigned in a church.
Thankfully, I had to remind them only once to get up. They knew they had to get to breakfast in time to eat and pack their lunches before heading out to our job sites. The earlier we left, the sooner we could finish before temperatures became unbearable.
This was our morning routine during a youth mission trip to McColl, South Carolina, where about 20 adults and 60 teenagers volunteered to repair broken homes and, while doing so, also fix some broken hearts.
This trip, taken in late June, was my first mission trip with my two younger daughters, who are 16 and 14. I had received approval to use Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor fund to assist with the trip; the fund provided extra paid vacation days, as well as some grant money to use toward travel expenses.
After reading stories from co-workers who did mission work and learning how much they helped others beyond what we do during our typical work days, I wanted to do the same thing.
I am not what you would call a “skilled worker” when it comes to any kind of home repair. I thought maybe I could stay behind to prepare meals or oversee teens doing some painting.
I was assigned to put a metal roof on a double-wide trailer for an older woman named Mary. My team did not actually include my daughters, but consisted of a jewelry-store owner, a biochemist and several other teenagers. I didn’t know any of them before that week and none of us had ever done roofing.
We basically learned about roofing and one another as the week went on. And to make the situation even more challenging, Mary had a plumbing problem so her water had been shut off. We borrowed water from a neighbor’s hose as we needed it.
As the week progressed and temperatures rose, we became roofers. We shared lunches, tools, stories and sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. We joked that we would start our own roofing company when we got back to Pennsylvania called Close Enough Roofing because as the day wore on, the measuring tape became a little more subjective.
We never got to meet our homeowner because even though we arrived between 6 and 6:30 each morning, she was already at work. She left her back door unlocked for us to go inside—where she had her window air conditioning units turned on full power for us. It felt like heaven when we stepped inside to take a break.
On our last day we had to request help from another group that had finished a different roofing project close by. Our roof was 80% covered in metal at that point and the heat index had risen to 104 by the afternoon. Moreover, we had reached a point on the roof where the final section required more-extensive repair than simply screwing on metal panels to the fascia boards we had installed. We needed someone with a little more roofing experience.
About 2 p.m., the other group showed up—and its leader happened also to be a professional roofer. It was like seeing the cavalry ride in! The group dropped off additional volunteers to stay with us and because leaders knew we had already put in a full day on a hot metal roof, they yelled up to our group, asking who wanted to leave.
Nobody left. The mission was too important.
We had become too invested in our team and that roof to abandon each other for the showers, dinner and air mattresses awaiting us at the air-conditioned church. We would work until dark if we needed to but we weren’t leaving until the roof was finished. Thankfully, about 10 hours after we had arrived, we pulled out of Mary’s driveway, having completed the project in time to be back for dinner.
We never did get to meet Mary, but I did get to meet her sister during our last night there. She was a member of the church that hosted us and she had added Mary’s name to the list of those in need of some much-needed home repair.
She hugged me and cried, telling me we were an answer to her prayers. I thought to myself, God is quite creative. He picked me, a jewelry-store owner, a biochemist and some compassionate teenagers from Pennsylvania to answer the prayers of a dear older woman in South Carolina. And because of that strange, but perfectly orchestrated encounter, my life has been changed, too!
Many of the people our group helped that week could not understand why we would take a week to travel 10 hours to help their community. I couldn’t help but wonder why wouldn’t we do it?
We certainly gained as much as we gave that week: Fresh perspectives, friendships and a better understanding of God’s faithfulness.
I can’t wait to return next year.
By Melissa Kindall
Social Media and Special Communications Project Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations
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