Saturday, July 4, 2009

Towel Camp Journal - Days 5 and 6

Twelve members of our congregation are on a trip to North Carolina to work on the homes of those in need. It's called Towel Camp. I thought you might like a brief run-down of each day as it happens. You’ll be able to follow along - and I might even be able to send a photo each day. Hope you enjoy it.

Days 5 and 6:

I didn’t get this out yesterday morning because I overslept. That happens with late nights.

On Thursday, our last work day, we finished our jobs. Well, we got as far as we could. Some work crews finished within an hour or two because their jobs were specific and limited. Others finished early because there was so much to do that it would take another camp to even scratch the surface.

Our work site is in the second category. But even the limited job we were supposed to finish, we couldn’t. Our task for the day, now that we had removed the playground, moved a shed and dug a dozen postholes into which we had planted the posts, was to finish a retaining wall and to pressure wash a wheelchair ramp, then paint it with no-skid paint.

While half the crew worked on the wall, I took three others to pressure wash. We traded off after three or four boards, and it was tougher than it looked. Early in the process, our group realized that the highest pressure nozzle was not necessary -- it cut patterns into the wood. The camp leader reminded us that the water pressure was enough to cut off fingers if we weren’t careful so we were careful and put on a lower pressure nozzle. Still the going was slow. But the end of the work day, we had a wall and a clean ramp, but had not painted. That will have to wait for the next camp.

The next morning, -- Friday -- we let everyone sleep in. It was our visiting day where we got to look at each others’ sites and meet the people we were helping. The first visit was to a 98-year-old woman for whom the campers had fixed her bathroom to make it more accessible. Her 81-year-old son met us as we arrived, and when we met her, she reminded us that she could still “whoop” her son if he needed it.

Then we went to a house we had visited the year before, where two older women lived. One of them had been taken to the hospital the previous day, and was in the middle of surgery while we visited, so it was a more sober time than they had anticipated, but the other woman was hopeful and in good spirits. The work there had been more general but included repairing a roof.

Our third visit was to the women’s shelter, the only place where we did not get to meet any of the residents. I’ve described that job already. Finally, we went to the home of another woman who lived in a tin-roof house that rested on cinder blocks. She was delighted in the way the roof was fixed and a new back stairway was built.

After the visits, we went to Steele Creek Park for swimming and a picnic. When we pulled in, it became apparent that the 4th of July weekend is not the best time to go swimming -- it was packed! Pulling in with three large vans was tight parking. To make matters more complicated, every three feet little children pointed at us and shouted, “Look Mom, the Scooby Doo van!” If you have not seen the van we bring down each year, it’s painted to look like the “Mystery Machine” on the cartoon, “Scooby Doo.”

We amazingly found a group of tables to sit at, but after lunch nobody wanted to face the crowds at the diving board, so one group settled for mini-golf while another went up creek and found a set of large rocks to lie down on while they waded. In the end, we were all ready to go back by 3:00 pm.

After showers and the mandatory visit to the ice cream shop, the campers simply spent their time together realizing that it was their last night. They clung to each other like long lost twins who were being separated again. At dinner, the eyes started tearing up. At the closing eucharist, there were tears. I am pround of one of my team members, however, for helping me with the sermon. She had to let me yell at her for getting it all wrong -- turns out she was a great actress!

After the eucharist in which we all received actual towels as a reminder of the servanthood Christ calls us to, it was packing time. As I write this, it is nearly 5:30 am on Saturday, and I am minutes away from waking the campers up to get them on their ways. It is bitter sweet because the camp was very good, the kids fell in love with each other -- and now they will part, hoping to see each other again some day. Probably at camp. Either way, they go with a renewed sense of the joy of service.