April 24, 2023
“A great opportunity to help people who have gone through so much”
Carol and Richard Bergman reflect on serving in Kentucky with Mennonite Disaster Service
Crooked roads, crooked walls, crooked ceilings, too—as they worked with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) installing drywall in a home in Breathitt County, Kentucky, Carol and Richard Bergman of Grunthal, Man. realized nothing was quite straight.
“We were working on an old house, so the walls weren’t straight, the ceiling wasn’t straight,” said Richard, 60, who served as a crew leader at the project. “There were some challenges with the drywall.”
As they met the challenges in repairing houses damaged by a July 2022 flood, the Bergmans were also able to meet people recovering from the disaster that hit the rugged and mountainous eastern part of that state.
“I think the people are amazing,” said Carol, 56, who was an assistant cook with MDS. “They’re in such good spirits. They are welcoming us and are positive about the future.”
MDS helps people recover from disasters in the U.S. and Canada. Most people serve with the organization for a week. As substitute teachers, the Bergmans were able to take more time to serve with MDS for a month as leadership volunteers.
“It was nice to get to know the different volunteers,” said Richard of the longer time they spent at the project.
At the same time the couple, who are members of the Elim Mennonite Church in Grunthal, were there long enough to see how the recovery progressed over time.
“We were happy to be part of the effort to help a number of families get back into their homes,” he said. “It’s something that we could do to show our gratitude and help people who are in a hard time right now.”
Carol added that she has a new perspective on how people are coping with the loss of their homes.
“It teaches me that we’re all human but that we have a great God who helps us through all kinds of trials.”
— Carol Bergman
“Would I be as gracious if I lost my home? I don’t know,” she said. “It teaches me that we’re all human but that we have a great God who helps us through all kinds of trials.”
The Bergman’s service in Breathitt County is the fourth time Richard has served with MDS, and the third time for Carol.
“We’re both volunteer minded,” she said of why they do it. “It’s a great opportunity to help people who have gone through so much.”
Serving with MDS also “enriches our lives,” she said, noting they have made many new friends from across North America. “I’m a changed person because I served with MDS.”
Added Richard: “We have it pretty good, so it’s a way for us to give back,” he said. “It’s always good to give someone else a leg up when they need some help.”
At the same time, he has found a deeper meaning for the popular phrase “pay it forward.”
“We’re doing a good deed, and we just hope that, if this ever happens to us, or to our home, that people would do the same for us,” he shared.
MDS needs more people with construction skills who can serve for longer terms as leadership volunteers as project directors, crew leaders, office managers and cooks. To learn more, visit www.mds.org/volunteer-canada.
Susan Kim, MDS writer, with files from John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications.