April 12, 2023
RVing a way of life for retired Ohio couple
Andy and Maureen Hudak serving in Grand Isle, La. with MDS RV program
For Andy and Maureen Hudak of Wadsworth, Ohio, serving with the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Recreational Vehicle (RV) program isn’t just something to do in the winter—it’s a way of life.
The retired couple, members of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Wadsworth, live year-round in their 20-foot Grand Design Imagine trailer.
From January to March, they were in Grand Isle, Louisiana with the MDS RV program. Grand Isle is the state’s o
“We sold our house and downsized in 2016,” said Maureen, 67. “It felt like what we were being called to do.”
At first, the couple thought they might build a smaller house to replace their former four- bedroom home. But then they decided to make the RV their permanent residence.
“We thought it would be better to get rid of our stuff, instead of just moving it somewhere else,” said Maureen, a retired nurse, citing their service trips to countries in South and Central America as inspiration.
“We had spent so much time with people who had so little, and yet they were happy,” she said. “We thought we could be happy with less stuff, too, instead of sticking it up in the attic and never looking at it again.”
Doing clean-up work following disasters also left an impression. “Hauling all that stuff out of people’s homes and putting it in piles on the curb showed how everything could be gone in an instant,” she said.
They sold almost all their belongings, except for a few family heirlooms given to their children, and hit the road to do service.
In winter, they serve with the MDS RV program; the other months they do things like serve at summer camps, as campground hosts, at a Catholic shrine closer to their home base, and spend time with family.
Mail goes to a friend’s house in Ohio, where they also stay when not serving.
“We enjoy a simple style of life,” said Andy, who retired from owning his own landscaping business. “We unburdened ourselves of our possessions. It’s hard for some to understand, but it works for us.”
They heard about MDS while doing service with another organization. “We researched it and decided it would be for us,” said Maureen, adding this is their third time with MDS—the other two times were in Texas and Florida.
One thing they especially enjoy are the friendships they make with other volunteers.
“These people are kindred spirits, fellow Christians who are committed to serving and helping others,” said Andy. “Who wouldn’t want to hang out with people like that?” he asked.
They didn’t know much about Mennonites before serving with MDS, they note. “We are learning about the Mennonite faith vicariously, as we work and visit with other volunteers,” he said.
They also enjoy the more relaxed pace of the RV program; volunteers work four days a week, six hours a day and mostly do lighter repair work.
It’s also good to be in the sun and warmer weather in winter, they acknowledge; living right beside the beach on the Gulf of Mexico is a bonus, too.
“It’s great to be able to do this kind of work to help others at this age in life and be close to the ocean,” said Maureen. “It’s also great to be in the sunshine and see the blue sky.”
“It’s also nice to have a guaranteed spot for their RV through MDS, Andy said. “It’s getting really crowded in the RV sector. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to stay.”
As for the future, “we’ll keep going as long as we have health,” he said. “We keep putting our faith and trust in God’s providence. So far, The Lord has made it easy for us, affirming our decision.”
The MDS RV program is designed for older adults who want to serve in the southern U.S. during the winter. More laid-back in nature than traditional projects, volunteers work four days a week, six hours a day, usually on lighter repair projects. The term of service is one month or more. Hookups are provided in local campgrounds.
For more information about the MDS RV program, visit https://mdsorg.wpenginepowered.com/rv-volunteer
John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications