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Winters Come and Gone

Since graduating from Berklee College of Music in 1992, Gillian Welch and her music partner, David Rawlings, have written many masterful songs.  Their songs combine lyrics that seem as old as the Appalachian Mountains with sparse guitar chords and unique harmonies that are soul-stirring.  Winter’s Come and Gone, recorded in 1998, is one of those lonesome ballads.


Oh little red bird,  Come to my window sill
Been so lonesome,  Shaking that morning chill

Oh little red bird  Open your mouth and say
Been so lonesome  Just about flown away

So long now I’ve been out   In the rain and snow
But winter’s come and gone,   A little bird told me so


The Rio Grande Valley of Texas is proclaimed as a world class birding destination.  As February comes to a close in the RGV, spring makes an appearance and the migrations of birds become apparent.  Birds whose songs have graced the poorest colonias over the winter begin their move north.  Birds who have spent winter down in South or Central America are also moving northward, much like the human immigrants seeking to cross the border into south Texas.

Our MDS McAllen project is experiencing it’s own version of migration.  The weekly volunteers from Kansas have finished up their term in the RGV and are returning home.  Six of our long term volunteers from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois have finished their month of service and are headed north.  New volunteers will come to take their places, but the impact of the past month’s work will endure.

We held the dedication of our third house on Tuesday in the Indian Hills colonia.  Senor Benito and his family were all smiles as we celebrated the work done by MDS volunteers and the support given by the community.  The crews working on this house were used to seeing the older son getting off the school bus every afternoon.  His energy and joyous smile were a treat for the volunteers to see each day.  To take part in this dedication milestone was beyond a treat. It was more like hearts being filled with emotion.  The final crew leader on the house, Jason, presented the Bible and scripture card game to the family.  Senor Benito repaid Jason’s efforts with a hearty hug of thanks.

House #6, for Ms. Deysi and her 4 children, is being built nearby.  Work there, led by crew leader Jay, consisted of interior electrical and plumbing rough-in and exterior siding installation. Over the weeks our younger volunteers have been very energetic, but the more mature Kansas group this week did not lack in abilities and attitudes that resulted in good progress on this house.  The exterior is ready for painting and the interior will soon be ready to hang and finish drywall.  The new crew leader will find a house in good shape to be completed over our final five weeks.

Likewise, on house #4, there was significant progress made and important milestones reached under the lead of Jonah.  The interior walls and ceiling of the house are fully painted and the vinyl flooring is installed.  The interior trim was painted in advance of being installed.  The HVAC mini-split unit was installed on Thursday by the local contractor.  That progress places this house squarely on the path toward dedication in about two weeks.  A new crew leader will complete those tasks.

The orange house #5 continued to be a beacon of hope in the colonia near Edinburg.  With leadership by Keith, the drywall mudding and finishing was completed with very little need of touch-up.  That result was made possible by the skills of several of the weekly volunteers.  By the end of the week, priming and painting of the interior was basically completed.   This is another house ready for a new crew leader to take through the finishing stages.

In addition to these new-built houses, MDS volunteers completed a new roof erected over the existing concrete block walls of another house.  Long time MDS volunteer, Dennis, came by and donated a day of work.  His expertise ensured the complex angles and bevels needed for a stick-built hip roof were done correctly.  I had expected the job to take all week, but Jason led the crew to finish by the end of Thursday ahead of Friday’s winter rain.

None of the progress of the past four weeks could have been done without the efforts of two departing long term volunteers. Bob, who has been a dedicated crew leader for many years, served as Construction Supervisor for the first time.  He covered a lot of miles during those four weeks.  He brought needed supplies and provided guidance, coaching and encouragement to the crew leaders and weekly volunteers at each of the jobsites.  Dorothy, serving as head cook, provided the fuel for the volunteers to accomplish the work.  Her work on the meals, along with Marilyn, provided much appreciated starts and finishes for each work day.

As we say “Adios” to these co-workers, we four remaining volunteers look forward to new arrivals, much like bird watchers look forward to the arrival of new species of birds as they pass through the RGV.


Heading into the final five weeks of the MDS McAllen project for this season,
Don, Marilyn, Reuben and Carl

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