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Blue Lines

On a night back about 1975, Laura and I enjoyed listening to music by Steve Fromholtz, under the stars at Waterloo Park near downtown Austin.  Over several decades, Steve produced a wealth of songs that resulted in him being named the “Poet Laureate of Texas” for 2007.

“Blue Lines on White Linen” is a lament for having failed to write letters to the love of his life.  Yes, before email or texting, writing letters by hand on lined, linen stationery was a thing.

Blue lines on white linen is all that I write you.

I pray that they find you, and hope they delight you

In recent weeks at the McAllen MDS project, we’ve been preoccupied with blue lines.  When Covid tests are administered, the blue line on the test strip indicates the test is working.  If there is only a blue line, the test has found no Covid virus.   We welcome blue lines.

Last week, a pink line showed that an arriving short-term volunteer tested positive for the Covid virus.  That triggered the protocol MDS has developed, including 5 days of quarantine.  All others tested negative with only blue lines being visible.  The week could go on, with some disappointment, but with plenty of volunteers to do the work.

Those volunteers included people from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Virginia.  The Covid protocols mandated that volunteers eat at tables with people with whom they traveled to get to McAllen.   Travel to work sites and most other activities with people from other origins would be done while wearing masks.  The protocols must have worked, because at the end of the week, the quarantined person, plus 12 other volunteers staying over for the next week all tested negative.  We really like those blue lines!

In the midst of concerns about Covid and blue lines on white test strips, we actually got a lot of work done.  We also enjoyed many of the traditional benefits of being on an MDS site.  With our kitchen staff back at full capacity, the variety and excellence of meals was impressive.  A couple of the meal presentations prompted photos and lots of oohs and even applause.  We also were determined to have some fun with volleyball outside and card games inside when the cold and rain drove volunteers to abandon volleyball.

A milestone on the work front was starting house #4.  Foundation blocks were measured out, placed and leveled to support the new house.  Floor beams and joists were installed, then the sub-floor was secured.  This provided a place to build the trusses for the house. Then work on the walls started….  And that was all on the 1st day and then the crew rested.  By the end of the week, the house was “dried-in” with shingles on the roof and the door and windows in-place.  The crew was treated to a Friday lunch of chicken mole, with rice and beans.

House #3 also passed a major milestone and in near record time.  The electrical and plumbing rough-in was installed and tested, so insulation and most of the drywall was put in place.  Those are pretty simple sentences that cover a LOT of complicated hard work.   Our client, Senor  Benito, is a happy man, seeing the progress on the new home.

House #2 was the site of work by the “mudders” this week.  They appreciated the good job of hanging drywall that was done last week.  Again, not a lot of words to describe the task, but by the end of the week, many of the joints were ready for final sanding and finishing.  The crew leader was asking about interior paint for the volunteers next week.

House #1 also had a significant set of tasks completed this week.  The women from Nebraska sanded and wiped down the finished drywall and began applying interior paint.  White ceiling paint and creamy yellow wall paint provided the visual proof of our first house nearing completion.

On Wednesday afternoon, the volunteers heard and participated in an education session on the border issues of the Rio Grande Valley.  A bit of history of this area and reminders of immigration stories that date to biblical days was presented by 4 different people.  The session increased our understanding of the situation along the Texas-Mexico border.

In the midst of concerns over Covid infections and test results, it is a blessing to see that the commitment of our volunteers remains as strong as ever.  The dynamics of our meal times and evening activities is different from pre-March 2020.  The awareness of the needs of our clients has not changed.  The opportunity to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus for these families, as few as they might be, is extremely satisfying.  May we continue to have the health, energy, skills and wisdom to fulfill that task.


From MDS McAllen in Hidalgo County, Texas
Doreen, Leroy, Edith, Mike, Andrew, Ellen, Reba, Cody and Carl

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