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The Lord God Made Them All

At an MDS project, most weeks are a mix of events and emotions that range from the very best to very difficult.  This week at the McAllen MDS project I had the joy of signing the job card to start a new house, our 5th house for this year.  In the process of doing that, I also had the sobering experience of being face to face with the remains of the structure we were replacing.  It was especially sobering when I turned in a circle to look at other nearby homes.  Many of those structures where people are still living are hardly any better.

In the 1800’s it seems God blessed Ireland, Wales and Scotland with an abundance of gifted poets and hymn writers.  Part of the reason seems that the more wealthy classes had ample education and time resources to devote themselves to poetry and hymn writing. Cecil Frances Alexander was one such person.   Of her many poems, All Things Bright and Beautiful is likely the most well known.


All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.


At the locations of the new houses started by MDS in the Rio Grande Valley, these words serve as a touchstone as we encounter the range of questionable structures in the colonias.  We can remember that God made all of the people in our range of vision.  We believe God loves them and wishes only good things for them.

And then we hear a bird singing loud and bright.  If we listen well, we can hear an answering call.   At our 4th house, western kingbirds, red bellied woodpeckers, mourning doves, inca doves, sparrows, warblers and big black grackles often occupy the wire lines and treetops of that colonia.  At house #2, bright red cardinals have made appearances in the mesquite trees around the edge of the property.  Perhaps God is using these jewels of His creation to encourage us in the work, rather than letting us focus on the stray dogs and piles of discarded items.

The cadre of short term volunteers from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Wisconsin arrived to be directed by leaders from Virginia, Pennsylvania and Nebraska.  In this third week of these leaders working together, they made up good plans and accomplished most of the goals for the week.

At house #1, there were bright and beautiful activities taking place inside the house.  Floor tiles were laid. Interior wall painting was completed.  Trim, doors and cabinets were painted.  Like jeweled crowns, ceiling fan/light fixtures were installed in the bedrooms and living room.  The HVAC system was installed and we are looking forward to completion of this house next week.  This was Cody’s final week as crew leader on the house. He will not get to oversee the final steps of completion, but we appreciated the three weeks he was able to give to McAllen MDS on short notice.

At house #2, the dreaded “mudding phase” was completed due to diligent work and a couple of the Wisconsin volunteers being full-time drywall finishers.  Crew leader Mike is rarely without a smile, but the grin on his face as the crew moved from drywall finishing to painting was just a little brighter and more broad.  By the end of the week, this house also had some ceiling fan/light fixtures installed and delivery of cabinets, interior trim and doors was expected.

At house #3, crew leader Andrew was also pleased to have drywall finishing skills among the crew.  In its fifth week of work, the house is right on schedule.   From the outside, the pace of work appears to have slowed, but inside the progress has been substantial.

At house #4, we are building the smallest house of this year, for a couple who will be living next door to their children.  Crew leader Herb directed the crew to use their time wisely indoors on the colder, rainy days and outside on the bright and beautiful days of this past week.  The result was a house with all the exterior trim and siding installed, while the electrical and plumbing systems were well on their way toward completion.  This is the house with the most birds singing, so perhaps that chorus helped to encourage the crew.

As we look back on the three weeks of work in January, we see lots of progress in the houses, and enjoy a record of no injuries.  Those results make the leadership of Construction Supervisor Leroy appear to be wise and wonderful, and we know the Lord God made that all happen.

During those three weeks, Doreen and Edith managed three positive Covid tests and one volunteer with a serious flu bug.  Their work and discipline ensured the remainder of our volunteers stayed healthy.  In the process of managing that, they kept the paperwork and accounting up to date, and in general ensured that the camp was clean, well supplied and a joyous place to be.

We were all sorry to see Ellen and Reba end their run as cooks. They used a lot of imagination in the process of preparing and presenting excellent meals.  They successfully tried some things I’d never seen on an MDS project.  I also observed some of their recipes being printed and shared with several admirers. 


On Friday evening, after our final meal for that combination of long term volunteers, we lingered and shared stories about the past three weeks.  Before long, the stories reached back several years to memorable events, great and small, as well as wonderful and not so wonderful.  As we shared those stories, the respect and friendship developed over the three weeks was cemented in place.  I am not a big Rodney Atkins fan, but the chorus from one of his songs goes a long way in explaining those relationships.


But these are my people, this is where I come from

We are giving this life everything we got and then some

It ain’t always pretty, but it’s real

It’s the way we were made, wouldn’t have it any other way

These are my people.


From the McAllen MDS project in Weslaco, Texas
Ellen, Reba, Leroy, Doreen, Mike, Edith, Cody, Andrew, Carl

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