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Some places must have a special energy in the soil or water that creates amazing songwriters and singers.   The mountains and tidelands of North Carolina is one of those places.  It is the home of many great musicians and songwriters, like the The Avett Brothers’ of Mount Pleasant.  They create wonderful sibling harmonies and well crafted lyrics, such as in “Salvation”

And I would give up everything      And if you were to come up clean
And see you shine so bright in a world of woe    And they may pay us off in fame
But that is not why we came           And if it compromises truth then we will go

In the Rio Grande Valley the volunteers of the MDS McAllen project are often asked, or even ask themselves, about the reason they have traveled to this extreme southern tip of Texas.  Each person has their own reasons.  Each has given up something.  Each is hoping to leave a little brightness in the RGV.  Each has heard commendations or possibly received a bit of fame to acknowledge their efforts.  But as the song states, “that is not why we came”

The volunteers in South Texas for the past week were from Parkview Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania.   It was a unique group, in that the ages ranged from 15 to mid-60’s.  Several fathers traveled down with teenage and young adult children.  A couple of grandparents were also in the mix.  “Grandpa” helped to organize the trip and travel arrangements.  “Grandma” provided needed and appreciated assistance to Marilyn, our head cook.  The mix of building experience and youthful energy made for a powerful dynamic and all of the job sites achieved outstanding progress.

Our repair jobs made the greatest strides forward in my opinion.  The newest job, in Monte Alto, got off to a great start on Monday with old roofing stripped off, over a dozen repairs made to the roof sheathing and a long portion of missing eave and rafter ends rebuilt.  The crew finished their week with a completed roof job and three quarters of the siding replaced, along with several termite damaged framing members replaced.  They also ended the week with a very happy client whose outlook and hope was as high as the peak of the new roof.

Our other repair job, in Hargill, wound up the week with much of the interior drywall replaced, a major structural repair completed, and attractive texturing applied over about half of the interior.  As is often the case, the clients, who continue to live in the house while work is underway, were much more likely to smile and engage with MDS volunteers at the end of the week than they did at the start of the work.

At the new house #7, being completed in the same little town, the PA volunteers provided skills and determination to complete the taping and mudding of the interior.  It is ready for painting, ceiling texturing and then installation of lovely, donated oak flooring.  Front and rear entry landings were completed, and the client was looking forward to sitting on the front deck to enjoy a morning coffee on her days off from work.

The ARISE Community organization of Hargill again invited all the MDS volunteers to lunch on Thursday.  They have been very faithful in expressing their collective thanks with lunches of Mexican specialties.  Nobody turns down these good meals.

Over in the Indian Hills colonia, the crew at our house #6 really changed the interior.  The ceilings and walls got primer and lovely yellow paint.  More primer and paint was applied to trim to be used around windows and doors, and as baseboards.  Not wanting the floor to be left out, the crew managed to clean, sand, level and apply glue to the sub-floor.  The installation of vinyl tiles capped off the work on Friday.  Spring break made it possible for three children of the client family to be at the house almost every day.  They cleaned up the yard and gathered construction debris into the dump trailer for disposal.  Even the youngest helped by wiping the newly installed floor tiles.  Our volunteers were just a little older than the client children and both were blessed by the exchange of “girl talk” about bedroom furniture arrangements.

Houses #4 and #5 were the subject of some efforts to clear up final punch list items.  It was wonderful to see Sra. Maura had been discharged from the hospital.  We found her sitting in the sun on her front porch every day.

The Parkview group experienced an RGV Rodeo on Friday night to cap off their week.  The Avett Brothers provided the narrative for their flight home on Saturday.

We came for salvation                   We came for family

We came for all that’s good,       that’s how we’ll walk away

We came to break the bad           We came to cheer the sad

We came to leave behind the world a better way


That is really what all MDS volunteers are here for.  It is easy to see the poverty and inferior housing many people have in the RGV.  We cannot “fix” everything.  However, we can leave behind some local families in a better way.   As we have two remaining weeks to continue that work, we pray that we will walk away with all that’s good accomplished.


From the MDS McAllen project in Hidalgo County, Texas

Marilyn, Janey, Audrey, Neil, Nevin, Don and Carl

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