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When groups travel to an MDS project location, they often bring along copies of their favorite song books. The Heartland Hymns collection has been in circulation for many years and is seen often. Mountain Laurel is a favorite of many groups, and I am sure we will see newer collections in the years ahead.

Last week the short term volunteers at the Port Isabel project were a group of Amish young men from Pennsylvania.  We welcomed them with much anticipation due their high marks in the skills rating system MDS uses.  We were expecting to get a lot of work done.  What we did not anticipate is that these 8 men like to sing and brought their copies of Heartland Hymns.  This resulted in two things happening this week.  One was that the progress on our two new houses was amazingly good.  The second was that our song-filled morning devotions were amazingly good.

Each morning a different person signed up to select songs for the devotion. On Friday morning, the man in charge started with a song called, “Flowers in Spring.”  I had never heard the song, but liked it and wanted to know more about it.  I was pleased to see it was written by Robert D. Toews in 1985.  Toews has several songs in the collection, including “Love Will Bring Us All Together,” one of our favorites.  I’ve found very little information about Mr. Toews, except that he lives in Michigan and appears to be over eighty years old.  “Flowers of Spring” was a great song choice for the second day of spring, after two days of intermittent rain.


Now the sun is shining so bright, Everything is turning out right.

Love is shining, now I can smile, Gladly walking more than one mile.


Spring is blooming with a new start, Warm winds blowing, melting my heart.

Love is flowing, singing a song.  Love forgives and overcomes wrong.


Praise to the Lord for flowers in Spring, Praise to the Lord for every good thing.

We will sing our troubles away, Thank you Lord, for every good day.

If you’ve read many of these reports, you know that we’ve had some difficult stretches of days this year.  Progress has been slow during many weeks, with several things out of our control.  Yet, the days and weeks of great progress press the memories of those most difficult days to the back of our mind.


Spring is Love growing stronger each day, Roots grow deeper; learning to pray.

Reaching out to others in need, Sharing, Caring, Sowing good seed.

These volunteers were like so many before them, in that they never hesitated to do whatever was needed. They were walking the proverbial second mile.  We started the week with both houses being blank palettes since there was only primer on all of the walls and ceilings.  This group of men, guided by their crew leaders, applied the brush strokes of color on the walls, installed the dark wood-grained vinyl flooring, set the varnished oak cabinets in place, and wired up dozens of receptacles and switches capped off with bright white cover plates.  The lilac and green painted exteriors no longer contain only dull bare studs, batts of fiberglass insulation and gray gypsum boards.  Instead the bright exteriors prepare the visitor to enter the beautiful homes that are being assembled inside the strong exteriors.

We celebrated on Saturday by visiting the Texas Onion Festival in Weslaco, Texas, where MDS had been housed two years ago.  The onion is the official state vegetable of Texas, so an annual festival is held where the “Texas 1015” onion was developed.  The festival was 4 blocks long and three blocks wide including live music, onion eating contests, many food vendors, an antique car show, and dancing horses.  The group of Amish were also there enjoying the sights and tastes of a Rio Grande Valley fiesta. What A Good Day!


Living, giving, sharing a smile, Hearts rejoicing after a trial;

Storms appear, then vanish away, Jesus loves me, what a good day!


It is hard to explain the difference the past two and one-half weeks have made. From dejected and frustrated over slow progress, drenched in cold rain, we’ve turned the calendar page to springtime.  The two houses have bloomed in the energy and warm hearts of the workers.  It may sound corny, but they look like big, bright Easter baskets, amid some houses in the neighborhood that still show the effects of the May 2023 tornado.

We have only one full week of volunteers left, plus an extra week with a small team to finish punch lists and pack-up the gear at our base.  Instead of being dejected, my heart feels like the storms have vanished and we will certainly complete and dedicate these two new houses.

From the Port Isabel MDS project in Cameron County, Texas

Inko, Jack, Jim, Andrew, Jason, Laura, Pauline, Ruthi, and Carl

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