Five MDS volunteer couples, along with the homeowners, celebrated the repair of a flood-damaged home with a Home Dedication Service in Pasco County, FL, on Jan. 27. Homeowners, Mrs. Myrna and Mr. Gordon, were thrilled to be back in their home after extensive wall, electrical and floor repair was completed by the volunteers.
In August 2015 hundreds of Pasco County residents were evacuated after several days of severe storms crashed the Western Florida coast. The Anclote River was rising and after days of flooding, several hundred homes received major damage and 46 homes were destroyed. MDS volunteers are repairing and rebuilding homes and restoring hope to disaster survivors.
At the home dedication, Mrs. Myrna and Mr. Gordon were presented with a prayer shawl and a quilted wall hanging. Mrs. Myrna commented that they volunteers not only repaired their home, but “They put our lives back together.”
The project in Pasco County is a RV project. Volunteers live in their own RVs and work together on repair projects.
MDS Volunteers are also rebuilding after floods in Detroit, Michigan; Jamestown, Colorado, Andrews, South Carolina, and Bastrop, Texas (two projects). In Pateros, Washington, the volunteers are rebuilding after wild fire.
A bridge building project is open in Lincoln County, West Virginia. At this project MDS volunteers are rebuilding private bridges that were damaged or destroyed by flood waters in the spring of 2015.
MDS Project Directors deeply rooted in service.
By Susan Kim
When Peter Thiessen was a teenager, one of his neighbors, a farmer, was injured so badly he couldn’t do the harvest. “It was Halloween night,” recalled Peter, “and my father got all the guys in the community together and we worked for that farmer all through the night.”
Growing up in Manitoba, Peter’s family and his neighbors consistently showed him what it meant to live a life that was focused on helping others.
“Where does service find its beginnings?” Peter reflected. “My father demonstrated how we are supposed to respond to our neighbors. We were there through the night with tractors and cultivators.”
Now, Peter and his wife, Susan, who live in Okotoks, Alberta, near Calgary, traveled south to the West Virginia, to serve as Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) project directors, helping to organize and support volunteer teams as they rebuild “driveway bridges” in the mountainous state.
This year, repeat flooding has wiped out more than 300 driveway bridges, or also known as private access bridges, that are often the only way for people to come and go from their homes.
Susan, who manages the project office set up in the Duval Volunteer Fire Department in nearby Griffithsville, also cooks meals for the volunteer groups. She and Peter live in an RV, parked beside the fire station, while volunteers sleep in the fire station.
Susan also began a life of service at a very young age. “When I was in 12th grade, I went to South Dakota and helped with some mucking out after flooding there. That was my first introduction to MDS, though of course I heard about MDS growing up in Manitoba.”
The bridge project is the first bridge that the Thiessens have built with MDS and, though Peter had been involved with bridge-building in his professional life, the process with MDS held unique collaboration and logistics.
One of the biggest challenges, said Peter, is knowing about the many bridges in the state waiting for repairs.
“It can be overwhelming,” he said. “I have to say to myself: one bridge at a time. We have to think that way.”
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