close up of volunteers smiling

— Photo by Ben Stahler

This was my first mission trip.  It began as a group of 9-10 adults, but slowly the group was reduced to five. We gathered and discussed whether or not we'd be effective and decided to "stay the course" and travel to the Jersey Shore.

Our drive was about 12 hours and everyone took a turn at the wheel. We were greeted by the pastor and several volunteers when we arrived.  We settled in for our first night's rest.  The church has separate sleeping areas for men and women, complete with a cot and showers.  We had a complete kitchen set up and each day we would eat our breakfast and pack our own lunch for the work site.  Monday morning came and we were off to find our work site for the week.

The drive was about 20 minutes to the home that we would be working at for the week. We were greeted by Frank, the home owner.  His mother was the resident who was displaced by Hurricane "Sandy" nearly two years ago.  She was in her 90's.  We started each day with Frank leading a prayer and, of course, a big hug of gratitude.  Frank had hired a young man in his 20's, Dominic, to work with him each day. We understood, from the pastor, that Frank had been working nearly 18 months on this house and was starting to grow tired and frustrated that the job was not moving along well enough.  The house had been "gutted" following the storm and our primary responsibilities were to hang drywall throughout the house that week.

five people posing for a photo

Photo by Anne Brienza

We would work right alongside Frank each day.  Part of our duties that week were to also listen to Frank as he told us stories about growing up on the Jersey Shore.  It's somewhat therapeutic to let someone share their tales of living though our nation's second largest hurricane to hit landfall.  While we may have just been a team of five (3 men and 2 women) we quickly divided into two teams and the drywalling began. I'm certain that Frank had anticipated that this task would consume our entire week, but by Thursday we could see that we were hanging the last sheet of plaster.  As a bonus, we were able to complete a number of other tasks, mostly on the outside of the home on our final day.  It felt good, to our entire group, that we could see the progress of the project and get immediate feedback from the homeowner.  We signed our names, on the wall, and waved good bye to Frank and Dom. 

I wouldn't want you to think that it was all work and no play!  We made it to the beach on several occasions, and our evening meals were generally spent in an establishment recommended by the locals. On Tuesday evening, those who were brave enough to sail, enjoyed an evening cruise on a 31 foot clipper.  The pastor's husband was a sailing instructor. It was a perfect end to the day as we watched the sun set on the Toms River.  We also provided a lasagna dinner for the church on Thursday evening. We exchanged stories about our week with one another. Anne also put together a slide show of our pictures, from the week, to share with the gathering. 

We got up early Saturday morning, cleaned up our area, and loaded the Suburban and headed for Ohio.  Everyone agreed that it felt great to donate the week of mission work; it also felt good to return home, to our families, for a good night's sleep in our own beds! We are blessed that our church helped to support our mission efforts, as well as, mission funds in memory of Matt Brady.  

Written by team member Ben Stahler, First United Presbyterian Church of Bellefontaine, Ohio



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