Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Off Site Sunday School

Matthew and I had a new twist for off site Sunday School last Sunday (9/28/2008). As many of you are aware Hurricane Ike came through the Houston area a couple of weeks ago. As they have done with other major hurricanes, the church organized work parties to go assist with clean up efforts. Because of the need, our Ward was scheduled to go help on Sunday. Our family became aware of this opportunity midday Saturday. Those who were 16 and over were invited and the Bishop felt it was a great opportunity for the Priest age young men to serve (along with their fathers. I am also the Young Men's president). For some of the young men including Matthew, this was going to be a real sacrifice. Service isn't always convenient and this particular weekend was homecoming weekend. Matthew had his Homecoming game Friday night and homecoming dance on Saturday night. It was a late night both nights. Brittney had some friends over to our house after the dance, but I put in some earplugs and went to bed. (The ear plugs worked great, but I still didn't get enough sleep.)

The plan was to leave the church at 6 am Sunday morning, so after yelling "Ride like the wind Bullseye" (my new nickname for our white Suburban), we promptly pulled out of the church parking lot at 6:55 (I think that's later than even regular mst). We were blessed with a strong tail wind and the only law enforcement authorities we saw were directing traffic in Galveston. We arrived at the Galveston chapel about 8:15. A brief Sacrament meeting was planned for 8:30 so we gathered our ward together to figure out our work parties. Our Bishop is a wise man and he wanted to beat the rush, so he excused myself and the Elders Quorum President early from the meeting to go get our work orders for the day. (The bishop also knows my tendency to ponder deeply (ok, sleep) during Sacrament meeting, so possibly he was also concerned it would cause a scene when I dozed off and fell down during the outdoor standing room only meeting). After the sacrament meeting and getting our work orders, we divided our ward work group into two teams and headed off to our assignments.

The home we were assigned to was a modest two story home. Imagine taking all of your stuff, slowly filling up a room with seawater, floating everything around, mixing it together, draining the water out, letting it sit for two weeks in hot, humid conditions and then start moving it around. This particular home had water about 7 feet of water inside it. Amazingly there were pictures below the water line that were still hanging on the wall. Our task was to move everything out of the house. It is called mucking and that is an appropriate term. The family or another work crew will have to go in and strip the walls downs to the studs. It is hard to imagine, but after being stripped down and allowed to dry, the walls can be refinished and the home made livable again.

Apparently a few people were upset that the church would organize a work party on a Sunday. My personal thoughts are 1) at times we spend more time talking about doing good rather than going out and getting it done. I'd rather be doing than sitting. 2) We are a church of order and sending everyone on Saturday would have been too overwhelming for the organizers and possibly the community. 3) It wasn't my ox, but somebody's ox was stuck in the mire. I am personally grateful not only that I was able to go, but that my son and seven other young men were able to go assist. True service isn't always convenient, and I hope they remember this experience and continue to mature into future leaders who are men of action. (I think the boys have recovered from their lack of sleep, but It's been a long week for me.)

A few learning's from this hurricane experience that might be applicable for natural disasters in other areas:

  • Have a 72 hour kit. We each have 5 gallon buckets with MRE's, a water container, flashlights and other supplies. A set or two of clothes can quickly be added to this water tight container. Be prepared to take this with you if you need to go to a shelter.

  • Be prepared to take care of yourself. It is extremely aggravating to me to watch people on the news less than 24 hours after the storm already complaining that the government should be there to assist them. These are the same people who stayed in areas that were under a mandatory evacuation.

  • Be prepared to live without power. We were fortunate that we were without power less than 24 hours. (For those who are upset that the power company didn't turn on their power soon enough, boycott the power company and just turn it off for a few more weeks. Energy, electricity, medical care (and first responders) are not entitlements and there are people out there doing everything they can to make your life better. You may not see it or know it, but often the people in these industries are making their own sacrifices to make your life better.)

  • If you can see the ocean or live some place that is surrounded by water, Evacuate!!

  • I have answered the question of how you get 10 pounds of crap in a five pound bag, just add a hurricane. Two examples. 1) While clearing loose objects from around our house (lawn furniture, etc.), I was able to put two cars and alot of other stuff into our garage (Even with a a 3 car garage it was still impressive. Sorry no pictures). 2) Have a storm surge go through a home and while you haul everything out of the house, you will wonder how so much stuff was in the home to begin with.

  • One of the saddest parts of helping with the clean-up was seeing all of the photo albums and pictures scattered in with the debris in the home. We set some aside, but mold was already growing on the pages. Make provisions now for one of a kind pictures and documents. Remember this includes your electronic pictures on your computer. When we evacuated for Rita, I just took the whole CPU.

  • Refrigerators are not so good at keeping the water out, but they are pretty good at keeping the water in when the waters recede. Let it set for two weeks with some rotting food mixed in and it is a recipe for one powerful odor. While attempting to move the refrigerator out of the home, the door was jarred and some "fridge juice" ran out. I walked into the room shortly afterwards and immediately dry heaved (I don' necessarily consider myself to have a weak stomach.) I was fortunate I didn't lose my lunch as I had a mask on at the time, and that would have been a real mess. (There is an episode on "Dirty jobs" where the host works with men who were cleaning up houses in New Orleans after Katrina. I can attest to the fact that it is truly a dirty job. It is nasty!!!

I am extremely blessed in my life. I think Marti said it in her blog, but thanks to both our parents for teaching us to be self-sufficient, prepared and to use a few of the brain cells we were blessed with. (Love you moms and dads!)

Walking towards the church. Some people have already gotten a start on clearing out their homes.

Gary's home, down the street from where we assisted. Gary and his family stayed. He had water up to his chest while his mother-in-law floated on a mattress. Gary said a few more inches and he would have just closed his eyes, given up and let himself slide below the water.

A decent start on moving stuff out of the house. Eventually the suburban was moved and stuff was stacked on the other side of the driveway.

The work crew wrapping up for the day.

Nice bag Andrew, but you need to read some of the signs a little closer.

It may be tough to read in this picture, but the sign ends with the word "... shoot to kill." Yes, we live in Texas.

I don't think that's where he parked his boat.

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