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    Explained
    • • Visit the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park
    • Attempt to donate blood
    • • Hike the Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina portions of the Appalachian Trail
    • Sky dive
    • Pay off accrued debt with parents
    • • Pay off one of my three student loans
    • Learn to Snowboard
    • Hunt a deer
    • Learn to fly fish
    • Make a wood desk or furniture item from scratch
    • Read the Bible all the way through again
    • Play a full round of golf
    • Visit the Biltmore House
    • Return to UT for a football game
    • Grow facial hair for a month just to see what it looks like
    • • Get licensed in Counseling
    • • Get BachelorBytes website started
    • • Get weight below 200 pounds
    • Edit My Grandparents’ Historical Videos into a DVD
    • Visit either Wrigley Field or Fenway Park for a game
    • Ride on a motorcycle
    • Make my "40 Things to do Before Turning 40" List
    • • Attempt a back flip off the ground
    • Learn to sew on a button and fix a seam
    • Run a 10K
    • Complete the outline for my book/screenplay
    • Watch The American Film Institute's entire top 100 List
    • Sponsor a child through Compassion International
    • Work on a Habitat house
    • • Learn to play three full songs on the piano
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Build a Habitat House (part 4)

…continued from part 3, part 2 and part 1.

On our last day, Bertha Pinder agreed to sit down and have lunch with us. She had been around most of the time but had mostly kept to herself. She had seen groups  come through before. She knew we would not be around much longer and would move on too. As our group listened to her, we realized how hilarious she was. First she would tell us a story and mention places as if we had lived on the island for years. Then she tried to get one of the guys to agree to marry one of the girls and invite her to the wedding. There is video at the bottom.

Bertha was very excited and pleased with the progress on the new house but was proud of her old house too. She had lived in the house for over 60 years and it had survived every hurricane that had passed through during that time. She was raised in the house with her five siblings and mother and then later raised her four children in the house. This is a house that is smaller than every  one-bedroom apartment I’ve ever seen! She had never had running water or electricity (both of which were being fixed up in the new house). She was also getting glass windows for the first time as her current house consists of some cloth and removable boards.

As we prepared to leave, we took a few final pictures and spent a little more time with Bertha. The whole week we had tried to talk to her with little success. However, now that we had her talking, she did not want to stop. We left the site and 48-hours later would leave the Bahamas.

I knew from the outset I would get more out of this than I could possibly hope to put into it. But what I got out of it and what I put into were very much interrelated. I arrived enthusiastic and prepared to work hard. However, I worked harder than I have ever worked before, plugging away for several hours a day and not wanting to quit. While I sustained a few injuries in the form of cuts, blisters, bruises, bug bites and heat rash, my back felt better than it has in years. At home, I usually stay up until midnight. But in the Bahamas, I was so tired from working that I was often in bed asleep or ready for bed by 10:00 PM. Through all of this, I was extremely proud of the hard work our group put into it. You could see lives changed. Not just those whose circumstances had been improved by our labor but also the lives and hearts of those who were directly involved in taking a week out to do something for somebody else with no expectation of having that service repaid. It is a time I will never forget (especially since the 2000 pictures our group took won’t let me) but I have also begun making plans to return next year.

Build a Habitat House (part 3)

…continued from part 2 and part 1:

First let me say, there was a huge gap in time between the posting of part 2 and 3. I apologize to those of you who were hanging on to the edge of your seat for the conclusion. Unfortunately, when I returned stateside, work caught up to me and due to some changes at work, it did not let up. So back to the story in progress…

I can honestly say that I do not think that I have worked so hard in four days as I did in Eleuthera. When we arrived at Bertha’s house, we went right to work. Removing the spacers proved to be no easy task but was absolutely necessary before any sheet-rock walls could go up. My teammate, Colin, and I worked diligently removing the four nails from the studs to free up the spacers. We then would try and fit the spacers at the eight foot marker in the same stud. This often proved to be challenging as the studs were not always straight. So, the measurement between the studs at the six-foot mark, was as much as 2 full inches wider or narrower than at the eight foot mark. A lot of wood had to be re-cut or re-sized.

I was very concerned at the outset of the project as to how my shoulder would react to the positioning it would need to take to hammer in the spacers above my head. Surprisingly, my index finger gave out first. I did not even feel the “hot spot” coming on and by lunch time I had the deepest blister I had ever encountered develop and burst on my primary index finger. I took one look at it, got some medical tape and bandaged the heck out of it. The pain would not come until later that night. My shoulder? It had never felt better.

The work days were long, hot, and tedious. While I was out of the sun, I was in a house that was mostly boarded up and surrounded by woods. The benefit of a random breeze would not make its way to us. Working several hours a day in that heat was certainly a challenge. To be candid, on one day I went through six 32-ounce Nalgene bottles, or 1.5 gallons, of water and did not need to pee the entire day. I had purchased some $5 moisture wicking shirts from Wal-Mart and did not even realize how much I had been sweating until I tried to wipe my brow and found I had to ring out my shirt first.

My team worked diligently measuring and cutting spacers and sheet rock. I am not going to lie, there were times we did not see eye to eye and the heat added to some tension. But my team rocked it out. There was no one who lounged around. No one who was not intent on doing their best work. It was an amazing time to serve along side of them especially with the knowledge that we would never see a completed project and were just a small piece in the larger puzzle. Believe it or not, it is tough to work on a project that you will never see to completion and find an appropriate stopping point that you can look on and be satisfied. You always want to do more. When we wrapped up, all of the spacers had been moved and sheet rock and been fitted and put up in over half of the house. Not bad for a group that only had a limited idea of what we were doing when we arrived.

On our last day, we finally got to sit and talk with the reason we were working in the heat to begin with…Bertha Pinder.

Build a Habitat House (part 2) – The Project

…continued from part 1:

Since my group was heading the furthest south out of the four groups, we were relegated to the van. Each day we would travel to and from the site in the van with our supplies and no seats. While we bounced along the uneven pavement on the floor or sitting on a cooler, we constantly got to look at the ironical First Aid kit in the van which read “Safety First.” I prayed irony never became tragedy. Luckily the Director, Abe McIntyre, is a great driver.

When we first pulled into the drive at Bertha Pinder’s house, we saw a newly built and framed house that still required windows (the house was boarded up) and siding. Once inside, we were greeted by the skeleton of the house. It was framed and had pipes for plumbing set in the foundation but it did not have any walls yet. We would spend the next four days filling the house with guts in the form of sheetrock.

As we prepared to start working, we went around the back of the house and saw what the newly constructed, four bedroom, house was hiding. Behind the house was another house about half the size of the one we were working in. It appeared to be scantily pieced together pieces of wood and if you saw this house in the United States you would assume it was some child’s old tree fort. I will tell you everything I learned about the house in another post since we did not learn about it until our last day when Bertha Pinder joined us for lunch. But, it is a pretty remarkable situation.

Our group anticipated being able to put up all of the sheetrock and install the tongue-n-groove ceiling. However, we quickly learned we would be doing a lot of back tracking. Whoever originally framed the house put spacers in between the wall studs at two-feet, four-feet and six-feet heights. Unfortunately, this left nothing for the sheetrock to attach to at the top of the wall. Our first task, take down every six-foot spacer in the entire house and move them up to eight-feet. Every single board was attached with four nails to the stud and we had to try to preserve the spacers and the studs so we could not simply knock or cut them out. Consider this job task “day 1-4…

 

Build a Habitat House (part 1)

While my goal on this list was to simply build a Habitat Home, my experience in doing so could not have been imagined at the outset of this adventure. When I originally created my list, my plan was to mosey on down to a job site for a weekend and put in a couple of hours of work. However, within a few days of publishing my site, my friend Michael Knotts invited me to be part of something much greater.

Because I got so much online support, I wanted to share with you guys my complete experience including the highs and lows. My hope is that those reading this will desire to not only impact their local communities in a similar way but also that a few of you may be inspired to partner with places like Bahamas Methodist Habitat either financially or by going down there and helping yourself (which I highly recommend).

Left Behind

The trip down was an adventure in itself. Our group of 23 all flew down to Nassau together. However, once there, the plane flying to Eleuthera could only carry 19 people. So, four people had been preselected to stick around for three-and-a-half hours. I was not ecstatic to be one of the four but we decided to make the most of it. Walking out to the taxi line, we convinced a local driver named DeDe to drive us around the island for an hour and show us around. It was money well spent.

19-Seater. Tiny Plane

She was an excellent tour guide and showed us bat caves, tide pools, an amazing waterfall and a fort all the while giving us a history lesson. A few hours later we were on our plane and reunited with our group. After going to the local church that night, which lasted a literal three hours, we went to bed preparing for the next day of work.

Morning broke to find half our group devoured by bugs in the night. A few people would visit the clinic on day two to get a steroid to help fight the itchiness. We are not talking your run of the mill North American mosquito bites. One of them, a nurse, came to the realization while visiting the local clinic, that if you get hurt on the island, you will die on the island. Thankfully, this did not need to be verified by any of our group members.

After loading up the bus and van with supplies, tools, lumber and lunch, the groups headed out to our four separate job sites. Even though I had seen some pictures of our job site, I did not know quite what to expect…

The view outside my window each morning.

The view outside my window each morning.

Bahamas Project Assigned

As we set out for our trip on Sunday, we have been emailed some last minute details including our job assignments. We have four teams and thus four distinct projects. One team will be working on a roof for someone, another team is pouring foundation for a floor that is rotted away, and one will be rebuilding an additional bedroom on a house. My team was assigned the below project. I could not be more thrilled to be working on this challenging project. She is currently living with her son in the top left.

gview

It is Going to be a Hot One

This time next week I will be in the sunny Bahamas…workin’ me arse off. Those of who have been following this blog for some time know that I am heading to the island of Eleuthera July 19-25 to work on repairing homes for Habitat. I received a lot of great personal support and people I have never met before participated in my raffle to help me meet my financial obligations to be able to go on this trip. As I said, I want to keep you all involved since you are technically part of this trip.

Last night we had our final meeting before the trip to go over all the last minute details. Here is a brief rundown of some things that are going to make this trip both challenging and interesting.

We are required to wear long pants on the work sites because we will be working on roofs or other projects all day long so our knees could get torn up. I do not sweat well so I have slight history of overheating. This could be potentially harrowing because when I overheat, my chest gets tight and breathing becomes labored. I have never passed out but I do get a bit wobbly.

In addition, the place we are staying apparently does not have air conditioning after all. That is right, after working all day in the Bahamian sun, we will come back a building that has been cooking all day in the hot Bahamian sun. I am going to have to drink an entire lake’s worth of water to stay hydrated on this trip.

The bug situation is at best, horrendous. It is rumored that these bugs love to have a feeding frenzy on visitors and even Deet is not full-proof. There is a very strong chance I am going to return home itchy and burned.

I also found out that three people will have to wait an additional three hours in the airport to ride a different plane from Nassau to Eleuthera because we could not get a plane big enough for everyone. Guess who got tabbed as one of the three? Me!! I have mixed feelings on this. I really hate sitting around airports for any period of time. I also did not want to be separated from the group. I will have less downtime to relax and get settled in like everyone else will so it will put me under a little but of stress. But at the same time this is one of the sacrifices made when serving. And to be honest, as much as I fret about it now, I am sure it is going to turn out to be no big deal at all.

But throughout all of these potentially negative marks for my trip, I am really looking forward to it. I am going with some amazing and encouraging people. We will be literally working in the lives of people who have next to nothing. Not only am I appreciative of what I have, but I am appreciative that God has given me the opportunity to serve others. Sure, it is going to be tougher than my current day to day living. But with all the hardships I will be enduring, it will be a tiny sacrifice in the long run. The discomforts will be minimal when I look at what the locals endure on a regular basis.

I am stoked, I am nervous, I am blessed and ready to go!!

Stay tuned as I will update when I get back and have pictures as I work on number 29.

And the Winners Are…

First, before I announce the winners of my raffle for a $50 gift card to Chima Brazilian Steakhouse and a $25 gift certificate to Maggiano’s, I have some thanks to give out. I would like to give a special thanks Angelica Acosta who provided the gift certificate to Maggiano’s. It was her idea to use it to hold a raffle and prayed that it provide a blessing by increasing my support. Shortly after posting the raffle, @CLTdining saw my message on Twitter on responded by providing a $50 gift card to Chima. I had not met him before but he believed in what I was trying to do and has been fruitful in helping get the word out about the contest. I cannot thank him and Angelica enough.

I also want to thank everyone who entered the raffle itself. I received donations from people who read about the contest on Facebook and Twitter. With your help, I have raised $212.00 to go towards my mission trip!! That is 1/5 of my support raised by this contest alone! Guys, I am truly humbled and blessed. I never expected those types of donations.

And now for the winners:

$50 Gift Card to Chima -Andrea Havrilla

$25 Gift Certificate to Maggiano’s – Eric Veal (@ericveal)

Congrats to the both of you!! I hope you enjoy it. Also thanks again to everyone who entered. Even though you may not have received a gift certificate, I want you to know how much it means to me personally and how much it will help the people on the island of Eleuthera. I wish I had gift certificates for everyone. Please check back here and type in the keyword “Habitat.” While I may not be able to give away anything else, I would love for you to share in my experience as I will post thoughts and updates leading up to the trip. I will also post pictures after the trip showing what your thoughtful donation has done.

Grace and Peace be with you all.