We have been so fortunate with the weather this week. Everywhere we go they tell us of how beastly hot it was here last week so we have been immensely grateful that, even as the sun may be intense at times, the temperatures have been in the 80s and not at all unbearable. This morning, however, we woke up to a bleak looking rainy sky and cool temperatures. That didn’t deter us as we headed out earlier than the days prior, armed with rain gear in case the precipitation continued. Today we were to be on our worksites prior to 8 a.m.

For half of us, we would be volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County. A division of the international organization, it has been around for 42 years ago and has built more than 2200 homes. Their vision is “..a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” And their mission is “Seeking to put God’s love into action…bringing people together to build homes, community and hope.” I can’t help seeing shades of our own church’s mission here – to Make God’s Love Real. This is one place where you can see that in action.

The beneficiaries of this project, the new homeowners, must meet certain qualifications and they must agree to partner with Habitat to make the house a reality. Besides a minimal down payment, they must also contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” – working alongside volunteers like us – to have the opportunity to carry the low monthly payment, no-interest mortgage required to make the dream of home ownership a reality.

While Habitat usually builds individual homes, today we would be working in a new townhome development called Dockside. As we approached and saw the units that have already been completed, the simple architecture with pastel colored siding  gave off a definite Key West vibe – which was apparently just what they were trying to achieve. We divided ourselves into three groups – each tackling a different part of the process, either framing, siding or painting. Our choices had nothing to do with skill level for it is our willingness to work and not our particular aptitude on the job that qualified us to participate.

The three painters were assigned to apply a second coat of paint to the trim on the back porch area of the six units of one building. With careful application we followed the instructions we were given by Marco – ”Paint here, don’t paint here, hardware should not be painted over, and please don’t drip paint on the grey deck floor that I have already painted.” (That was the hardest part!) We were handy with the brushes, and handier with the wipe-up-our-mistakes cloths, and even discovered that a crumpled up piece of tape comes in handy as a make-shift scrubber to clean the bigger drips off the floor. (Shhh! Don’t tell Marco!)

Siding was the choice of three others of our group, and in short order they appeared to be old hands at it. The first rule of siding application that they learned is that you don’t “nail” siding, you “hang” siding. Translated, you do not drive the nails all the way in, giving the siding pieces the ability to flex a bit if necessary. Being one of the painters myself, I only had the opportunity to observe, never having realized that each strip of siding is nailed – excuse me…hung – individually. And I was impressed at what an amazing job they were doing keeping them all straight and parallel. Of course I just had to ask, “How do you keep them so level?” To which I got the answer, “We use a level!?!” (Silly me!)

The most experienced among us chose to do framing. While I understand the general concept of “framing”, explaining what they did while not having seen it proved to be beyond my abilities.  But I do know that they spent the day surrounded by a tangle of cords to a number of power tools and put in hundreds of nails apiece.

The remaining members of our team continued work on Rebecca’s kitchen. While it is not completed, our part of the work is done. What remains to be done is above our pay grade. But the cabinets are installed, the walls are painted, and Rebecca is delighted with the mint green!

Tonight’s dinner was prepared for us by the ladies in the church. While certainly not necessary, we appreciated their gratitude for our willingness to spend our week here serving where we are needed. It was generous enough to give over their social hall for a week to a bunch of strangers – but then who doesn’t appreciate one more good meal that you didn’t have to prepare yourself! We were overwhelmed by their attempt to honor our individual food choices and limitations in both food and desserts. And it was all delicious!

In a final unexpected twist, most of us ended the night at the theater! The pastor’s wife told us at dinner that she had to leave by a certain time because she had a rehearsal for a play she would be performing in next week. Someone asked if we could come and watch and she arranged it. While it was not in it’s final form, it was very funny and certainly the most unique experience I have ever had on a mission trip.

Oh, and the rain stopped even before we began any work leaving behind cool temperatures and partly cloudy skies!