As part of my orientation to MDS, I had the privilege to spend a week working as Assistant Cook at the Williams Lake project, helping to keep the 22 volunteers well-fed. I worked under the capable direction of Esther Klassen who was a delight to work for and with. Each day began early (5:30 a.m.), and ended when the evening meal was cleaned up and leftovers put away (7:30 p.m.); with an extended time off in the afternoon. My typical day consisted of managing the lunch options; cutting up fruit for breakfast; baking cookies; preparing dinner salads; washing dishes; washing and vacuuming floors; and assisting wherever needed.

I appreciated Esther’s leadership in the kitchen, in particular, as I observed how she managed volunteers’ dietary restrictions and ensured needs were looked after. There was a light-hearted and joyful vibe in the kitchen in spite of very physical work and there was always energy left to spend the remainder of the evening playing games and assembling puzzles.

The group of volunteers for this week came from Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Though I did not experience the dynamics of groups at the work sites, the evening dinners were filled with good-natured joking and conversations. David Brubacher encouraged us to report on “God Moments” experienced throughout the day and each evening there were some to share. Among them, Peter Thiessen reported meeting two indigenous people at different times throughout the day who both shared that Jim and Sue Carlson “understood them” and were a part of them. It was good to hear of work site progress each evening as the crews shared of work accomplished on that day. On Wednesday, Donalda, Esther and I visited the Petrin and Carlson build sites and brought along fresh coffee and cookies. It was raining when we got to the Petrin site and as this is a recently begun site, there was no shelter except in the tool trailer. The volunteers were working, dressed in garbage bags to protect against the elements, and yet eager to show us how the basement had been framed and prepared for concrete and explain the dynamics of placing Styrofoam on both sides of the basement walls. At the Carlson site, we helped Ray and Darlene celebrate their anniversary and admire the refurbished kitchen that the volunteers were retro-fitting. While we were there, Darlene presented Jim and Sue Carlson with a wall hanging she had quilted earlier. The view from this home is stunning and I could imagine sitting on the deck or at the dining room table with a fresh cup of coffee and day-dreaming.

On the way back to Williams Lake, we stopped at a number of viewing spots and observed the devastation the fires of 2017 wrought on the mountain sides. It was a small window into what the residents of the area experienced and the grief they must still feel when they look over once green mountain sides. On Thursday, Donalda and I visited the Sheffler and Chilton sites and once again brought fresh baking and coffee for the volunteers to enjoy. On this particular day the Petrin crew were working at the Chilton site as they waited for concrete, which had been poured late on Wednesday, to firm up. The general consensus was that it was good to see and work on the other projects in the area. Concrete was poured later in the day for the basement and garage floor at the Chilton site. At the Sheffler site, the crew was putting together the kitchen cabinets and reported later that some had been hung after we left.

Peter Thiessen mentioned at one point, what a great bunch of guys worked for the concrete company being used for our sites. On Friday, I had a coffee break with a friend from Williams Lake and learned it was her husband’s business that was supplying all the concrete. I was happy to pass on Peter’s comments to her. MDS provides another way to be the hands and feet of Jesus, restoring hope and healing to our fellow humans. How good it is when we can use our interests, training, experience and gifts to respond, restore and rebuild!

(Samaritan’s purse was generous enough to loan us a tool trailer for house #4. In rummaging through the trailer Peter Thiessen decided he would make use of all the equipment while attempting to get a reaction from head office ….because he’s Peter)