St. Philip's Disaster Relief

Teams of volunteers, with varied skills, respond to natural disasters helping victims rebuild their homes and lives. Efforts range from day trips to week-long trips. Relief work has been done in Mississippi, Texas, New Jersey, and Florida following hurricanes; Minnesota, Iowa, Tennessee, North Dakota, Colorado, and Missouri following flooding; Colorado following wildfires; and Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin following tornadoes.

Daily Messages - Hurricane Harvey Trip #3

Sunday, May 5

We’re back! We pulled into St. Philip’s ahead of schedule – something that doesn’t happen often. The drive today was good – some fog in the morning and a downpour in Iowa didn’t slow us down much.

Our slogan for the week became “BREATHE!” It was used often – when we made some wrong turns, when saw cuts didn’t come out right, when things didn’t fit, when it started to rain, when traffic came to a dead stop, when things were spilled in the kitchen, whenever something didn’t go quite right. But those “BREATHE!” moments were greatly outnumbered by those “THANK YOU, GOD!” moments – for getting us safely through some harrowing moments on the roadway, for things going fairly smooth that allowed us to complete the work assigned in two homes, for only a slight sprinkle that disrupted our outdoor staining project, for cuts on countertops and trim that turned out right, for getting an exterior door hung (and locked) before it was time to leave for the day, for success in tracing a wiring circuit, for meals that turned out despite the kitchen limitations, and so many more. These moments and all of the work we did, brought a breath of hope to a few of the thousands that still have not fully recovered from Hurricane Harvey.

Thank you, God for our safe travels, our partners in Texas, our supporters, strangers who engaged in conversation with us – including two people that gave us financial donations, and the 29 willing team members and their many skills that may this trip a success. The journey continues…

Saturday, May 4

We are now in Nevada, MO for the night. We traveled just over 700 miles today with a little rain and just a couple of slowdowns due to traffic accidents or construction. We’ll be back on the road at 7 a.m. to travel the remaining 550 miles. We should arrive at St. Philip’s around 5 p.m.

The following paragraph was posted on Facebook, along with our team picture, by Pastor Deb Grant of Houston after she attended our team meeting on Thursday. Thanks, Pastor Deb!

This is the Disaster Relief Team from St. Philips Lutheran Church, Fridley, MN This is their 3rd trip to Galveston County to help rebuild houses after Harvey. This disaster relief team started in their congregation over 15 years ago and this is their 75th trip to serve in disaster areas - most of which were out-of-state, hundreds of miles away. They don't mind sharing that the average age of the group is almost 70 years old, skilled or just willing to help. For the majority of them, they have gone on these trips over a dozen times. THEY LOVE TO SERVE. THEY LOVE PEOPLE. THEY LOVE THEIR GOD. THEY WORK HARD. THEY ARE HONEST ABOUT THEIR MISTAKES AND LIMITATIONS. THEY LEAVE HOPE AND SOME WHOLENESS EVERYWHERE THEY GO and THEY LAUGH ALOT! So...tell me why every congregation in the ELCA doesn't have a Disaster Relief team? Not enough 70 year olds who like to laugh?

Friday, May 3

It’s been a great week. The weather was warm and humid but didn’t deter us much. We did end up moving our traditional beach party to a local establishment that had an outside deck and yard that worked very well (and it didn’t rain.)

The team that was working on the flooring all week got it all installed and the shoe molding was reinstalled. That team also cleaned the gutters and repaired the fence. They felt great to leave with the job completed.

We made great progress on the last house we started on. The kitchen cabinets were all installed and the countertop for one set of cupboards has been cut to length and is ready to be installed. Many of the electrical outlets are now functional. The exterior doors were replaced. All of the interior doors were installed and trimmed out. The 124 trim boards were handled five times to complete the finishing process. The homeowner, because of the work of our team, thinks that the home will be ready in six months for his family to move back in.

One of the other homes now has almost all of the baseboard installed. The painting was completed. Two bathroom vanities, faucets, showerheads, and toilets were installed. The home looks so much different than when we first walked in.

The kitchen portion of our assignment in one other house was completed with the cupboards, countertop, sink, and dishwasher not in place. The homeowner was very happy with the work that was completed.

And, last but certainly not least, our three-person kitchen crew worked long hours shopping, preparing, serving, and cleaning up after our many wonderful meals. Their efforts contribute so much to the team in a unique way.

The devotions this evening were done in two parts. Bob Saunders used Pastor Deb Grant’s book to remind us about finding our place on these teams and how we might have some apprehensions but things work out and we all learned knew skills. He reminded us that “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” The second part was a reading from a daily devotional book that Bob’s wife Lindy read that morning from their home in Minot, and forwarded it to us. It was titled “Beyond the Neighborhood” and was about the owner of a piano store in Maryland that, after Hurricane Harvey, refurbished pianos that he and his wife then delivered to families, churches, and schools in the Houston area. When asked why he gave away all of those pianos, he simply explained, “We’re told to love our neighbors.” The SPDR team members on the trip, have shown their love for their Galveston County neighbors. And God has certainly qualified the called.

Thursday, May 2

We worked hard today. We had over half the team at one home. It was a little tight at times as people were installing doors; adding devices to the many, many electric boxes; tracing wires; figuring out what to do when we lost power; installing cupboards, staining and varnishing hundreds of feet of trim and baseboard (thankfully, we could do that outside), and more. Some of us learned new skills today. That’s always fun.

At Denise’s house, the team there finished installing all of the flooring! They started installing the shoe molding and will continue with that tomorrow. At Leonard’s house, the work of installing his kitchen cabinets, sink, and countertop continued. The home with the fourteen doors to be installed has all those installed, trimmed out, and painted. The sink installation, vanity, countertop installation continued there today and two of the team members started installing the shoe molding.

We were blessed to have Pastor Deb Grant (who joined us at St. Philip’s for our fundraiser in February) and Pastor Stacy Stringer (from the Episcopal Diocese). Pastor Deb did the devotions this evening. She spoke about having the right tools to get a job done. They may be actual tools, resources, skills, etc. And different tools are needed at different times. She used eating utensils as examples and related them to Hurricane Harvey recovery.

Fork – Used to pick up one thing at a time. Hurricane Harvey survivors had to pick up thing at a time as they sorted through their water-soaked belongings and make the heartbreaking decision on what to keep and what to throw away.

Knife – Used to cut up things. That reminded Pastor Deb of all of the walls that had to be cut out and taken out.

Spoon – Used to hold several things - together. Pastor Deb said it’s good to be a spoon – holding things together. She called the SPDR team a serving spoon as we help hold people’s lives together.

We spent a good part of the evening in conversation with Deb and Stacy finding out more about disaster recovery and their involvement with that. We also regaled them with many, many SPDR stories. A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, May 1

We finished a house! The house where we were assigned to fix the bedroom and kitchen ceilings has been completed (and then some.) It’s a great feeling to leave a home and not have to think that another group of volunteers will be needed to complete the job. We continued in three homes working on the door trim, flooring, countertop and cupboard installation, and painting. And we started in a sixth home. This home needs so much done but we got a good start. We hung several cupboards, cleaned areas, stained trim boards, and worked on the wiring – tracing wires, cleaning up the wires, installing devices, and more. There is now power to one of the circuits of the house! Tomorrow we will continue in these five homes and hope to finish up our assignments in one or two of them.

Tonight’s devotions were given by Carol Anderson. One of the stories she shared was about a garden in which the gardener had planted a wide variety of plants - ones of every hue, texture, and height. They were all designed to grow strong where they’d been planted, only in different ways. But these plants, rather than simply growing and being all they were created to be, started comparing themselves with each other. Some of the large, showy plants began holding back their flowers (they didn’t want to look so conspicuous), while others puffed out abnormally wide in pride over their beauty. The background plants felt badly that they didn’t have flowers and thought they didn’t matter. The tall plants began stooping so they wouldn’t look so much taller than the others, while the shorter ones exhausted themselves trying to grow tall. The ones in the shade drooped, wishing they could be in the sun; the ones in the sun drooped, wishing they could be in the shade. The silly plants didn’t realize that they’d been created and placed where they were placed for a purpose. They were all part of the same garden, and each one needed to do its job. Carol reminded us, like the plants, we are all part of the same team – each with a job to do and a contribution to be made.

Tuesday, April 30

We had another good day. The weather has been warm and humid but not unbearable. We continued working in the same homes with lots of progress – installing and trimming doors, electrical work, installing flooring, painting doors and trim, installing toilets and bathroom vanities, installing cabinets and countertops, mudding, painting ceilings and walls, and much, much more. We will take on a large job tomorrow that will involve many tasks and about half the team.

Katie Swenstad presented the devotions tonight and part of it was a reading from Christ in Our Home entitled “A place for you” based on 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. It ended with “You are a necessary part of the body of Christ, individually a member of it, and have been placed exactly where God wants you to be. In our diversity, Christ himself unites us.” We certainly are finding that are SPDR team members on this trip are a necessary part and have been place exactly where God wants us to be. We wouldn't be making that progress we are if this wasn't true.

Monday, April 29

We had a good day – for a Monday. We went to five different homes and were able to get started fairly quickly. As usual, there were a few hiccups – waiting for materials, some trial and errors on a couple jobsites, not all of the needed tools on locations, our electrician following one of our cars to the wrong jobsite, etc. But there were also quite a few highlights – 16 boxes of flooring were installed in one home; seven doors were hung in another; sheetrock was removed in area in two homes and replaced with new pieces; many feet of shoe molding were painted; and the electrician (Myron) who went to the wrong jobsite, was a godsend to women that owned the home. She cried when she found out there was an electrician with the group – he was very much needed. She only had one working outlet in her kitchen and the dishwasher was hooked up to an extension cord. Myron was meant to be at this house.

Don Foss led the devotions this evening centered around music. He read a daily meditation that said, in part, that “Many of us meet our Higher Power through the music we love.” He enlisted 12 of his fellow team members to join the “SPDR choir” and they blessed us with their rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,

I sing because I’m free,

For His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me.

Bravo, choir!

Sunday, April 28

We arrived - safely! Traffic was crazy in Houston. We were delayed by three different accidents but all 29 of us are now settled in to the Zion Retreat Center in Galveston. We met with the Galveston County Recovery construction manager and have five houses that we are going to start working in tomorrow. In his devotions tonight, Mike Youngberg reminded us to breathe, be flexible, and be patient. A good reminder to all of us – everyday.

Saturday, April 27

As we walked out of church at 6 this morning, to get into our vehicles, the sky was gorgeous with shades of pink. In southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, we drove in the rain but that stopped by the time we got to Des Moines. After that we watched the temperature climb and the foliage on the trees increase – the redbud trees were in bloom with beautiful pink flowers. We traveled safely - although some of us traveled a little different route for the last leg of the trip. We’ve settled in for the night and will be on the road at 7 a.m. to travel the remaining 450 miles to Galveston.

2019 Fundraiser

The SPDR annual lasagna dinner and silent auction fundraiser was held on February 10th and was very successful. We are so grateful to all those that contributed to the success of this event. A huge thank you to

  • Pastor Deb Grant, of Dickinson, TX, that preached at worship, presented at the Adult Forum, and spoke at both dinner seatings;
  • the 50 SPDR team members that helped with the preparations for the auction and dinner in the weeks prior to the fundraiser, setup for the event on Saturday, served the meal on Sunday, and helped with all of the post-activities;
  • the 200+ dinner guests who braved the snow to attend the dinner and then tipped generously;
  • an anonymous St. Philip’s couple that, once again, underwrote the cost of the dinner and
  • those that donated or bid on an auction item. Almost 500 bids were made on the 200+ auction items that were donated by SPDR team members, friends, family members and St. Philip’s members. (Note: Auction items donated or won will not show up on St. Philip’s members’ giving statements. Winners have all been notified.)

Hurricane Michael Trip #1 Daily Messages

Wednesday, January 9

We are home – safely! This was a great trip except for the immense amount of devastation. EVERYBODY we met was impacted in some way – power was out for days; phones, Internet, and cable service were out for weeks: schools were closed for a month; homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Tomorrow is the three-month anniversary of Hurricane Michael. Please pray for the people of the Panhandle.

I ran across this cartoon before we left for Florida. I’m thankful for the SPDR team of nine volunteers that were more powerful than a hurricane this first week of January and hopeful for many more to follow. The journey continues… - Renee

Tuesday, January 8

Heading home! We left Kim and Gene’s home this morning around 7:15 with the temperature just over 50 degrees. We drove in the fog for a couple of hours and it was tough to see but that burned off good day for driving with the temperature reaching 72 in the afternoon. It was 45 degrees when we arrived in Mount Vernon, IL where we’ll spend the night. It was a long and tiring day. (Some of us stayed up a little too late last night. We were having a great time talking with Kim.) We hope to be on the road at 6:30 tomorrow morning and arrive in Fridley by 6:30 PM.

A positive take-away for today: It was a good day for driving despite the fog, the numerous trucks, and the rush hour traffic in Nashville – something three of us experienced daily in 2011 on our second Nashville trip. We remained safe.

Monday, January 7

Our five days of work are completed. We worked in five homes altogether. We installed insulation in four homes. We partially drywalled two homes (only the bathrooms are left). We painted the majority of another home. We repaired termite damage in two homes. We cleaned or removed debris in all five of the homes.

The weather turned out great. We enjoyed the sunshine. It was great to take our breaks sitting outside with temperatures in the sixties. And we ate well – not even one day of brown bag lunches. We are so grateful to Kim and Gene and their friends for all the meals and hospitality they provided.

We ended the week with our traditional pizza party. We were joined by Kim's friends, Crystal, Sheila, and Karen and enjoyed each other's company relaxing for a few hours. Lots of laughs. No beach this time but a few of us braved the cooler evening to sit by the pool for a while. We’ll head out tomorrow morning and hope the weather stays great for our travels.

A positive take-away for today: We are feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Things went so smoothly – the worksites were close together and close to Kim and Gene’s so minimal travel times; Lowe’s and Home Depot were within five miles of where we working; we had the supplies and tools we needed all the time; and we had the right people in the right places.

Sunday, January 6

An atypical day. We started by attending Kim and Gene’s church. (They weren’t with us as Gene’s mother passed away on Tuesday and the funeral was today in Pensacola.) Sunday’s are usually a travel day, so haven’t done this on a trip for a while.

After church, we drove along the coast to Mexico Beach – the area that was hardest hit by Hurricane Michael. The devastation was everywhere we looked for 30 miles. We saw amazing amounts of damage to trees, Tydall Air Force Base, and many homes and businesses in Mexico Beach. Since most of the destruction on our last few trips have been more from water then winds, we haven’t seen major destruction like this for a long time.

Then it was back to Kim and Gene’s house for lunch. Well, it was actually more like Sunday dinner – with ham and cheesy potatoes and more. After that, we went to work and continued where we left off yesterday. We made some more progress with the painting, insulating, and drywalling. We plan to get an early start tomorrow and hope to get a lot more done.

A positive take-away for today: We were so warmly greeted, acknowledged, and thanked by so many members of Kim and Gene’s church. And the sermon was about discipleship and was very meaningful.

Saturday, January 5

We started this morning with much of the same work. The termites have been taken care of so it’s on to other work in those home. We were installing insulation and drywall most of today and have also started painting. We know we won’t get everything completed but it’s great to see stud walls now covered with sheetrock and other walls covered with fresh paint. These places are starting to look like homes again.

Gene led us in devotions tonight and he and Kim are so very grateful for our presence and help. He spoke about how they were just treading water. He said, “You have jump-started us. We are so thankful for having you here.” We presented Kim and Gene with prayer shawls and as always, an emotional time for all of us.

A positive takeaway for the day: Gene said they would be on a future SPDR trip!

Friday, January 4

Another great day! It rained during the night but quit before we got up and didn’t rain the rest of the day. And it was cooler. Yesterday was just a little too warm and humid for us Midwesterners.

We have been working in six houses and really have gotten a lot of work done in just two days. We’ve completed the insulating in two houses and even hung a couple sheets of drywall in one of them. We are half done with insulating in another house. We are partially through the replacement of more termite damaged wood in a one more house. A couple team members spent most of the morning moving all the debris that had been removed from one of these houses to the curb.

The piles of debris along the roadways are reminiscent of Cedar Rapids and Minot and there are also huge piles of tree trunks and branches. The landscape is ugly – broken, leaning and downed trees, piles of debris, damaged buildings, and blue tarps are everywhere.

A positive takeaway for the day: (Again, there were two.) 1. Another friend of Kim’s purchased and delivered sub sandwiches (and more) to us for lunch today. 2. Renee and Gene met with the coordinator of disaster relief at Kim and Gene’s church this afternoon. It is very likely that they will be lodging volunteers in the future and sounds like it would be a good fit for SPDR.

Thursday, January 3

Today was a great day. First, the high temperature was 72° and the low was 62. These are 20 and 10 degrees above normal! We were busy with a variety of tasks all day. We got started insulating in one house and got that finished and are ready to start another that is nearby. We removed all the boards from the base of a gazebo and a sandbox and carried them out the edge of the street. We picked up debris in the yard and cleaned out the kitchen cupboards. We cleaned up the edges of the sheetrock in two houses where it had been removed in a manner that would make the installation of the new sheetrock difficult. We scraped carpet pad from the floors. We swept the floors of three houses and also the driveways – hopefully this will keep us from getting flat tires on any of our vehicles. A few blocks away, two of our team members removed wood that had been destroyed by termites. They replaced the window header and frame with new lumber. Lots of progress!

A positive takeaway for the day: (Today there were actually two.) 1. A good friend of Kim’s served us a wonderful lunch at their nearby home. 2. Things went really, really smooth for the first day of work.

Wednesday, January 2

It rained a good share of the day but the temperature steadily increased. It was 70 degrees around 6 o’clock this evening when we arrived at the home of Kim and Gene – our home for the next six nights. Kim is the sister of SPDR team member, Michelle Loken from Wanamingo, MN. We will spend most of the next five days helping Kim and Gene recovered from Hurricane Michael. And from what we saw, starting about 50 miles north of Lynn Haven, there is a lot of help that is needed. As we drove through the damaged areas, we saw many downed trees, piles of logs and brush, and piles of debris from gutted homes. And this was mostly in the dark. It certainly will be worse looking in the daylight.

A positive take away for the day: Michelle’s family has pitched in from Minnesota to help us help Kim. Her sister made bread, buns and tea rings, her brother-in-law made chocolate chip cookies, and her mom made bars and cookies. We munched on some of the goodies on the way down, had some for dinner this evening, and have plenty more for the rest of the week. We were touched by the thoughtfulness and effort Michelle and Kim’s mom put into the sugar cookies she sent with. So carefully packaged was a container of crosses, hammers, saws, and dolphins (because she likes the dolphins in Florida.) Because of a cross, we are here to hammer and saw and do whatever else is needed to help others.

Tuesday, January 1

We arrived in Paducah, KY around 9:30. The roads, traffic, and weather were great all the way here. A delayed start, some detours, and U-turns resulted in us arriving about an hour behind schedule but the plan from the beginning was to be super flexible on this trip.

A positive take-away for the day: We left Fridley at -2° and arrived in Paducah to a balmy 40 degrees which turned out to be an increase of almost 3 degrees an hour. So, at that rate, it should be 70 degrees when we get to Lynn Haven, FL tomorrow evening.

In mid-December, the SunFocus published an article about St. Philip's Disaster Relief. Check it out by clicking here.

Hurricane Harvey Team #2 - Daily Updates

Sunday, September 30

We arrived back at St. Philip’s a few minutes before 5:00 this evening. The drive was uneventful – which is a good thing. Watching the temperature drop almost 20 degrees throughout the day was not such a good thing.

When Pastor Deb was with us on Monday, she spoke about the those affected by Hurricane Harvey that were “camping in their own houses.” It was a fitting description of what we experienced in two of the houses we worked in. The sheetrocking and flooring we installed will help those homeowners get closer to having normal living conditions.

Our week was good in so many ways. We were safe – with only a couple of minor injuries. We were comfortable at Zion Retreat Center – with no intruders this time. We were well fed – with meals made by our cook or supplied by others we met. We were supported – by each other, those we worked with in Galveston County, and those back home. We were called – and we answered.

The journey continues…

Saturday, September 29

We were up early this morning in order to be on the road by 6:30 AM. It was very warm and muggy as we loaded the trailers and it started to sprinkle as we left Galveston. We ran into frequent, heavy rains most of the early morning along with road construction that made for some tough driving. But by lunchtime we had driven out of the rain and had a nice afternoon and evening. 700 miles and 13+ hours later, we arrived in Nevada, MO. We plan to be on the road at 7:00 AM and should arrive back at St. Philip’s around 5:00 PM. It will be a shorter drive – only 550 miles!

Friday, September 28

A great week of work has come to an end. Late this morning, the painting was completed in the home that we started yesterday. By noon, the last pieces of flooring and molding were installed in the house in Dickenson along with a new toilet that we purchased for the homeowners. The house in Santa Fe had the drywall completed yesterday and that team mudded and mudded and mudded all of today. The foodbank was a whirlwind of activity as the sheetrocking and mudding/sanding continued in the morning. As the other crews finished up at their jobs, they joined in the work at the foodbank helping with the completion of the wall, the installation of the baseboards, painting, and clean up. Whatever needed to get done, there was someone to jump in and help out. It was amazing to see that work so smoothly and fun to have almost the whole team working in one location. We haven’t done that for a while.

We got back to the retreat center in the late afternoon and then headed down to the beach for our traditional pizza party. As we parked the cars, and walked along the seawall to the area to get to the beach, it was raining. Plan B was running through our heads as wet pizza didn’t sound too appetizing. But the rain stopped about the time the pizza arrived and we had a wonderful evening on the beach to end our week in Galveston. A big thank you to Pops Foley of Galveston County Recovers for providing the pizza (and for coordinating our work here in Galveston.) Most of the team went to bed early. We are leaving Galveston at 6:30 and will travel about 700 miles tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27

Encounters should be the word for today – for a couple of reasons. The crew putting in the flooring were in small spaces throughout the day so they had physical close encounters. The sheetrock crew had some close encounters that dealt with safety with a couple of episodes of falling off ladders/stepstools – but no injuries!

The crew at the foodbank has the one side of the wall all mudded and ready for painting. The opposite side has been insulated and about 2/3 of the sheetrock installed. The baseboards have all been installed. Carpet has been removed from a large room. They also cut an opening in an existing wall and installed a door.

The flooring crew with so many tight spots had to make many, many cuts as they installed flooring in the hallway, laundry room, and the bathroom. They also got most of the molding nailed in place in all of the rooms where the flooring has been installed.

Earlier this week, our cook Dawn, had an encounter with a neighborhood woman and her son who were out walking near the retreat center. She and her husband own a restaurant and catering business and offered to provide a meal for us. Tonight, they did just that. We were treated with a wonderful meal including coconut cream pie for dessert!

The sheetrock crew completed the sheetrocking in all of the rooms and the garage. They finished the mudding in one of the bedrooms and have the other bedroom about 60% done. They also spent some time moving the homeowner’s possessions back to where they were stored when they started.

The painting crew started work in another house and finished priming in the rooms that needed that and painted the rooms that had already been primed.

Tomorrow we will continue working in these four locations to finish up our work week. We are hoping for good weather so we can have our traditional pizza party on the beach.

Wednesday, September 26

Progress was the word for today.

The sheetrock has been completed in the one house and the mudding has been started. More sheetrock was delivered and that team will be able to sheetrock the garage and continue with the mudding.

The wall at the foodbank passed inspection so the team there was able to start insulating the other side. The taping and mudding continued on that wall so one side is ready for painting. The painting of the office area of the foodbank was completed along with a large wall in the warehouse and also the utility room. The installation of the baseboards is about half done.

The flooring installation moved along despite some heavy downpours. The large living room and master bedroom are done as well as another room and the hallway. There are many corners in this house which makes the shoe molding installation a slow process but two rooms were completed.

Mike and Renee attended the Galveston County Long Term Recovery Committee meeting this afternoon. This is a group of people that come from many agencies that are working together to help those in Galveston County that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. There has bee much progress in their work and they are developing workgroups and plans to help the staggering number of individuals that need assistance.

In the evening, we were honored to have Shelli Williamson, the Disaster Response Coordinator in Texas, from Upbring Disaster Response (formerly Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response) visit one of our worksites and join us for dinner and our team meeting. She led us in devotions, shared with us about her work and live, listened to our stories, and thanked us (more than once) for being here. And she brought cookies!

Tuesday, September 25

Another great day – in spite of heavy downpours a couple of times today. We continued with the same work as yesterday. The piles of sheetrock and flooring are going down and the paint cans are being emptied. This means there are many walls that have been sheetrocked, a couple of large rooms that now have laminate flooring in place, many baseboards, molding strips, and walls that have been painted.

We are enjoying the retreat center and the evenings have become a wonderful time for fellowship with many conversations shared, games played, and other activities. This evening we enjoyed cake in celebration of the birthday of longtime team member, Richard Young.

Monday, September 24

Things went fairly smooth this morning – better than a “typical” Monday. We started working at three locations.

Two teams are at the Galveston County Food Bank – working in the “annex building” that they have acquired. One of the teams started built a steel stud wall that is 25+ feet long by 14 feet high. The sheetrock will start to go on it tomorrow. The other team started painted all of the 1”x10” boards that will be used for baseboards. They also started painting in the office area while waiting for the baseboards to dry.

Another team is working in a home in Santa Fe. They started sheetrocking and made good progress despite all of the homeowner’s possessions they had to work around.

The fourth team thought they were going to have to remove flooring but found that that was already done so they were able to get started laying laminate floor. They installed 14 of the 70 boxes of flooring that were delivered this morning.

We had a guest for dinner this evening – Pastor Deb Grant from Faith Lutheran in Dickinson. Last trip, we had worked in Pastor Deb’s church and a home the church owned. It was great to see her again and to hear of the progress at Faith. But we were also reminded of how much there is still to be done. We will get some of that done and hope that there will be many others that follow us.

Sunday, September 23

We left McAlester, OK early this morning with a planned nine hour traveled day. All went well and we even arrived at Zion Retreat Center a little earlier than expected. We unloaded all of gear and started to settle in.

We met with the Guy and Pops from the Galveston County Long Term Recovery Committee and have picked out four jobs we are going to start working on tomorrow with a couple of others that we hope to get to later in the week.

Using the brand-new online ordering and pick up at WalMart, Dawn had the grocery shopping done in no time and we had a wonderful supper. The rest of the evening was spent lounging around at the retreat center with most of us in bed by 10 o’clock. We are thankful for the uneventful journey to Galveston and are anxious to get to work tomorrow.

Saturday, September 22

After a wonderful send off, 21 of us left St. Philip’s shortly after 6 AM. By lunchtime there were 22 of us, and by suppertime the team was complete when the two remaining team members met us in Oklahoma. We are in McAlester, OK for the night and plan to be back on the road at 7 AM. We should arrive in Galveston in the early evening.

Thank you to all that were there to see us off, those that have sent us texts, emails, and Facebook comments, and those that are praying for us. We appreciate all of you.

Hurricane Harvey Team #1 - Daily Updates

Monday – Day 10: There wasn’t supposed to be a Day 10 to this trip but, fortunately, it was uneventful. We left Des Moines shortly after 9 this morning and pulled into St. Philip’s shortly before 2 p.m. The freeway was bare the whole way with no blowing or drifting to deal with. And we saw very few cars in the ditch.

Overall, it was a great trip. The Zion Retreat Center was a wonderful place to stay, the Texas weather was great, our partners in Texas worked hard to provide us with everything we needed for our rebuilding work, our cooks kept us well fed, our crew chiefs led their teams effectively, and our team members were awesome!

We worked in a church and six houses that had water damage from the hurricane – mostly installing drywall, mudding and taping, and painting. We also did some demolition work, plumbing work, electrical work, cleaning, cabinet assembly, countertop installation, and much more - all things that will help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey move forward.

We thank everyone that was involved in this trip – our team members; our Texas partners; our financial supporters; those that supported us with prayers, text messages, and comments on Facebook throughout the week, our family and friends at home, and our neighbors that cleared our driveways of 20 inches of snow!

This adventure is over, but our journey continues. It’s very likely that we will be back in the same area of Texas in the fall.

Day 9 - Sunday: We had a good night in Emporia, KS and left there later than our original plan since we were only going as far as Des Moines. We were able to have lunch at a sit down restaurant, instead of fast food, since we weren’t on much of a schedule. The drive to Des Moines was okay. Some wind and snow but nothing that caused us any trouble. There was very little snow in southern Iowa so there wasn’t any drifting to deal with. We having been watching the northern Iowa and southern Minnesota all day and will do the same tomorrow morning to determine the next leg of our journey. We hope to leave at 9 AM and travel the remaining 250 miles to Fridley. We are thankful to God for our safe travels and all of the prayers and well wishes from those that are following our journey.

Day 8 - Saturday: Our day started as planned. We left the Zion Retreat Center around 6:30 this morning. From then on, everything changed. Our first stop was to be at a rest area that was closed, the high winds caused a drop in gas mileage so we made unplanned gas stops, and that changed where we were going to each lunch and dinner. We did make it to our planned hotel in Emporia, KS - tired, but safe. En route, we made the decision to not travel all the way to Fridley on Sunday due to the weather. We plan to spend Sunday night in Des Moines and arrive home in the late afternoon on Monday.

When we were at Camp Victor in Ocean Springs, MS over ten years ago, their motto was “Semper Gumby” (Always Flexible) and we’ve used it many, many times since then. We certainly lived it today.

Day 7 - Friday: We were back at our jobsites this morning - continuing where we left off yesterday. Hanging drywall, taping and mudding, cabinet assembly, and painting filled the day for most of our team members. Although no house is completely finished, the progress towards getting these people back in their homes has taken a giant leap forward and given them some much needed hope, along with the realization that they aren’t forgotten. One of the homeowners told us, more than once, that love is an action word. It was wonderful to bring them labor, love, and hope.

The weather cooperated and we were able to spend the evening having our pizza party on the beach. That is a time honored tradition that gives us an opportunity after a long week of hard work to relax, enjoy each other’s company, the warm temperatures, the wind, the waves and even the screeching seagulls.

Day 6 - Thursday: A great day! We have made so much progress everywhere we worked today. We installed many sheets of drywall today and put on gallons of mud. We also assembled cabinets and did some additional plumbing work and probably a hundred other things.

We’ve presented prayer shawls to a couple of the homeowners and, as often the case, it was emotional for everyone. They all have been so grateful and have touched our hearts with their stories.

We were joined tonight for dinner by Jessica Vermiliyea, Pastor Deb Grant (from Faith Lutheran), and Kécia Mallette - our partners on this trip. What a wonderful evening! We are so grateful for all of their help in making this trip a success.

Day 5 - Wednesday: Our week is going well. We finished up the work we were assigned (and much more) at another house. The family had been living there without a functioning kitchen. They now has a countertop in place with a working sink (and much more water available due to the discovery of clogged aerators and lines.) They also have much improved wiring and lighting so will be able to use their kitchen once again.

The work continued at the other two sites with lots of mudding and other tasks being done. There are so many small but time-consuming tasks that need to be done - often without the correct supplies or tools on hand. Some of us are getting familiar with a few of the Home Depot stores in the area. We also started hanging drywall in two additional homes today and will soon be mudding in those two.

We were joined at dinner tonight by Jessica Vermilyea. She is the director of Upbring Disaster Response (formerly Lutheran Social Services) of Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. She was instrumental in our planning for this Texas trip. She shared her moving story of how she got started in her present career shortly after Hurricane Katrina along with some of her experiences in disaster response. It was certainly something we could all relate to.

Day 4 - Tuesday: We continued with the work we started yesterday with so much going on at once. Team members were taping, mudding, sanding, hauling drywall, doing plumbing work, installing trim, hanging drywall, painting, doing electrical work, tearing out walls, framing walls, and much, much more. So much progress in just a couple of days. We finished up the drywalling at one of the house and are moving onto drywalling in two more houses tomorrow. We will continue to work in the other two homes and at Faith Lutheran Church.

By the way, It was 75 degrees here today!

Day 3 - Monday: We started our morning with the whole team traveling to the Galveston County Food Bank to drop off the food we had collected for the Kidz Pacz program and the prayer shawls that were given to us by St. Philip’s and Atonement Lutheran Church. What a wonderful opportunity to see the building and hear about the programs they have in place. And it certainly was a treasured experienced for the seven of us to that had worked renovating the building on our previous Galveston trips.

After that, we split up and went off to four jobsites - three homes and a church. It was a typical Monday morning - with the work getting off to a slow start due to unknown tasks, lack of supplies, and tools in the wrong location. But things got rolling and progress was made at all the sites. We will be returning to all of the same jobsites in the morning and expect to get a lot accomplished.

And the temperature was over 60 degrees this afternoon!!!

Day 2 - Sunday: We were on the road at 7:15 this morning. It was great to see grass, trees with leaves, and even flowers along the freeway. Driving through Dallas and Houston made some of us realize that the roads and traffic in the Twin Cities maybe aren’t so bad. We arrived in Galveston shortly before 4 PM, go unpacked, had dinner, and are now relaxing. 1300 miles in a car is tiring. We probably will all be asleep before our 10:30 lights out time. Tomorrow morning we will go to the Galveston County Food Bank to drop off the food that was collected at St. Philip’s and then will be off to our jobs at four locations in the Texas City/Dickinson area.

Day 1 - Saturday: We left St. Philip's with snow on the ground and temperature of 12 degrees. We've never been in that situation before. But we arrived in Moore, OK around 8 this evening with no snow on the ground and the temperature all the way up to 42 degrees. The drive was uneventful and we are grateful for that. We traveled just over 800 miles today and will go the remaining 500 miles tomorrow. We expect to arrive in Galveston around 4 p.m.

Check out the story about SPDR's 50th trip, to New Jersey last spring, on the ELCA website by clicking here.


Click here to read a story about SPDR in the ELCA's online magazine - Living Lutheran.

We've published a newsletter!

Click on THE JOURNEY to read the Summer 2014 issue.

Links to past issues:

Volume 2, Issue 1

Volume 1, Issue 2

Volume 1, Issue 1

Check out this Minot Flood Anniversary Tribute video from First Lutheran's Facebook page.

Watch for our favorite Minot churches - First Lutheran, Christ Lutheran, and First Presbyterian. And watch closely at the 3:20 mark.


Tomorrow night I sleep in my own bed for the first time in 366 days. They are coming in the morning to get the carpet in the stairs. We moved a chair and three bookcases down from the bedrooms today. We should have all of our furniture back by Sunday.

We realize that there is no way we would be where we are at now if St Philip’s mission, people, and supporters had not become part of our life. 2011/2012 taught us that things can be replaced and what counts are our Lord, our families, our friends, our health, and our desire to face challenges as opportunities.

Have a great weekend.



Click here to view an ELCA video on disaster response. Watch carefully around the 0:30 mark. Also, listen to what Pastor Nevergall is saying about volunteering.