Samaritan's Purse volunteer Disaster Relief build in Tuscaloosa, AL…

Being able to travel has given us so many wonderful opportunities!  Last year we were able to spend 2 weeks in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer disaster relief rebuild…Es SP 056

This year, we made a point to come back through the area.  It still shows, in many areas of the town, the effects of the tornadoes.Es SP 087

Once we had a rough idea of when we would be traveling through Alabama, we put in an application to volunteer in Tuscaloosa again, for a week.  These volunteer positions are limited in number, and get filled months in advance, so, while we were disappointed to find that they didn’t have room for us, we weren’t overly surprised either.  We really hoped that something would come up (cancellations), but felt a little weird praying for someone else to have to miss out on such a wonderful experience so that we could get in (so we didn’t! LOL!  -God knows our hearts/thoughts).   A few days before we would be driving though, I was chatting with a volunteer that we had met on last year’s build, and he suggested that I call the on-site scheduling boss, and he even had her number.  I did call Miss Erinn on Friday afternoon, and she remembered us (is that good??? or.very.bad.???).  She asked what we would need for spots, and I told her that we hoped to have 3 guys (Vaughn, Eli, and Jake) and one gal (Beth); she said that she had just had those exact cancellations!!!   (wow.  those crazy coincidences!!! 😛 )  We were so thankful that God gave us another opportunity to be on a S.P. work crew!!!  Es SP 111

So, on Monday, we pulled in to Moundville Archeological Park, the only campground that we could find that would take us; the park that we had stayed at the year before wasn’t open for the season yet.  Since my crew would not be staying at the church, they didn’t have to go in to the Monday night orientation.  Most volunteers stay at the host church, where S.P. has cots set up for them. Es SP 175

Volunteers bring their own bedding, clothing, and personal items.

While the volunteers are working, Samaritan’s Purse provides meals for the day, both hot meals at the church, and sack lunches, packed by the volunteers themselves.  AR 073

The Tuscaloosa site has a fabulous cook, Jay.  He is such a blessing to everyone he comes in contact with.   This year, he is joined by his wife, now that she is retired!  The bigs leave at 6:30 in the morning to get to breakfast (mandatory), and don’t get home till around 7pm (after dinner and share time, also mandatory) every day.  While the meals and times of visiting together are required, and mean more time away from the rest of the family, my bigs wouldn’t miss it for anything – it is such a neat experience!

When my crew volunteers, the rest of us (Thomas and younger, and myself) go in to dinner with the build team once a week.  We love to meet, and put faces to, everyone we hear about on the crew, and we are getting to know the staff pretty good too.

The first week, Vaughn, Eli, Beth, and Jake all volunteered.Es SP 069

They got to work with some really great students from Tabor, a Mennonite college in KS.  The students were earning credit for a disaster response course by building with S.P. for two weeks.  My family enjoyed working with the students so much; they were a great group of (I was going to say kids, but they aren’t! LOL!) volunteers!

Miss Erinn said that they had room for us if we wanted to stay an extra week, so we also stayed for two!   The crews did everything from framing a new construction…Es SP 127

to working on a rebuild.   S.P. has 2 new constructions and 2 rebuilds going on right now, and at least 8 more projects here.Es SP 016

The first week they built, the weather wasn’t so great for working outside, but you do what needs to be done.  My guys had to make a trip to the store for a few warmer clothes and work gloves!Es SP 008

But the second week was fabulous.  The second week, Beth stayed home with us – I think that she was tuckered out from the long hours!!!  Here is part of the volunteer crew, along with the home owner. Es SP 066

I am purposefully not posting many pics, or the best, as I am hoping that Eli will do another slide-show like he did of their time here last year.

There are very few experiences that I would say that everyone would be blessed by experiencing, but this is one of the them (THE one).  The whole volunteer experience, from devotions at breakfast to share time after dinner, is as much a blessing to the volunteers as it is to the home owners on the recieving end (at least we feel that blessed!).  And while our 2 weeks are up in Tuscaloosa for this year, we are already figuring where we can get another build-fix in before we head to our hometown for the summer!

Given the incredible opportunities to see and do all that we do, it would be (IS) really easy to fall into perpetual-vacation mentality.  I do NOT want that for my kids.  I want them to grow into compassionate, caring, giving, and hard working adults (hard working isn’t the same as owned by work).  That isn’t going to happen by chance; character doesn’t just happen by chance.  While we work very hard all summer to prepare for our travels, we still don’t want our kids to lose their great work ethics (or their building skills) over the winter.   This is such a blessing for us to be able to put our skills to work to help others.

The past 2 weeks, we have been able to put our construction skills to use to help others that are struggling.   We have been encouraged by the fellowship, teaching, and edification.  We have been blessed to be a (albeit very small) part of others’ lives – and it always opens our eyes up to how INCREDIBLY blessed we are, in so many ways.Es SP 033


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  1. Glad I put her phone number in my phone last year. I really enjoy mission trips and am excited that I might be able to both a mission trip and a small vacation this year and with someone I really love being with. Can’t wait for March 25th when Sarah and I both go down to Tuscaloosa (by the means of going to New Orleans for a three or four hours before heading over on Monday). When we get to Tuscaloosa, I do want to go see Mr. Washington again though.

  2. felicia calfee says:

    best time in my life was helping people with samaritians purse i MISS it

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