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"How I Spent My Summer Vacation"

(Well, part of it anyway…)

by Diana Tyler

For those who have asked, here are my "before" and "after" pictures (please tell me you can see the difference!) of the residence I helped work on for the "Tennessee Hope" Group Work Camp in July.

     The awesome youth of the North Eaton Christian Church!

Approximately 407 teens and adults from 11 different states and 17 different denominations (or was it 17 and 11?) converged upon Selmer, TN for one week to repair, paint and/or weatherize 166 homes of low-income and/or elderly residents. (Residents were initially referred to the program through their church or local assistance agency. Upon completing an application, residents were selected based on urgency of repairs and general need. "Our" resident had waited four years to be selected!)

Each Work Camp city goes through a two-year preparation process. This includes contacting and solidifying arrangements with local assistance agencies, government authorities, residents, merchants, and group housing sites. Many tools and materials are donated by local merchants of the work camp area. Participation fees from each Camp's volunteer workers, and donations from other interested individuals, are additional funding sources. Finally, matching gifts from each work camp's local government play a large part in the "care and feeding" of this large-scale operation.

     Crew 26's assignment.

(We were instructed to do carpentry, scraping, painting, caulking, and threshold installation.   Special instructions: "Do NOT leave for your work site without wasp spray!!!"   Our reaction:   Terror!!...and three questions--"What's a soffit?"   "What's a fascia?"   "How do you spell that?")

Work crews of six people each are selected in an effort to mix together people of different denominations, ages, geographical areas, genders, races, and skill levels. (These pictures show my happy crew which contained three Ohioans and one person each from Michigan, Virginia and Indiana. Even more interesting is the fact that there were TWO Disciples on our crew!) Specific jobs for each of the crew members are chosen by the members themselves; this allows leadership to be shared among all members of the crew.

     Righteous Crew 26 rests after a job well done!

Each day, we'd leave our home base (Selmer Middle School) @ 8 a.m. to work on our assigned site. At 3:30, we'd return to the school for showers (20 stalls for all those people!), dinner, an evening program of music, crew-story sharing and worship, a final snack, and then lights out at 10:30 p.m.


It was a busy, exciting, and tiring (but Spirit-filled!) week. Many of us came with the idea that we were going to help "our" residents. We did. But we also learned much from them as they shared luncheon devotional times with us and told us their own faith stories. We learned new skills, met many wonderful people, made some terrific memories, and exercised our physical and spiritual muscles. Mostly, we were simply a diverse group of people working together to make things better, in Christ's name… …and THAT'S what it's all about!

     Here's our driver--Rich--taking a well-deserved break!

Thanks to our great hosts on our return trip--the Middletown Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), KY!