Saturday, March 07, 2009

Thank God for the "Midianites"

Virgie Holloway with her "Midianites" Karen Hoover and Mary Zimmerman.

After two days of working with Elijah Christian Ministries and Operation Nehemiah it was time to commit the rest of the week toward Mrs. Holloway and the house on Pauger St. Insulation was completed and sheet rock started by MDS last week. This week they sent another crew of hard workers to Pauger St. to continue the project. When I went by to check the job on Monday, it appeared I had gone back in time. Several ladies were there hanging sheet rock in colorful long dresses and hair bonnets, while the men were in black pants, simple shirts and suspenders. Jim the MDS crew chief and I had a conversation. I wanted to make sure that as I worked with these folks, I did not say or do anything to offend them and their lifestyle. Jim assured me that these "Old Order" Mennonites would be fine.

I introduced myself to all and we set to work. Mrs. Horning, Karen Hoover and Mary Zimmerman were in an upstairs sanding, taping and mudding. While Alvin, Bernie, Will and Ernie were working all over the downstairs. As they worked, they spoke to each other in Pennsylvania Dutch. The language is much more beautiful then German or Dutch, it has a sing-song cadence and soft air in the sound. I also had to be more careful in listening, since their accent was much more refined than to southern drawl of myself.
Mary spreading joint compound.

Will and I set out to connect the vent pipes to the three bath fan/vent/light units. A 4inch hole had to be drilled in the side of the house where each vent housing would be. The difficult part was that one was about 28 feet up in the soffit of the second story of the house. Will was a nineteen year old young man from Canada. He was one of 18 "teenagers" that were spending their week in NOLA rebuilding. He's smile was contagious and his manner quiet. I enjoyed my day with him and we accomplished our task.

From time to time, I would move through the house and check on the team. Making sure all was well. I was always met with a kind word and friendly smile. The two young ladies would look at each other and giggle as I spoke and moved from room to room.
Karen mudding and taping sheet rock seams.

I want to communicate how peaceful the house was with the Mennonites working. There quiet confidence and genuine love for each other was evident. By the second day they were much more friendly and we began to share a bit of our lives together. They have a deep love for their community, a deep respect for elders and an honor for all mankind. The sounds of the city were new for them, sirens, traffic noise and the general din of thousands of people living in close quarters was new for them. By the end of the week, they were ready to return to their rural lifestyle in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

On Thursday it was time for the Mennonites to meet Mrs. Holloway. She wanted to cook for the crew before they left at lunch on Friday. Thursday lunch I went to her home to pick her up and load the red beans and rice she had been cooking since early in the morning. As we arrived, we set up the make shift table in the yard and the Mennonites and a group of college students feasted on Mrs. Holloway's very fine cooking.
William framing to back bathroom for sheet rock.

Mrs. Holloway was talking and sharing her life as usual while all ate the delicious food. She could not get over the beautiful, colorful dresses and aprons the ladies were wearing. She asked them if they made them, they responded with a simple, "We make all our clothes." They did go on to explain that they make most all clothing, except shirts for the men. Shirts are cheaper to buy than they are to make due to the time involved.

Mrs. Holloway was thanking God for her "Midianites" as we packed up the food and headed for her home. Indeed, I thank God for my Mennonite brothers and sisters and all the others who are coming from far and near to help rebuild NOLA.

How about you?

Ernie framing for sheet rock.


  1. Kind of makes one feel that most of us have lost touch with what it means to be Christian: to live simply, to love, to serve one another, to respect each other. I think their light shines a bit brighter than mine.