PDA Mission Trip #26 (Cumberland, MD): Day 1 & 2

 You know it, you love it, you guessed it…it is the Mission Trip Blog!

Day One was Sunday which began with an 11 a.m. Blue Shirt service led by our Sunday School students, and the perfect send off, a Lindsay Hall potluck lunch. Mary Beth cautioned us to take small servings, but in the end there was more than enough to go around for all who came to enjoy.  

Many of us driving got caught in an I-270 five-car crash (thankfully not involving any of us) which delayed us or detoured us, but it was still a beautiful day to be driving into the mountains. 

Sunday’s Send Off Potluck at GPC

The Race Street House group consisted of most of the men and two ladies. Their biggest job was the front porch which was jacked up today, and tomorrow the support beams and the decking will be replaced. But that wasn’t all, not by a long shot. They replaced the whole dining room ceiling with new drywall and also hung it on the hallway upstairs. They got a new front door from Craig’s List, but had to redo it from right opening to left opening and that is quite a feat with old hardware. There were also several people doing electrical work in the attic that amounted to be much more than they had originally anticipated. It was also really hot up there. The upstairs center front window needed new glass which also entailed glazing it. And we can’t forget the bathroom repair, but we’ll spare you those details.

The National Highway House group was the location where most of the ladies ended up with one intrepid male to assist (all right, he did take a leadership role)…but really we all worked together as a harmonious team. We were to be the artistes, the painters. But first we had to clear out our basement quarters and clean them up. This house is home to 7 inside cats, 15 feral cats, and a dog. We were appropriately gloved and masked for the task. We made great progress today, with cleaning behind us and paint on most of the walls. Tomorrow we also need to paint the concrete floor.

This morning started with below freezing temps, but blossomed into a 60-plus degree afternoon. We had a special guest join us for the dinner wonderfully prepared by our cooks, minus crowd favorite, Carol Bunch. She needs to recoup after a nasty trip and ankle injury while involved in helping to carry a communion table down steps at her church. But I digressed. Our special guest was Carvel Graves, now a sophomore at Frostburg. Carvel had gone on previous mission trips with us. It was a treat to have him with us for a visit.

We look forward to another beautiful and blessed day tomorrow. So stay tuned because who knows what wackiness we’ll get involved in and what wonders we will see.





PDA Mission Trip #25 (Gatlinburg, TN): Day 5

This morning the Beards and Bastines cleaned much of the church in order to give the cleaning lady an easier day.

The city of Gatlinburg has installed warning sirens now!  Yeah!

A University of Tennessee biologist says that an old tree slice from the Smoky Mountains shows that it was burned from a fire every 16 or 17 years from the 1830’s to the 1950’s. The amount of dead branches, trees, and shrubs in the park has been building up. He does not believe that the November 2016 fire was a once-in-a-100-year fire; fires will happen there again.

The good news is that the codes in Sevier County require all Mountain Tough fire victims to clear out the dead trees on their property now. Mike has 100 dead trees, which Darryl says should fall in a year. They are far from his house. The priority for the tree cutters is to remove charred trees that could fall on newly rebuilt houses.

I mentioned the need for more flame-retardant siding and roofs, but was reminded that the fire was so hot that it melted glass and aluminum!

Noel and Betty have planted 39 new dogwoods and 1 redbud tree. The dogwoods alternate – one white, one pink, one white, one pink.

We volunteers are very enthusiastic about the heck of a lot of work that we accomplished! It was a treat to see the progress that has been made since last October on Noel’s and Mike’s houses! In the fall of 2017 one of our PDA teams had just started framing Noel’s house. Noel, who is living with his son, who is a city planner in Pigeon Forge, hopes to move back in in 2 months, although Fletcher says it will take longer. We admire Noel’s work ethic – he leaves his son’s house at 5:00 a.m. to start working on his house early in the day!

In conclusion, Darryl, one of our coordinators from Hearts in Action, texted, “Fletcher’s team is the best!”

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes . . .” (Isaiah 61:1–3)

We look forward to helping folks again somewhere in early October possibly.  —Diane


PDA Mission Trip #25 (Gatlinburg, TN): Day 4

Today has been wrap-up day! Fresh snow fell again on the tops of the Smoky Mountains; it’s 51°F in Gatlinburg.

Noel’s House

No more painting outside today because of cold weather tonight. The PDA team loaded up all the sheet-rock trash into Noel’s trailer to take to the dump. Then they headed over to Mike’s house.

Mike Morgan’s House

We had an energetic baker’s dozen of PDA volunteers at Mike and Diana’s today. With a new and improved Wagner stain sprayer, Maxine and Diane finished staining as much of Mike’s ramp and deck as we could; we got to the back of the house! We saw a great blue heron fly overhead! They are uncommon permanent residents in Cades Cove according to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website. Cades Cove is far – 36 miles away.

Bob brushed stain on the supports of the sunshade over the wheelchair ramp. Alex, Lucille, Elisa, and Bernadette stained all the basement log siding. Dave finished attaching the last remaining siding in the basement. Bob Beard, Sam Glasgow, Dale, and Duane had to undo part of the wooden hood over the stove, which was started by other workers, because it wasn’t flush. They almost finished the hood before running out of materials!

The Far-Away Group

Many things were accomplished inside the trailer:  We finished installing the vanity in the master bathroom, installed the toilet, installed the support flange for the old bathtub in the other bathroom, rehung the antique door to the master bedroom and re

installed the original hardware, reinstalled the water heater, installed a back door, hung the door to the smaller bathroom, put in additional outlets, installed door surrounds, and generally cleaned the interior. Outside, we installed the stair to the deck and eased the edge of the handrail and guardrail. We met the owners – Ann and her daughter – when they visited the site in the afternoon and gave them a faux stained-glass banner signed by our team. We played with the dogs and shared our lunch. Ann and her daughter will be able to move in soon!

We left a bit of work at each homeowner’s house for Patty, Darryl, and the next PDA team.

Noel giving us a tour of the stained glass windows at Gatlingburg Presbyterian Church

Before dinner, Noel and his wife gave us a wonderful tour of the Tiffany stained-glass windows that he and an assistant had spent 1 year installing in the Gatlinburg Presbyterian Church! They are stunning! They are only visible from inside, so make a point of attending church on a Sunday when you go to the Smokies! Or plan a church retreat there; it is an official Presbyterian retreat center. The church membership is only 20 so it really helps them pay their bills when people stay there: just $20 per night per person, self-catering!

During the spaghetti dinner, I asked Mike how his fire insurance turned out. He said that the insurance payment for his house and its contents covered only about 1/3 of the costs to rebuild under the new building codes. In addition, Dolly Parton gave each fire victim $1,000 per month for 5 months and then another $5,000 lump sum, so $10,000 total per fire-victim family. She, with the help of East Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, founded Mountain Tough, which receives tax-deductible financial donations and manages each family’s case. Mountain Tough provided Mike’s kitchen counter and paid for cutting down 25 dead trees. The code says he must cut down another 100 dead trees on his property. 

After dinner we had a 25th mission trip celebration for our expert work coordinator Fletcher. Then our two homeowner families gave highly appreciative talks. Noel told us that his faith never wavered after the fire, but many homeowners in Gatlinburg blame God for the fire burning down their houses; Noel asked for prayers for them. Dessert featured a birthday party for Bernadette, which was a fun way to top off our final evening!  
We presented three faux stained-glass banners that we all had signed to Noel and Betty, to Mike and Diana, and to Gatlinburg Presbyterian Church. The youth at First Presbyterian Church Cookeville had made the banners which featured their mission trip theme “Be strong!” based on “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me . . .” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)  — Diane


PDA Mission Trip #25 (Gatlinburg, TN): Day 3

It’s hump day, and I think we made it through the first hurdle just fine. However, as you know we’ve been missing Mary and Bob Wasik terribly, and today it just boiled over into having to express our emotions in a musical tribute. So, lucky blog readers, you too can see our raw response to the absence of Mary and Bob on our mission trip participants. It may not be appropriate for young children, so exercise your best judgment about who you show this moving musical extravaganza to! Click on  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Pq6L_RT1wjTft7nD217t50A38jhyLPTj/view?usp=drivesdk

Now back to the daily basics of what we are really here to accomplish….

Noel Ball’s wife and daughter came to see the progress this afternoon. All the sheet-rock walls are painted! The ceilings were painted north to south yesterday, and east to west today, to make them perfect. After lunch, part of the group painted the second coat on the exterior back of his house – a festive pearl gray that Noel’s wife had picked out herself. Teamwork was evident for this task. Lucille, Dottie, and Maxine painted the low-down siding while Lynn, Bob, and Dave Francis manned the ladders to paint the high siding. We were able to paint the whole back of the house (a fine day’s work, by George!)  —Maxine and Lucille

P.S.  Noel had a hip replacement since we were here in October, so he can stand up a little straighter.

Six of us went over to Mike Morgan’s house, the veteran who some of us helped in October. Alex, Elisa, and Bernadette sanded the log siding in the basement. The siding had weathered various shades of brown while stacked outside. Sam sawed and installed shelves for Mike’s tools in the basement. I spray-stained the pickets a red mahogany along his amazing wheelchair ramp, with Dinah wiping the drips. Thanks to the blowing wind, the white streaks in my hair as well as my shoes are now red mahogany. Mike says he likes my new, hip spray-on tan.

Mike moved into his house last November 30 and the next day had brain surgery to have a stent put in. He had been told last year that he had only 6 months to live, but now he can walk without a cane and he spends much less time in his motorized wheelchair! In March 2018 he had arm surgery because he had lost the use of one hand. He can use his thumb and two fingers, so he says he’s clumsy and drops things a lot. His wife, Diana, has a heart murmur. Tank, his therapy dog, is as lovable as ever! Mike and Noel are very appreciative of our help. It means a lot to us that they help as much as they can.  —Diane

Over at the “far-away” project (an hour east of Gatlinburg), Dave Bastine, Edco, Bruce, and Stuart continued refurbishing two bathrooms – installing toilets, door molding, and a bathtub. Fletcher and Jim joined them in the afternoon, with Fletcher supervising the interior work, and Jim joining Fred and Hunt in cutting steps for the front entrance. Bob Beard with just the right tools and Mary Beth also made an appearance at the “far-away” project.  —Jim

Dinner tonight was two varieties of baked chicken, rice, peas, salad, and freshly baked cookies.

The photos below are from Noel’s and Mike’s houses.

Tomorrow night we will host our homeowners and Hearts in Action work coordinators for a spaghetti dinner. Noel will give us a tour of the beautiful stained-glass windows, which he installed here at Gatlinburg Presbyterian Church, where we eat and sleep. The windows were donated by a church in Chattanooga.



PDA Mission Trip #25 (Gatlinburg, TN): Day 2

What a difference a day makes! We moved from winter to spring . . . thank goodness! Waking to full sun and the promise of a warmer day truly energized us. I will start with the info on the Noel Ball tree house. And then you’ll be treated to the inside scoop on the other worksite.
Yesterday, we had just about finished putting a coat of paint on all the walls and ceilings that were ready for painting. Today we could see our triumphs and our flaws. Coat number two needed to be perfect and we were prepared to do our best. Many of us had never used long-handled poles on hand rollers and had to pick up the proper rhythm. When we ran through all the paint we had on hand, we took an early break for lunch. While we had to sit in the sun room yesterday, today we could sit out on the deck and enjoy the sunshine. It was once again a BYOB affair (bring your own bucket – to sit on). When we ran out of paint a second time, we ended our workday early. Some came back to hang out at the church, some went on a hike to Porter’s Creek (a raging stream in the Smoky Mountain National Park), and some enjoyed the more commercial parts of Gatlinburg. On these trips we rarely have time to sightsee, and it was nice to have the free time, especially on such a nice day.

Tonight’s menu featured meatloaf and baked potatoes, along with stir-fried veggies and roasted carrots. I have been remiss in not mentioning that we have had devotions each morning and evening. Tonight they were led by Lynn Cairns. Maxine Aldridge took the lead this morning. We are getting a full measure of faith mixed into our fun. And speaking of fun, we are in the second evening of “Game Night.” It is amazing how much fun we can have with dominoes and “Scattergories!”  —Lucille



We are blessed to be here before the crowds come for the annual Gatlinburg Wildflower Pilgrimage next week! Bob Beard led Dottie & Lynn Cairns and me on a gorgeous 5-mile hike around Porter’s Creek among rare yellow trillium that smell like lemons, white trillium that turn pink, lavender and white showy orchis orchids, wild blue geraniums, blue phlox, dwarf iris, white fringed phacellia, and many others. We crossed the rushing stream on a narrow log bridge which was almost as dramatic as the Royal Gorge! We heard a pileated woodpecker and spotted a pair of them, each with a red top-knot. Two of us saw a bat sleeping on a rock! So refreshing to be away from paint fumes!  —Diane


Seven Presbyterian Disaster Agency volunteer team members had come from North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, and Maryland. We met our contact for the day at Lowe’s on one of his several trips picking up supplies for the project. He is a story of grace. Building his own house a few years ago until he could no longer afford to do so, he said it became necessary for him to humble himself and go begging. He asked for food at a place where eventually he was able to make a deal: he would volunteer two days a week at the agency in exchange for assistance completing the construction of his home. He learned of the hungry and poor and was given a job with the organization that had helped him. He is compassionate about his care for those who have fallen on hard times. He welcomed our help with the rebuilding of the house of a woman who lived in a dilapidated trailer home. 

Dave Bastine, Russ Madsen, Fred Hebdon, Edco Bailey, Bruce Andrews, Hunt McKinnon, and Stuart Morrison spent the day building railings for the front porch, installing faucets, upgrading electrical outlets, hanging doors, and installing a hot water tank. Tomorrow we are planning to rebuild the front entry stairs and assist with plumbing and other details. We hope not to find rattlers or copperheads that our contact has warned us to beware of.  —Edco