Mission: Texas – Day 3, Part 1

Our group has worked hard today, it’s unbelievable what everyone’s put into these two homes. I’ll back track a little bit here but I wanted to get that out of the way.

Breakfast was cereal and bagels, plus a few fun surprises as everyone received a carptenter’s pencil, hot beverage to-go cup, and Home Depot tool pocket apron thing (you know what I’m talking about). Nate showed up just as adult chaperone Dave’s brother, Ken, who lives in Texas, showed with his tools in-hand to help us out this week. Ken brings our group up to sixteen (seventeen, if you count the Tom Tom GPS). We grabbed our gear and Nate lead our vehicles to our two worksites.

We arrived at the first home and Nate showed us all of our projects. Because there were not only more projects but more room we decided to put most of the group to work on that home (floors / walls / ceilings / water heater) while a small group of Pastor Kent, Jerry M., Ken, and Kelly M. went to the other house (bathroom / windows). I’m the only one who initially visited both so I could shoot some documentary footage, then Nate drove me back to the first home. On the way, I asked him about the neighborhood in terms of socio-economic levels and he said we were in a “medium” neighborhood but on the low side. He said there are worse neighborhoods around and that was powerful to hear, considering how much work there was to do in the neighborhood we’re working in today.

When I returned to the first home, people were already busy. Molly N., Molly D., Leah K., and Kelsey W. were scraping and sanding wall materials. “Drywall” Dave lead the charge in laying down a new faux-wood panel vinyl flooring for the bedroom, with Trevor N. and mother-son Team Stone helping out every step of the way. Steve C. taught Kristen H., Piper C., and me how to put “mud” on the ceiling – a sort of spackle coating to smooth out the ceiling’s nails and seams. Everyone was in high spirits as we worked, and conversation ran just as steady as floor was laid out and walls were sanded down.

Lunch was a tasty picnic on the porch filled with conversations of school and what they teach and what they don’t teach, plus tossing grapes at Pete so he could catch them in his mouth (a natural talent, for sure). We reached a point in the work that left room for only some members of our group to be of much service, so I drove a gaggle of girls to Target to pick up blankets for a few folks who ended up too cold last night. By the time we returned, it was time to do crown molding and primer painting, while my wife, Kelly, who had moved to the first house after lunch, was busy smashing nails into brand-new floor trim with the loudest nail gun I’ve ever heard in my life. She had a big smile on her face as she worked with the nail gun, too, confirming my theory that I can safely buy her power tools for birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries and she’ll be happy (I still like getting The Simpsons stuff).

The work is hard and dirty but there isn’t one complainer in the bunch and everyone is doing a phenomenal job. Ohio Nate stopped by, took one look at the new vinyl bedroom floor we laid in, and praised us for an amazing job – something he says he rarely gets the chance to say. This really boosted our spirits and has us working even harder as a result. We’re hoping to finish up a few more pieces of important work so tomorrow we can disconnect the water heater and get that moved / fixed and turn this unfortunate house into something wonderful.

Other highlights include Piper C. slicing away with a hacksaw to make sure trimmings were the perfect size, Steve C. teaching Pete S. how to use his circular saw, the awesomeness that is Pete and my matching Kum & Go gas station t-shirts, Kelsey W. disagreeing with the concept lemon-flavored water (and also repeatedly accidentally saying we’re in Florida instead of Texas), Kristen proclaiming she had to “man up” and get over working near cockroaches, the first house accidentally taking both auxillary bags of fun lunch stuff like chips and Oreos, Ken bribing the first house with a 12-pack of Mountain Dew in exchange for a saw, Trevor and I desperately trying to lay down pieces of extra vinyl for Team Stone to set heavy furniture on before the dropped it, killing a mosquito and wiping it on Molly D’s shirt, Molly D. saying “Oh, absolutely!” in the most Minnesotan accent possible, and a gentleman driving by our group and stopping to let us know, in a perfect Texas accent, that, “What y’all are doing is tremendous, thank you so much.”

I’m heading back to the worksite after this blog post while Chris wraps up the finishing touches on tonight’s dinner, homemade chili. I believe tonight we’re breaking up into small groups to process the day and talk about tomorrow’s work, plus maybe a movie, definitely some more Great Dalmuti, Molly D. and I want to have a guitar / ukulele jam, and hopefully I’ll get word from Barry that we have the ability to post photos on the blog (and hopefully I find a way to get into the church library to blog again!).

Just in case I’m unable to blog tomorrow, we’re heading up to Beaumont, Texas for the Crockett Street New Year’s Eve party. It’s a street dance with live music, BBQ, jumbotrons to watch festivities in NYC, and more. Sounds like a blast, and many of our suburban youth have never been to a street dance before, so there’s some uniqueness to it.


P.S. I’m passing your comments on to the group, so keep them coming!


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your blog! I almost feel like I am there, except I get to stay in my chair and just hear about the great work you are doing. This makes me want to do a mission trip sometime with this fun-loving, hard-working group. The steaks sound good too. I’m glad Nate is finding a way for us in MN to stay informed, since our daughter named Leah is not filling us in.
    Weather-wise you are in a lot better place this week. We got snow 2x today, and it took me 1&1/2 hours to get home tonight from an appointment in Maple Grove. Very cold tomorrow with more snow on Thursday. Good-bye and love from Linda & Al Kramer.


  2. WOW! You all are GREAT. You should be very proud of the wonderful work you are doing…
    I so enjoy reading about your exploits and have just one comment about what I read: Kelsey
    “disagreeing” with something??!!
    I feel guilty up here enjoying myself while you are working so hard but have decided I WILL join you on one of these mission trips some day.
    I will ask you all to say a prayer for our 10 year old neighbor Ben who had a brain anyeurism on Christmas Day. FORtunately he got immediate and a correct diagnosisi, had surgery the following day, has had exceptional care & and should fully recover after spending 2-3 weeks in the hospital. Take care – all of you – and be proud!


  3. Mike is worried that any comment I make will embarass my daughter. Don’t worry Molly I am not crying! It is so wonderful to read about all of your adventures and great work. I am amazed that you guys hit the ground running and have been so productive on the first day. We love reading the updates and it sounds like so much fun. These will be lifelong memories. Keep up the great work all of you and can’t wait to hear all about it in person! P.S. We love you Molly!


  4. Team Excel (sior)! It certainly sounds like you are! You are making all of us proud. We are in a time when perspective is key. No matter what any of our own personal situations are, we can each find balance and motivation by realizing there are those around us, both near and far, who are wrestling with tougher challenges. Mission work is frequently a humbling experience and I imagine Team Excel is realizing this now.

    Enjoy Beaumont! Did you know that Beaumont is the home of the world’s largest fire hydrant, 24 feet tall and weighing 4,500 pounds? It is located at the State Fire Museum of Texas in Beaumont. Let’s hope they don’t have to open it up on y’all during the street dance! Try to keep it down to a dull roar!

    Beaumont is also the birth place of Edger and Johnny Winter -(Thanks Cliffy!) …. oh, sorry! Nevermind!

    Peace to you all!

    ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!


  5. What a great thing you all are doing! I can just imagine the appreciation those people feel whose lives you’ve come all the way from Minnesota to help reconstruct! Terrific job!

    By the way, for the ex-Clevelanders (Trevor and “Ohio Nate”), we had an “Alberta Clipper” come through last night here and we’ve gone from a 65 degree Christmas day (which is very unusual) to a blizzard today!…back to winter! Of course, I know that’s nothing for you Minnesotans! 🙂

    Keep up the great work and God bless you all! Have a safe trip back.


  6. Joke:

    A young man was walking into church one Sunday. This was a church he had attended a couple times, but without regularity, and the minister decided it was time to ask this person to join. He pulled the boy aside and said, ” Son, I think it’s time for you to join the Lord’s army.” The boy says, But I am already in the Lord’s army.” The minster says, “Then how come I don’t see you every week?” The boy answered, ” Because I’m in the secret service!”

    Happy New Year!




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