Last week I went on my second Habitat for Humanity trip down to Ocean Springs, Mississippi with our group from Luther. It was another great experience similar to the first one but also vastly different in many ways. For example when we got to New Orleans it was still interesting and exciting but a lot less so (this is illustrated by the fact that I only took about 12 pictures in New Orleans compared to about 60-70 last year.) Well I still had lots of fun and it was a good way to relax and enjoy our break from schoolwork.

When we got to Camp Victor, all the good memories I had made from last year came flooding back. The place just has a good vibe or something. You can almost sense that God is present here, with all the good that Camp Victor does for its community members. Anyways it felt good to be a “veteran” and to know where everything was even though Camp Victor had been changed around a bit. We were given a tour of its facilities and then got a chance to put our stuff away and make our beds.

Later that night we had a meeting where all the jobs available for that week were announced. I originally wanted to be on the roofing crew, but it was full so I went with a group headed by Dale (probably a good thing too, I would have gotten so burned up on that roof). I was the oldest student in this group and took charge of getting tools and talked with the other group members.

The next morning after a pretty good nights rest and a decent breakfast of biscuits and gravy, Ross, Eli, Jessica and I went into the tool storage room. Dale had been unsure of what tools we would actually need but we were told to get a few basic things such as hammers, a circular saw, a few crowbars, and a couple ladders.

When we got to the work site, we found out we would be tearing down rotting Fascia and Soffit board. I didn’t have a lot of experience in tearing things down, but we all jumped on ladders and began ripping down the Fascia first and then the Soffit last. We accomplished this using a combination of hammers and crowbars/wonderbars(sp?), it was tough work because some were very stuck and stubborn.

The group I worked with really surprised me in their wiliness and as the week went on their skills in accomplishing tasks. They all did what they were told and even while working we were laughing and having a good time. I was the “veteran” and they were the “newbies” but I really learned a lot from them and it was fun getting to know them by working and talking with them.

I loved this years trip I think more than last year because of the new people that came on the trip, hanging out with them, talking with them, and working with them. I am definitely going again next year, and will be trying to recruit my friends or whoever will listen to come too. This is a great trip because you learn new skills, make lots of new friends, get to escape cold temperatures in Iowa, and you have fun everyday of the trip. Can’t wait till next spring.

Sam “SMG” Gaylord

The group (without Dale and Carol) with homeowner Larry.

The group (without Dale and Carol) with homeowner Larry.


A Day of Concrete

Wednesday was the day we poured the concrete out at Scott’s house. It was hard work, but with a strong crew the work went quickly–busted water lines and all!

This is my first Habitat trip.  I have wanted to go on such a trip for years and read in last year’s Luther magazine that alumni had joined Luther students in Mississippi to help with rebuilding after Katrina.  I decided this would be my chance to try the trip.  I am totally unskilled in the areas of construction so was not sure how useful I would be but had heard that any help was needed.  I had also heard that it was a privilege to work with Luther students.

Working with and getting to know the students was truly the best part of the trip.  They all worked hard, did not complain about long lines for the showers and meals ,and got along well with the owners of the homes.  The first job that I worked on for 3 days involved work with a man who loved to tell us stories.  We decided that if he would write a book it would be a thousand pages.  We learned about shrimping, how to make Gumbo, and about the history of the area.  He also liked to tell us how to do our job, which sometimes was helpful and other times was not.  The students listened to him and were so patient.  Then they would tell him that the way we were doing it was going well and he would listen to him.

The southern construction workers call women “Miss” and their first name as a sign of respect.  Our first day I was called “Miss Carol” and that stuck.

One evening the girls in the dorm wanted to know about some of my experiences at Luther back in the day . . . I told them that women had hours but men did not.  Then I told them all freshmen had to wear beanies and we bowed to the Homecoming queen and then threw our beanies up in the air to symbolize that we were accepted as students.  They could not believe that we wore beanies and had hours!

I did find jobs that I could do but I don’t think that was the important part.  I think meeting the home owners, listening to their stories of surviving Katrina and encouraging our students was useful.

I feel more hopeful about the future after working with these students.  They are so service oriented.  Many have been on several mission/service trips already.  They truly are living the gospel.

-Miss Carol (aka Carol Tack ’71)

The schedule at Camp Victor.  Lights out at ten p.m., lights on at six a.m.

The schedule at Camp Victor. Lights out at ten p.m., lights on at six a.m.

Concrete crew

This week I was part of a crew that poured the concrete floor for the garage of Scott Randall in Moss Point, Mississippi.  There was a lot of work that had to be done before we could pour the actual concrete.  First, we had to spread a few inches of sand and dirt in the garage and that took up the first couple of days.  Second, we laid a blue FEMA tarp over the sand and dirt because the water comes from the bottom up and the tarp combined with the sand and dirt that we had spread would work to keep the water out.  Then finally we were able to pour the concrete.   In order to get the concrete to the very back of the garage the cement had to be poured into wheelbarrows and moved to the back and spread around with rakes.  After the concrete had a little while to dry we went in with metal trowels and smoothed the imperfections in the cement  while standing on boards.  A concrete floor in a garage was not the only thing that was created this week.

Scott Randall is the owner of the house where we poured the concrete floor and our group was able to give him something much greater than any concrete floor in a garage.  After Hurricane Katrina, the people that were supposed to help him fix his house either did a really bad job or didn’t do the work at all and they stole his money.  Having our group come there to pour this concrete floor in his garage was meaningful because we came there and poured this concrete floor for him and we didn’t steal anything from and we gave him something.  We gave back to him a faith in people and we gave him hope.  I think that meant much more to him than the concrete floor because in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, when he was trying to rebuild his house he was robbed of his faith in people and we gave him hope for the future.  For me that was the most rewarding part of the work that myself and my group did this week.

The concrete truck. You can't pour a whole bunch of concrete without a concrete truck.

The concrete truck. You can't pour a whole bunch of concrete without a concrete truck.

The whole crew.

The whole crew.


“How are you doing today?”

In a fast-paced world, where people pass so quickly and the time for a conversation is fleeting, this question seems to often escape the lips of one person, without another offering a response. Other times the response is short-a simple “good”, or “okay”. But nothing more. Because there isn’t much time. Have to keep walking, have to get where you’re going.

That’s not the way things work down here.

One of the homeowners, that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, takes time to answer the question-how are you doing? And her answer is always the same.

I’m blessed.

Even when standing in a house with a roof that’s near collapsing-she’s blessed.

When the rain is pouring down making her yard a swamp-she’s blessed.

When the floor is half gone because of rotting wood from a hurricane three years ago-she’s blessed.

That got me thinking. She has so little, so much work that needs to be done and yet she never once suggested a hint of misfortune or bitterness. She, more than any that I have encountered before, appreciated what she had, and recognized it as a gift from God. What if we all adapted that mentality? What if everyone time someone asked us how we were doing, we said “I’m blessed.” That means dozens of times each day we would recognize everything that we have-our health, our family, our friends. That means dozens of times each day we wouldn’t have any excuse to frown, or be bitter, or angry-because at the end of the day if we still have the breath in our lungs and the possibility of tomorrow-we are indeed blessed.

Getting ready to leave tomorrow, I can’t help but feel blessed. I can’t help but think back on the great times we’ve had this week-on the struggles, the sweat, the bug bites, the laughter, and the opportunity. Lives were changed, those who served and those who were served. Each for the better I reckon.

And so, if you were to ask, “Hey, Mitch, how are you doing?”

I would whole-heartedly reply, “I’m blessed.” And I hope that you would consider doing the same too.

-Mitch Zoelzer

Mitch and the rest of the roofing crew hard at work.

Mitch and the rest of the roofing crew hard at work.

I was very impressed at how hard Luther college students worked on Mr Kolbush’s roof. I drove up and  some of them had mud under their eyes. I didn’t know if it was training to be commandos or what. It was very muddy but everybody was happy. They had me take their picture on the rood as they gave a LUTHER yell. They had Miss Edna get on the roof with them. She is in her 70’s but she climbed up with them. I needed to get the picture taken quickly before lighting stuck someone. It did start lighting just as we got off the roof. Miss Edda was very emotional about so many students showing so much love by giving of their time. I was also.

Love in Christ, Jimbo [Jimbo is a long-time member of the Camp Victor staff and worked with the Luther group as their construction supervisor.]

Jimbo, Olga, and Steve supervise Stew sweeping the newly-carpetless floor.

Jimbo, Olga, and Steve supervise Stew sweeping the newly-carpetless floor.

These students are not afraid to get a little dirty!

These students are not afraid to get a little dirty!

Tearing out tree stumps in the mud- what's more fun than that?

Tearing out tree stumps in the mud- what's more fun than that?

Roofing crew

LATCH had the opportunity to do another roofing project with students from Luther.  This roof was challenging because of concerns about the low slope and because it was being created on the top of a mobile home that had been badly damaged.  Part of the group had to work inside repairing the walls so that they could support a roof.  What a great crew!!  They were able to finish the roof despite the bad weather because they worked especially hard and fast.   We feel privileged to have worked with such enthusiastic people.  Thank you for all you did.

LaMarr and Jo Beuchler

Jo and another LATCH member (Rick) fixing a fascia board with Luther students Bonnie and Whitney.

Jo and another LATCH member (Rick) fixing a fascia board with Luther students Bonnie and Whitney.