This year’s International Youth Convention in Orlando was canceled due to COVID-19. However, I didn’t want to cancel our service project in Tampa. We had planned for the students to help retired pastor and Army/Airforce veteran (and my Grandpa), John William, age 96, and his wife Tina, with projects around their house. So on June 30, three students—Grace Archer, Wade Fallon and Maddie Whipple—joined Susan and I to Grandpa and Tina’s home. We blessed them with God’s love as we endured nearly four days of service in temperatures greater than 95ºF and 90% humidity.
Each evening we played Mexican Train Dominos and enjoyed each other’s company. We ended every day with a devotional time led by a student, and answered the questions: What was the hardest part of your day? What was the best part of your day?
Wade and I pruned six trees, cut down two dead trees, cleaned leaves and debris off the roof and out of the gutters. Everyone helped put branches and debris into a pile for pickup. Grace and Maddie power-washed the mold-covered brick on the front of the house. What a huge difference we made on day one! The roof, yard and brick were cleaned.
The girls sealed the brick so mold and mildew wouldn’t grow back. They also emptied the Florida room of its contents, cleaned screens, scrubbed floors and washed furniture. Susan removed, repaired and painted a rotten facia board. Wade and I emptied out a 25-foot-long shed full of years of boxes, tools, paint and unused chemicals. A lot of sorting and pitching was done! We discovered that any treated wood used for the floor and shelves was destroyed by termites.
After treating the shed with termite insecticide, we laid a new half-inch floor to make it stable again. We reorganized the shed so every box was easy to see and access. Afterwards, we cleaned up debris around the shed and found Grandpa’s Army dog tags. He was so grateful, and said with a big smile, “I wondered where they had gone to!”
The girls washed windows, cleaned and painted furniture, and hung new blinds in the Florida room. In the cooler evening, we installed new guttering on the front of the house, and gutter guards on the back of the house.
In the morning we finished our project by completing the guttering, purchasing flowers, bushes, and installing a US flag holder.
Blessings: God is Good!
Everyone pitched in with final cleanup. While raking leaves, we discovered water bubbling up from the ground at the base of a 6-foot-wide oak tree. The city water department and arborist came and diagnosed the problem. The water main that went under the tree was leaking, and the tree itself was rotting from the inside out. The arborist was surprised the tree was still standing and hadn’t fallen on the house. This sounds awful, but it really was a blessing for Grandpa.
- Blessing 1: Nobody knew there was a leak until our group found it.
- Blessing 2: It was the city’s responsibility to repair the leak because the leak was occurring before it got to the house water meter.
- Blessing 3: The tree was rotting from the inside out and didn’t fall on their house.
- Blessing 4: The city paid to have the tree cut down and hauled away!
- Blessing 5: The largest tree in their yard is no longer a threat to their safety. God is good!
Relax, Refresh and Reflect
On our last full day in Florida, Susan and I took the students for a boat ride and tubing in Tampa Bay. Afterwards, we spent the afternoon and evening at Belleair and Clearwater Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. It was a refreshing day of playing and being together.
And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.Mark 6:31-32 NKJV
On our way home, we made one last stop in Alabama. Wayne and Millie, friends of Pastor Josh, let us stay at their lake house on Lewis Smith Lake. It was wonderful to relax in a peaceful, beautiful setting.
Our time ended with a campfire and devotions. Everyone was given a jar, smooth stones and a marker. On a stone we each wrote a blessing from God or a time God provided an answer to prayer. We placed the stones in our jars. Over time, the jar will fill up. When life gets tough and we begin to question where God is, we can look at our jars and remember all that God has done for us and will do for us in the current circumstance.
Grandpa John and Tina were so very pleased with everything we accomplished. We exceeded their hopes of what we could get done. Grandpa John has severe lower back pain and had spent 90 percent of his time in bed. Since we cleaned their Florida room Tina informed me Grandpa now gets up to sit at the table or in his chair to read or watch the birds. Tina said his spirits are boosted— she hasn’t seen him like this since before he fell and injured his hip a year ago.
Thank you to Grace, Wade, Maddie and Susan for giving their time and resources to bless my Grandpa. It meant the world to me to see him and Tina with smiles of joy on their faces. Also, thank you, Church, for your continued prayer and support of Student Ministry. Ministry cannot be done alone—it takes a church (which is it’s people) to minister effectively.
Doug Walter, Student Pastor, First Church Tallmadge