When you hear someone mention Nashville TN what do you think of? Most people think Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium or Country Music Hall of Fame. Just this past July, I had a chance to go to Nashville which is something I’ve always wanted to do. However, this trip was for a different purpose than sightseeing. I had the privilege of joining my Church Youth Group on a mission trip to help with the flood relief program.
In May of 2010 the Cumberland River crested at 51.86 ft which put parts of Opryland under 10+ ft of water. It was hard for me to imagine that more than a year later there would still be people struggling from the damage. However, the day I met Gayle O’Hanlon I saw a woman who was very depressed and struggling just to make it from day-to-day. The view you see above and below of the General Jackson Showboat and Opryland is literally her backyard. Although the view from her dining room window is truly beautiful, Gayle said, “You can’t live on a view alone.” She then told of how contractors “took her” for over a hundred thousand dollars and how so many people had promised to help but hadn’t shown up. “You don’t see anyone else here do you?” Gayle asked. She has continued to live in her house even though conditions are far from good. We could tell that first day she was more than a little hesitant about letting so many strangers into her home.
I have to say I am very proud of our Church and its youth group. The youth (and the not so young), didn’t complain about the intense heat (which was in the 90’s by 9 am, and into the 100’s by noon) but instead were anxious to start helping this family in need. First task on hand was tearing down the old drywall and installing insulation. While waiting on the drywall order to arrive we had a chance to sit and talk with Mrs. O’Hanlon about what she experienced. We cried with her when she told us about the loss of her company “Enchanted Gingerbread“, which she ran from her basement. But there was just as much laughter as there were tears over the stories she shared. Such as…When she had to leave her home she forgot the washing machine was running! Her kids called her as they were kayaking through the house to tell her there were fish swimming in the living room and the washing machine was still running the spin cycle because of all the water. Her house never lost power and she thanked the Lord that having power didn’t start a fire or worse. She said that her best friend’s house actually blew up just as they escaped in a boat.
Gayle’s two main concerns were getting her daughter’s room and the basement fixed. She wants her daughter to move back home and to get her business started back so she will have a steady income. The rest of the week was constant measuring, cutting and hanging drywall. At the end of the day Gayle would come in to tell us bye and each time you could see a slight change in her. She was smiling a little more and didn’t seem quite as depressed as the day before. It’s amazing what a little hard work, friendship or just a hug can do for someone. By the end of the week we had finished the drywall in her daughter’s room, the kitchen and dining rooms and half the basement. According to Gayle, our help did just as much for restoring her spirit and outlook as it did for rebuilding the walls around her. Just as I heard others in our group say, I feel it was just as big a blessing to us as it was to her. Our hopes and prayers are for Gayle to continue receiving help and that her business will once again thrive. I know I will continue to check her web page to see how she is doing.
There were 19 people from Memorial United Methodist Church that went on this mission trip. Out of the 19 there were 12 to 14 of us working on Gayle’s house, while the rest worked on 2 other houses doing things like painting, putting up shelves, digging holes and putting up a fence. Each afternoon we would sit as a group eating supper and listen to stories about how our day had gone and have devotion. Afterward we would play basketball, catch phrase, read or just have time to relax.
Both my kids have been on other mission trips to New Orleans, Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia. Each year they would try to talk me into going and I would always seem to have an excuse not to go. This year “something” kept tugging on my heart telling me to go and that “something” was God. I received such a blessing on this trip and look forward to going on others in the future. Thanks MUMC mission team for making my first mission trip a great experience!