The AndrewServes students participating in the 2018 Alternative Spring Break mission trip are:
Taylor Barnes – Ozark, Ala.
Megan Carlson – Jefferson, Ga.
Erin Dow – Donalsonville, Ga
Alexis Ellisor – Troy, Ala.
Maris Guzman – Kathleen, Ga.
Kristen Moore – Savannah, Ga.
Erin Ragan – Edison, Ga.
Jordan Vaughan – Tallahassee, Fla.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
By: Taylor Barnes
It was just another day of waking up at 8 a.m. for the most amazing work that needed to be done. We all slowly got dressed and ate our choice of breakfast: pop tart, oatmeal, granola bar, and of course the many cups of coffee being consumed during this trip! Around 9 a.m., we headed out the door – maybe a tad bit later than 9 a.m., considering I could not find my shoes. How do you lose the only pair of shoes you bring? Thankfully, Landrum and Guerry found them, and then we were on the way to the site!
Once we got there, our group and the group from Ohio circled up around a couple of leaders from Habitat, Kevin and Mark, while they told us what needed to be done for the day. My small group – Maris, Megan, Erin R., and Erin D. – has been outside for the past two days shoveling dirt and wanted to be inside the house. Thankfully, we were put inside to paint! Our group, along with another small group of 5 from Ohio, was told to paint trim along the ceiling and walls, as well as paint the ceilings with the primer paint throughout the house. Before we could paint, however, we all had to cover everything that we didn’t want paint on with painters tape. Maris and I were in charge of the trim, and Megan and the Erins were in charge of priming the ceiling. It was a very slow job considering we had to move the ladders every time we got to a spot we couldn’t reach, and the other three were looking up at the ceiling trying not to get paint all over their faces! We were all pretty much covered in paint no matter how hard we tried. We did this until 12 p.m. when we all stopped for lunch!
Around 1 p.m., once everybody ate and rested, we got up to start back at the jobs we were assigned to. Everybody was given the option to stay on the jobs they were doing or go help build the Adobe bricks. I, along with Megan and Erin D., said yes to that, considering how much fun it was to do the day before. The three of us joined everybody from the AndrewServes group, except for Maris and Erin R., who stayed in the house to paint – they have really good painting skills. Megan, Kristen, and I got our hands dirty in the mixture of water, concrete sand, straw, and clay that the rest of the group had mixed up. Getting dirty with the adobe mixture was the fun part of building adobe bricks. In a matter of 2 hours, we all poured up 3 batches of the adobe mixture – that made 54 bricks! After making the batches of brick, we got to put or handprints in them. Each volunteer group who comes through leaves their mark on the house they are building, whether it’s a note written on a 2x4 or a picture drawn on the sheetrock. How awesome that we got to leave our mark with messages in the adobe!
Around 3 p.m., we poured the last brick and started cleaning up the tools we used that were covered with the adobe mixture. In 2 afternoons, our group made a total of 178 bricks – the new record for Taos Habitat! Because of the new method that we used with the troughs, Taos Habitat will now be able to do compression tests and use all of their own blocks on houses! This will save a ton of money, as they won’t have to purchase any. Plus, the ones that we built are much better quality than the ones they buy! This is a game-changer for homeowners here.
After both groups were done cleaning all the materials, all of the volunteers gathered together to pray over the families who will live in the houses we’ve helped build. It was an awesome feeling knowing that we were doing God’s work in blessing others through our work. After the prayer, we all loaded up and headed to the showers, which we all so desperately needed. We then took some time to go ice skating at the youth center where we shower. For several, it was their first time on the ice. It was an experience for sure! We then went on a spur-of-the-moment hiking adventure up one of the trails behind our church home as we waited for our turn to cook dinner. We got to see great sights and even play in snow that covered the ground. We all then headed back to the church. Malanie, Erin R., and Lexi cooked a delicious supper! Definitely, by far, the tastiest chicken Alfredo I’ve had in a long time. We all talked and hung around until 10:00 when we all settled down in our beds. I absolutely can’t wait for the fun in store tomorrow as we enjoy a cultural day and explore a little more of Taos before we pack our bags to head back home.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
By: Maris Guzman
We woke up at our usual time of 8 a.m.. We grabbed our bathroom stuff as we got ready, trying to beat the other group to the two small bathrooms located in the center between our two sleeping locations. After everyone finished getting ready, we ate our breakfast of pop-tarts, oatmeal, bananas, and oranges. We sat around still trying to wake up from our deep sleep resulting from the previous day of hard work. After getting the text from our Habitat for Humanity leader, Kevin, to head on over to the work site, we left.
After arrival, the construction manager, Mark, briefed us on the work that was to be done today. We all split back into our groups from the previous days and were sent to our designated work stations. The guys – Guerry, Landrum, and Jordan – went to a hotel in town that was donating furniture to the ReStore. The hotel plans on remodeling and donated 70 rooms’ worth of furniture to the ReStore. Due to the great quantity of furniture and small room in the moving truck, the boys only moved five rooms’ worth today. While the boys were gone, my group, consisting of Erin D., Taylor, Erin R., Megan, and myself, were sent to the adobe station. We spent most of the day moving the red clay across the work site to the sifter to press it into a fine powder for the adobe blocks. Rebecca and I leveled out 3 posts so we had a flat surface to work on for the adobe mixtures. The other group consisting of Lexi, Malanie, Kristen, Guerry, and Jordan, continued on our work from the previous day. They shoveled dirt into the foundation of the house and used the compacter to press it down. While everyone was hard at work, Landrum was inside doing the texturing for the ceiling.
Lunch came around, and we made our turkey or ham sandwiches and ate our chips. After a good break, we got back to work for the adobe presentation. They showcased a new method they were attempting for brick making, which is supposed to produce more bricks in the same amount of time as the original method. The formula called for 2 buckets of straw, 4 buckets of water, 7 buckets of sand, and 7 buckets of clay. After combining all of the ingredients, we ended with a soupy concoction that was poured into molds. The molds looked like flat ladders and were placed on the ground on a layer of sand. The bricks are to stay in the molds overnight, and tomorrow we’ll lift the frames up leaving the bricks that will dry for another 10 days until ready to build with. Some of the people from the groups went back to finish their previous jobs, but my group stayed back to make the bricks. Taylor and I shoveled tons of adobe mixtures in to molds until our hands were raw.
3:15 rolled around, and it was time to clean up and hit the showers. We all grabbed tools and carried them back to the truck and washed as much mud off our hands and arms as we could. I hurried off to the shower before everyone else so I could hurry and get done since it was my group’s turn to cook tonight. We got done with showers and headed back to the church. Once we got back, everyone laid down to rest except for Guerry, Jordan, and me – we started cooking. We decided to make chicken and rice for dinner with homemade biscuits. We started by boiling the chicken using bay leaves for flavor (Guerry's touch). Then we made the dough, forming it into little patties and baking them – out came delicious, fluffy biscuits. After the chicken was done, we steamed the rice in the chicken broth for more flavor. Dinner was finally ready and I woke everyone up from their naps to let them know dinner was served. Within seconds the food was devoured, and I think Guerry, Jordan, and I definitely won best dinner this week. After dinner we sat around, some played ping pong and others joked around with each other. We shared old and new baby pictures and all bonded together. But 9:00 came fast, and we could all feel the sleepiness growing heavy in our eyes. So we shut off the lights and rested, preparing for our final work day.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
By: Megan Carlson
The day started at 8 o’clock in the morning with twenty-three people sharing just two bathrooms. After the ordeal of getting ready in the morning, Kevin arrived around 9 o’clock, and we set out for our day. We arrived at the worksite, which was just a mile or so down the road, with the excitement of working. The worksite had four lots of land that were divided up for four different families. We spent our day working on two lots of land. Both houses were at two completely different stages of development. One of the houses was completely built and inside work was needed. The other house had nothing but the border around it. Our group split up and began our given tasks. The group that was working on the almost finished house had a lot of tedious work. Jordan and Landrum worked on sanding the bathroom, and by the end of the day, they were covered in white dust; they looked like ghosts. Lexi and Guerry spent their day sanding down the ceilings throughout the house; they finished the day looking like ghosts as well. Malanie joined up with another volunteer on site and spent her day adding joint compound to all of the closets; they had a very accomplished day as they prepped the house for painting.
The outside group had a lot of physical work to do. This group consisted of Rebecca, Erin R., Erin D., Maris, Taylor, and me. Our job was to put the base layer for the foundation. There was a 23,000 pound pile of dirt that we had shovel into wheelbarrows and wheel into the foundation of the house to dump. We had levelers we used to level out the dirt, then, we had someone run the compacter and go over the dirt to pack it in. More dirt was added and leveled and the cycle continued. By the time lunch rolled around, the 23,000 pound pile was all moved into the foundation, leveled, and compacted.
When lunch came, we really enjoyed the break. We had an hour lunch with one of the families we were building for, and then got right back to work. A truck brought in another load of dirt which weighed 32,000 pounds. The cycle continued – shovel the dirt into a wheelbarrow, wheel into the foundation, level it, and compact it. Our group had gotten into a good rhythm and got a lot done in a short amount of time. We ended the work day with piling the whole first pile and almost all of the second dirt pile into the foundation.
Our work day came to an end at 3:30 p.m., and we raced over to the community showers. After our showers, we spent an hour and a half at the laundromat. We had the late kitchen shift, so we were starving. We got back to the church and our cooking group – Kristen, Rebecca, and I – began making tacos. They were delicious and were devoured within minutes. The dinner table was quiet while we stuffed our faces with tacos, beans, and salsa – probably the only quiet time our group has apart from sleeping. After eating, we sat around the table and discussed how accomplished we felt after the day. Soon, the ping pong table was set up and a tournament was started. Eventually, the long day hit each of us and we crawled into bed with the hopes of warm weather and lots of work for tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
By: Lexi Ellisor
Lunch with Habitat family: On our second work day here in Taos, New Mexico, we got to see the homes we were going to help build. One thing that was really exciting to us and something we had been looking forward to was having lunch and getting to meet the family of the house we were almost finished with. Volunteers that came and helped months before us had already gotten so much work started and done on their home, and we were getting to come in and get this home finished for the wonderful Padilla family. At the lunch, Aug, the husband and father of the family of five, came and told us a little about his family, his situation, and how thankful he was for volunteers like us that had come to help build his family a home.
What most people don’t know is that the family getting a home from Habitat for Humanity does not get their home for free. In fact, each time Habitat finds a family for a home to go to, that family has to spend 500 hours on their house, and 150 of those hours have to be towards the actual building of the home. Augustine went on to explain to us the difficulty of even trying to get accepted to get a house with Habitat. He had applied once before and got turned down because of the debt he was in and the income he was making. He said he worked very hard for a couple of years to lower his debt-to-income ratio and better his credit score so he could apply again. Now, here he is – 13 months into the building of his home, about to be a home owner. Aug has a wife, two twin boys (3 years old) and a little girl (4 years old). He currently works with a hot tub installation company.
Habitat for Humanity claims that this process is usually an 18 month process depending on the volunteers and work they can get done with the people around them. During this time Aug and his family have lived in a one room house with his mother-in-law and a couple of other family members. They sleep on the floor on a king sized mattress and a twin sized mattress. To say that Aug and his family are super excited and blessed to almost have their house built is such an understatement. Aug said he can just feel that it’s almost time to move into his home. I think his story brought a tear to every eye sitting at lunch. Habitat has stressed that volunteers are the reason these houses get built and these families get to be home owners, so you could imagine the gratitude and humbleness we felt when getting to meet this precious family.
During the lunch, we also got to hear about the time it takes, the interviews, and the applications Habitat for Humanity goes through in order to pick the right family in need for the right home. They really stressed that the family has to be in a housing need because some people have no house but have rich family members to fall back on, and that is not considered a need. We were told about the criteria a family has to reach and maintain throughout this whole process, even when it comes to one of the parents getting a raise with their job. All of that kind of information has to be cleared with Habitat or the family could end up losing their home. While other Habitat chapters raise funds for their builds before beginning, the Taos chapter is competing with so many other local non-profits in such a small population that they have to build their houses and have faith that the funds will come. They depend so much on volunteers for everything they do, and so far we’ve had the pleasure of working with other groups and people from across the country, even as far away as Ontario!
This trip so far has been very eye opening, even for some of us who have worked with Habitat for Humanity before. You get to actually see these families and hear their stories and experience the needs they have, so it makes us work harder and it makes it that much more special.
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
By: Malanie Burnett, AndrewServes Director
There is such an indescribable energy on a Habitat job site. Guerry and Lexi are laughing with Biz, a retired widow from Chicago, while they sand joints on a ceiling in a soon-to-be master bedroom. Landrum and Jordan sing along to the radio as they work on the tiles in the house’s one bathroom. I hear Maris in the kitchen, taking a water break and talking about accents with part of a college group from Ohio. I see Kristen through the window working with Russ, the RVer from Wisconsin, deconstructing and reconstructing pallets to make flat surfaces for artwork at the ReStore. Past them, I see Megan, Rebecca, and Taylor shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows and bringing it to Erin R. and Erin D., alongside Peter and his wife Julie from Ontario, who smooth it into what will be the foundation of a new home for a recently selected family – a single mother with six children currently living in a Section 8 housing structure where parts of the walls are falling in. Kevin, the pastor from Georgia who felt called to run a church and the Habitat chapter in Taos, runs from group to group, cracking jokes and showing the best techniques to get the jobs done. I continue my work with joint compound on the inside of a closet in what will be the bedroom for 3 year old twin boys who have never had a home of their own. My eyes fill with tears at the thought of the work we are doing. It’s hard. It’s dirty. It’s tiring. It is so, so meaningful.
“Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” – 1 John 3:18
Monday, March 5, 2018
By: Erin Ragan
First Work Day: On day three, our morning started around 7:30 a.m., except for a few (insane) people who decided to get up for a run in the nine-degree weather and high altitude. After everyone was done eating breakfast and running, we met with our Habitat supervisor, Kevin, who gave us background information about the community of Taos and the work that Habitat for Humanity does. Kevin explained to us that Taos is experiencing a low-income housing crisis due to gentrification. People are buying expensive vacation homes, which drives the cost of living up for the inhabitants of Taos. One acre of land ranges from $50,000 to $100,000 with water rights. 65% of Taos citizens work two jobs and 90% can’t afford homes. Taos has the same median income as Cuthbert, but the average house costs $300,000 here. Habitat for Humanity has to go to court at the end of building each house to keep the house from being assessed at $250,000 for an average 1,100 sq. ft. house.
Next, we loaded up to head to the Taos ReStore. The drive over was absolutely beautiful. The snowcapped mountains almost seemed surreal, plus we got to see some of the cutest prairie dogs running around. It is still crazy to drive around and not see thick, green grass and pine trees in the red clay on the side of the road. In Taos, it is sandy dirt, mountains, bushes, and tumbleweeds. The ReStore is like a Goodwill and helps families afford house supplies, decor, books, bedding, etc. Once on site, we split up into groups of five so we could efficiently tackle the many projects they had for us to do. Maris, Megan, Erin D., Taylor, Rebecca, and I were assigned to the room upstairs, which consisted of organizing books, albums, sheets, movies, and toys. Lexi, Malanie, Kristen, and Guerry were in charge of building a shelter, moving doors, organizing tile, and cleaning toilets and sinks that were for sale. Landrum and Jordan pulled weeds, picked up trash around the grounds, and helped with the other groups’ work as well.
We took a break for lunch at the Rio Grande Gorge just outside of Taos. It was a little windy and chilly, but the view was breathtaking. The gorge was very deep and rocky, which made it a little daunting to get too close. The Rio Grande flowed at the very bottom of the gorge, and it looked small in comparison to the large rocks on either side of it. In talking to locals originally from the east, we learned that what they consider rivers are more like creeks to us. There isn’t much water flowing in them at all.
After we were done eating, we walked over to the bridge which overlooks the gorge. I am afraid of heights so this part was a little scary for me, especially since the bridge shook every time a car went across it. The bridge also had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Mary, a Habitat volunteer, pointed out a cool feature about Wheeler Peak, which is the tallest of the mountains. When it snows at the top of Wheeler Peak, it gives the illusion of an Indian maiden releasing a white buffalo. It kind of took a minute to see what she was talking about, but eventually we figured it out.
After our break, we returned to the ReStore and finished up our task of organizing everything. At 3:30, we left the work site to go to the community showers. After that, we came back to our cute little church to cook dinner. Landrum, Taylor, and Erin D. cooked a nice spaghetti dinner complete with garlic bread and cheesy broccoli. Once we were done eating, we settled down in the main room for charades. Our friends staying with us from Ashland University in Ohio stopped by for a little friendly competition. (For the record, AndrewServes won the game of charades!) We had so much fun together hanging out, making fun of each other’s accents, and acting out words. Overall, today was a great first day of work. The weather was relatively warm and sunny, plus we enjoyed meeting new people and starting work. I cannot wait for what tomorrow has in store.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
By: Erin Dow
We started today off by waking up around 8 a.m. and heading out to drive the Enchanted Circle. This is a long, scenic road that begins and ends in Taos, New Mexico. It takes you through the Carson National Forest where we saw some breathtaking views of the mountains. It brought us by a Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial that we decided to visit. The entire area was under a wind warning for the day, and it was very cold in the valley where the memorial was so we weren’t able to stay long, but the memorial and the views from the site were beautiful. We kept traveling the Enchanted Circle and went through some towns called Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, and Red River, which was a super cute town where we decided to look through some of the shops. We happened to look up at the mountains and saw the skiers skiing down the slopes, which was pretty cool.
Again, it was COLD and we were all super hungry so we made our way back to the town of Taos. We moved our things from the basement to the auditorium to make space for groups that meet in the basement during the week. Afterwards, we decided to take a quick power nap before we took on the rest of the day. Around 3:30, we decided to go take our showers. We are showering at a Youth and Family center about a mile up the road. It’s really not as bad as it sounds, and I think we were all just super ready to be clean. We washed up and were planning to go to a hot spring here in Taos when we got a text from Kevin, our Habitat for Humanity coordinator, asking if could move our stuff again for a conference they were holding. It kind of put a damper on our plans, but we came and moved everything into a smaller room and decided to go explore downtown Taos and go to the hot springs another day after work.
Downtown has the cutest adobe shops full of souvenirs. We all shopped around for a bit until we realized the shops close early on Sundays so the locals could go home earlier. We learned that Taos time is very different from store times we are used to. In Taos, shop owners often have open times posted such as, “8:00ish- 5:00ish,” or even, “We’re open when we’re open.” They are very relaxed about these sorts of things, especially since the majority of industry is in tourism here and this is their down season. Before the stores closed, we were able to walk to several shops and see the unique products made right here in New Mexico. There are so many products made out of recycled material such as tin.
We then walked down the street to a restaurant called Alley Cantina. Because of the church services being held at our house for the week, we had dinner out instead of cooking in our kitchen. After being seated, we were searching the menu and it said we were sitting in the oldest standing building in Taos, New Mexico, and the bathroom was over 400 years old. We thought that was supper cool since we had no idea. The food was very good. Many people sampled the green and red chile, trying to decide which side of the debate they fell on. We thanked our waiter and headed down the street to a grocery store called Smith’s so we could stock up for the rest of the week. We were split into groups that would cook one night and clean another. It took us a minute to decide what all we wanted to cook and eat, but we got it done. We checked out, headed back to the church, and realized the other team from Ohio was here. We moved our stuff back into the auditorium and got resettled. We stayed up talking and arranging for a while, but we soon decided to lie down and get ready for bed, which puts me here writing this journal. We are all super excited for tomorrow and can’t wait to start working.
Saturday, March 3, 2018
By: Kristen Moore
Travel Day: Our first day of the trip officially began with a departure from Andrew College at 6 a.m. We drove to the Atlanta airport where we were flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The duration of the flight was right at 3 hours. Upon our arrival, our first thought was food. We were all starving. Our first stop was at a popular local spot called Blake’s Lotaburgers where several of us got our first taste of New Mexican green chile, and we learned about the debate over which is better – green or red chile.
From there, we traveled to Taos to the church we are staying at. On the car ride there, we got the time to take in the beautiful scenery. The landscaping of New Mexico is completely different from Georgia. It is flat and you can see for miles in some areas, and in others, it’s very mountainous. Everything is the same color! We saw wild horses and tumbleweeds on the drive in. There are also signs warning you to watch for elk! There are small bushes and sand everywhere you look.
We arrived at the New Beginnings Church in Taos; a small adobe-style church on the outskirts of town. We will be sharing accommodations at the church with another volunteer group from Ashland University in Ohio starting tomorrow. When we met with our Habitat leader, Kevin (green chile), he was quick to give us some tips about Taos. The first thing he pointed out was that we all were pronouncing Taos wrong, which apparently drives the locals nuts. He also informed us that during their migration seasons, tarantulas migrate in the thousands across New Mexico, and our church is directly in the path of said migration. Luckily, it isn’t time for that to happen! I’m afraid we might have come running back to Georgia today if it was.
Kevin also filled us in on the needs here in New Mexico. Many families use the family and youth center down the street from our church for showers. We will be using this facility as well. Land prices are unaffordable for natives of this area because so many celebrities have started purchasing property in the mountains. Kevin said that most adults work at least 2 jobs to make ends meet. We will be working on two homes this week. We’ll be wrapping up things on one house and beginning another one, as well as working in the ReStore. It is only our first day in Taos, and I am already so excited to take this city on with my team!