got Faith?

I’m headed home today from my week in Detroit, wearing a new t-shirt from Cass Community Social Services and filled up with memories of a week with my Dad.

Dad has been living at Woodhaven Retirement Community for almost six months. His one-bedroom apartment is just the right size for him and the location is good. He eats dinner downstairs five nights a week and almost every week, he invites one or two people from his church to share dinner with him and shows them where he lives. An added benefit (for me) is that there is a hotel-like room available for visiting family members for up to 15 nights per annum (for free.)

IMG_1710So every morning, I had breakfast and prayer with Dad before heading down to the work site and came home in time for supper and a quiet evening. Some of the nights we had dinner with family in the area and one night we even attended the Woodhaven potluck supper. The last night we had dinner at Brooke & Farrah’s 4th birthday party where we were entertained by a visit from Frozen’s Olaf (the snowman) and by the little girls singing “Let it go!”

My trip down the worksite everyday was enhanced by the early opening of the expressway. Area residents voted to have part of I-96 completely closed down for 4 months for reconstruction (vs a two-year roadwork plan.) On the first Sunday of my visit, they opened a few miles of the newly constructed road to walkers and bike riders. Dave, Joann and I walked a mile on it. It was slated to open up for traffic a week later, but that night we noticed traffic on it and the next morning the news reported that it was open. I like to think that they opened it up just for me, as it made my trip downtown much simpler and faster.

Once downtown, I met up with my group from Yorkfield Presbyterian Church. After lunch we met the volunteer coordinator who filled us in on the history of Cass Community Social Services and showed us around. The group stayed in the basement of Moms I, a home for about five Mom’s and their children who are part of a two-year program to help them transition from homelessness to a healthy, stable lifestyle. We were assigned the task of fixing up the outside of the buildings. She showed us some of their concerns but wanted us to make our own assessment of what we could do and supply her with a list of things that we might need.

High on their priority list was completing a project to waterproof an outside wall. Another group had dug a 10′ trench along the basement wall that needed to be extended another 35′ so that the wall could be covered in tar. We decided to dig in! We found shovels and started the work that afternoon. (It felt an awful lot like Nehemiah, each of us working on our section of the wall.) As we dug down deeper, I found the motion of throwing the dirt up onto the growing pile harder and harder, so the next day I bought 4 gallon sized buckets to fill, lift and dump in a sort of bucket brigade. It was less efficient, but it worked for me.

Others scrapped, sanded and painted. We also cleaned up the two large raised bed gardens and rebuilt some of the rotten supports. We spent a couple afternoons helping in the kitchen as well. We cleaned and tarred the wall, and then, we had to put all the dirt back–a whole project in itself, with everyone digging in. I like to say that our work for the week was moving a pile of dirt and then moving it back.

John (and Lizi) joined me on Thursday night to visit Dad and get in a partial day with the team. John spent the afternoon cooking up dinner for 150 residents but ended up staying up til the wee hours of the morning trying to fix a problem back in Chicago at the radio station and flying home the next morning to solve it.

The work trip was great. You see a whole other side of people when you get away from church and work together. We worked hard but also had a lot of fun. It was good to join hands with others–staff, volunteers and residents–in this thriving ministry in Detroit.

IMG_1716And spending time with my Dad was sweet. I don’t often get to have prolonged visits, so this was particularly special. His strength is fading and the challenges of old age are increasing. I’ve been sharing my verse a lot this week: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Dad’s in that last phrase/phase of life, hoping in the Lord, and waiting to soar! Time with him is a treasure.


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