In 2015, Deb and I committed to two years with the SOWER Ministry. Then, we were convinced that a third year for us was God's desire. Now at the end of the third year we stand open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Deb and I feel that something different is in the works -- but what?!? It is exciting to think about, but anxiety is human, and that is where we are. Please join us in prayer for Guidance as we discern His Plans for us in 2019.
number 22! rainbow acres!
[Ken and Deb 09/17/2018] We weren't sure what to expect when we pulled in -- this project was recommended to us by SOWER colleagues so many times. We even learned that old friends of ours from Colorado had come to Rainbow Acres with a small mission team from our old church in Evergreen.
Rainbow Acres is a gated, residential community for developmentally disabled adults. The residents, age 19 to 89, are called "Ranchers," and the community is lovingly referred to as "Rainbow Ranch." There are just under 100 Ranchers here, and a sizable staff (some staff are always on the campus) who reside in a beautifully landscaped hillside desert setting in the Verde River Valley near the town of Camp Verde, Arizona. Each of the "residence halls" is home to about eight Ranchers. The residences are gorgeous inside, with all of the amenities you would expect in first-class accommodations. Rainbow Acres is fully equipped with dining hall, medical facilities, game room, walking paths, horse barn, three green houses, columbarium, and more crafting opportunities than you could ever undertake (the stained glass room and weaving room were most impressive).
On this assignment we were joined by Bob and Alma from North Pole, Alaska (wow); they are with 'Hard Hats for Christ', an organization with a parallel mission to SOWERs. The staff at Rainbow Acres was waiting for us when we all showed up at the staff meeting on the first day of our service here. We quickly learned that they were behind schedule on a complete interior and exterior remodel of their Learning Center (where they teach music, basic computer skills, and other amusing diversions). As soon as the Facility Manager learned that Ken could mud, tape, and finish sheetrock, and that Deb could caulk, we knew what our tasks would be for the month.
The SOWERs who were at the project the previous month also worked on the Learning Center. They had all of the 12-foot pieces of sheetrock hung in each of the rooms, so all of the heavy work was done (thankyouverymuch). All that was left were the fill-in-the-gap pieces to hang. We started by fitting odd-shaped gaps with similarly odd-shaped pieces of sheetrock. There were nook-and-cranny gaps in every room and on every ceiling. Once all of the studs were covered, Ken set to taping and mudding the seams (a not so easy task when the room is so hot that the mud starts to set just as it touches the wall!). In a 3200 square foot building that amounted to 15 buckets of mud and over 1200 feet of tape. Next came sanding all of the mud spots smooth. Whew! He and Bob worked in the Learning Center the entire time that we served there.
Deb worked at the Learning Center, too. Once she had all of the windows and cracks caulked on the outside of the building, she came inside to help Ken and Bob fit small sheetrock pieces. She measured and cut them to fit, as necessary, and screwed them in -- she was a big help. As the project ensued, the pieces of sheetrock got smaller and smaller, until we were all fitting in pieces that were only a couple inches square.
When all of the sheetrock was in place, Deb moved over to the Artist Room (where easels for oil painting will be positioned) in the craft building and painted three of the walls. For reference, the Artist Room is across from the Craft Showroom and in between the Pottery Room and the Stained Glass/Mosaics room.
On the final day of work, Ken commented that this was one of the hardest SOWER assignments he has had. So much of the work was above head-height, and that was just exhausting for him. And the room where they worked was always hot, dusty and noisy since there was so much going on. Not to mention the fact that he developed a toothache about half way into the project that grew into a throbbing headache by late morning every day. As he reflected on it, he said that pulling the barb-wire fence at Lighthouse Camp (Tennessee, May 2016) was the only SOWER work that was more physically demanding. It was a good thing that the Rainbow Acres assignment was our last SOWER project of the year!
Rainbow Acres is located just north of Camp Verde, smack-dab in the center of the state of Arizona. To the south is Phoenix about 90 minutes away. To the north is beautiful Sedona, about 20 minutes away. To all our SOWER friends, if you can get to this project, please go. You will be blessed in so many ways by your many interactions with the Ranchers who live there. They will welcome you as part of their family!
PROJECT 21: SUGAR PINE CHRISTIAN CAMPS
[Ken and Deb 08/17/2018] Situated at about 4200 feet elevation in the Sierra Nevada's, Sugar Pine Christian Camps is nestled in a beautiful mountain valley about ten miles uphill from Oakhurst, California. The camp sits humbly under statuesque Redwood, Mountain Alder, and Incense Cedar trees. And yes, there are namesake Sugar Pine trees galore, as well! Getting to this SOWER project was a challenge for Deb and me (see our July 2018 blog post about being evacuated from our motorhome during the Carr Fire in Redding, CA), so we had intended that upon our arrival we would make the absolute most of our shortened visit time here.
Sugar Pine Christian Camps ("SPCC") is HUGE! We could not find out exactly how many acres, but the property map on the wall of the Dining Hall included a sizable residential community inside the boundary of the Camp. Wow! There were more trails on the property than we had time to explore.
The panoramic valley is the setting for the main camp. Several streams and two ponds make the setting picture-perfect. The camp is designed for weekenders as well as full conference attendees. Every accommodation is provided for the campers. SPCC has a second, smaller, but still fully equipped camp, at the top of a ridge to the west of the main camp. Collectively, SPCC will host more than 8000 campers a year -- some groups as large as 800!
We served there with 25-year SOWER veterans Harold and JoAnn from Mission, Texas, so the RV park was well represented with Texas' license plates, y'all. This was our first, and Harold and JoAnn's third time to serve at SPCC. These two are some of the hardest working SOWERs with whom we have had the privilege to share a project!
The men SOWERs were assigned the task of restoring a 38-foot footbridge that spanned a babbling creek. About twelve feet below the bridge, the creek is formed by a small spillway which briskly moves water from adjacent, picturesque Mill Pond. The bridge had been damaged by flood a couple years ago, and had since simply been overcome by age. In its timeworn condition, it was unusable.
As Harold and I worked, we discovered many rotten boards and a couple that were fully broken. Most of the old deck screws and nails had rusted through. It took several days, but we removed all of the "bad wood" and prepped the bridge's frame for rebuilding. It was fun to work so precariously above the busy creek. And we only dropped one tool in "the drink." Harold made me jump in and retrieve it -- it was his wrench. And I was the one who dropped it, of course. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I was elected to get a little wet!
Once the carpentry part of the assignment was complete, we stained the bridge dark brown. Dangling over the sides of the railings to paint the underneath and the outer bracing was adrenaline-filled, for sure. I borrowed a lot of the stain and put it on my pants and shirt. Working under the shade of the cedar and alder trees that lined the creek, and with the calming rapids below, was very relaxing. All parts of my body were happy except for my knees.
While the bridge restoration took most of our project time, on the last two work days Harold and I had time to walk the entire camp and check all of the stairs and decks at EVERY cabin (there are a lot of cabins). Some stairs had loose screws (Harold said that was me) and some needed damaged boards removed and replaced. We had just enough time to get them all screwed-up and repaired!
Deb and JoAnn shortened and hemmed eleven, round tablecloths for the dining room. This assignment was a flashback for Deb as she had the same task at the Living Stones project in March 2016. It's a good thing that she packs a sewing machine in the motorhome! The lady SOWERs also laundered some of the camp linens and organized their linen closet for them. Deb and JoAnn are a hard working team.
The Friendship House (a meeting room for guest campers) was their finale task. Deb and JoAnn tackled it with full energy as they were running out of time. Zoom!!! They were able to complete a full, deep-cleaning of the meeting room before signing-out for the month. The only casualty: one vacuum cleaner.
God has blessed this camp in may ways. Foremost, to me, is its beautiful setting. But not only is SPCC located in the shadow of Yosemite National Park (the gate is just a few miles north on HWY41), there is a road that runs through SPCC that was once the railroad right-of-way for the [former] Madera Sugar Pine Logging Company. On that very railroad grade, right through what is now SPCC, steam trains loaded with cut timber would bring their loads from high in the central Sierra's to a sawmill that once stood near the south edge of SPCC. In fact, remains of the old sawmill's steam house still stand adjacent to the Mill Pond where Harold and I had worked on the bridge.
The Mill Pond provided water for the steam plant that powered the saw mill that stood in what is now a meadow. It was the water from the creek that flowed below the bridge that the SOWER men had rebuilt that was used decades ago, not only to generate steam to power the sawmill, but as the upper end of an amazing 50-mile log flume that floated finished lumber downstream to the town of Madera where it was packaged for distribution to a worldwide market. Harold and I were working just twelve feet above a measure of history. Below is a picture of the meadow area packed full of rails and industry -- we found it hanging in the lobby of the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad station. The railroad right-of-way is on the extreme left, the saw mill is center, and the creek and bridge (as they were) are on the extreme right:
Today, only the stone steam house still stands. The railroad tracks are long gone, but they remain not too far away. Just north of SPCC, at a small, woodsy station and watering hole, there is a scenic glen where tourists are served BBQ and beans while listening to lively folk music. This is the reprise destination of the old logging railroad, now serving as the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Today, the former Madera Sugar Pine tracks leave the glen with a very different cargo and circle above SPCC on the walls of the valley as they climb to elevations higher than SPCC. Today, the YMSPRR runs the #10 and #15 Shay engines (and other touristy things) on those frozen-in-time, narrow-gauge tracks. While working at SPCC, several times a day, we got to hear the longing requiem of the steam engine's whistle as it carried excited tourists along the ridge to the north. How cool is that?!?
The RV Park at SPCC offers 30amp service, but struggles to provide reasonable voltage. In our first half-day at the Camp, off-and-on, running only our smallest air conditioner, the power has dropped below 104 volts five times. We are in the SPCC RV Park with one other SOWER unit, and noticed a drop in volts at our power pedestal when they make their coffee (in their rig) in the morning.
The problem is long-standing, according to the Assistant Director at the Camp. They will provide you a voltage boosting transformer, if you want one. We elected to try one. While the transformer did (in our case) keep the voltage above 103 volts, the overhead on the transformer is a greedy 8amps, so we popped the pedestal circuit breaker a few times.
This is a camp where a trustworthy RV power management system would be a good idea in order to avoid/mitigate damage to sensitive RV electronics. Alternatively, if you have enough fuel, running your generator will solve the problem. This is what we ultimately elected to do.
You may or may not experience these problems, I am led to believe that electrical demands elsewhere in the complex can be a contributing factor. We learned that SPCC leadership has been researching a solution for the RV park low-voltage problem for about three years.
It is a good project, but come prepared.
twenty: kidder creek orchard camps
[Ken and Deb 07/20/2018] We were the solo SOWER unit at Kidder Creek Orchard Camps this month. When that happens, Deb and I usually team up and work through the month’s projects together. It’s a lot of fun for me, but it makes for a lot of work for Deb since the lady SOWERs are not expected to work a full day. I really enjoy working with her and am glad that she is willing to tough it out, especially when it is a sunny, one hundred degree afternoon, like it was several days at this typically-temperate, northern California camp.
The volunteers' RV Park at KCOC will comfortably accommodate twelve RVs – at one time it was pretty cozy with ten RVs in the campground. Several units were with ‘Heavenly Wheels’ out of nearby Redding, California; we made new friends and served a bit alongside, Bob and Jackie, Dave and Susan, and, Mark and Angel. But more exciting than making new friends (not really), in the campsite next door, we witnessed first-hand the damage that a ten-pound Sugar Pine cone does as it falls from a 225 foot tall tree! Note to self: Do not camp in KCOC RV Site #5 during Pine Cone Drop Season!
In my opinion, KCOC is the closest thing we have seen as SOWERs to a true High Adventure Camp. It reminded me of the kinds of places we visited during my years with the Boy Scout organization. The mission at KCOC envelops the notion, however, that it is easy to see Christ at work when your physical limits are being challenged, when you are immersed in the beauty of nature, and when you are aligned and encouraged by the teachings that the great leadership at KCOC offers. What a fantastic place to engage today’s kids in conversations about Jesus!
The wisdom behind KCOC's adventure curriculum is that the camp does not try to create the whole adventure at their facility. By accessing neighboring National Forest land they can accommodate more campers in a week than the typical Christian camp. Some of the programs offered take the kids (and sometimes moms and dads, too) on overnight trips off-camp so the adventure experience is broadened. They are a hub for backpacking treks, rafting trips, horse-back excursions, and mountain bike trips in the surrounding Marble Mountains and even up into southern Oregon. Smiling kids are always coming-and-going, climbing in-and-out of vans and buses as they participate in the camps designed adventure challenges.
The energy level is very high at KCOC. We loved seeing the kids moved around camp on “stage coaches” (modified cargo vans) with songs and cheering. The staff is trained to maximize enthusiasm in every activity, even if it is just a hike to and from the Dining Hall. Deb and I found that infectious, which made it even more fun to serve at KCOC. By the end of our time, we were singing some of the camp songs, too!
First, we served by turning a sizable pile of beautiful cedar into four luxury picnic tables, carefully finished with TLC. Then, the camp had just received decals for their corporate vans and trucks, so we got to [ever so carefully] apply those decals to twenty doors of ten of those vehicles, as well.
We also removed/repaired/replaced rotten wood on the 'Changing Rooms' building near the swimming pond, planed the doors so that they would open/close properly, and put a new roof on the small building. We then caulked and painted the outside. We made repairs to one of their utility trailers and painted that, also. At the end of the project we were asked to paint a sign for the Changing Rooms, and once complete, we hung that between the doors on the building. Ken also got to make several custom concrete blocks to be used as parking barriers.
While the KCOC facilities may not be as expansive as some of the other camps we have seen, it packs in all the essentials and more! There are simple cabins scattered throughout the hillside woods, a stream-fed pond for...
...swimming fun, campfire circles, a soccer field, mountain bike trails (actually designed for real mountain bikes), a sizable horse ranch and arena, an outback camp and trail system, two high ropes courses, and even an apple orchard. As I think back to my 33 years in the Boy Scout organization, the facility could easily pass for a gotta-go first-class adventure Scout Camp (tents and all!).
The staff at Kidder Creek invited us to share some meals with them and the campers. It was such a blessing to be around the kids. Walking to-and-from the Dining Hall it would not be unusual to see one (or more) of the KCOC counselors sitting with kids on a patch of green grass overlooking the horse meadow and discussing a bible passage. What a great ministry ... WooHoo!
Kidder Creek is owned by Mount Hermon, a well-respected Conference and Training Center in Santa Cruz. Deb and I have friends there, Mike Romberger was our pastor at Mission Hills Church who is now Mount Hermon's Executive Director, and Dave Burns who was our Worship Pastor at Foothills Bible Church (both in Littleton, Colorado) who is now the Director of Adult Ministries at Mount Hermon. At the Kiddder Creek Camp, we want to say THANK YOU to Tim (Operations Director), Danna (Ranch Director), and Andy (Camp Director) for allowing us to be a part of your family for a few short weeks. We were certainly blessed by the experience!
PRoject 19: new hope christian schoolS
[June 2018] When we arrived in the RV Park for New Hope Christian Schools in Grants Pass, Oregon, we were a little bit road weary. This was our first SOWER project of the year and we had driven almost 2700 miles since we left Livingston, TX, to get there. When we were in Maine (2016) we were only 1900 miles from Livingston and we thought that was far. In fact, the people across from our RV site at NHCS had guests from Anchorage, Alaska, one evening and they had come [only] 2600 miles to get to the city of Grants Pass. So, at this south-Oregon project, we were actually closer to Anchorage, Alaska, than we were to Livingston, Texas! Whew!
We were joined at the assignment by Rich and Barb who are full-time RV'ers from Medford, just a few miles from Grants Pass. They had served at NHCS several times before and knew the project well. They were also a big help when it came to local sightseeing and where to shop -- that certainly made it easier for Deb and me!
NHCS is a prominent PreK to grade 12 Christian school. And it is is one of those places where there is always something to do. The campus is nicely landscaped and well-cared for -- the school grounds are immaculate. But there is a lot of hustle-and-bustle that goes into keeping the place as nice as it is. And once school was out for the summer, the work had piled up!
Speaking of nice places, the weather was fabulous during our stay. Early morning temperatures were in the low forties, and the daily highs never exceeded 84 (and hardly any humidity). We had rain on only one afternoon, and that was just drizzle. A few days were cloudy, but blue skies appeared to be the norm. It reminded me of Colorado in so many ways.
The Lower Rogue River Valley, home to Grants Pass and Medford, is a very popular place to live, and now I know why. According to a large street-banner downtown (a most reliable source), the reason people flock the Rogue Valley is the pleasant year-round climate. Not to mention the rolling hills, beautiful rivers, blue-water lakes, great wineries, and green mountains that surround, of course.
For the first two weeks of the project, school was still in session and access to make classroom repairs was limited. We were presented with a list of out-of-doors Gotta-Do-Tasks that had just been piling-up during the school year; no matter the chore, we were glad to help. During our time, the SOWER ladies cleaned windows and repaired blinds in the school cafeteria. They also weeded all of the flower gardens. On the other eleven days of the project they joyfully weeded around a huge elementary-age playground. All around. I cannot tell you how hard these two amazing ladies worked pulling weeds almost every day of the project – and how fantastic the playground looked when they were through! Zowie!
Because we had an extra week to get to our next SOWER assignment, we had the opportunity to stay at NHCS a few extra days and work on some extracurricular things for them. Deb got to finish, almost single-handedly, the PreK classroom mural that Ken had worked on during the first week of the project. After the wall mural was fully painted, Deb designed and painted a large bulletin board in the shape of a tree that would become the centerpiece of the mural. It looked so fantastic that Tami, NHCS Facility Manager even stopped by to help out. Too much fun!
The SOWER men were challenged with a punch-list, as well, starting with repairing the roof on the well house. From there, we transitioned to repairing and trenching for a damaged irrigation control line, doing quite a lot of painting (including an after-hours opportunity to be creative in the PreK classroom -- WooHoo!), doing landscape work, and repairing the pump on the "Back To the Futurish" tri-super-latte-espresso machine in the cafeteria (sure made all of the teachers happy!).
The two SOWER men also built a frame to hold school banners, repaired sizable areas of damaged sheetrock in the ceilings of two classrooms, painted a road sign, and crossed numbers of other items off the Gotta-Do-Task List. We also had time to share with many of the wonderful students, teachers and staff at NHCS. They have a terrific team!
New Hope Christian Schools is a special place. We want to offer our thanks to all of the staff at NHCS for inviting us and for their hospitality, and especially to Marsha and Bob, who were eager to help us when we had questions or needed guidance. Thanks also to Elizabeth for taking care of our mail for us. Most importantly, our thanks to Tami, the Facilities Manager who entrusted us with significant work around the campus. She was confident and encouraging, fully trusting us with meaningful assignments. Her patient leadership was appreciated.
We are so blessed to get to work in Kingdom-focused places like this, but also for getting the opportunity to meet such great Brothers and Sisters as these. We had a great time serving here -- the time flew by. "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Thank you, Lord.
Playing with Gadget in the front yard at the New Hope Christian School RV Park