Friday began with a beautiful sunrise and cloud of mist over the bayou as we drove to our site.  We haven’t mentioned it yet, but during our visit, a bridge has been closed resulting in a 20 minute detour to the Dulac Community Center:  complete with bayous, tall grasses and a gravel road.  When you look at your GPS in the car ride of the detour, it looks like we are in the water!
When we arrived at 8:15 to start the clinic at 9, we were greeted by Mary and 4 persons who had arrived at 6:45 am so they would be early in line for eyesight testing. We began with a inspirational devotional by Sharon Rankin. She referenced the biblical story of how the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed  and how it grows into an enormous plant. She also shared about a man who planted small bamboo seeds in the 1940’s which are now bamboo forests. We may never know the effect of small kindnesses, and how God can create great blessings from small acts.
After our prayer,  the group immediately got into gear and began the busy day. Everyone pitched in for whatever needed to be done. There were laughter and groans with Dr. Brad’s humor and antics, and there were heart-felt moments when the people from DuLac shared personal stories. Carol Wills was touched by a man who shared his story of almost losing his leg years ago and being hospitalized 180 days, but showed courage, perseverance, and gratitude although he had many losses in his life. Marv was touched by a gentleman he had met yesterday, who in his retirement decided to make wooden carvings (some religious). The man brought several of his carvings to show the group, saying that God is an ongoing inspiration with his artwork. Mary’s and Genevieve’s hospitality, coordination and kindness were wonderful.


By the end of the day we had assessed the eyesight of 82 persons, bringing the total for the 3 days to 280 persons.
As was our tradition at the day’s closing we shared our joys. We laughed at jokes and were thankful everything blended together to make the trip a joy and success. We are so blessed to have learned from this dear community and hope in some way we have helped them with the clinic and glasses, and more importantly, being a ripple of God’s love and care. Expressions of thankfulness were made, as well as acknowledgement of our team leadership – the Mathers’ as our onsite team leads, Mary & Genevieve from Dulac, and for David Lewis who laid all the ground work for our trip as the Plano team lead.  Though David and Larraine could not join us, but they were certainly with us in spirit!
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Hugs were shared and with the setting of the sun over the beautiful bayou, we closed this adventure, but the people, blessings, hospitality and conversations in DuLac will be forever etched in our hearts.
P.S.  After packing up our clinic, we all stopped for a BITE to eat at another local Cajun restaurant.
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Friday was a busy day for all.  We started the morning with a devotion from Barb, who reminded us that we are all equal in God’s eyes.  No “us and them” and no one better than anyone else. Also, we are here to serve others.
Then, the team worked together almost non-stop, filling in for each other, and keeping everything running smoothly with the flow of patients.  Some of us also received periodic on-the-job training from Dr. Brad and our professional optician, LeighAnn.  They answered many of our questions as the team tried to provide the best glasses possible for each person.  Sometimes, there is just not a good match in our inventory of about 6000 glasses, so Dr. Brad (Wemhoener) always comes home with some prescriptions to provide custom glasses which he makes and ships to these patients free of charge.
Today, we were treated with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, courtesy of Jennie, in our tiny break room as team members cycled through at lunch time.  The break area is also amply stocked every day by Sharon, so that we can come and go for lunch, as we have time.  Thank you both for feeding us!
We are also very thankful for our local team helpers, Mary, Marty and Genevieve, for supporting us during the clinic!  Mary continued to fill our schedule for Saturday during our first two days of clinic.  Marty graciously provided ice, free of charge, to give us cold waters, lemonade and tea every day.  And Genevieve, who supported our team welcoming patients and helping with delicious coffee in the morning.  Thank you all!
Overwhelmingly, the team is again delighted by the friendly people in this community!  They have many stories to tell, and most seem to have generations of family in this area.  One of the “gifts” we received today was a serenade from an Elvis impersonator, Steve, who sang to our birthday couple, Gary and Carol Wills.
We also heard solos from a husband and wife at the end of the day, which were a French (gospel?) song and Amazing Grace, accompanied by Glen on guitar, and the entire VOLT team as backup choir.
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Today 111 people were served – over 25% more than yesterday’s 87!  Our total number of patients is now at 198.  We don’t turn away walk-ins, so it can make for a busier day, but well worth the smiling faces, hugs and thank-you’s.  Today we are happy, but exhausted.
What a great day!  
We served 87 people today and were so happy and thankful to get to know them!  We heard stories of people who have been through really hard times in their lives and were still grateful and faithful to God through it all.  We met locals who had been, or still were, shrimpers with their shrimping boats and livelihood right here in Dulac and Houma.  We met courageous people who may not read very well, and told us so, yet they left with glasses to hopefully improve their daily lives.  We met young people and old people alike who screamed or giggled with joy when they put on glasses and realized they could see SO much better.  We also received periodic visits from a furry friend, the local dog Milo, who would pop in to see what was going on.
At the end of each day, when we go around and every team member talks about their high point for the day and their low point of the day, many people were simply thankful.  Thankful to be back on a mission with this eye clinic team, thankful for the kind and gracious people we met, and thankful for some delicious local cajun food for dinner at the end of a busy day!  
God is good.
The VOLT team is on the road again!  After our commissioning last Sunday at Table of Grace service, and a white-knuckled 8+ hour journey in the rain from north Texas to southern Louisiana, we are here, ready to be the “hands and feet of Christ”.  Besides the rainy journey, we also encountered a Detour, due to an outed bridge, when we were only a block away from the Dulac Community Center!  The detour, including a gravel road, and took us 20 minutes – we were surprised there was still that much land south of Dulac, LA, which is already 2 hours south of New Orleans!  We did arrive on time.
As you can imagine, there are quite a few houses that are elevated on stilts ranging from 2-3 feet, up to 8-10 feet, due to being so close to sea level.
We arrived at 4pm and immediately got to work setting up the stations to start first thing Thursday morning, starting at 8am.

We thank God for our safe travels, we thank David Lewis for preparing all the groundwork for our mission, and we thank our wonderful hosts here at the Dulac Community Center, especially Mary, for providing the space and signing up about 300 patients for our next 3 days of clinic!  Hallelujah!

Day 7, Friday, July 7 (after leaving Chodziez)

After leaving Chodziez, we headed to Gdansk for our last 2 days in Poland. The drive was long with one long stop to tour the Marlbork Castle. It was a magnificent brick castle built in the 1,200s.

The three hour tour wore everyone out, so the final hour or so to Gdansk was quiet. We arrived at our hotel at 6:45, threw our bags in the room and returned downstairs at 7:30 to walk to dinner (literally across the street). An early night is welcome with just sightseeing on the agenda tomorrow.


Day 7 (and some of Day 6), Friday, July 7

Thursday, July 6
Our last day for everything in Chodziez.

Tile team:
The construction and painting team departed first as they needed every moment to accomplish their task.

After 3 days, the tile team had the end in sight. Our only drawback to the day was a shortage of grout. Slawomir tried 4 or 5 places and none was to be had.

We finished all we could and by mid afternoon we were done.

When Magda (the woman who designed the pattern) saw it for the first time, we got our reward for our efforts.

It’s hard to describe, but her jaw seemed to drop and a look of wow appeared. It was better than she had imagined. Through Magda, we were given a gift from God that he was pleased at our work. That gift will be with me always.

Paint team:
As did the tile team, they began their mission impossible right off. Slawomir’s office was the target and it seemed daunting. Furniture, bookcases, lots and lots of books and other “stuff” had been moved.

As they worked the existing paint on both walls and ceiling often peeled off, but with perseverance they got it done. Nice job!! And I have no doubt they received a gift like the tile team.

VBS team:
No doubt the VBS team was ambiguous in their emotions. Glad their week was over, but sad as they had developed love for the children.

From the beginning, the Holy Spirit had given them their gift. After several difficult VBS’s in prior years, this time He gave them a unique group of children which would remind them that His fruits were not just for the children.

The entire team went for closing and the passing out of Bibles. And then the children gave us their gift.
Hugs, hugs and hugs. Wow – very few dry eyes.

Our final activity was a bar-b-que behind the church.  Lots of smiles and laughter and gift exchanges.

We said goodbye to Chodziez this morning and while ready to be home, there is a touch of sadness in our leaving.

For CUMC, this is their 4th trip to Poland. I have been blessed to be on three of those trips and each time we’ve left, a different part of me stays behind. Today, part of my heart stayed. I know it will be cared for by our friends and our forever brothers and sisters in Christ.

Day 7, Thursday, July 6

Today is our final day of VBS, construction and painting work. I have chosen to forego any details on that and instead focus on the evening activity of the group.

Tonight our team was blessed to take the sacraments of communion with our Brothers in Christ from Poland. It was a joyous occasion where two groups from different areas came together under the common bond of Christ.

Our 14 team members and 10 members of the church shared why or what we were thankful for.   For me, it was as meaningful a moment as I’ve ever had.   Different people, from different places – all bound by the thread of our love of Christ.

The taking of communion together tied us forever with our Polish brother and sisters.  It is an evening that enriched my faith journey today, and no doubt for years to come.

More tomorrow about our last day. For now, the joy we shared this evening did, does and always will take precedent.image

Day 6, July 5

We began our day as we have each morning – with someone giving a devotion followed by our Inspiring Travel prayer.

Then this morning the construction team departed a half an hour earlier than usual. We wanted to get started. And it paid off. We laid our last tile by 3:00 p.m. Grout comes next so we expect a short day tomorrow.


All but one room remains for the painting team.  Mike Foley has done a great job of prepping for his team and having everything ready for them after VBS each day.  Not to mention the painting he did on his own. We were scheduled to paint the outside of the church, but rains today prevented power washing the walls, so that task may not happen.  The team launched into action with the last room (Slawomir’s office) – first removing hundreds of books.  They will finish tomorrow, but managed to finish over half the room in a short time.  Needless to say they work well as a team.

The VBS team had another awesome day.  The children have been so enthusiastic that it has made all the team anxious to get to the next day.  The kids have sensed the end of our time here is near, so many began to want reminders of their time with us.  One incredibly heart tugging moment was a note written by one girl that said:  “You have taught me how to smile in difficult times”.  If that isn’t transforming lives, then I will never know what is.

As we gathered for dinner, it seemed evident to me that regardless of which team one was on, this trip had a profound effect.  We don’t do this for the effect, it just happens.  We asked the wait/kitchen staff out and gave them gifts from Texas, and then we all participated in signing our names in Bibles they will receive tomorrow.  Michelle and Laurie wrote a note from us all in each Bible.image

Lastly, each morning and evening we are greeted by  one of the hotel cats Rudy.  A beautiful, friendly orange tabby.  He literally joins us at each meal.  And after dinner we were given a gift from God in a beautiful sunset.

Day 5, July 4th

Happy Birthday America!!

Despite being in Poland, our friends here held a “Texas” evening for us tonight. More on that later.

VBS gets top billing today. It was encouraging to hear that the excitement and energy of day 1 continued today.  From all accounts given, the children are both having fun and learning the “fruits of the spirit”. Those are – love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is obvious that our team is getting as much out of the program as the children.

One of the crafts today were hats decorated by the children.  The hats were donated by a member of CUMC, and like many other donated items, brought joy to the children.   We can’t thank those who donate enough for what it means to the children.   The team members were happily surprised when the children wanted them to sign their hats!

The tile team was able to complete about a third of the wall work and definitely can see the finish line. Indeed, we will complete our tasks by end of day Thursday.  Also, much like HOTC, many came to sign the walls with scripture verses to bless the room.  When Slawomir the pastor saw this, and asked about what it was, we could tell he was moved by it.  Many thanks to April for getting this started.image

The painting team has almost completed their interior work and will turn to the exterior tomorrow.

Now for Texas night. Our group shared information about Texas, our music and our food.  Also, many shared aspects of what being a Methodist means to them and why they come on mission trips.  It is amazing the power a personal testimony gives.  As the evening came to a close, our team offered to teach the Cotton-eyed Joe.  Kids and parents joined in and laughter and smiles filled the room.  Then the children took center stage to show their parents the power shuffle.  It was a great end to the evening.


Day 4, Monday July 3rd

What a glorious day for the first day of VBS and for our work on the church. Mostly sunny and 64 is easy to take in July for most all of us!

This will be different for me to write about, as this is the first time I have not participated in the VBS. I chose this year to help the construction team and was blessed to work with the CEO of tile – Don Kyle, and the COO April Kyle. I was able to learn more about the process of tiling a room than I ever could have imagined.

An intricate pattern on the floor with 3 different tiles in the bathroom was our first task. We managed to finish and set all the tiles before lunch, which was great. We then tackled the entry floor of the church. A good case of being tired set in, but we pushed through it and got all the tile set before stopping at 7 p.m.

It all looked great and finishing both floors meant we can tackle walls tomorrow. We were all tired, but pleased with what we had accomplished. No less of an accomplishment was the job our CEO of painting – Mike Foley did. Flying solo, he was able to prep every aspect of the hallway and the big room, so when the VBS support team arrived, they easily completed their painting task.

Now, a second hand account of VBS. Most of the team had been on previous trips such as this, so all had warned the less seasoned members not to expect much from day 1. Kids could be shy and reluctant to engage. Well, it was my high moment of the day to hear it was anything but that!

The kids got into it within the first few minutes and the descriptions given just couldn’t have produced bigger smiles for the team. The Holy Spirit was alive and working His magic. The kids loved the part where they were introduced to Kool Aid
and had enormous fun seeing their tongues and how red they were. Just imagine a room full of kids laughing and sticking their tongues out and laughing even more.
Just the picture it conjures up makes me smile.

All in all, it was a great first day for both the VBS and construction teams and those that did both.

On a personal note, my sincere thanks and gratitude to Glen Thornton for his tireless efforts in putting this trip and this team together. The children from Chodziez and the congregation of the church will likely feel the same long after we leave.

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