Category Archives: SOWER Projects 2016

Let’s get started!

OK — the kiddos have been hugged, I’ve caught up with my email and financials (well, mostly), and I don’t need to think about the SOWER newsletter for at least another week. AND – I have good internet and Verizon signal! And that seems like a perfect mix to finally get this blog back on track!
Way back, when I wasn’t so far behind in this blogging thing, I had every intention of doing a post about how different the drive from Idaho to California was from the Curvy, Curvier, Curviest drive we had from Montana to Idaho. I was going to post pictures about how Straight the roads were
even though there were a couple of these signs to get my attention –
(Donner Pass on I80 in California)
But mostly our two day drive from southern Idaho to central California was beautiful and peaceful and without incident.
Just the way we like them!
And then I was going to say that if you wanted to see more “Road Ahead” pictures of that beautiful drive, you can check them out HERE!
But it seemed so long ago that I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested.

But I knew I didn’t want to skip over our time at Sugar Pine Camp! We were officially there by ourselves,
but there was another SOWER couple who had been there all summer as “SOWERS on Assignment” – SOWERS who come for an extended time, usually with a specific job in mind. So while we weren’t necessarily working directly with them, it was great fun to hang out with them whenever we could!
Our work at Sugar Pine was pretty varied. I did some housekeeping, some office type chores, and lots and lots of laundry.
Gary did some electrical work, some A/C and refrigeration stuff, and then settled in (with lots of help from the other SOWER guy) with building a shed on the back of a staff house.
And if you were wondering how they were going to get into the shed….
Yeah, he’s smart like that!
Interestingly, except for the T-1-11 on the outside, all the lumber used in the shed was milled right on the property. That was pretty cool!
So it was a busy and beautiful month. There were retreats going on every weekend, and even during the week there were groups coming and going. (Hence, my housekeeping and on-going laundry duties!).
But for all the activities, it was a very peaceful spot.

Once again, it was a great month. We were in a beautiful part of the country (more on that later), serving at a dynamic ministry “Impacting Lives for Christ”, enlarging our SOWER family, and enjoying a nice quiet month after such a ‘social’ month back in Idaho (which is always welcomed by my sweet introvert hubby!).

So, Hope House

So, Hope House….

This is a bit late (trying to work out some internet issues), but before I get too involved in our Sugar Pines project and this beautiful area, I wanted to share a bit more about our time at Hope House in Marsing, ID. So here goes –

(I know you must get tired of hearing this, but) We had a great month! Oh, the internet was slow, the TV channels were slim and we were plagued by our least favorite weed in the country (‘goatheads’ which have tiny iron spikes that come in on your shoes and then attack your bare feet),
but being able to serve at this ministry was such a blessing.  We learned that there are many different faces to Hope House and came to appreciate each one.  The ‘under-18’ crowd are kids (10 and up) who are placed here largely due failed adoptions (many international ones), and who are struggling with severe attachment disorders. They can no longer stay at home, and this is a place to come where they can get intensive help in a group setting.  There is also a group of residents who have been there for many, many years (before HH became focused on the attachment disorder scenario) and live in a separate building where they have a kind of independent group living set-up. Most have some severe learning/mental disabilities (but are very loving and sociable) and have nowhere else to go.  These guys just light up when they see SOWERS – and I’m sure it’s a big reason why so many of the SOWER workers there come year after year. The final group are girls who have ‘aged out’ of the program, but again have nowhere to call home. The philosophy of Hope House is no one is ever made to leave (unless they just need more help and care than they (Hope) can provide).  So needless to say, there is a lot going on at Hope House, on many different levels!  What SOWERs do is try to keep the facilities safe and working so that the dedicated folks that interact with the residents can concentrate on that important work.  With a school, a gym, a dining hall building, residence halls, etc, there is always something that needs to be done. And with 8 SOWER couples (that’s 16 hard working (not so very old) senior citizens), a lot was accomplished.

We ladies painted bathrooms, got Christmas stockings organized for filling (they get sent out to different churches who fill them), labeled med cups (sounds simple, but my goodness what a big job!), sorted through donations, scanned and organized records, helped out in the kitchen and made curtains for the girls’ dorm.

Here are a couple of my favorites –

HopeHouseLadies-1 HopeHouseLadies-10
HopeHouseLadies-12 HopeHouseLadies-11

And there are a whole bunch more HERE!

I’ve lost track of what all the men did – but it was a very long list. Rooms were built, floors were tiled, siding was installed and painted, A/C’s were checked and repaired, stairs were built, bathrooms were added, plumbing was plumbed and electrical wire was strung (and connected, I believe!). When our group leader read off all that the different teams did – it was just plain astonishing!

And of course, I don’t have nearly as many pictures of the men working (although I did snag some from friends!) –

HopeHouseMen-2 HopeHouseMen-6
HopeHouseMen-11 Untitled

Aaannnd – there are more pictures of those handsome guys working HERE!

Although we didn’t interact a great deal with the kiddos/adults during our working hours, we did worship with them on Sundays (what a blessing!) and we also checked out a couple of their volleyball games.
Hope House VB
We had noticed that one of the residents (in the younger group) had some major physical handicaps.  M had been born with no legs from just above the knees and no fingers on her hands.  She had recently been fitted with prosthesis for her legs, and had just begun going to volleyball practice.  As we visited with the coach, she explained that at this point someone holds the ball for her when she practices her serves. Gary took a look at the situation, and thought that maybe, just maybe, he could figure out something that could help her hold the ball herself as she practiced (and then maybe even played!).  Here is his solution –

MarcellasGlove-1 MarcellasGlove-4
MarcellasGlove-3  MarcellasGlove-2
MarcellasGlove-5 IMG_1252

We did end up doing it a second time (it’s called the invention learning curve) to get the fit correct, and even then we weren’t sure that it would actually work. But she seemed game to try it out, and we hope that it is an encouragement to her in the days to come. (I told her that if it doesn’t work, then she could always just have it with her in case someone asks her if she can lend them a hand……:) )

So our time there was a delight! We were blessed with beautiful sunrises right out the window –
and driving through this area (called Treasure Valley because its rich agricultural heritage) was likewise lovely –

All in all – an outstanding month! It was easy to see why so many SOWERs who have come here over the years, come here again and again!

If you’d like to see the whole batch of the photo – work, play and scenery – you can check them out HERE!

[Real time update – 9/25 – I’m sitting in a Panera Bread, enjoying the internet and (relative) quiet. We had a great first week, and a GREAT weekend in Yosemite. My plan is to have posts already to go, and then just get them uploaded as I can, so there will always be a slight-to-major time delay! Thanks for your patience! There are a couple of pictures over on the Photos Page if you’d like a bit of a preview!]


So where are we now?

After our wonderful week off, we drove just 15 miles (or so) to Marsing, and our September SOWER Project –
Hope House

This ministry is quite a departure from the last five ministries where we’ve worked, which have all been (in some regard) camping ministries. And they’ve been great! But the mission of Hope House is quite different –

Hope House exists to provide a home for children who are emotionally impaired, developmentally disabled, and/or come from disrupted adoptions or dysfunctional families.
(From the Hope House Website)

Most of the folks we are working with have been here many times, so it’s been great to see the interaction with the SOWERs and the kids. Lot of hugs and lots of smiles! There is a school here on the campus along with housing for the residents and staff, a dining hall, gymnasium, and chapel. In fact, this campus was originally an Idaho Civilian Conservation Corp camp, and the ministry, while retrofitting many of the buildings, has not (as far as I know) had to actually construct any new buildings. I’m still learning lots about this ministry, and I’ll fill you in as I get more acquainted with things, but in the meanwhile, HERE is a great article from World Magazine about Hope House (They were 2015 finalists in their annual Hope Award for Effective Compassion).
Given the age of the buildings on campus (I’m trying to find out info on this CCC camp, but all I can find is that it started in 1939. Or 1941, depending on which website you check) and the fact that it sat empty for many, many years before Hope House moved there, you can bet there is plenty to do!!! I’ll fill you in on more details as the project progresses, but in the meanwhile, here’s this morning’s view out my bedroom window.
We sure are looking forward to a great month!

Camp Bighorn – Adventure with Purpose

Wow – We had such a good month at Camp Bighorn. In our 12 years as SOWERS, we’ve worked at dozens of Christian Camps across this country. We’ve worked at big camps and small camps, mountain camps and desert camps, lakeside camps and oceanside camps. And all those camps, regardless of their size, or activities or facilities, have one purpose in mind. To share the Good News of Jesus Christ and disciple young (and old) people. This camp has the same goal, but they go about it in a way different from any of the other camps that we’ve experienced. One of their taglines is “Adventure with Purpose”. And the purpose is to “steward environments where questions arise and hope is shared.”

At Camp Bighorn you won’t see the typical morning and evening worship/chapel schedule. (Although each day starts with a personal devotion time and ends with a group gathering.) Instead, they use the great outdoors as their chapel, and one-on-one interaction with counselors and  staff during and after “adventures” as venues for discipleship.  We were here for three very different camping sessions: Achieve Camp – a program for kids and adults with disabilities (inspirational to say the least),  Youth Adventure Camp (many kids coming from the foster care programs in the area), and finally Family Camp.  As always, it was great to see this camp in action –
(Truth in journalism – I got this picture off of Facebook. The action we enjoyed was mostly during meals and watching kids leave for rafting or paddle boarding or kayaking or high ropes, etc. After all – we were working, right? But even though we didn’t see THIS type of action – we knew it was going on! And you could tell the kids LOVED it!)

So while the camp’s action plan is a bit different that others that we’ve worked at, our SOWER work was right in line! Like all camps, big or small, they all need help! The ladies, with a fair bit of help from the men, continued on where the last group left off – cleaning and recovering 225 +/- chairs. What started out looking like this –
ended up looking like this –
(Pay no attention to the summer staff (and Gary) standing on our beautiful chairs. It’s a camp, right? They were just welcoming the campers to lunch.)
Here are a couple of “Hard at Work” pictures of the Chair Rehab Station –
(Look – they let me play with the staple gun! Happy to report no fingers were stapled in the production of these chair covers.)
While there were three couples working this month, one couple had worked through the break, so they were only there for the first week. I don’t think we could have finished up those chairs, though, if it hadn’t been for their faithful contribution (and the fact that by the time we got there they had figured out a good system.) While Gary came and helped occasionally, he was mostly working from his own list. Like A/C checking and ice machine adjusting, and electrical-type stuff. He’s handy to have around for those things. Plus he was busy building a concrete base for a generator that was being installed after we left.

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Here is our group, posing in our “Album” cover look.

This was a very memorable month, from our rafting start
to our fancy dinner-out finish –
and all of the crazy camp moments in between!

Yes, that’s “Slip ‘N Slide kickball. Who knew!.

We continue to be thankful for the opportunities we have to see Christ in action, working in the lives of staff, and campers, and yes – even us old SOWERS! To HIM be all the Glory and Honor!
Parking majesty


Camp Bighorn – settling in!

After our lovely “sitting by the campfire all day” day, we finished our journey to Camp Bighorn, just up the road about 20 miles. And what a beautiful drive it was!
Camp Bighorn is tucked between the Clark Fork River and the Coeur d’Alene mountain range, and specializes in Adventure Camps.
Just so you can get a feel for how close we are to the river – here it is on Google Earth –
We’re parked with the other SOWERS and volunteers in the shadow of the mountain,
and our view is quite lovely!
We can’t quite see the river from our picture window (and the sunscreens are up now so it’s hard to see out anyway), but as you can see from this shot on our way to town –
It’s O-la-la pretty here! Even with bugs on the windshield.

Remember how I mentioned that this camp specializes in Adventure?? Well, yesterday we (the SOWERS) were invited to go rafting! I knew that if I took my phone for pictures, for sure I’d fall in, so I wasn’t able to get any shots of our (almost) 4 hours on the river! But one of us did have a waterproof camera, so here are just a couple shots of our (yes, old folks can have fun too) adventure!
We saw bald eagles, a king fisher, deer, and some other rafters. And there was just enough “white water” to keep us on our toes (and our guides busy telling us to “paddle hard”!). It was a grand afternoon, and I believe just a precursor to a great month!
Worship tomorrow with our new SOWER family up in Plains, and then on Monday we start work. I know I’ll be working on refurbishing the dining room chairs with the other SOWER ladies, but I’m not sure just what Gary will be doing. But I bet the camp will find something to keep him busy!

I’ll keep you posted!