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Reflecting on Salkehatchie Summer Service

by Laura Brittain

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Laura Brittain is a member of Huntersville United Methodist Church along with her parents Perry and Lynn and her brother Mark. Her interests include basketball and music. In addition she's a youth representative for the Western North Carolina Conference. Laura's first Salkehatchie experience was with HUMC youth at the Wateree Camp in Camden, SC in 2002.

My first Salkehatchie experience was in the summer of 2002. It was my first mission trip, and I had no idea what to expect. I had never used a power tool before, and I didn't know the difference between a handsaw and a seesaw. But I decided to go see why everyone in my youth group talked about it so much.

"They had no running water, nails for doorknobs, leaks in the roof, extremely water damaged ceilings, tremendous amounts of termite damage, and much more."

Laura Brittain

On the first day we took a tour of the sites that we would be working on that week. It was my first time experiencing true poverty. It is a lot different actually seeing it first hand, than watching it on television. I was walking through houses that had collapsed ceilings, and roaches crawling on the walls. The house I chose to work on was the home of Ms. Alston. Ms. Alston, who suffered from MS, lived in the house with her brother. They had no running water, nails for doorknobs, leaks in the roof, extremely water damaged ceilings, tremendous amounts of termite damage, and much more. Ms. Alston used a five-gallon bucket as her toilet, and got all of her water from a pipe outside. She spent most of her time in a dimly lit living room because it was difficult for her to move. My heart ached for her, and I was overwhelmed with the amount of work that had to be done to the house. However, I was quickly comforted by the fact that God had established a wonderful team to take on the challenge.

Years of water leaking through the roof had destroyed all the ceilings in the Alston house.

That week, I worked harder then I ever had in my life. At the end of each day my clothes were drenched in sweat, and covered in dirt, soot, paint, and whatever else I had encountered that day. My fellow workers showed me the ropes, and in no time I was comfortable using all of the tools. Our team worked well to accomplish the goals that we had set. Many friendships were made on the site, and were secured with a bond that is unlike any other. We worked together, ate together, spent our free time together and most importantly, worshiped together.

Salkehatchie camps are centered around faith. The transformations of the houses are true miracles that could only be made possible by God. The volunteers that work at the camps become the hands and feet of God. God uses them not only to repair a person's home, but also to give them hope. To let them know that people care about them, and most importantly that God cares about them. Every morning, before the group begins any work, they have a devotion. The home owner is welcomed to join, and for many of them, it is the only chance they have to worship due to medical conditions that prevent them from leaving their homes. These devotions are lead by the youth workers. The devotions remind the workers that they are working for Christ. It is what gave me the strength to make it through each day.

Alston Roof

The youth work hard to replace Ms. Alston's roof.

Every night, after our delicious dinners, we would have worship time with the entire camp. We would worship through song, and hear a message from different speakers. Thanks to these wonderful worship times, I came to know the Lord on a deeper level than I ever had before. What I like most about Salkehatchie is that while you are working on the houses, the Lord is working on your heart. Every single person who attends that camp comes home a different person. It has not only strengthened my faith, but it made me realize how much I take for granted. Now I thank the Lord for every single blessing that I have. Every time I take a shower, eat dinner with my family, and lie on my bed at night I realize that there are many people out there who are living in homes without water, with little food, and without a bed to sleep on at night. As Christians, we are called to help these people. Salkehatchie provides an opportunity to help others; as well as renew your own faith.

Thanks to all of the hard work that was done by our team, Ms. Alston's house was completely transformed. She had a new roof, new ceilings in almost every room, new floors, insulation, better lighting, a screened front porch, handicap ramp, a bathroom that includes a handicap accessible shower, sink, and toilet, and a sink in the kitchen. The interior of the house was also given fresh coats of paint, and was swept, dusted, and polished. It is truly amazing what can be done in five days, and it was worth every bruise, blister, and cut. I wouldn't trade my experience at Salkehatchie for anything!

I look forward to Salkehatchie every year. It has taught me many things, like how to use power tools, how to shingle a roof, that rooster does taste like chicken, and that with God's help, anything is possible.