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Reflecting on Salkehatchie Summer Service

by Rev Monica Humpal

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Monica Humpal, Children and Family Minister, joined HUMC's staff in January 1998. She holds degrees from the University of South Carolina and Lutheran Theological Seminary. Monica and her husband, Steve, have two children, Morgan and Gavin, and live in Charlotte. Monica's first experience with Salkehatchie was in 1995 when she attended the Wateree Camp in Camden SC. She has attended a total of 3 camps. It was Monica who introduced the youth of Huntersville United Methodist Church to Salkehatchie.

You are awakened by a voice crying out “time to get up!” You look at your clock. “It’s only 6 a.m.!” you think to yourself. You gaze out of the window and realize that the sun hasn’t risen. Slowly, you roll out of your bunk and turn on the harsh neon light. All around you everyone else is rolling out of their bunks and collectively yawning and stretching.

After dressing in your dingiest clothing and brushing your teeth you head to the cafeteria to grab some breakfast. Pancakes, sausage, bacon, and eggs greet you as you eat all you can before having to pack into the van by 6:45 a.m. On the way to the work site you and the 8 other youth on the van get the last little bit of rest you can before getting to your house.

Workers on Jones Roof

Here a team works on the roof during the 2002 Wateree Camp

Your van pulls up at an old dilapidated house that needs a new roof, new paint or siding, a new porch, and a bathroom built onto the back of the house. The good news is that the roof isn’t in as bad a shape as the adult leaders thought, the bad news is that you only have a week to complete all of those tasks. Regardless, you have faith in your team and you enthusiastically crawl out of the van and prepare to begin your day.

By 7:30 a.m. you are leading a devotion with your team and the homeowners. The homeowners include a grandmother and her two young grandchildren. It’s a sad story, really. One parent is in prison and the other is nowhere to be found. The grandmother is alone and frequently ill. You wonder how she has managed thus far. The children ask to sit next to you as you read Scripture and pray for a safe and productive day. After your prayer the children hug you and enthusiastically run off to play.

Moore Team

Here the team takes a break from working on the screened porch

The first order of business is to figure out which task to work on first. Because you never know what the weather will be like on a hot summer North Carolina day, beginning with the roof is always a safe bet. Therefore, you climb a tall ladder and spend a majority of the morning pulling off old shingles off of the roof. Meanwhile, other team members begin cleaning the yard and cleaning out the house getting it ready for painting. Around mid-morning you see a truck pull up hauling several 2x4’s and sheetrock pieces. It looks like another group will begin building the bathroom onto the back of the house.

Someone yells, “Lunchtime!” from the back of the house. You can hardly believe that it’s noon already. You scope the roof and realize that you and your teammates have almost completed cleaning off the old shingles. Feeling quite proud of yourself you slowly descend from the roof and head to the van. As you get closer to the van you hear the laughter of children playing the yard. You smile and wave as you head to a local church for lunch.

Cold sub sandwiches, salad, chips, dessert and all the drinks you want really hit the spot. Remembering the children back at the house, you pack up enough lunch for their family and head back to the house. The family was so appreciative of your kind gesture and you enjoyed watching the kids get so excited about the cupcakes you brought to them. They hug you and say, “thank you!”.

Works on Roof of Kitchen

This kitchen needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Back at the house you decide to help with the bathroom addition for the rest of the afternoon. A skilled builder is there to guide you and assist you as each beam is situated and each sheet of drywall is hammered into place. You are amazed that by 5 p.m. most of the outer portion of the room is completed. The builder tells you that the plumbing will be delivered tomorrow and you are excited about the prospect of installing an entire bathroom pluming system!.

As your team packs up to leave for the day, the children and their grandmother, again tell you how much they appreciate your presence and your hard work. The grandmother cries tears of joy as she sees what remarkable work you and your team have done in just one day. The children are sad to see you go but you tell them that you will see them bright and early the next day. They smile and make sure to keep you at your word.

A little known advantage of working with the youth is that they are a lot more flexible than the adults.

Back at the camp you shower and head to dinner. Your dinner table is a buzz from other teams about their day of work and what they were able to accomplish. You tell stories about fixing a roof, building a home addition, and the adorable kids on your site. Your teammates share stories about crawling under houses to jack them up, installing an entirely new kitchen, replacing vinyl flooring, and building ramps on porches. Everyone seems amazed at what they can accomplish in such a short period of time.

After dinner everyone gathers for time of reflection and meditation. You have an opportunity to share your experiences with the other teams and to hear about what they have found at their sites. You close your night with a prayer and head back to your room. As your weary body hits the cot your eyes close almost immediately. Only a few more hours before it all begins again. Oh, but it’s all worth it.