When we were looking for a place to stay over Thanksgiving, there were a number of campgrounds that were full already or that were charging a premium for that week. By checking with the mission team leader and the church pastor, we learned that we could be useful if we arrived early, so we packed up and headed north to Faith United Methodist Church in Jacksonville on Tuesday, November 16th.
The church provides 7 RV campsites specifically for members of the Nomads mission project teams. (More about Nomads later.) They use the campground as a home base and work on projects nearby or at the church itself. Since we were arriving early, we had our pick of the campsites. Given the layout and our inexperience parking the RV, we were still glad that we were not the last to arrive. We also learned upon parking the RV that we had some more supplies to purchase We had just enough electrical cord to reach the pedestal located at the rear of the site, but we were forced to park right on the site line as a result. We also discovered that our sewer line would not reach the sewer hookup. We would be OK for a few days, but would need to get an extension before too long. . Finally, to get the RV level side-to-side, we added the board we carried for this purpose under the passenger side wheels. However, this wasn’t going to be good enough. As we considered this problem, the custodian arrived, speaking primarily Spanish and managed to convey that he had another board we could use. That made the difference. A trip to Camping World a few days later solved the sewer hook-up problem as well.
By the time Pastor Barry stopped by that evening, we were in good shape. We agreed to meet early the following morning to see what we could do.
Faith UMC has a large 14 acre campus with over a dozen buildings, some of which were used for a school that is no longer in residence. To assist the small congregation with the expenses and to utilize the buildings, there are several groups renting space. Seacoast Christian school leases the gym for their school basketball program. There are 3 other congregations meeting in the sanctuary – a Spanish congregation meets later on Sunday morning, a Zume Christian congregation meets late Sunday afternoon and a Kaichin congregation gathers Sunday evening. One building has been converted into an apartment, which houses a family of Cuban immigrants. Among them are the Spanish pastor and the custodian. So, there is a lot going on, but a lot of demand on an aging group of buildings built in the 60’s.
And then there were the meals . .
By week’s end, we had completed most of the projects we had started, and were beginning to welcome the couples that would be our team members for the Nomads project beginning on Monday, the 30th.
While staying at the church, we have a water hookup, and no shower house, so we are taking all of our showers on board the RV. Initially, we wanted to use up the water in the tanks, which requires the use of a pump, but also generates a consistent pressure from the shower head. When we switched to the water directly from the site, we were surprised how little pressure there was in the shower. This wasn’t going to work long term. However, Dave discovered the problem was the clogged water filter, since the pressure at the source was fine. We’ve used these RV filters for years to fill our boat water tanks, so it was a surprise to see them slow down so fast (only a month’s use). Once we deployed a new filter, the pressure in the shower was back to normal. Lesson learned. We have a few spares on board now.
We took some time away from church projects to get some of our own errands run. We made a trip to Florida Blue to re-enroll in our health insurance, went to Green Cove Springs to pick up our mail and visited half a dozen storage lots to find a place to leave, alternately, the RV and the boat when we are not using them.
Back when we lived in Reston, Dave shared our plans to eventually take an RV tour of the US with our church’s DCE, Billie. She shared with him the possibility of doing mission projects with other RV’ers through church-sponsored organizations. So, within hours of making our RV purchase, we were on-line, looking to see what possibilities exist. Dave quickly found Nomads, a UMC organization that connects RV’ers with organizations and people in need of the skills they possess. In addition to having a mission that we could relate to, they had a project opening for a project in Florida in the Nov-Dec timeframe. That would work very well for us.
We contacted Carla the director on a Saturday, and at her direction, submitted an application later that day. We were given a phone interview the next week, and then were accepted as members. Upon paying the membership fee, we signed up for a project in Jacksonville, to help replace a water line and do some painting at a church. The project could take as many as 6 couples. At the time we signed up, there was a leader and us. By the time the rest of the team was arriving on site, there were 11 people on 6 RV’s, most of whom arrived on the Saturday before the project was to start on Monday.
The next couple we met was Pat and Scott from Missouri, who pulled their fifth wheel into the campground on Saturday. They had joined the project late, after another volunteer had to cancel. Scott had extensive experience with public water works in his jobs as city manager for a town back home. He saw the water line project and offered his expertise, which was welcomed. Having just finished a project in Thomasville, GA, they were only going to be able to stay 2 of the 3 weeks before heading home for holiday commitments.
Donna and Loren arrived from Illinois a little later in their fifth wheel. (It should be noted that we have by far the smallest rig of all of these units.) They were also experienced Nomads volunteers.
By this time, we were hearing that the leader, Herb, was having mechanical issues and would be arriving late. We could keep going, but it would be a bit different start. Ed and Cora from Tennessee arrived next. They had cruised on a sailboat for a while before deciding to do a bit more and served several years on a Mercy ship in the Carribbean. Cora’s health was not good, but they were planning to participate as much as they could.
Late Sunday afternoon, our fearless leader, Herb arrived in his motorhome, having solved his mechanical difficulties. Herb felt he owed Pastor Barry a debt, since he had been a big help in getting his wife into the local Mayo clinic, allowing them to park the RV at the church during her stay and eventual diagnosis of ALS. After the death of his wife, Herb took some time off from Nomads projects, but when he saw this one come up, he wanted to lead it to make sure it happened. So, by Monday morning, we were all present and accounted for as we gathered to kick-off the project.
The church has about a dozen or more permanent residents that lounge about the place. They seem particularly annoyed if we disturb them for very long.