Tag Archives: Lessons learned

First Day of Spring Break

21 April

It was our first day of SPRING BREAK. I had thoughts of sleeping in and being lazy.

But I was asked to help Hosanna Industries.  Callie and I were happy to get up bright and early, 9am to about 2:30pm.  In that short time, a ramp was built, a sidewalk laid, a roof replaced, some light landscaping and fellowship and prayer happened.

Volunteering with this organization gives you an opportunity to work hard.  BUT it also gives you an opportunity to see LOVE at WORK! Every person in the group belongs.  There is work for everyone to do.  Helping place shingles on a roof, raking up leaves, building a wheelchair ramp, visiting with clients, placing paving stones or simply picking up after the work is done–everyone belongs. The best part of volunteering with Hosanna however, is getting to know people and loving strangers–hugging someone you didn’t know before, listening to stories of life, laughing with a new friend, witnessing tears of thankfulness…

Christan & Callie (age 7), volunteering with Hosanna Industries on Maundy Thursday, 2017

The folks at Hosanna WORK HARD, but they LOVE even HARDER! And during this Holy Week, I wouldn’t have wanted to be any place else.  It is important to me to raise my daughter to know this kind of love.  I want to help her understand how God loves her, and the work Hosanna does mirrors how HE has called us to love.  You can see WHY they work so hard! HE is the reason! And the love is so true and genuine.

Thank you folks for being such living sacrifices! Happy Easter!

-Christan Baker, Volunteer

March 2017 Newsletter / Hammers, Hearts, and Hands

05 April

March 2017 Newsletter

A few days ago, I stopped at the mission’s Gibsonia campus to check on a few things, and was delighted to arrive just as Amy and Emily were unloading the kiln from the previous day’s firing. They took a moment to show me the beautiful results, and I was thrilled to see the finished work of a dozen participants, most of them novices, who recently attended the mission’s four week clay construction class. Coffee mugs, trays, bowls, and other interesting and useful articles had been hand-crafted from clay, allowed to thoroughly dry, fired once, then glazed in a variety of colors and styles, and finally fired once again to melt the glaze onto the surface as a permanent glass coating. I was really impressed with the designs, the workmanship, and the final results. I hope you can become involved in one or more of the many programs offered there in the months to come, each of which is intended to further develop your God-given creative instincts in a setting that is focused on the One from Whom all blessings flow.

As I handled and observed these newly-fired ceramic creations, I thought about what they once were. Clay is a truly amazing substance. It comes from the earth. It can be wedged, formed, rolled into a coil or a slab, or thrown on a wheel. It can be shaped, while soft, into a countless number of shapes, forms and structures. When the shaping process is over, the item is left to dry thoroughly, until void of moisture content. At this stage, the item is called Greenware, and although it is hard and breakable, it can actually be reconstituted into pliable clay once again if exposed to enough water.

Once the first firing takes place, however, the Greenware is converted into Bisqueware. This is a physical transformation that turns the Greenware into a hard, brittle, glasslike substance that is no longer capable of absorbing water anymore. The firing process changes the clay into something it never was before, rendering impossible any chance of returning to what it once was. You can take a piece of the Bisqueware and grind it into a fine powder and mix it with water, but even in this state, it will never return to clay. This thermal process, known as vitrification, changes the clay forever.

A few hours ago, I had the privilege of listening to a newly posted podcast of a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Richard A. Morledge, then pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, on Palm Sunday, April 8, 1990. This sermon and nearly 30 years’ worth of others are being made available due to the graciousness of Dr. Morledge, the tedious efforts of our friend,Tom Shoup, who copied more than 1000 sermons from cassette tapes to a digital system, and the labors of Amanda Becker and Julie Wettach, both mission workers at Hosanna Industries, who are methodically uploading those sermons onto a newly established “It’s a Great Day in the Kingdom” podcast site which is linked to Hosanna’s website. We hope that these proclamations will be helpful to you in your own journey of faith, and I encourage you to frequently listen to these sermons as preached by a man whom I consider to be one of the greatest communicators of the Gospel in our lifetimes.

In the particular sermon which I listened to, Dr. Morledge described those whom he referred to as “Hosanna people”, those who are in desperate need, people who are crying out for God’s help. He taught that the word “Hosanna”, heard by Jesus on the first Palm Sunday 2000 years ago, was not really a word of praise as is commonly thought, but was instead a prayer. Its true meaning is, “Save us now.” Jesus answered that prayer in seven days. Later He sent His Spirit on the first Pentecost to equip the newly born Church to be His body in the world, continuing His great work of salvation.

Then Dr. Morledge went on to describe to the congregation of that great Church that a new mission was to be launched that day. Its name would be Hosanna Industries.

Following the sermon, additional words were spoken, announcing what this new mission was intended to do: “Whenever – wherever we hear as Christians the Hosanna cries of God’s needy children, our faith demands that we do something, representing a powerful Savior instead of an impotent theological idea. We cannot anymore bear the shamefulness of poverty that is unaddressed, nor can we bear mission mediocrity… this Church today in establishing Hosanna Industries is proclaiming loud and clear that ultimately some day the love of God in Christ will heal all the world’s ills.”

The mission was born as an outward expression of the Kingdom of God. It was born to proclaim the Good News by way of home construction, repair and rehabilitation for the poor; vocational training of the unskilled; small business development for would-be entrepreneurs; job creation for new and future mission workers; and volunteer mobilization, locally and beyond, to locations of impoverishment and calamity.

The first five young mission workers were called forward from the congregation. The first assistance project was to begin the very next day, less than a mile away from the church, at the home of an elderly woman and her disabled daughter. Their income was less than half of what the government defined as poverty level. A newly donated used pick-up truck was parked outside, donated by the late Frank Reese, president of North Pittsburgh Telephone Company, painted Hosanna green by Bart Williams, president and owner of Parks Moving and Storage and serviced by Tom Henry of Tom Henry Chevrolet.

Then, as this unique worship service drew near to its ending, Dr. Morledge asked the mission workers to kneel at the chancel, he asked the more than 500 people in attendance to rise, and he asked all to join hands.

At that moment, a Spirit of quiet holiness descended upon that assembly of believers. Some people shed tears. As I listened to the recording, I sensed a nearly palpable silence in that place 27 years ago. Then, with his voice momentarily breaking, Dr. Morledge offered the following prayer:

“Father, in faith we reach out to try to follow You, and like Abraham of old we’re not quite sure where we’re going but we go now to be your people in this community and clear to the uttermost parts of the world. Father, thank you for these individuals whom we set apart in Your name, please indue them with your Holy Spirit and empower them to be people who reach to the Hosanna people and in ministering may they be ministered unto, and as we join hands as a great church, Father, bind us in this time of faith, not with criticism but with our love, to try to grow and become even greater the people that you want us to be. We thank you for all of the blessings of the past and now we ask a special blessing. So please Father, to these six individuals, whom we now set apart and commission as mission workers of Hosanna Industries, thank you Father, thank you, please place Your Hands upon the heads of these particular missioners. Thank you Father, we feel Your Presence, we go out in faith in Christ’s name, Amen.”I knelt with those five young men that day, and remember the first sounds a new-born mission heard were those of the organ, beautifully phrasing,“Hosanna in the Highest!”

We were clay then. Soft, pliable, malleable. We were ready to be shaped by the Potter’s Hands.

I suppose the years have vitrified us through the hard and often difficult firing of work, striving, learning, succeeding, and sometimes failing. Whatever we may or may not be, I’m certain we could never go back to become what we once were. Though we’ve learned much, and tried hard to refine our efforts into a vessel of grace useful to the hands of God in this world, I still hope that something within the heart of Hosanna is yet soft and pliable, ready to be shaped at the Master’s bidding.

Over the years, Hosanna Industries has been privileged to help more than 3400 needy households. We’ve blitz built almost 200 new homes. We’ve received more than 160 mission workers, each one leaving a mark, some weaving at least a part of their hearts into the mission’s own heart. In the past 27 years, the mission has travelled about 2 1/2 million miles, moving more than 60,000 tons of material, working with about 150,000 volunteers, in spending less than 16 million dollars to get almost 60 million dollars worth of work done. We’ve had a presence in 35 states, provided disaster relief work in nearly a dozen locations, and given assistance to more than 40 charitable organizations who needed help. We’ve provided intensive trade-skill training for hundreds of people, and we’ve witnessed the creation of at least ten small entrepreneurial businesses that were an outgrowth of our influence. On occasion, the Lord has sent us abroad to five different countries, and we have hosted volunteers from a half-dozen nations and all 50 states in the United States of America.

Just a few days ago, I held a newly fired ceramic cup in my hands and admired its beauty. I can estimate the time when, not long ago, it was nothing but a lump of clay, but I could never know for how long it may be of future service to someone who finds it useful.

I believe God inspired the birth of Hosanna Industries. I’m grateful that His hands have molded and shaped this mission into the vessel of His choosing. I’m very grateful that the commissioning prayer of Dick Morledge 27 Palm Sundays ago has been answered innumerable times.

The cries of the Hosanna people have been heard, not ignored. I don’t know how long this vessel called Hosanna will be useful to God’s hands, but I’m so deeply grateful for your part in it, and for all who have gone before. Without you, and all the other wonderful, gracious, generous, believing people like you, I don’t think God could have ever shaped the mission His hands have made.

Happy 27th birthday, Hosanna! And thank you, dear Hosanna friend!

~DDE

Rev. Dr. Donn Ed, Executive Director & Founder

More Lights

03 March

Earlier this week, I started my work day as I normally do.  Check the emails, respond to any messages, outline my day, la la la.  I couldn’t help but notice that I felt a little off.  Maybe another cup of coffee?  That didn’t change the feeling.  How about a slice of pizza?  (Yes, cold pizza for breakfast.)  Pizza didn’t do it either.  I still felt something was off.  I checked in with many of my coworkers.  What’s my problem?

As I was checking in with everyone I realized what was bothering me.  Some of my work family aren’t here, so I can’t check in with them.  They are in Richwood, West Virginia, serving the community there.  I’m certainly glad they are there doing what they are doing and I am very proud of them.

Since I came to Hosanna, one of the big themes has been Community.  Do things together.  Work together, learn together, discuss together, laugh together, chances are you’re going to suffer together; but what a blessing it is to be together.  It’s always hard on me when the team gets “split up” for the sake of what needs done.  I just don’t like the feeling of being separated.  Did you ever put two different socks on- one kind of thick like a boot sock and the other thin like a dress sock- it kind of feels like that.  Just a little weird.

Then I remembered that Jesus didn’t always keep all of the disciples together, and that sometimes they had to go out in smaller groups or pairs, in order to multiply.  I remind myself that being separated doesn’t mean you’re less, it just means that the light has now been multiplied.  When we are all together as one big green machine, we are (when we have our heads and hearts in the right place) a bright light, and when we become separated- when the Lord needs some of us here and some of us there- the light doesn’t dim but it becomes more LIGHTS, to work in more places, and to touch more people.  How wonderful is that!  I think that I would rather have many bright lights on my Christmas tree than just one big shining bulb.

Amen to learning things!  Amen to lights!

Dear reader, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing; if you feel a bit lost or a bit disconnected, just let that light shine even brighter, and it will spread!

-Emily Cadenhead, Mission Worker

Katie’s reflection about teaching

26 December

A couple of months ago, I was given the privilege to work with students from Mars Home For Youth. I guess you could say I was consumed with faith, as I said yes to this opportunity, not knowing what I would be encountering during this experience. Donn and I were the ones that were chosen and asked to lead this particular engagement at the MHY facility, located directly across the Mars High School. We were to lead students in constructing 6 picnic tables and 3 park benches that would be placed in various locations throughout their campus.

Once Donn and I arrived onto the campus that morning in our bright green vehicles, we received plenty of looks full of intrigue and slight confusion. We were then greeted by one of the lead faculty members, followed by 20-25 students and a handful of teachers. The students came from various backgrounds, ages, skills, and learning abilities; but the one thing that they had in common was that they desired to be better individuals! This was one of the reasons that the Lord led Hosanna to MHY on this very day, at this very moment.

Photo Credit: MHY Family Services

Photo Credit: MHY Family Services

I’d like to express 2 occurrences that impacted me the most, and placed emphasis on why God called me to be a mission worker at Hosanna Industries.

Be open. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get myself into. I wasn’t sure at all what the environment would entail or how the students would interact or react to us being there. But I let my mind be open to whatever was going to happen, because I knew that God had intentionally led Donn and I to be with those kids. Not only was I being open to a new experience, but also being open to God, letting him use me how he wants. In turn, because we gave the kids the impression we were open to giving our time, most of them were open to learning and receiving the knowledge and skills.

Photo Credit: MHY Family Services

Photo Credit: MHY Family Services

Absorbing knowledge that’s being passed on to you, but also passing on that knowledge to someone else. When I came to Hosanna 5 years ago, I had never thought about going into the construction field. I didn’t even know how to hold a hammer the correct way. Today, I know how to use tools the proper way, shingle roofs, install windows, install flooring, minor plumbing and electrical, etc. I would have never thought I would have acquired these particular skills to the point where my family members call me for favors that involve home repairs. Not only have I learned hands on skills, but I have learned the ability to teach and how important is it to pass on the knowledge that was once exposed to me. Knowledge is extremely valuable and is a key to accomplishment and success. Because I have been richly blessed in being taught by some of the smartest people I know, how could I not pass on what I’ve learned to someone else? When I was presented the opportunity to teach these kids who had never read a tape measure, used a power saw, or used a hammer drill to drill a hole for a lag screw, I took full advantage of it. I used the knowledge that was once told to me, and passed it on to these students. Not only were these kids acquiring new ideas and concepts they had not yet been exposed to, but I was teaching myself how much I have grown over the past 5 years, and that I have the ability to teach what I was once taught.

So be open– to any and all possibilities and opportunities that God leads your way. You never know what you will encounter or how God will use you.

Take in knowledge, and pass it on to others. It’s important to pay attention to the knowledge and the lessons that are being taught all around us; to grasp it and never let go. The opportunity may never come around again.

-Katie DeJournette, Mission Worker

Read more about our trade skill training programs here.

The Magic of a Mosaic

11 October

I started teaching a mosaic class the other evening and I began to show the students how to break glass safely and then place pieces together.  “You’ll find that even though these pieces of glass smash irregularly, they fit together somehow, and that’s kind of the magic of a mosaic,” is what I told the class.  As I said it I was really reminding myself that people, like pieces of glass, are irregular, the have sharp edges and brittle spots, strong points, and colorful surfaces, and with all these variables, people can fit together like a mosaic.

I just hosted an Open Studio last evening in between a painting job and a Bible study and I realized that as I worked with these people in the studio, all of us of different ages and orientations, different angles and edges, different colors and lusters, we found a common place there in the studio.  We fit.  It was simple.  It was important.  It will stay with me forever.

So rejoice in your sharp edges!  Your cracks, your splits, your unique shape and color, because you know what, you fit.  You will always find a place for YOU in the great big mosaic of life.  Love to you dear ones.  Come out to a class sometime and witness this cool thing that is happening.

The windows used for the window mosaic class are windows that we took out of needy households and replaced with energy efficient windows.

The windows used for the window mosaic class are windows that we took out of needy households and replaced with energy efficient windows.

Emily Cadenhead, Mission Worker

Glass Half Full

29 June

The first call this week was from Edith. She is an elderly widow with some plumbing issues and a cracked sidewalk. When I briefly explained that we have a long list of homeowners in need, I was interrupted with, ” Well, my husband died in the war and I had to raise my children with no help. No one has suffered like me and I should be a priority on your list!” I gently told her that I was sure she would not want to trade places with anyone on our list and though I am sure she has suffered grievously, she may have to wait a bit for our services. She was none too happy but less angry after we completed her application and said goodbye.

As I took a deep breath the phone rang again.  It was Marcia. She had a leg amputated as a child after a bout with cancer. Later in life she battled both breast and bone cancer. She was clear of the dreaded disease for five years and then hit again. She once again battled successfully. Through her ongoing fight with illness, she held down a job. But five years ago, she found the years of intense chemo therapy left her stripped of any energy and she had to quit working. She had to sell her home of many years and move to a mobile home park. She was calling because the mobile home needs a new roof and she needs a ramp due to her disability. She kept saying she is blessed to be alive and the rigor it has taken to negotiate the waters of disability has made her a better person. When I was filling out the application I asked her her marital status. She chuckled and said,” I’m single…not a widow…most of my life I have been broken and bald, (chuckle)…I have never had the love of someone that I could hurt over if they passed…so, I guess that’s a blessing, right?”

I wanted to give her Edith’s phone number. Instead I swallowed the lump in my throat and continued the application to provide a new roof and ramp for a one legged bald lady living in a leaky mobile home holding a glass that in her mind has always been more than half full.

-From an earlier e-blast (Subscribe to our e-blasts below.)

Conscientious Objection

24 June

Have you heard of the new FLSA laws that will be taking effect December 1, 2016?  The laws that double the minimum wage for employees to be considered salaried workers?  The laws that make everyone who earns less than $47,476 to have to keep track of their hours?

Oh man is this a frustrating law for someone who has chosen to give her life to a mission. I’m not talking about someone who has a job and is trying to figure out how to make ends meet. I’m not talking about some young administrative assistant whose boss takes advantage of her time because she needs a job and so when he asks her to stay late three or four nights a week she wearily agrees. I’m talking about a mission worker. I’m talking about someone who is called to serve the needy. I’m talking about someone strong and qualified and capable who wants to give her life answering cries for help just like Jesus did 2000 years ago.

I’ve done quite a bit of research and there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room for a person like me within the new FLSA laws. For years when I’ve given my personal cell phone number out for work purposes I’ve told people they can call anytime between 6:30am and 10pm. For years I’ve been contacted by colleagues on what some would call my “day off”. Guess what?  People in ministry, people in mission, don’t have days off. Remember when Christ asked the people if they would pull their ox out of a ditch on the sabbath?  I think He was okay with that. I think he was actually encouraging those Pharisees to take care of the needy around them on their “day off”.  I think he was telling them to be less rigorous with keeping track of the details and more compassionate toward the people around them.

Now some 2000 years later, after 18 years of serving the Lord, of helping people anytime of the day or night whenever they need me most, of living my life right here in Southwestern Pennsylvania as a missionary serving some really needy people, now I have to start keeping track of my hours? Really?  So when I’m making dinner for my family and a colleague calls with a question do I start the clock?  I’m making dinner for my family at the same time. Does that count for anything?  Do I keep track of half the minutes that I’m on the phone?  When one of the young men I helped a few years back finds my number and calls to see if I can help him get some new glasses and interrupts my evening with my husband but I chat with this young man and ask about his family and he asks about mine, am I working?  Am I helping a friend?  What if I’m preparing a mailing to go out to friends and supporters?  Am I allowed to fold those papers while I watch the Penguins work for the Stanley Cup?  Start the clock, I’m folding quickly now because there is a break in the action. Stop the clock. The Penguins are on a power play and I want to see every second of that. Start the clock. There’s a television time out. Stop the clock. We scored. I need to cheer and watch the replay!  Seriously?  Seriously?!?

How am I going to keep track of my hours?  This changes everything. I’ve given my life to this little mission. I’ve chosen to serve the needy in our community even when it isn’t convenient, even when it makes life a little crazy sometimes, even though I could be making double my income if I’d have chosen to use my college degree instead of helping the poor. And now I have to keep track of my hours??  Ugh.

And you know what is even more frustrating and disconcerting?  New folks. New young people who come on board with our mission. We could offer them $47,476 as a starting salary so they don’t have to keep track of their time and they can learn to eat, sleep, and drink mission work. They can be immediately immersed in giving of oneself to others. But where is the sacrifice in that?  $47,476 is a lot of money for a kid just starting out. It’s not a sacrifice to earn that kind of money. It’s an awfully good job for a 20 year old. See there, starting out with a salary of $47,476 immediately takes out the calling of Christ on one’s life and makes the same work a job. My labors for the past 18 years have been the work of Christ, the work of a mission worker, the answering of a call. But anyone we hire to work alongside me will be thinking that this is a pretty good job; you don’t even need a college degree and you can make a real good living. Well that changes the whole ethos of this organization that I have been a part of molding and shaping for almost half my life. This changes everything.

Ok so instead of giving these young people a salary now we choose to pay them by the hour. We tell them to give their lives to answering the call. We tell them how important it is to be ready to serve whenever there is a need. We tell them that they need to listen for God’s word. And now we are also going to say, “and don’t forget to punch in whenever you need to respond.”  When that phone call comes at 10:30 at night, start the clock. When you take a tool to be repaired on your way to the grocery store to get some food, make sure the clock is running, I think. Actually, I’m not really sure. Are you working while you are driving toward the grocery store or only as you are heading to the tool repair shop a quarter mile further away?  Let me get the rule book and see. If I text you after you’ve clocked out for today because something came up and the plan for tomorrow needs to change, do you clock back in while you read and respond to my text?  Give your life to Christ. Answer the cries for help that you hear all around you. Do it sacrificially. Oh, and keep track of your time while you do it.

FLSA blog

Don’t get me wrong folks. I believe people should be treated fairly. I believe they should earn enough money to take care of themselves and their family. I believe in time to work and time to rest. I know that mission work isn’t for everyone.  Sometimes mission work is hard. Sometimes it requires incredible sacrifice.  Sometimes even the most committed mission worker gets tired and needs a break. But guess what?  I wouldn’t change it.

An elderly man used to carry his middle aged son in and out of his house everytime they left the home because his boy was disabled and they couldn’t afford a wheelchair ramp. An elderly lady used to sleep with buckets on her bed whenever it rained because her roof leaked right onto her bed everytime it rained. A woman suffering from cancer didn’t have running hot water in her home for six months because her hot water tank had stopped working. A young family was living with their coats on, their oven door open, and a couple of space heaters for weeks in the winter before my mission learned of their plight and sent someone to replace their furnace.  And what about the husband, wife, and teenage boy whose only food was a head of lettuce and two apples when we entered their home?   Or the lady with diabetes whose insurance changed and without our help couldn’t get to her dialysis appointments anymore?  The list goes on and on.  3200 needy households served in 26 years.

Giving yourself sacrificially to a mission might be difficult but it is nothing compared to the suffering experienced everyday by so many people we help.

There have been many changes throughout the years that have affected our mission. Workers compensation adjustments, health insurance changes and significant price increases, licensing requirements, new taxes, so on and so forth.  Many of these have been expensive changes. They have required us to spend donated dollars that otherwise could have been used to help the needy. None, though, in my estimation, have affected the mission like these new FLSA laws. These affect the ethos of the mission. These take away the opportunity for our mission workers to give of themselves sacrificially without seeking reward or compensation. These teach new staff members to think of their time, their needs, their desires above the needs of hurting households crying out for help, above the needs of the mission, above the call of Christ.

I don’t know what to do about the new FLSA laws.  I don’t know how to keep track of my hours and I certainly don’t know how to teach a young person to give their whole heart, soul, mind and strength to the Lord and His work.  But I will continue to try.

– Julie Wettach, Mission Worker