Tag Archives: Lessons learned

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

Glass Reflections

10 June

Last evening I had finished with work for the day (although it’s never truly done) and I had done some chores around the house (they are definitely never done) and I thought I’d reward myself with a little treat of working on a stained glass project.  I went over to the workshop and got all of my supplies and tools set out.  I had selected some beautiful varieties of glass, all different, all perfect, all important to the composition of this piece I was working on.  I had everything ready to go- the cartoon had been drawn a few nights prior, the fence was square and set, the iron was hot, the solder and flux were in reach, I had cutting tools, I had nails, I had lead, I of course had the glass, and I even had music playing!  It was a perfect scene for me and my project.
This particular piece is made up of various sizes of squares and rectangles.  Pretty easy?  That’s what I thought, and of course, I was totally wrong.  You really have to make sure those little pieces are square, as in a perfect 90 degree angle.  No problem, I can handle that.  I found some other tools in the shop that would make this part of the project go well and I got started.  It was going swimmingly!  The pieces were square, they were cutting well, tap tap crack!  A perfect score!  Wow!  I’m so good at this and my original plan is working!  All of the components are fitting.  This is good.  This is about as good as stained glass can go.  What’s this?  Oh, a beautiful, I mean BEAUTIFUL piece of glass.  It looked like it was extracted from the palette of a Monet.  Blues, greens, cream, purples, all delicately blended together, it was going to be the perfect addition to this project.
I squared the piece up, drew my lines with marker, scored them with a cutter, and tap tap tap, SPLIT!  The line I had carefully scored and tapped and gone totally haywire, it went crazy goofy and the piece wouldn’t work now.  That’s ok.  Deep breath.  I can try again.  That’s what I’ve always been taught.  Perseverance. Be industrious!
Ok.  Got it.  Start over with this one.  Square.  Line marked.  Line scored.  Tap.  Tap.  CRACK!  Perfect!  AhHA!  I knew I could do it!  I knew I could make that thing work!  Now to fit it into the project, put it in it’s place, surround it with lead and solder it in.  Easy enough.  I’ve already don’t that a few times.
Uh oh.  What’s this?  The lead I am using (and have been using for this project) is not big enough for this glass.  The glass, this beautiful perfect piece of glass is too thick.  But I wanted in my project, and I tried so hard, and I did a good job, and it broke and I tried again!  I did everything I was ever taught.  I was careful.  It didn’t matter.  The piece wasn’t, was not, going to fit in my project.

Recently in my life there have been pieces that didn’t fit, no matter how badly I wanted them to, they just didn’t.  I cared for them, I tried in so many ways to make it work, and it just didn’t.  I thought about that for a moment as I struggled with my project.  I thought about how glass and people are kind of alike in some ways.

Some glass is just pretty, there’s no way around it.  It’s beautiful no matter where it is.  Some glass has been in a basement or barn for a while and is covered in dust and cobwebs, but boy, once you wipe it clean, even a little bit, you see those colors and textures come through.  Some glass is dark, doesn’t really look like much laying on a work bench, but when you allow light to come through it, look out!  It’s a whole different piece of glass.  Some glass, cuts smoothly, and easily, some glass spars and splinters, and it hurts, trust me.

So, thanks for reading this.  I guess what I’m trying to say, what I learned the other night, via a little project in an old workshop, is don’t give up, not on the whole thing.  And of course it never hurts to try more than once, but some pieces just won’t work.  It hurts, it’s frustrating.  You took the time to make a nice piece, but don’t give up all together.  Now, I won’t have THAT particular type of glass in my project but I will promise you, it will be functional, and it will be beautiful, and it taught me a very valuable lesson.

Emily Cadenhead, Mission Worker

 

stained glass hosanna industries

For more information on how you can learn stained glass at our Gibsonia campus, contact Emily. Currently, classes are being held on Monday evenings in June.

 

June 2016 Hammers Hearts and Hands

08 June

2016 June Newsletter

Early yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of mowing the grass at the new Hosanna Gibsonia facility. While operating the lawn tractor, I once again realized what a beautiful example of God’s creation that particular piece of real estate is, and what great potential it has toward inspiring people with new insights and fresh perspectives. There’s not a tree or flower there that doesn’t make God’s glory known! As I neared the completion of the work, I steered the machine away from the main yard and toward a little walking path that travels around the east side of the largest pond. Carefully, I trimmed that woodland path which meanders around plentiful trees, both old and young, and I prayed that God would lead certain people of His choosing to quietly pursue this unique path as a practical exercise in reflecting upon His presence in our lives, His guidance to our lives, and His call upon our lives. Please consider these words as a personal invitation!

Paths. How very important they are! How intimately they are connected to our pasts and futures, our memories and dreams! How ironic it is that, though our lives signify a lifelong career of path walking, our memory functions rarely if ever recall the first experimental steps we took when we first started out on the journey!

Did you know that the average moderately active person takes around 7500 steps per day? If we maintain that daily average until, let’s say the age of 80, we each walk about 216,262,500 steps in a lifetime, or 110,000 miles. That’s five times around the globe. No wonder our joints eventually wear out!

The paths of our lives are as powerful as destiny and as unique as a fingerprint and as ridiculous as it may seem to some people, I consider that the one thing that can be said of all of our paths is that bidden or unbidden, God is always there.

Right now, I’m aware of a friend whose path abruptly changed at the end of last year. A routine medical exam revealed a very serious and life-threatening illness. Everything that has happened since then is of a different hue.

In these early pre-dawn hours as I write this article, I’m aware of another path, this one on the part of a dear friend who is currently struggling with the meaning of God’s call. She is in the wrestling match of a lifetime, much like Jacob of old at Peniel. Where will her path take her?

Soon, a mother will awaken to the prospect of a new day, silently bearing the heartbreak of an adult child who is incarcerated again as a result of poor decision-making, mental imbalance and spiritual alienation. She will outwardly function today, but inwardly her feet are walking a lonesome path.

Not very many miles away, a saintly old person will soon arise to a new dawn, the vigorous past now gone, the quiet struggle of burden-bearing and patient waiting now at hand.

In another place, a young person is walking upon a new leg in the journey, soon to graduate from high school with the prospect of a lifetime future burning brightly ahead!

Yesterday, a little child completed her last day of first grade. Today, she begins her first experiences of an American child’s summer vacation. Where will her path lead?

Not too many years ago, another little child experienced the same moment. Today, she is making final arrangements for her upcoming wedding day, full of hope and with life’s cup overflowing with the joy of human love.

Earlier this week, the mission workers found themselves in another desperately needy home. They drove the green trucks to a new address to help another household in the name of the Lord! The homeowner is aged, widowed, and very poor. She lives within the brokenness of one of Pittsburgh’s former industrial river towns, but those days are now only a memory of a brighter past that led to a despairing future. In the bleakness of her quiet suffering, God’s helpers came to brighten a path with a strange new light that somehow glows from green shirts, smiling faces beneath sweat-streaked brows, and the simple tasks of a carpenter who can build. It seems to me that just a few blinks ago, it was Christmastime, and now we are already nearly halfway through a year that isn’t new anymore. How fast the path goes, and how quickly it changes! More than 26 years ago, a brand new mission took its first steps upon a new path, and we’ve been striving to do our very best ever since, one day at time. Thank you, dear friend, for everything you’ve done and for everything you are doing to support Hosanna’s walk upon that path!

Thousands of years ago, a sensitive soul interpreted the presence of God upon life’s path as one which leads to green pastures and still waters, even through valleys of dark shadows, yet always in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. I believe that hundreds of years later, a Carpenter from Nazareth somehow translated those words into the living presence of His example, His leadership, and His gracious friendship. He is the Word made flesh.

Perhaps one of Christian hymnody’s most beloved songs says it best ~ John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace”, wrote these lyrics while on his own path from slave-trading to Christian ministry in the late 1700’s,“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

May God’s grace be with you and upon your path, dear friend. Please continue to uphold us in your prayers.

With love, Donn

 

You can own a house & still be homeless

22 April

What does it mean to have a home?  Think with me about this for a minute. It is more than four walls and a roof. It is safety and security. It is a little bit of pride. It is a place for hope to grow and dreams to flourish. It is peace.

second chance quote-3

But what is a home when the roof leaks and the plaster crumbles?  When the furnace stops working and 41• is the standard temperature all winter?   When trouble strikes and handicap accessibility becomes an unaffordable necessity?  When windows rattle, when plumbing leaks and floors rot, when electric panels are outdated and unsafe?  What then is home?

Suddenly home isn’t safe and secure anymore.  It is humiliating and scary and difficult. It is a place to return to. It is a spot in the world to land at the end of a day.  It is four walls and a roof but not much more.

When you live your life in houses that meet the needs of the people inside, when the roofs and windows, the furnaces and plumbing all do their jobs, it is easy to forget what all a home brings to your life. The sense of safety and security becomes standard. The dignity that comes from having a home is expected. The ability to hope and dream is unremarkable. You might start focusing on how to make your house nicer – what new things you can do to make it more beautiful or peaceful or spacious. But you don’t spend much time thinking about how much having a home means.

Hosanna Industries before

Before

The elderly widow who is eeking out her existence on social security whose roof starts to leak suddenly begins thinking how very much home means to her. The hard working, low income young couple whose furnace gets red-tagged knows how important a warm and safe home is for their little family. The middle aged woman whose husband left her struggling to provide for her two teenagers recognizes the need for a home that provides safety and hope and dignity even as she has no idea how she will replace the floor in her bathroom and repair the ceiling below because the plumbing started to leak. The wheelchair bound man whose wife has to carry him down the steps whenever they go out because a ramp is too expensive knows the value of a place of rest.

Very quickly, home isn’t taken for granted anymore. Home is so much more than where you land at the end of the day. So much more than a place to lie your head.  So much more than four walls and a roof.

Hosanna Industries after

After

Homeless people often live in tents or boxes under bridges. We might avoid those places but we know what homeless looks like for these folks because we’ve seen pictures and heard stories. But I’m pretty sure you can own a house and still be homeless. I’m pretty sure that when the house doesn’t provide security from the elements, when it isn’t safe because ceilings are crumbling and floors are rotting, when it is too embarrassing to let anyone visit, a house is no longer a home. I’m pretty sure you can own a house and still be homeless.

Thank you to all who help Hosanna Industries make houses into homes, who restore hope and peace and dignity, who help keep hopes and dreams alive. We are forever grateful.

-Julie Wettach, Mission Worker

Don’t let yourself be insulated

05 January

I recently read the story of the rich man and Lazarus from Luke Chapter 16 in the Bible. In case the story is unfamiliar to you, Lazarus was a poor beggar covered in sores and an unnamed rich man wore purple linens and feasted sumptuously every day. Lazarus sat outside the rich man’s gates and begged. Eventually both men died and Lazarus went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. The rich man begged for comfort from Lazarus but Abraham reminded the rich man of how things were when they were alive and explained that a great chasm now existed and there was no way Lazarus could come to the rich man to bring him even a drop of water. The story goes on further but this is where my mind began to wander. The rich man knew poor Lazarus. He saw him outside his gates whenever he left his home. He saw his pain. He saw his weakness. He knew Lazarus’ name and his needs.  And he chose not to help.

It struck me that I am much more like the rich man than Lazarus. That most of us are. Most of us have food on our tables (we even go out to eat once in a while), most of us have clothes on our backs – even quality, brand name clothing, and most of us have comfortable homes. It also struck me that I don’t see many Lazarus’ today. No one sits near my home sick and hungry and begging for my help.

You see, in this first world country that we live in, we are insulated from the needy. The government provides food stamps and welfare checks and medical assistance. Non-profits give food and clothing and home repairs and counseling and job skills training.  In this wonderful country I call home, I rarely meet Lazarus. I don’t know what his needs are. I don’t know how I can help. I don’t even know his name.

And I’m not really sure what I should do about this. I know what the rich man 2000 years ago should have done.  He should have bandaged Lazarus’ wounds and given him food and water. He should have welcomed him into his home and taught him a useful skill so Lazarus could have supported himself or even hired him as a servant.

But today when we don’t see Lazarus, when we don’t know who he or she is and what his or her needs are, what are we to do today?  I’m really not sure.  For me, I’ve chosen to give my life to a place where “rescue me now, please” is heard every day and where I can be a part of answering those cries.

When a woman calls our office because her hot water tank hasn’t worked for months, or a young parent reaches out because their furnace stopped doing its job, or an elderly widow calls because her roof is leaking and her ceiling is caving in, I know my work is making a difference.  When I hear about an impoverished single mom raising her child with special needs by herself or a widow trying to get by on less than $10,000 a year or a woman carrying her disabled husband from the car to the house because they don’t have a wheelchair ramp and can’t afford one I know that I am right where I need to be to help God’s children.

We live in a world that insulates us from the needs of others.  Shootings in the ghetto neighborhoods of Pittsburgh seem so distant even though, in reality, I can visit those areas within a half hour after leaving my home.  People living without heat or hot water seem so far away – maybe in a third world country – but in reality, my children go to school with kids who don’t have these basics in their home.  Lonely widows who have no money for a Thanksgiving dinner and no one to share the meal with anyway aren’t visible to me but, in reality, there’s at least one living right down the road from my house.  Kids who don’t ever get to celebrate their birthday because there’s no money for such things, who think that the only kids who do receive birthday gifts are kids on TV, live pretty close to me, too.  And although I believe wholeheartedly that the most precious gift came to us on Christmas morning a little more than 2000 years ago, I still believe that having a gift sitting under a Christmas tree today is pretty important whether you are 3 or 93 and I know that even though I don’t see their pain or hear their quiet pleas that there are people in my own community who haven’t received such a gift in years.

And so when you hear the stories from Hosanna Industries or other mission organizations, when your eyes are opened to needs around you, when you heart feels the pain of another person’s hurt, please do something about it.  Don’t let yourself be insulated any longer.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Make a difference in the world.  Don’t make today’s Lazarus wait until he or she is with Abraham to be comforted.

Julie Wettach, Mission Worker