Roofing in the Rain
by Mariellyn Dunlap
My dad is a construction guru. He built our family house. He's an amazing carpenter, turning junk like old barn siding into beautiful cabinets. He made a life-size Thomas the Tank Engine for his grandkids, and even, laid all the track and built a railroad crossing, complete with flashing lights and ringing bells.
When he worked in construction for a living, my older brothers sometimes helped out, especially with roofing projects. But I was the youngest and the only girl, so it never seemed to make sense to teach me how to hammer and saw. I honestly meant to pick up a few carpentry skills when I lived at home last year, but never got around to it.
From October 19-23, 2007, I traveled with twelve college students and five adults from Martin Methodist College to Gulfport, MS, to do hurricane recovery work. I figured we'd be cleaning up piles of debris, gutting houses, or painting. Then we arrived. I found out that my half of the group would be tearing off and putting a roof back on a house. Ha! I'd rarely ever swung a hammer, except to put up a few pictures on the walls. But hey, I figured, maybe it's in my genes.
Saturday afternoon's weather was exactly what every roofer dreads -- sunny and 90 degrees. I remembered those cool, cloudy days when my dad would leave the house saying, 'Ah, a perfect day for roofing.' No such luck for us.
After the old roof finally surrendered, we started nailing down tar paper. And man, did we nail! No nail guns for us. My dad would have been proud! We managed to get the roof tar-papered before dragging our weary bodies down off the roof and into the van for the ride back to the church where we stayed.
Sunday morning we were all a (lot!) bit tired, but an enthusiastic welcome at morning worship and lunch at the beach lifted our spirits. In a little over three hours that afternoon, we managed to shingle two-thirds of the roof (even with a few crooked rows that had to be corrected). As the sun set, we gazed with satisfaction on our hard work, ready to return the next morning and finish what we'd started.
I awoke Monday morning to the pitter-patter of rain falling outside. We checked with Emil, our construction leader and roofer extraordinaire. We dressed for a day of working in the rain. At the work site, the rain was coming down in sheets. Undeterred, our roofing crew carefully climbed atop the house and got to work. The rain continued, unabated, all day, soaking us to the bone. By afternoon, all warmth had seeped out of us. Still we carried on.
As I hammered, my thoughts were on the people of lower Mississippi and Louisiana. This rain was nothing compared to the lashing of Hurricane Katrina.
Four hours after we'd begun, I hammered the last nail and surveyed the beautiful new roof we'd put on for Bobby and his wife. Even in the pouring rain, it was one of the sweetest, proudest moments of my life.
I think I can say with certainty that none of the rain-soaked volunteers that afternoon would have traded that moment for all the dry clothes in the world.
Mariellyn Dunlap is a US-2 missionary, a young adult missionary who serves for two years with the United Methodist Church. Ms. Dunlap is the Assistant Director of S.E.R.V.E.S. (Students Engaged in Reviving Volunteer Efforts in Society) and Religious Life at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Date posted: Jan 25, 2008