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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Packing the Container

As we prepare for our return to South Africa and the establishment of Restoring Hope Village our plans include the shipment of a container full of materials and goods important for the work there.  You may remember about a month ago that we sent out a couple lists of things that we wanted to collect.  Two weeks ago I made the comment to Amber that we wouldn't have enough to fill the container.  Not that we didn't have a good response or a lot of things, but we've shipped a container before and we know how much can fit in those things.  I was convinced that we would be short.

Was I ever wrong!  In the last two weeks things started to pour in.  Our emails have been forwarded two or three times and people we've never met have given things for the ministry there.  The container is filling quickly and we have more than enough.  God is good.  So many have been involved and we are grateful for the willingness to give to the overwhelming need in South Africa.

The last couple weeks we have been crazy busy, running around fetching loads of donated items.  We have spent hours on the road, and as everyone in Iowa knows, the roads and weather conditions haven't been peachy.  It has been a good chance for Amber & I to spend some quality time together, although I think our kids are getting tired of being strapped into the car seats.  Meredith likes for us to tell her stories as we drive, but Drake doesn't really like anything about it.  Fortunately they have been with my family for the last week or so.

Last time we shipped we rented the container, so it arrived on the back of a semi and we had two hours to load it full.  Fortunately we had the use of a warehouse in Ankeny and we were able to prepare beforehand, loading lots of boxes on pallets.  This time everything has been collected in two storage sheds in Slater.  We hope to sort and pack a bit more efficiently, although last time was pretty amazing.  RHI owns a container that is parked at Slater Baptist Church.  The church is graciously allowing us to sort and pack in its big gym building.  You'll see in the pictures that we've taken full advantage of that, spreading our things as far as the eye can see.

Amber and Lois have arranged a great packing system.  We sort everything into piles - kitchen, clothing, toys, books, etc...  From there they are sorted and packed, all clothing into small bags and everything else into boxes, tubs, dresser drawers, cabinets, and any other open space that we can cram full.  The clothing that goes into bags is sorted by size and gender, then folded and labeled.  We then take those bags and pack them into any open crack or crevice in the container, ensuring that we use every square inch possible.

One challenge is that we have to record everything that is packed, both for our records, and for the customs manifest that must be included with the shipping documents.  Amber devised an ingenious recording plan using color coded labels, clip boards, abbreviations, and lots of other things that make sense.  So far it has worked famously.  She had to explain it to me three times and I'm still not sure I get it, but everyone else seemed to.  Maybe that says more about me than her system...

The container is now 3/4ths packed.  The remainder will be filled over the next couple days, as we attempt to be discerning as to what is most important of the remaining items.  Anything that does not fit in the container will be put in a garage sale this spring, with the proceeds going toward the establishment of Restoring Hope Village.  Over the last week we have had dozens of people help with sorting and packing.  We couldn't have come close to where we are now without their help.  It has been an enjoyable time for us to spend with everyone, especially during meals and breaks.  One day the Schwan's truck went by and Brian flagged him down.  Just because it's barely above zero doesn't mean we can't enjoy some ice cream.  Not that anyone has ever accused Brian of being impulsive.

Special thanks to the mothers of RHI's field staff, as they have done everything from packing, preparing food for the volunteers, and watching our little ones as we work.  A huge thank you to Brenda DeTar and her boys who have been there every day to help.  And to everyone else who stopped by as time permitted, we greatly appreciate your assistance.

Here are some things for which you can join us in praising our Father:
-Safety on the roads
-Generosity of those who gave
-A whole container full of good, quality, usable items
-Help from so many volunteers
-Health throughout this process
-A nice, big, warm location to sort and pack
-Mick Wenger finding us a huge discount on a lawn tractor
-The funding to ship the container
-Casey's doughnuts (see previous post)

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