Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Home at Last!

We finally arrived home after four weeks on the road. Home was certainly a welcome sight! In looking back at the trip it was a very rewarding experience and we are already looking forward to the next mission trip. Not only did we learn some new tasks, work hard, and make new relationships, but we also experienced spiritual growth. We were surrounded by people of faith who were living their faith and not just talking about it. Every one at ECHO had a very positive attitude and their faith was very obvious.

As we came back, we often talked about the impressions the people we met had left on us. No doubt the one thing we will remember is our experiences of worship at Tice United Methodist Church. Our first Sunday many people of the congregation came up to us and introduced themselves and made us feel very welcome. The songs that were sang were very uplifting and the people were clapping hands and hands were raised! I will never forget the organ player and how he really put everything he had into making the music lively. The service was opened each Sunday with the minister asking for "God Sightings" for the week. In other words who has experienced something during the week where they felt God had impacted their lives, and many people responded.

As we returned to Wisconsin, we had maps and a GPS to help us find our way. I realized that our life is much like the journey we had just taken, but God is our GPS. The only problem is that too many times we try to travel the path we want to travel and not follow his plan. If I leaned one thing on this trip it is to put all my trust in God and he will take care of us.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Traveling Home

We left Florida on Friday and drove as far as Ashburn, GA where we spent the night. We arrived at the hotel fairly early so I got plenty of rest and we had a real nice dinner at Shonney's. After a wonderful breakfast, we hit the road. The road conditions were good and the traffic was light, even in Atlanta, so we made a lot of miles. Our journey took us through 4 states. We managed to travel to Metropolis and spend the night there. This gave us the opportunity to see my parents and have a Birthday Lunch with them before heading onward. Sunday we had to stop at Tuscola, IL due to high winds, rain and freezing conditions making driving risky as nightfall approached. We should finish our journey on Monday.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Accomplishments at ECHO

The work is finished at ECHO for the NOMAD team. All of the team members will be traveling home or going to other projects. For us, we will be traveling back to the Tundra known as Wisconsin.

Can you believe we are leaving this for the snow of the north country? The facilities for our stay at ECHO were fabulous. All of the amenities you would want, electric, water, sewer connection, trash was picked up every day from the site, concrete pad, wifi connection, and close to our work site. We were able to stay in the Seminole RV Resort. 

Today we had a summary meeting with the CEO, Stan Doer to review our accomplishments and for him to wish us safe travels onward. He also was open about the financial situation at ECHO, namely that donations are down and the organization is faced with making severe cuts. So what did we accomplish? 
The administration buildings, sidewalks and wooden bridges were power washed. Mold and mildew are common problems in Florida so power washing is an annual event. The wooden bridges were then treated with preservative to provide some protection. The dormitories were also power washed. 

The dormitories and intern rooms were painted and cleaned. A total of 8 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms were painted. The paint team had their challenges in accomplishing this task. They also prepared and painted the trim on the Price Center (Administration Building). 

New display and sorting tables were built for the nursery. This required the construction of 7 tables, removal of the old structures, and installation of the irrigation system. 

A major project was the renovation of the mail room. This included the installation of a wall, changing the doorway, building and installing cabinets and counter tops, and painting the room and cabinets. In addition to making the changes in the mail room, the restroom doors opened into a hallway and this created a hazard, so the doors were reversed. 

A storage barn on the farm was painted. 

ECHO does grow fruit and vegetables so a washing table was built and installed. This was another major project. 

The team worked very had to complete the task list.In addition n to the hard work, there were opportunities for fellowship and spiritual growth during the week. The team will be separating tomorrow morning, but the relationships that have been built will last a very long time. Most are looking for opportunities to do more projects where they will be working with some of the same people. 

For Linda and I our next project will be in May and will be preparing a campground for the summer camping season. We will be at Pine Village Campground in Indiana. We will post more about this in the near future. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Last Day

Tomorrow will be the last day we will be working at ECHO. It has been a rewarding experience in many ways. Friday morning we will begin our trek back to the Tundra known as Wisconsin. Once we get home, another post will be made to the blog.

Please pray for us as we make our way back north.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 3: The Final Act

The third week of our stay at ECHO brings us to the end of our project. Painting of the dormitories and housing continues, the nursery work is completed and the main project is to renovate the mail room. The renovation included adding a wall to divide the area, new cabinets, new counter tops, closing one door and making another door, and changing the reception counter. I was assigned to install the new wall and to close the one door. "Appropriate Technologies" department. I will get the opportunity to explore some little techniques that can be used by small scale farmers to make life a little easier for the farmers. Little things like how to make a simple methane unit so even farms with just 2 cows can produce gas to cook with or light their home with. How about using an empty clear 2 liter soda or water bottle to improve the lighting in the living quarters. The pulverized leaves of a plant that will remove the sediment water and then a way to use ultraviolet light to kill the bacteria in the water. The rest of the week should be interesting.

Monday evening all of the group gathered at our campsite for Wisconsin Cheese and Brats. Everyone brought a dish and fun and fellowship was enjoyed by all. Meredith Tarbell will celebrate her 74th birthday on Wednesday so this provided us with an opportunity to celebrate her birthday.

  Fellowship and fun are a very important part of NOMADS. The hard work is made easier by the friendship and knowing that someone will benefit greatly from the tasks we do!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Weekend Is Over, Back to Work

The weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) provided us with a time to do our weekly chores and to have some time to relax. Our weekend involved shopping, housecleaning and the usual housekeeping chores. We did make a visit to a Matinee  Park to observe the large creatures, a walk through a nature preserve.

Tice United Methodist Church had some events this weekend the NOMADS participated in. A walk for hunger to raise money for the food bank was one of the activities. Sheri & Charlie walked for the NOMADS and we all sponsored their walk. The walk raised $5000 for the food bank. The church also had a Meatloaf dinner on Saturday evening to raise money to pay the insurance on the church and again people were generous and the event raised over $2700. This is a small church but it no doubt one of the most friendly churches we have ever attended. The church is certainly spirit filled.

After the service on Sunday, Linda and commented how we are going to miss attending this church.

This week we will be focusing on finishing the projects we have started and everyone will be off to another project someplace.

Monday night will be Wisconsin Night at the campsite. We are hosting all of the NOMADS for Brats and Cheese!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Week Two Finished!

Progress is being made on the projects that NOMADS have been assigned at ECHO. As our work week ended the Seed Bank that exists at ECHO was explained.

The seed bank multiplies seeds that are unique and could be used in developing countries. The seed bank harvests the seeds, cleans the seeds, and makes the seeds available to people who are working in developing countries. Seed packets are distributed either without cost or for a very nominal cost. The recipients are asked in return to provide feed back based on their use, germination, yield and other relevant information about the performance of the seeds.

At the end of the week Linda and I joined the LEO club (Let's Eat Out).

 Linda's Brother, Frank Fischer visited us on Thursday Night. Since his birthday, Linda's birthday and my birthday are all in a very close window, we decided to visit Pincher's Crab Shack for dinner. As you can see Linda is enjoying a meal of snow crab. The dinner was enjoyed by all, just one of the small rewards we issued to ourselves for the work we are doing.

The last week of our assignment is drawing near. This will mean we must push to complete some of the projects that have been scheduled and prepare to make the trek back to Wisconsin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Nomads at ECHO Period 1, 2-13

There are 11 NOMADS at the ECHO project site in Florida. The team members  are (Front row)  Sheri Simpson  (Second Row) Charlie Simpson, Ruth Allford, Meredith Tarbell, Linda Whitelock, (Third Row) Jack Fenn, Mike Allford, Bill Tarbell, Lindell Whitelock, (Back Row) Arlene Fenn, Bob Smith. The team members are from Texas, Virginia, South Dakota, Indiana, and Wisconsin. 

Two Weeks Since We Left Wisconsin

On New Years Day we left Wisconsin on our trek to Florida. It does not seem like that long ago and we are certainly enjoying the weather in Florida. The work is not bad either! I remember how cold it was getting hitched to tre trailer and then traveling on the road with all of the snow and ice on top. We did not loose the last of our Wisconsin reminder until we arrived in Valdosta, GA. Yes two days later when we had lunch south of Atlanta we still had snow on the top of the trailer. Hopefully it will be a little nicer in Wisconsin when we return. 

Each morning we have a devotion time for the group. Each team member is expected to prepare a devotional program for the group. On Monday the entire ECHO staff is assembled for a devotional program. These programs are really inspiring. This week we had a presentation by a minister about the Biblical character Ehub (Judges 3). The programs always leave you thinking about how God's people have always turned away from him, but he'd send someone to care for them. 

As for the work, the tables and renovation of the nursery area is complete and I have moved on to remodeling one of the offices. The work included a lot of heavy lifting and construction, so at the end of each day I was exhausted, especially since the temperatures were in the 80's each day and I was working in the sun.

Removing the old structures was not much of a challenge, most of the material was so rotten it just fell apart, but it had to be hauled out so the new items could be placed in the nursery area.

The finished product, 4 tables strategically placed in the nursery area. After the tables were placed, then irrigation pipes were installed so the plants can be automatically watered periodically.

The good news is that Linda has moved up the ladder and is on her way to being a skilled successful painter!

Yesterday Linda was the clean up crew of one for the painters and was riding the back seat of the chariot! I am sure her mother was looking down and laughing and probably saying to herself "Keep scrubbing Princess! But fame and fortune came to the Princess today!

Today Linda moved up to "Painter". She was actually given a paint brush and paint! AND

She was promoted to Chariot driver for the team! Yes, NOMADS is a lot of work, but is also a lot of fun. This has been a wonderful experience and we are already looking to our next assignment, and that will probably come in May!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Babcock Ranch

Although we are on a mission assignment, we do try to do some tourist activities. We toured the Babcock Ranch. The ranch is a very large spread (12 miles wide and 14 miles long) that was established in 1914 by the Babcock family. They were lumber barons and acquired the land because of its vast amount of cypress lumber  As the timber was cleared, a cattle ranch was started. The ranch is still a working ranch that has one of the few herds of "Cracker" cattle. This breed was introduced in the 1500's and the quality of beef is not too good, but the animals did well on the sparse vegetation. The ranch offers tours that will allow you to see the wildlife that is native to Florida in their natural surroundings.
Once we arrived at the ranch we boarded "swamp buggies" for the ride. The buggies are old school buses that are opened so you can see the animals first hand.
Following the tour we had lunch on the ranch. The featured food...Gator Bites. These are small pieces of gator that are deep fried.

The day was an enjoyable day for all.

Say this is Linda-do u like this little critter? I think he was lost and looking for his mommy-no doubt he may end up as "gator bites" in the ranch's restaurant  BTW , I've been told, there are 2 gators in the river behind our camper-but they said they are trying to catch them.  Lots of birds especially in the early morning-I hear the morning dove.  Greta is determined to catch a sassy squirrel.   Lots of any extra time I have is walking Greta-she thinks she owns the campground.  I have managed to get in the pool a couple of times.  We are off to church this morning-

Only in Florida

Only in Florida is it necessary to compete with the golf carts for parking spaces when shopping!
Friday is a day off on the project so that day is spend doing laundry, shopping for food and other activities. We were very surprised when we started cruising the parking lot looking for a place to park. Many times we see a place to park only to find a golf cart in the spot. We have seen the seniors cruising the sidewalks in their carts to avoid the traffic and to avoid the high price of gasoline.
On the other hand some folks refuse to give up their "big ride" and keep driving cars forever!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Another Day, WOW are we Tired!

ECHO is a fascinating organization and each day I seem to be amazed by something that is so simple that will make lives easier. All week I have pondered in my mind the fact that our land and resources will need to feed 9 billion people in the not so distant future. To do this will require us to think differently about or agricultural production. Do you realize that today 12 species of crops and 5 species of animals provide the food for the world. New food sources will need to be developed.

One of the interesting things about NOMADS is the fellowship that we enjoy as we work. Each day at lunch we meet and visit about the happenings of the day. No doubt we will build lasting friendships from this experience. Although we do have fun, we are also working hard. Linda is on the painting crew and I am on the construction crew.

Linda is now named Cinderella because here role is to clean up after the paint crew has finished a room. She has been doing a lot of scrubbing, so the rest of the crew calls her and she has named them the wicked step sisters....it is all part of making the work more fun.

Mike Alford (Indiana) and I are building new display and sorting tables for the nursery. The work has required a lot of heavy lifting since the structures are built using all treated lumber that is 2" thick. Hopefully we will start moving the structures in early next week.

We are very fortunate to have a very experienced painter who supervises the painters.  His name is John and he is from Columbia-he enjoys sharing his witness about how he was lead by God to come to the United States.  He is also a perfectionist about painting-thus I have been regulated  to cleaning up after everyone-I am truly a nubie and my painting 'skills' leave something to be desired.  I don't mind cleaning as it is something I know how to do.  It has been very hot working as we've had record highs for January.  Next week we will be painting outside.  I'm ready for bed by 8pm  Greta gets us up by 4-I stumble out the door-let her potty and let her back in bed with us for a while-kind of like having a baby-off to bed I go

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Begining of Our Mission in Florida

The church service we attended felt charismatic.  I enjoyed seeing people to greet each other with hugs.  The organist had an erring and chewed gum as he played away.  The choir had people with walkers and one lady used a magnifying glass to read the music.  We sang modern songs with our hands uplifted.  The pastor, a stylish lady, smiled through her entire sermon.  Today at Echo, we had the longest prayer I can ever remember as the CEO blesses each person on his staff for the new year.  What a wonderful tour we had of Echo and learned so much-I wish I could remember it all.  As far as painting is concerned, I used a small brush and painted the areas around the trim.  I'm really the nubbie as far as painting is concerned-the other women all have a lot more experience than me.  Off to bed until tomorrow

ECHO is a Global Training Center that is committed to the development of new agricultural techniques that will allow farmers and people with small land holdings to produce some of their own food. The organization is a faith based organization that is very unique in its work and its commitment to addressing the issue of food. New crops and new techniques are being used to address the issue. Some of the work they have been doing is simply changing the techniques of the past, for example, in Madagascar the method of planting rice was changed from traditional methods of setting the plants to using seed and planting directly. The result has been the country is using only 20% as much seed as in the past, and the rice yields have increased by 100%. We are also learning about other simple techniques that can be used to purify water, create a brighter room by using a empty plastic bottle and water, and using livestock waste to generate methane to cook with and to provide gas lighting in the homes. I will do more about this organization when time permits.

So what are we doing at ECHO. Linda is involved in painting the dormitory rooms! I am sure her painting skills will improve during this project. I have been assigned to remodel and build new equipment for the nursery (plants not children) at the farm. During the time here I will also be involved in looking at some of the new crops that are being used and some of the livestock production techniques.

ECHO Our Project Site

Our Assignment is to work at the ECHO Global Research Farm .
This facility is committed to developing agricultural
techniques that will increase food supplies

Saturday, January 5, 2013

We Arrived! After 4 days on the road, we arrived at Seminole RV Park near North Fort Myers. It was certainly a relief to get to our site and unhook and relax. The first thing I did was to say a little prayer of thanks for the safe trip down. We had no incidents or close calls what so ever. We were met by Bill and Meredith Tarbell, the team leader for this project. Best of all we were welcomed with a loaf of banana nut bred that had been freshly baked! 

The weather has been fabulous  Temperatures at night have been in the 60's (great sleeping weather) and the day time temperatures have been in the high 70's to low 80's. This is certainly a welcome relief after the last week in Wisconsin! 

Linda and I have met all of the team members and everyone has a commitment to doing Mission work. Three of the couples live and work projects full time. They are fully retied and have sold their homes to live in RV's and do the work of NOMADS. I am sure they will be an inspiration for Linda and I.

Tomorrow we will worship at Tice United Methodist Church in North Fort Myers and have lunch afterwards. Monday we will begin work. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 1: We left cold snowy Wisconsin and headed south. The roads were dry and there was very little traffic. The day was uneventful and we did manage to get as far south as Salem, Illinois before we stopped for the night. The weather was cold and there snow cover all the way. Greta (our newest addition) rode quite well but was very confused. She did enjoy the night in the hotel though.

January 2: After leaving Wisconsin where the temperature was 5 when we left, to awaken to a morning temperature of 17 seemed to be much warmer. After fueling we traveled to Metropolis, IL where we made a stop to visit my parents. After we all had lunch together, it was time to be on the road again. As we crossed the Ohio River, finally we saw fields without snow cover. The travels went well and we made it to Murfreesboro, TN before stopping for the night. We were not able to stay in the camper as we had planned because the nightly temperature was to be in the low 20's and that would cause freezing problems in the waterlines. Hopefully tomorrow we will be in south Georgia and we will be able to spend the night in the trailer. I will post some pictures this weekend once we get to Sunny Florida!