Our NOMAD Trails and Tails

This is the post excerpt.

Our NOMAD adventure has begun. I think we were both at peace with the changes our lives would take. I say think because the preparations required to make this change were exhausting to say the least. When we finally drove away from our home of 12 years, there were no tears really; just a huge sigh of relief, as all the work in moving and preparing was ending. We can’t possibly thank our family and friends enough for all the support (physical and mental) and prayers. We couldn’t have done any of this without you all. Marty

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Our first project didn’t start until August 7th. We left the house on July 31st and spent some time at St. Francois State Park before heading to Pontiac, Illinois. We couldn’t help but to take a detour and take a couple of pictures in front of the Church and the flagpole dedicated to my dad and uncle. Marty20170731_154130 - Copy20170731_153943 - Copy

We had a week of camping before leaving.
Humbling; alone; that’s how I feel right now. As we arrive at our camp sight to take a respite before our departure, we pull into a very quiet state park surrounded by…. nobody, very few campers – few and far between. As we pull into our sight, a sign has been placed on our post. Welcome home Marty and Donna. How sweet, someone has gone through the trouble to make us feel loved. We have our suspicions who. As Marty prepares camp outside, I open the door to our new home to find…..A DISASTER. The floor, walls, cabinets and doors are flooded with a gallon of sweet tea, watermelon, smashed Tomatoes, and food splattered EVERYWHERE!!! Our refrigerator has opened and dumped it’s contents despite our strapping the doors closed. I run to tell Marty “Houston…we have a problem” (these are NOT the words that came to mind immediately). Marty in the middle of his own duties seems frustrated that I needed him now. I start cleaning and cleaning some more, did I mention it was sweet tea??? I then notice after scrubbing the bathroom floor (after all there’s not much difference or distance between the kitchen, entry, living , entry and bathroom area) that the bathroom door was also torn off the frame, no the entire door jam ripped out! As I finish up, I throw the cleaning rags and towels into our new washer and I can’t get it to work either!!! As I go outside to tell Marty I open the awning only to mess it up!!! Satan has surely followed us out. Leave us Satan in the name of JESUS!
Tomorrow will be better…..Donna

This was the start of the next day…Donna

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We will be here a few days – not liking it, dirt, lots of flies! Marty tells me this is the life we’ve chosen! Really I don’t remember choosing mud and flies!! We have had time alone, sharing a visit to a beautiful, peaceful winery. We have had some amazing visits with family and friends – some sweet enough to bring dinner – some even preparing it. Laughs, celebration, fun, hugs, cries……goodbyes. Donna

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What an honor to serve the Lord. He has called us to serve in a capacity that we feel very comfortable with, but truth be told it was hard to get our minds around his plan. To leave our family and friends will certainly be the hardest. We miss everyone already and we haven’t even arrived at our first mission site. Today will be the hardest. I know He is with us now, I have felt and seen his presence today – a beautiful day, the best so far this summer, several butterflies floating around (to me a sign of loved ones past that I miss too).  We will say our goodbyes to our kids and grandkids. We want to be joyous – maybe tomorrow. Right now we need to just “enjoy this”. Donna

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Well, we have departed. Bittersweet for sure. But we trust the goodness God has in store for us. We truly have to be a team now in every way. Setting up camp, organizing, planning, working , worshiping, playing and tearing down camp. We pray this will make our relationship closer and stronger. I pray we will be able to comfort, encourage and love each other through this new season in life. Anticipating the arrival of our new temporary home.

PS the dogs eagerly jumped into their kennels thinking they are going back home. SURPRISE!!! NOT!!! Donna


We arrived in Pontiac on Saturday, the 5th of August about 2 hours later than planned. Our crew leaders – Gene and Carolyn Freeman greeted us and helped us get set up. Our first NOMAD campsite is at the 4H campground on the outskirts of Pontiac. Marty

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Pontiac reminds me a lot of Washington, MO. It’s a community that’s trying to keep some of it’s identity by maintaining a vibrant historic district – Walmart stays over by the highway and the downtown district keeps it’s charm. It’s been a great first stop for these NOMAD newbies! It has dozens of hand-painted murals on walls of buildings and of course a Pontiac automobile museum. Marty

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Vacation Between Projects

When we left our last project in New York, we had a week break to recharge a bit.  We went to Punderson State Park in Ohio just south of Cleveland/Lake Erie. This area is home to the 4th largest Amish community in the U.S. That was obvious when you went to town – buggies everywhere. They even have covered stalls on the parking lots of Walmart and grocery stores to park the Amish buggies.


The State Park was very nice. The park lodge was beautiful. Even though we were camping, we could see it directly across the lake from our spot. It had a boardwalk along the lake that was really neat. Princess Summer thought she may have found her new home. Sometimes I think her and Bratwurst can’t understand how we could have gotten so lost for soooo long and why we don’t just ask someone for directions back to Festus.



After a few nights in Ohio, we headed to Kentucky to camp at Land Between the Lakes. 570 miles in one day; towing our house – won’t be doing that again.


Our days in Kentucky were great. It was hot – for us anyway. We were spoiled with mid to low 70’s in New York and northern Ohio. Remember NOMADS stands for Nice Old Methodists Avoiding Deep Snow (not really, we like to avoid heat, too) We visited Paducah’s brick district – very cute. Best of all, Justin, Megan and the grankids came to see us. We had a great visit and lots of fun. It was great to reconnect. We celebrated our son Justin’s 36th birthday while we were together. Hard to believe we have a son that age. Our visit was way too short though and emotional to see them leave knowing we wouldn’t see them again until Christmas. But we are grateful and blessed for the time together.


3rd Project – Lakeshore United Methodist Assembly Eva, Tennessee

Heading to Tennessee for our next adventure. We are staying in Eva, Tennessee at Lakeshore UM Assembly. It’s a beautiful setting here on Kentucky Lake. A very busy camp where over 3500 kids can attend through the summer and they have retreat use year round.


Our work at Lakeshore is physical. We have done remodel demolition on the interior of a large dorm cabin, removing all trim and paneling down to the studs (all done in one day by 3 women – look out Fixer Upper!).


We constructed a 16′ x 10′ building to accommodate 2 composting toilets and storage at their Wilderness Lodge site (only accessible by foot or their Polaris 4 wheeler).



It’s been pretty hot here – not so much fun, but we’re getting it done. We also have painted a large basketball court/parking lot by the recreation center. AND we’ve gone through 34 gallons of bleach to clean decks & railings on 16 cabins!!! I didn’t work this hard before I retired!!!

While out to dinner one Friday night with our fellow NOMADS (which by the way we found the best food on the lake at Beaver Dam Marina) we came upon this:


This group was just paddling in on this contraption – constructed from 4) 55 gallon barrels ratchet strapped to a picnic table . I asked what the compartment in the center of the table was for (they had made a cutout on the picnic table and inserted a cooler)?? “Fer da bare”.  Marty asked what the shovel was for??? “Batry’s dead. It’s the paddle”!! I then asked if it was available for rent?  “No way – we jus’ made ‘er!!

This past weekend was amazing! We were blessed to have so many of our friends travel  long distances to spend time with us!! We didn’t do much but hang out together and play games. We rented a cabin and took turns with sleeping arrangements between the cabin and our camper. Kayla’s daughter Carly wanted to sleep in what she called “the tour bus”. So, Kayla, Travis and the kids spent the night in our camper. Carly now says she can check this off her bucket list and asked her dad “aren’t you glad you can check that off your bucket list too? AGAIN, so hard to see them all leave, knowing we won’t see them again until Christmas time. This certainly is the hardest part of our journey – missing family and friends. It was great to receive a pile of cards from our church family that they brought to us. Loved it!


I haven’t driven the truck since our first project. That means Marty and I haven’t had any time apart for over 8 weeks. Also, we’ve had terrible phone reception since we’ve been in Eva. Our phone has to sit on the cellular amplifier with the speaker on in order to talk. It’s been tough – no privacy!!! Not much space to separate us. Say a prayer or two – would ya’?

Our leaders on this project have had to leave due to a family emergency.  Just 2 couples left and we are installing laminate floors in two cabins this last week. So far we haven’t seen many signs of fall colors here. Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks.


We had a few hours of time on the last day to finish trimming out windows and a door  on two cabins and manicuring some overgrown plants and trees around the camp as well. Our work is complete for this project. Mission accomplished!


One of the hardest things about Nomads is moving on to our next adventure. Even though it’s exciting, it seems just when you really start to build relationships you have to move on – all too quickly. So off we go today to Beersheba Springs, Tennessee to another church camp. It looks to be an exciting ride according to the map; quite hilly and curvy. Hang on TAILS!! I think they are finally figuring out the routine!! Summer will truly miss running in the open field here.




2nd Project – Asbury Camp, Silver Lake, New York

Our 3 week project here is coming to a close and way too soon. This place is beautiful and very peaceful. The ministry that comes out of this camp/retreat center is special. We were able to witness a couple; one being a group home for young men with disabilities that were here the first week. They had so much fun boating, sharing meals, playing basketball and going on outings. Experiences that I’m sure they don’t normally have. We shared conversations and meals – what a great opportunity for us. We’ve attended a church service with the lake community and realized this area is largely a big family of generational ownership of lake homes and shared memories. Donna


Our team is wonderful – full of gentle souls. We have really enjoyed this project and would jump at the chance to return. Our projects have been making new curtains for the cabins, lots of power washing, staining decks, staircases and railings, repairing and painting wooden picnic tables, painting a huge porch, pillars and window frames. We completely remodeled a bathroom and did numerous electrical and plumbing jobs. Donna



One of the couples, Martin and Beth, are from Ithaca, NY. Both are in there mid 70’s – both have metastatic cancer and are currently on oral chemo and he is diabetic. Yet, here they are, doing what they can to serve. Just an amazing couple. It’s a privilege to serve with them and very humbling.  Marty

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I have taken lots of pictures these 3 weeks. We visited Geneseo. A charming college community north of the camp. We toured a creamery and saw how they make cheese. They have a vending machine outside where you can buy cheese. ($10 /half pound!) Who would have thought?? Donna


The Tails were having a great time spending a lot of time with me watching us make curtains for the cabins. We have our sewing ‘sweat shop’ set up on the porch of a nearby cabin which has been a lot of fun. They haven’t gotten much sleep staying up watching us. Two of us have made over 50 curtains! The Tails had to get a bath in the kitchen sink this week and they were not happy about it! But boy do they smell better. They have been very spoiled – spending the day with me while I work. Next week will be different. We will be painting the front of a house on the property along with a long list of repairs that need to be done. We won’t be taking the Tails. Donna20170905_11071220170903_14433720170903_142908

We visited Letchworth State Park. It’s called the Grand Canyon of the East and for good reason – it was incredibly beautiful. The waterfalls were enormous and the scenery was gourgeous. Gods creation is amazing!! A great day of sharing fellowship with our team. Donna


Methodist are known for fellowship involving food, right? Well, NOMAD fellowship is no different. Going out to eat as a group is also a great way of sharing our faith with others. You see, wherever we go, we ALWAYS wear our NOMADS name tags.  People are curious and ask  who we are and what we represent. It’s always fun to see the look on people’s face when you explain your journey. Hopefully, it’s spreading a faith seed every time you explain. When you’re in a group setting, it’s neat to see where and how far we’ve all come from to help on a project. Having the signs on our vehicles is another way, and as we pull in and park, people are curious and ask.
We again have shared and enjoyed our morning devotions and church experiences together – listening to each other’s stories as to how God has lead each and every one of us on our faith journeys. Donna
We can’t seem to have a drama free departure. I was able to get the problem with our leveling system that temporarily stranded us in Pontiac resolved. It was a simple, inexpensive fix (a $5 part). It just took some time figuring it out. We had a lot of rain while we were at Asbury Camp. I was pretty certain we would get stuck getting out….and we did. I had arrived early and parked in the back of the grass area trying to leave room for the others when they arrived. NOTE TO SELF: DON’T DO THAT. We were prepared for it and the camp maintenance man, Keith, was ready with a 4 wheel drive tractor that was able to pull us to the gravel road. Lesson learned. Marty20170828_182710 We’re off for a week and will be staying in northern Ohio for 4 days and then down to the Land Between the Lakes near Paducah, KY for 4 days. Justin and family are coming over to spend a couple of days. Can’t wait to hug those grandkids! Marty

We are both crying as we say goodbye to our new found Brothers and Sisters. This team and this project has been incredible. So much so, that we have ALL already signed up for the 2018 project here at Asbury. To John, Jill, Lewis, Martin and Beth, God Bless you all and we’ll see you next year. I’M NOT PARKING IN THE BACK!

1st Project – Evenglow Lodge, Pontiac, IL


Well, we’ve been here in Pontiac for nearly three weeks.  The weather has been amazing – in the 70’s mostly. We have been working at Evenglow Lodge; a United Methodist care facility that includes independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and an Alzheimer care unit. We are mostly working in the skilled nursing area. To be honest, I struggled most of the first week. I missed everyone and everything. I was emotional the entire week AND I was exhausted. I wasn’t used to being on my feet for so long since my hip replacement. When I have a very long stressful event in my life and it finally comes to an end,  I call it crash and burn. My body and my emotions finally give in.

I was really struggling with “ where is God in all of this now”?  I prayed, talked to Marty and refocused.  I was reminded it’s not just the physical work that’s serving – it may be the interaction with the residents, each other, the team, or the Evenglow employees. I became more aware of my surroundings and started to engage. The second week was much better , and the third even better.

I think Marty’s in Heaven. He thrives on this kind of stuff! I had to learn a new talent last week, we (Marty & I) worked as a team rewiring florescent ceiling fixtures to adapt to LED. After 50 plus we were a pretty good team. Last week I painted all week while Marty worked on a retaining wall outside. I made a new buddy – Chuck. He resides in the nursing home section. He keeps watching us work, telling me he’s paralyzed when I ask if he wants to help. But I reminded him his hands aren’t and I have a brush that will fit them….and he just laughs. (See pic). We are working this week on scraping and prepping metal ceiling tiles to paint. The ceiling project was pretty challenging trying to work with faulty paint spraying equipment.It was frustrating to say the least, but we accomplished getting the 7th floor done and all but a few feet of the 6th. Marty has replaced some bathroom fixtures as well. We certainly are staying busy! Donna

We are enjoying morning devotionals with our other team members in the chapel. We all take turns leading and we share lunch together. Donna

The ‘Tails’ are adapting too. They now know the routine (for now, but soon to change) and are enjoying the frequent walks, especially Summer, she runs like a prancing pony on the grounds of the 4H campground where we are staying.
We are getting excited about leaving for New York on Friday. We’ll spend the night in Sandusky, Ohio for a driving break and continue on to our next project which is a camp in Silver Lake, NY. We will miss the new friends that we made in Pontiac, but it’s time to move on. Donna


Meanwhile, Wednesday after leaving work, a check engine light came on in the new truck. It went away on it’s on, but we took it to the dealership Thursday, but nothing found – SATAN!
Friday morning we are ahead of schedule, or so we thought. Problems soon arise. Our leveling system is not working and the jacks won’t move – up or down – scary! Here we are suppose to be on our way with a broken RV! Thank God I have an incredibly talented husband who figured out the problem. After a two hour delay we are on our way. That seems to be consistent with us so far – the two hour delay.
Trying not to be negative Nelly but this day of travel sucked!!! After the delay and nerves rattled we hit the road, and what a miserable road it was. I hate Indiana roads, not only are they horrible with all the bumps and potholes but you have to pay all the tolls to drive on them….thru some of Ohio as well. Indiana allows triple trailers which are incredibly scary; they seem to be out of control as they swerve all over the lanes. The rest and gas plazas on the toll road are deplorable, they wreaked of urine as soon as you open your door. I believe this is where Satan lives! Donna20170825_134557
We arrive by 5:30 in Sandusky to spend the night and do lots of laundry since we have full hook ups. As we open our camper, the bad roads have provided a little damage – some trim fell off and the dining room light is now on the table. Good thing we have all these tools in the belly of this beast. The parking is very tight and side by side. They also have about 75 sheds (just like the ones they sell at Lowes). I do mean sheds that they rent out. Unfinished insides with a bed and mini fridge. Unfortunately I believe people are living in them. They boast they are Amish built?? Whatever…it’s a shed people! Donna

Marty kept reminding me I was his best friend all day, I asked him of all the people in the world why he would want to be friends with this crabby old woman – I can’t even stand myself right now!
The Tails are exhausted and confused but seem to be adapting………they jumped right in their kennels this morning as we hit the road to NY, hoping to go home I’m sure. Well guess what puppies…..NOT!!
It’s 52 degrees this morning as we leave and I vow to be more grateful for the life that I have and the work I’m being led to do – especially after our morning devotionals that spoke of joy and gratefulness.
Our trip to New York was very pleasant. The road leading into the area we are going to is very hilly. Getting into UMC Asbury Camp road was kind of crazy, but our new NOMAD crew leader came to help us get in. It’s Shangri la compared to Sandusky. This place is beautiful! After church today, we’re hoping to explore a bit. Donna