Week Two of the Williams Lake MDS Caper

[Thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

How appropriate, I think, that baleful sobriquet, title, alternate “me” called ~burning woman~ at the end of week two in Williams Lake in process of rebuilding some of the homes lost in last Summer’s wild fires that swept through this small town of approximately 10,000 people.

The devastation left behind by the fires is still very much in evidence. The city proper was spared as it did not provide the kind of fuel such fires require to sweep ahead as they jump from tree top to tree top, race through dry grasses, jump across small lakes and even wide rivers pushed by high afternoon winds, some generated by the fires’ own heat.

Though many homes and animals, both domestic and wild, were lost in the fires, no human life was lost that I know of. The evacuation done by various government departments, backed up by some military presence (that mostly to prevent looting) made sure everybody was accounted for. Not all “survivors” who lost their homes are happy with the heavy-handed presence of law enforcement. Many know  had they been allowed to remain on their properties, using their Canadian farming and ranching common sense, they would have saved their homes and animals. Power may have failed but generators were available to pump the deep wells and roofs as well as grounds could have been watered. It never fails to amaze me how well totalitarianism works in a democracy!

What to say: am I happy to be here, doing this volunteering to help essentially homeless people get a home back they could not otherwise ever have again? Let’s say I’m satisfied. The work is hard and dirty – this is King of the Gumbo country and if there is as little as one rain shower, your feet are immediately clotted with a compound that would shame LePage’s Premium glue. Gumbo, i.e., the world’s most persistent mud can add 3 to 5 pounds of clumping mud to your foot in four steps.

Plus, it is both, stifling hot and freezing cold in turn, on the same day. Three days ago we arrived at our work site in 3 inches of sleet deposited during the night. It didn’t melt until late in the afternoon.  Good thing was, it severely slowed down the swarms of mosquitoes ever on the prowl for blood. 

Nevertheless, our house, which was footing and Styrofoam forms when I arrived is now standing proud, awaiting the delivery of the roofing trusses. Not bad for on average 2 to 4 volunteers a day. And no: it wasn’t prefab!

As I said before, these volunteers are Christian people, mostly Mennonites. As for me, well, let’s say I’m acceptable because of skills, providing my own truck (GMC 3/4 ton van) and a LOT of tools. Plus I was baptized in a Mennonite church many decades past. As I said jokingly, “I don’t know what happened, folks, but it didn’t take.” I guess you have to be born in it, not just born again.

Anyway, yes, they mostly support Donald Trump and believe he’s doing a wonderful job- to be expected. They wish Canada would become part of the States – to be expected. They hate our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau – to be expected. And they hate labour unions, also to be expected. In other words, they are right-winged to the core and it isn’t a matter of thought but a matter of faith cum brain washing. Except for Justin Trudeau, of whom I have no opinion, he being a liberal means it’s pointless to have an opinion of him, I’m basically opposed to everything these people stand for or believe in… yet here we are, drawn to this part of the map to do the same thing, with the same purpose in mind. What does that say but that as human beings we are united in the only thing that matters?

Imagine a world in which people (all the people!), though they disagree on every aspect of religion, politics, economics, and social norms see a desperate need and come together, working their asses off responding, rebuilding, restoring and in the process bringing hope where there is either none or it is badly shattered.

Next week is next week,  the show must go on!


14 thoughts on “Week Two of the Williams Lake MDS Caper

  1. Regis Auffray

    Thank you for sharing honestly and openly your “very real” experience. You should be on one of those “reality” TV productions (which I never watch, by the way). Thank you for sharing. Always “be well as you will.” 🙂


  2. rawgod

    Hey S’T,
    Me again. I have known a few Mennonite-raised people in my life, and have no complaints about them. Then, last year, when I was out almost every day selling the products of my new business, I had occasion to spend a lot of time with Mennonites, particularly in the La Crete area of Alberta, 113 kms (according to the road signs) outside of the town I live in.
    Look at me, Mom, I’m an atheist selling medical marijuana to religious people in a ultra-religious town!!!
    My first visit there with my spouse we were almost pariahs. How dare we bring the devil’s weed into a christian community? People were going out of their way to avoid walking in front of our booth. But we didn’t care, though we had some chuckles about the way some of them did it. Not important.
    By the end of the night we had sold $400 worth of medicine to people of the lesser conservative sects. (La Crete is home to about 6 sects ranging from ultra-conservative to fairly liberal.) For some, it seems, natural remedies are more acceptable than chemical concoctions, and so it proved worth our while to visit La Crete regularly thereafter.
    Now, the reason I am writing this comment is that once the door was opened, a lot of very nice people walked through it. We made some new friends, a lot of repeat customers, and a little bit of money.
    What we felt best about, though, was making a good number of people feel both physically and mentally better.
    Now we understand Mennonite beliefs better, though we could never agree with them, and they know us a lot better, and we are not shunned by more than a few die-hards. Even the ultras are buying from us now, and stopping to talk when we run into each other.
    While I have had a few arguments in the past with people of Mennonite birth, I have always tried to accept all people no matter what they believe. Now, some Mennonites who were closed-minded are not so closed as before. And as for marijuana, while it was always a youth problem in La Crete just like anywhere else, a lot more people are accepting of it for its medicinal purposes.
    By biggest regret, though, is now not being able to go there very often because of my health. I really miss meeting up with our friends there…


  3. kertsen

    Those Menonites certainly go the whole hog they make me feel guilty putting a few food tins in the food bank trolley as I emerge from the supermarket, or sliding a coin or two into the cancer relief box as I walk down the main street.
    It set me thinking Jesus had no money to give there is no record that he ever earned a penny even as a carpenter. To give in our modern society we have to earn or have some income source and in theory the more we earn the more we can give . I’m sure Bill Gates has given mere to charitable causes than I ever will , so just what are we to make of it all ? Dare I say it maybe Donald Trumps charitable offerings far exceed mine whoops sorry democrats.
    I think we must return to contemplate the widows mite to make any sense at all of all this line of thinking.


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Kertsen. Giving, or charity, has ever been a thorny issue for me. I see the need but fail to properly understand the response. There are those who give of their abundance, such as Bill Gates, and make a reputation for themselves. Truth be known however when you have that much money and can give that much, chances are, considering how the whole system is skewed to benefit the rich, his charitable donations, tax-deductible, probably save him money: he doesn’t “lose” anything, he actually gains. This has been explained to me many times when I was into politics.

      What Jesus said was that the rich give of their abundance but the poor widow gave of her very substance, of what she needed to survive. That is giving, the rest is charity. I don’t know where I stand in all of it but I’m not poor, i.e., I don’t go without necessities when I involve myself in giving… or is it charity?

      We could look at the world of man and say, “Why bother?”  We are not essentially creating a better world and in many cases we are barely helping those we are helping, in some cases our help is more of an enabling of a bad lifestyle and we can see it. Yet we do it. Why?

      I think it is a way by which we declare our humanity. We think, I can do this. We do it and it “feels” right. We learn from it. We change; we become more aware of those who have less, whatever the reason.

      I do however, like “clean” giving. By that I mean I don’t support large charitable organizations over which I have no control. I don’t trust any of them. This is “clean” in that I can see where the money comes from and how it is allocated. I can interact with other volunteers and we all work towards a visible common goal: a house becomes inhabitable again, or an entirely new house is built where the old one was wiped out. Heart, mind and hands on, all the way. I am even aware of those church goers world-wide who, in response to a pulpit appeal, donate money for the various and endless MDS global outreach. Last week I worked with 2 volunteers who had just returned from rebuilding houses in Saipan, the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands, located north of Indonesia/Papua New Guinea. Some of these people do get around! As for me who does not travel and refuse to have a passport, I get to “see” what goes on by interacting with those who do travel.

      In the end though, the question, “Why?” can only be answered by looking at my own personal lifestyle and comparing what I have with what I really need, and what my neighbours have. More… is simply wrong. Enough is just right.


  4. stolzyblog

    You’re right — it is uplifting to collaborate on something, some purely human project with people who would otherwise be strangers simply because of ideological outlooks. I liked it better when we didn’t even have much way of knowing about stranger’s ideological outlooks prior to associating with them… and often not even then. It is a blessing when the first few impressions we receive from and offer to new people lie completely within the realm of our humanity. This sets the right tone for any eventual ideological discussions which may alter arise.

    Great that you are doing this stuff… I always wondered how it works, is there some foreman type who groks the master plan and knows everything about how construction will proceed? Or more like an informal collaboration.


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for your comment “stolzy” and to your last question, projects have coordinators and managers who volunteer from various kinds of construction and renovation businesses, as well as professionals from the “bookkeeping” world to keep the projects running relatively smoothly. For example our current project manager is a semi-retired businessman who built houses all of his life. It certainly is helpful to have someone who can look at a plan and go, “Hm, well that’s got to be wrong: not enough head room for the basement stairwell.” and pencils in the corrections as we go along.

      Also most communities affected by disasters are thankful and super helpful to MDS in terms of volunteering needed information, giving or discounting materials and hauling to various sites. Many long hours are spent by a large slate of volunteers who canvas a community to find out the most pressing needs and set up the project contracts. We the hands-on people are only vaguely aware of the preliminary footwork that takes place before any work can begin! So, based on my whole life as a corporate techie I’d say that this group means business and wastes no resources.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. esoterica

    Your compassion is admirable and beautiful thing, especially in the face of differing views. Everyday I hope for a world in which people work together to build bridges towards a brighter future regardless of religious, political, or social views. We’re all living creature and all deserve the love you so selflessly offered to those suffering loss. Perhaps, one day, we will achieve world peace–until then, it’s so inspiring to see stories like yours. Your love radiates!


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you, esoterica, for this beautiful comment. I accept it, though I know I do not deserve such “praise.” It is validation however for that time many decades ago when I chose to walk away from my old life, from family and friends and changed my name to Sha’Tara as a reminder of my choice. Sha’ means “Shalom” and Tara means Earth. Peace on earth would henceforth be my reason for living, by whatever means I could find. Thank you again.



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