"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

-Mahatma Gandhi

Director’s Corner

Summer has been a time of abundant harvest in so many ways. June and July were blessed with high school weeks and Adult Week and Family Week capped off the summer. We were supported by a record number of Summer Servants and lifted up by all of your prayers.

An Update on OUR Property:

We successfully reached our fundraising goal for the property purchase. The Archbishop signed the deed transferring the property to the name of Bethlehem Farm, Inc, and I recorded it at the Summers County Courthouse, so we are officially the owners of our property! And for the icing on the cake, when the Diocese heard about the great outpouring of support for the property appeal, they decided to match those contributions with a generous gift to the capital campaign to put us over the top for the property purchase and give us a jump start on the remaining capital campaign goal (special thanks to Farm friend Jeannie Kirkhope for helping to make that happen). What a delightful surprise and a nice step toward our final goal for the maintenance garage.

Please consider donating to the Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign here or making a general donation here.

Group Week and Worksite update:

From June-August, we hosted six service-retreat weeks, with high school groups joining us from Ignatius College Prep (Chicago), Walsh Jesuit (OH), Merion Mercy Academy (Philly), Our Lady of Grace (IN), Cristo Rey Chicago, Ursuline (MA), Ursuline (New Orleans), John Paul II HS (Hendersonville, TN), Fr. Ryan HS (Nashville), St. Mary of the Woods Parish (Chicago), St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City), Geurin HS (Noblesville, IN), and Loyola Blakefield (Towson, MD), adults joining us from all over the country for Adult Week, and seven families coming for Family Week. We helped Missy install new ceilings and windows and demo and install a new porch. We worked with Teshla tearing out moldy ceilings now that the roof is dry and also fixed a leaking water pipe inside a wall (which would further explain the rotten floor), removing moldy floors and installing new. We constructed a wheelchair ramp for Paul. We led groups serving with Farmer Rhonda, as she continues to restore an 1830s farmhouse we hope she will be able to live in by winter. We sent groups to Wellspring of Greenbrier, who worked on painting the exterior of a home and constructing a ramp. Adult and Family Week crews also served at Sprouting Farms. Eric led crews on the Farm framing the San Damiano Center for Sustainability, as Summer Servants led crews in the garden.

Capital Campaign Update:

  • The framing has continued for the San Damiano Center for Sustainability, with Eric and Summer Servant crews performing the labor, with the help of some high school groups. The 1st floor wall framing, loft floor decking, gable wall frames, roof columns, and roof headers are complete and we completed rafter, roof decking, and roof underlayment install. We’ve been posting updates on the blog and on Facebook and Twitter.
  • We received the anchor bolt plan for the maintenance garage/tool barn/wood shop/picnic shelter from the engineers at Bison Steel and laid out the corner pins, so we can begin that foundation soon.
  • We are laying out the frames for the planned August installation of solar hot water for the Retreat House and Caretaker Residence with consultant Jeff Bohrer.
  • Solar Holler did a site visit for the solar PV (electric) panel installation that will bring us to 100% solar electricity when completed.

The capital campaign is going well, with $322,000 given or pledged toward our $481,000 campaign goal. We’ll be posting details on the campaign page as we go: http://bethlehemfarm.net/rebuild-my-church-capital-campaign

Please consider making a pledge or donation to the Rebuild My Church Capital Campaign here or a general donation here.

Learning New Skills at the Farm

By Alexandra Sinner, Summer Servant and AmeriCorps member

I am a recent graduate from the Catholic University of America and knew that when I finished school, I wanted to do service. After months of researching different service organizations to determine where to spend my summer, I found Bethlehem Farm on the Catholic Volunteer Network. Without ever having been here or knowing anyone who had, I applied and decided to spend two months as a Summer Servant.

At first I didn’t think about my choice much, but as the date of my departure, I started to worry. What should I bring? What would I be doing for the whole summer? For a month, I tried to push these thoughts away because I knew service was what I wanted to do and everything else would work itself out. Suddenly it was June 2nd and time for me to leave home for the summer. I was excited to get away and start my new adventure as a college graduate. The drive took about four hours, and it wasn’t until hour three that I started to realize what was about to happen. I thought to myself, ‘What the heck are you doing?! Turn around Alexandra, you aren’t ready for this!’ But thanks to the strength of God, I kept going until I drove up Bethlehem Farm Lane and parked my car. Now that I was here, there was no turning back!

Soon after my arrival, the Bethlehem Farm staff returned from having been out. It was at that moment my anxiety hit. I was suddenly surrounded by 15 people welcoming me home to a place that felt nothing like home. Little did I know, that was soon to all change.

The first night I was here, I remember feeling very anxious until I met Steve. Steve is currently a Caretaker and it was our first conversation that started to make this place feel a little more like home. At the time I was reading a Civil War book my boyfriend had given me. Steve began asking me questions about the book and my boyfriend and soon we were joking around. I felt comfort that I found someone to talk to within the first few hours and our conversation turned into a laughter and jokes.

Throughout the first week I soon realized that I had no idea how to do anything at this Farm and started to doubt how I could be helpful. I had never been on a working farm, never operated power tools, never worked on a construction site, and never cooked for large amounts of people. I again thought to myself, ‘What the heck are you doing here Alexandra?’

Although I felt very incompetent in all of these areas, the work needed to get done and I had signed on to do service. I was assigned tasks and I soon realized it was okay that I didn’t know what I was doing, because no matter what I did or where I was on the Farm, someone would be willing to help me. During the first week when I would finish a day, I’d be shocked that I somehow learned how to plant a sweet potato, or use a drill to make signs for the garden, or learn the difference between a thistle weed and burdock weed. Slowly but surely I was learning and it was thanks to everyone at the Farm who made me feel at home.

Just like that, my first week was over and it was time to tackle my first group week. It was the first high school group week of the summer and I had no idea what to expect out of a week living with 26 high school students. It felt strange to be somewhere between four to six years older than these volunteers while equally having no idea on what was going on. But again, I was here to do service and work needed to get done, so I signed up for chores and work sites and did as I was instructed. Halfway through the week I realized it was going so well thanks to the support of the other Summer Servants and Caretakers. They made sure I was comfortable and taught me everything I needed to know. Though I felt overwhelmed, I could tell that little by little I was beginning to feel more competent around the Farm.

On Thursday I was told I would be doing a "special operations project" with Bill the chaperone and Claire, another Summer Servant. Our project for the day was to take down and then rebuild the front steps of the farm house in one day. I thought to myself, ‘This is impossible, I do not know how to build stairs and there is no way I can do this.’ But, the project had to get done! I was given the task of cutting all the stringers to support the stairs, and cutting all the planks to make the actual steps. Again, I thought to myself ‘WHAT! I have no clue how to hold a saw let alone operate it!’ Although I did not have confidence in myself, somehow others did. We had no spare materials so I really could not afford to mess up at all! Bill and our Project Director, Will, showed me the circular saw and a jigsaw and demonstrated the first few cuts. Now it was my turn. I was very hesitant at first, but soon I had finished the first stringer – only three more left to do. After hours of working and a few mistakes later, I had cut all four stringers and 25 planks of wood. By the end of the day we had finished taking down the old stairs and put up the new ones just in time for the dinner bell; our work was done and now the Farm has new stairs! After the project, I felt more confident than ever. It was at this point that I started thinking, ‘I can do this. I am ready for whatever else this summer has to offer.’

After week two was over, I definitely felt like I was home!

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