Answering calls to serve by David Lias At first glance, the old trailer house that served as shelter for a family of eight in Texas looked like it had been picked up and dropped by a tornado.
A group of nomadic Good Samaritans � including Cal Petersen, a retired United
Methodist pastor and his wife, Mary, came to the family's rescue early this year.
For three weeks in January, the Petersens, along with Pat and Cleland Cook and Bob and Gerry Clark, all of Vermillion, and several other people from southeast South Dakota worked in Texas.
They transformed the home of Homera and Elsa Garcia, and their six children � Maria, Jacqueline, Brenda, Cassandra, Daniel and Rudolpho � into a comfortable home for the family.
The children range in age from 1 to 10 years old.
The Petersens learned of the family's plight from Linda Kropenske, the parish nurse of El Mesias United Methodist Church in Mission, TX. Linda's husband, John, like Cal, is also a retired Methodist minister.
"We were told that there was a family of eight that had been living in an 8×20 trailer house, and the house did not have electricity, or water or sewer," Cal said.
The family's situation had become even more desperate by January.
"The father got up on the roof to try to repair it because it was leaking," Cal said, "and he fell through the roof. So she (Kropenske) got very concerned about them, and others were concerned, and she had actually asked us last summer if we would be interested in coming down to help.
"She knew that we had retired and were interested in work projects," he added, "so she said, 'How about coming south and working?'"
Cal and Mary rounded up a group of 10 people, many of them members of Methodist parishes that Cal had once served in Sioux Falls, Beresford and Vermillion.
"And they must have had at least 10 or 15 down there who had been working on the project as well," Cal said.
Kropenske had convinced the Texas United Methodist Conference to donate $8,500 to the housing renovation project. The Vermillion United Methodist Church pitched in $1,000, and the Methodist church in Sioux Falls also donated funds.
"She purchased a used 14×68 trailer, and the people down there helped move it to the Garcia's lot," Cal said. "We helped to build a deck, and we helped to get a second bathroom working."
Mary said workers also attached an extra room, and painted the house inside and out.
"The children had never slept in a bed before," she said. "The Red Cross gave them three bunk beds for the six kids."
Neither Homero, who works as a farm laborer, or Elsa can speak English, but they both realize they must master the language, Cal and Mary said.
Cal retired from the ministry in 1998. But that hardly has meant a less active lifestyle for the Petersens.
The couple is involved in NOMADS (Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service).
As the acronym implies, it means the couple is more free to load up their RV and travel to help people in need.
"Last year we did hurricane relief in Florida," Mary said, "along with Cleland and Pat (Cook)."
NOMADS is made up of retired people who own recreational vehicles. The organization provides space for volunteers to park their vehicles and assigns three-week work projects to the travelers.
"The NOMADS is an agency that is part of the volunteer and mission agency of the United Methodist Church," Mary said. "They organize sites, and call for volunteers."
The Petersens may have retired, but they can't resist answering this new call for service.