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I am a member of the design team in our RBC and I wanted to start a forum where fellow workers could share their experiences and solutions to problems they've in countered during different projects. With the goals set by the Branch and the new tools we have at our disposal to accomplish these goals, there are bound to be some interesting and encouraging experiences along the way.

I also wanted to point out the changing attitude toward this work being accomplished by many with busy lives beyond the RBC. My statement here is inspired by my CO's last visit when he asked what department in the RBC I was working in and his response to the design team was "Argh, that is one of the most misunderstood and unappreciated departments in the RBC". Seems the only time this department is thought of is when someone wants to know what's taking so long.

I'm not complaining nor wishing to use this forum to air any grievances. My goal is to tell and hear encouraging experiences that will help others to reach out in this vital work. After all where are all the new ones going to meet if all don't step up from our busy lives and give of our time, energies and monies to construct new halls and remodel aging facilities to the praiseworthy places of worship to the glory of our Heavenly Father.

The Branch is using the comment that the "Chariot is on the move" and our work is before us to meet this great influx, and with this in mind we are to construct 1,200 new halls and remodel 1,900 existing halls in the next five years here in the US.

Any comment?

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How long have you been with this department? I personally haven't been involved with estimating but I do have to research all the equipment electrical needs and make sure we call out the right fixtures to be ordered. We have caused delays unintentionally when the wrong part number is used. So we are extra vigilant to make sure we have the right parts called out. Have you heard of the new purchasing abilities the Branch has instituted?

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I am the trade overseer for lock and door systems for the last 15 years in my area.. So far we are only buying materials locally..

We are very busy ...I could almost be working full time on RBC projects ..

The hard part for me is to find qualified available help... And the time to train the semi-qualified..

I do my own take off's and all the purchasing and installation.. We have a purchasing dept.. But it takes a lot of expirence to buy intelligently for all dept... Lately our Halls have been unique one off's and complicated designs. Underground parking and multiple stories ...6-7 months to build them if we are lucky.... And many millions of dollars ..I have no idea how we can speed up the process ..with just volunteer help..

A couple of angels would help...,lol :)

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I completely agree with you Lance about needing qualified help that can go right to work along side you. That's part of what the Branch is stressing in seeking volunteers in their projects. I don't know if you got a similar invitation that everyone in our RBC received through our Builders Assist site but I believe about six RBC's in California received a request for 200 skilled volunteers per day be supplied from Nov 2014 - Feb 2015 to help back east.

I'm sure you know everyone is requested to supply current skills be updated on their individual profile. And with the Watchtower we had a couple of weeks ago about sacrifices acceptable to Jehovah and how RBC was specifically also mentioned, I believe the faithful slave is bringing this to the attention of the entire organization to give of their valuable talents. Since the Branch is requesting any who know of brothers and sisters with skills to be made known to the RBC in their area so an invitation can be sent out to them it might not be long before you have that angelic help you're praying for.

Everyone is welcome to volunteer no matter the age or skill level and with the RBC having a list of your skills they can use anyone willing to work in some capacity. Armed with this information we can achieve those goals I mentioned earlier. I'm directing this personal request to anyone who might read this forum, please fill out your volunteer application from your congregation secretary so that many hands can make the work lighter not to mention make our Heavenly Fathers heart glad seeing brothers and sisters working together, side by side.

I recently mentioned this to a brother who is a sprinkler contractor and he was reluctant to fill out a volunteer form until I mentioned we were paying a firm to create and stamp our sprinkler plans. His reaction was " We can't have that". So I'm wondering if others are holding back donating their skills because they don't think they have the time. We all have to let our conscience be our guide.

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I recently mentioned this to a brother who is a sprinkler contractor and he was reluctant to fill out a volunteer form until I mentioned we were paying a firm to create and stamp our sprinkler plans. His reaction was " We can't have that". So I'm wondering if others are holding back donating their skills because they don't think they have the time. We all have to let our conscience be our guide.

 

Just curious ..... by "sprinkler contractor" do you mean "fire suppression sprinklers" or are you talking about "lawn irrigation"?

 

Both are used in RBC construction.

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Hurrah I just found out I get to start using the New Branch CAD in the morning. They've been testing it in southern Cal for the past two months and now we all get it. Can't wait to check it out although I imagine as time goes by they'll be making improvements to the program just like everyone else so I won't set my expectations to high. It will be nice to be able to draw for the organization on a global platform if that ever came up.

Speaking of global, has everyone heard of all the new tools the Branch is now making available for the RBC's?

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We were informed of the new arrangements at our last kick off for an ongoing remodel a month ago.

The brother doing the speaking is a long time engineer who is on the regional building committee that I've known for at least 35 years and he loves to deliver good news. So he told us a story about the Branch calling all the purchasing brothers from many RBC's together and asking them how the Branch can help the brothers and sisters make progress in getting the work done of building and remodeling halls.

The common issues revolved around things being expensive, not getting materials in a timely fashion, problems with building departments and not having enough engineers to sign plans, paper work taking so long to complete and be approved that the property was gone by the time the decision was made. That has happened to our local community five times already. Plus within the RBC not everyone is capable of having the most up to date software or even have the same software maker of CAD.

At this point the Branch came back and made the announcement about having the goal of building 1,200 new halls and 1,900 remodels in the next five years here in the US. To accomplish this goal they announced they have and are continuing to acquire global accounts for materials. With our buying power we will be able to obtain premium materials at good prices. A Branch representative is assigned to each account and the first call we should make is to that rep and he or she will be on the phone to the corporate head to move things along. They gave an example of an assembly hall which the brothers were having problems with on the HVAC system and our Branch rep made the call to corporate and they replaced the entire system at no cost to our brothers. When the Branch finally found out the brothers were having problems getting satisfaction they said "Why didn't you call us first".

To make these material available they announced they will build or purchase warehouses across the country to keep materials in which will make these easily available when needed and eliminate time delays for things like chairs coming from China. And speaking of China they said they have an account with a company which has gotten the message that the Branch is looking for a quality product and this company seems to be very proud of their commitment to provide a quality chair for our brothers. The Chinese do take a lot of pride on keeping a good name and as they say "Saving Face", sound familiar. To insure the chairs meet our standards, brothers from a local branch are inspecting each chair before it's shipped to make sure all is well before they're shipped.

Then to address the issue of time delays due to paperwork they said if the brothers find a property which meets the current needs and has the potential for future growth of the area the Branch will be sending their own rep's to negotiate a good price and a credit card to make the purchase on the spot. That way it'll relieve that pressure on the local brothers to get their paperwork done with fewer mistakes which would cause more delays.

Now about the RBC CAD issue they let us know they were testing a new version of Branch CAD which we will all be using. And as I said I can't wait to see that and tomorrow I will. Can you imagine we might have the privilege of working on projects around the globe, plans anyway. And although they didn't say, I wouldn't be surprised if they're working on somehow working on getting engineer support for our projects instead of having to hire out these services.

At that point our brother said the Branch wanted to thank all who give of their time in these endeavors and for each brother to go home and give their wives a big hug and kiss on their behalf because they realize whole families are involved even if they aren't actually at the projects. He then joked about how the brothers on the RBC didn't expect us to be working for the RBC full time because of having other responsibilities and they were happy just to have a hall addressed every three months or so, at that point I and the brother who was with me representing the design team almost bust out loud laughing because we've been working each and every month for from 20 to 100 hours on projects for years since our RBC was formed.

That was all that they announced to my recollection, but if anyone else remembers anything else speak up. Now we just need everyone to make themselves available. Taking a class would be nice if you can do it but don't let that make you hesitate in presenting your volunteer application to your local RBC. We all are constantly learning and improving and can update our profiles as we make advancement. Making yourself available is more important now and like Oholiab and Bezalel, Jehovah can bless your capabilities with skills he can use in building his halls of worship.

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I got my license for WT CAD today. Found out its a Intellicad software program the Branch has been using for 25 years at all it's branches around the globe. It comes fully loaded with all the drafting standards, layers, blocks and fonts ready to use and integrate with any Branch project. Really wouldn't expect anything else although I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm not sure why they had to have a testing period before releasing it to the rest of us.

We are instructed to start using it immediately. We will have fun getting used to it I'm sure. We have our monthly weekend of drawing coming up in a couple of weeks and the first part of that will be a break in period where we who are using AutoCAD will be exploring and those who are just learning in our group will probably be groaning about having to learn something new all over again. I got my copy early so I hope I have it broke in before we meet, we'll see.

I've opened our current drawings in AutoCAD with it and it seems to work just fine with no hiccups about not being compatible. Loading the software was quick also, took just a couple of minutes unlike AutoCAD products where you can see bazillions of files being loaded and I only had to decide if I wanted a typical or custom load. A few of the commands I used on it from AutoCAD, it recognized without a hitch so I'm hoping I'll be able to hit the ground running as we continue on kicking out plans.

We've been told to try and complete a project ready for submission every three months. We have about forty members to our team if everyone shows up so you'd think that would be no problem. The average regular attendance is around half that. But so far this year we have three projects one right after another permitted or being permitted, with a dozen on the board waiting for our attention.

Is anyone else involved with design besides me in our forum? I think I hear crickets in the background.

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@mybrick. I went to college for architectural design and autocad I have an associates degree that I have yet to be able to use.

I would hope that one day I can use what I learned in svc to Jehovah as you are.

Just curious what part of the country you are doing this work?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I'm a general contractor working in central California. I've had my license over 30 years. All my construction education is from hands on since 1968 from the college of scuffed knuckles and hard knocks. I hold a degree of education but it isn't from any recognized college unless life experience is acceptable.

Ha, you can't take yourself to seriously, I don't. Have you filled out your volunteer form for your local RBC, if not and if you're available we can use you by Skype if necessary. I sent one of my sons to college for his engineering degree and he's an engineer in training at the moment and he's my source of structural calcs as needed but I would love to have him by my side now drawing and designing. I went to Texas for several months and I still drew for my RBC back home over the net.

I learned AutoCAD from a book because I couldn't stand sitting behind a brother drawing for me and falling asleep while he caught up with my designing of restaurants. Which I love to do by the way. If you want to use that hard earned knowledge make yourself available and pretty soon you'll be complaining about not having enough time like me. I didn't join the RBC, I was inducted into the design department because I did an elder a favor by drawing what he wanted his hall to look like and when the design department head saw my sheets his first comment to that was elder was "Who did that?" When the elder turned to me, pointed and said "he did", I was told I was now in the design team. I didn't even fill out a volunteer form until a year later because they wanted to know what skills I had.

The point is you have to make yourself available to be used by Jehovah. He'll make it happen for you without even trying on your part. Please fill out your volunteer form and put in your skill of being an architect with CAD experience.

Speaking of CAD I'm blown away by this WT CAD potential. I'm just about half way thru the PDF tutorial and I'm all the buzz over what I'm reading and I haven't even started using it yet. I can't wait to hear from anyone else who's using it to find out what they think and tricks they may know. Isn't it wonderful to be part of Jehovah's organization.

Oh and by the way Lance I don't limit my self by talking only with trade overseers about what each department needs to have on the plans. Sometimes newbie's have a wonderful insight because of looking at something simply, seeing the obvious which I take for granted as being common knowledge and not worth putting on the plans. K I S S is always the best policy. Basically I'm always asking what different departments want shown on the plans which will make everyone's life a little easier. That applies to hardware also. So what do you like to see can the plans for your department? Do you use wood or metal jams? Are your halls using wood or metal studs? What brand of lockstep and hanging hardware do you recommend for our halls?

It helps me to walk myself thru the steps of installation to remember what to put on the plans but I always seem to forget something. And once the plans are out its a little to late to make those corrections.

Any comments?

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I am not in the design department - my work comes quite a bit after the design has been done. We don't use any type of CAD program or even much software at all for the work we do - more "hands-on" type of work.

 

I am in the "Structured Wiring" department (sound) and also assist with the Carpet (I installed carpet for a living for 20+ years)

 

With some of the changes coming to the construction of new/remodeled Halls, with the Branch taking a more direct role, it will be interesting to see how things will change/improve.

 

We currently have a large project going - we are building a new Hall on property where one already sits. We will be building a duplex apartment at the same time on this property. Then, when the new Hall is completed, we are to renovate the existing Hall on this property.

 

While doing this project, we are also to have another project in another area covered by our current RBC.

 

In addition, we have been asked to assist with the Branch Project in Warwick - many have had direct invites to see if they qualify for work in NY.

 

Please, keep us updated with what you are doing and how the CAD software goes.

 

Are you a department Overseer with your RBC?

 

The Brother I work with/for in secular work is the Irrigation Overseer with our RBC. I am "Third-man" and "Safety Brother" with our Structured Wiring department. I often assist with the Carpet Department in a somewhat-supervisory position although I still get on the floor with a razor knife in my hand.

Edited by Qapla
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No I'm not a trade overseer. I'm really happy I'm not also. I have to much to do as it is. The brother who started as the head of our design department when our RBC was formed several years ago bowed out because, although he was a very good brother and got people very motivated, he didn't have enough construction experience and felt he could do more for Jehovah in his field service. He is a regular pioneer and he regularly gives talks at our district conventions.

His second on the other hand has just as much experience as I do and has a successful construction business with a nice two story office and he handles our team wonderfully. He doesn't know CAD but he is picking it up along the way slowly. I say that because I've gotten a few rescue calls getting him out of a spot he's found himself in and doesn't want to mess anything up. We have a good laugh and he tries to remember what he's learned. He doesn't seem to be shy about stepping into situations like that and he'll probably learn CAD quicker that way.

That project you're working on John, sounds just like the one we have going on right now. I had to look to see where you're from to make sure you weren't talking about our project. The city it's located in has been a bugger about everything. From planning and building department back and forth comments to astronomical permit fees. The apartments were going to cost $60,000 just for the permit so the RBC decided to put in per manufactured homes instead on permanent foundations and it would cut the permit fee down to a few thousand. Doesn't make any sense to me. They are also demanding no work to be done outside of 9 to 5 hours or they've threatened to fine the congregations and red tag the project. Can't even work indoors. Wow what a pain. We've already built the new hall and have the remodel to finish in our now rainy weather and bring in the apartments last. The property looks wonderful with a very nice walk and bench area where we have to have a mandatory water basin for the parking lot peculation. Everyone is happy with the end result despite the trouble the city is causing. I haven't heard if they've had a dedication yet but it would be nice to see our designs in their completion.

That is a problem for me, that I'm so busy with what needs to be done that I hardly get to see the end result. But I guess no news is good news because bad news always travels faster than the good. I'm not sure what anyone else in our department experiences but since no one else has said any thing I assume they're to busy also. Someone from our department is supposed to be on hand for the construction and I've had a lot of that but seeing the finished product seems to elude me. The food is always great though.

How many have enjoyed the quick builds we used to have? Aren't we glad we have the arrangement we have now. But the experiences we had doing construction that way. Perhaps someone can recall a few of those.

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Oh I forgot to ask, John have you folks installed any data packages in any of your halls?

Ever since the Branch has ramped up the use of electronics we've been doing something with computer assist data systems in some form or another.

One of our recently completed halls has two 50" displays on the stage wing walls with hdmi connections and a laptop with the ability of displaying the yearly text in different languages for different language congregations they have. English, Spanish and Korean speaking brothers meet there. They can access jw.org for any broadcasts like the annual meeting we just enjoyed. Plus they can monitor the hall remotely for things like HVAC, to make sure the units start soon enough to maintain the comfort zone when the congregation shows up and not have to play catch up or waste energy by running to soon or to late. The thermostats are smart also because they monitor the difference between the outside temperature and the time it takes to bring the hall it's comfort zone based on that temperature during different times of the year. It's basically a smart building where they can remotely check on all aspects of the hall including locking the doors, turning off the lights, close the parking lot gate and set the alarm. We use time clocks and lighting systems to meet Title 24 energy requirements but they can still monitor these systems remotely to make sure they preform properly. Some have even put in cameras because of having vandalism and robberies in the parking lot.

We have one that to start May 1st that has English, Punjabi and ASL. They will be having the monitors with cameras for stage and audience for comments in sign. Our interior designer has had to research paint,carpet and fabric colors to make sure the lighting won't be to subdued or reflected to much causing problems with the cameras and displays. This will also allow them to access jw.org for videos presenting ASL from the Branch.

Ever since the congregations found out this was a possibility we were flooded with requests for this kind of package. The Branch stepped in and said this was a limited option for now for special circumstance congregations. The congregation which got the full package before this announcement just happened to be our fearless leaders Kingdom Hall. And now he's not enjoying these benefits because his CO asked him to move into another congregation due to their needing fresh blood in their elder body. Oh well. I'm sure as prices are gotten under control and electronics become cheaper we'll see more of the data packages being used in the halls, but we'll see won't we.

Speaking of our states energy requirements, I don't know if you are aware of it or not but the whole state is being required to put in smart meters for electrical service. These allow the utility companies to check your meter either from a service truck where the guy drives by and the data is transmitted to a receiver in the pickup or some companies are even using satellite data collection. The ultimate goal is to be able to charge you for electrical usage during the time of day according to the market value of electricity at that hour of usage. Nice huh. We have a brother in our area who's on the states energy board, he gave us the heads up. This may have something to do with the Branch putting solar systems on our assembly halls.

Jehovah's faithful slave takes their stewardship seriously by staying ahead of Satan's pitfalls.

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I'm a general contractor working in central California. I've had my license over 30 years. All my construction education is from hands on since 1968 from the college of scuffed knuckles and hard knocks. I hold a degree of education but it isn't from any recognized college unless life experience is acceptable.

Ha, you can't take yourself to seriously, I don't. Have you filled out your volunteer form for your local RBC, if not and if you're available we can use you by Skype if necessary. I sent one of my sons to college for his engineering degree and he's an engineer in training at the moment and he's my source of structural calcs as needed but I would love to have him by my side now drawing and designing. I went to Texas for several months and I still drew for my RBC back home over the net.

I learned AutoCAD from a book because I couldn't stand sitting behind a brother drawing for me and falling asleep while he caught up with my designing of restaurants. Which I love to do by the way. If you want to use that hard earned knowledge make yourself available and pretty soon you'll be complaining about not having enough time like me. I didn't join the RBC, I was inducted into the design department because I did an elder a favor by drawing what he wanted his hall to look like and when the design department head saw my sheets his first comment to that was elder was "Who did that?" When the elder turned to me, pointed and said "he did", I was told I was now in the design team. I didn't even fill out a volunteer form until a year later because they wanted to know what skills I had.

The point is you have to make yourself available to be used by Jehovah. He'll make it happen for you without even trying on your part. Please fill out your volunteer form and put in your skill of being an architect with CAD experience.

Speaking of CAD I'm blown away by this WT CAD potential. I'm just about half way thru the PDF tutorial and I'm all the buzz over what I'm reading and I haven't even started using it yet. I can't wait to hear from anyone else who's using it to find out what they think and tricks they may know. Isn't it wonderful to be part of Jehovah's organization.

Oh and by the way Lance I don't limit my self by talking only with trade overseers about what each department needs to have on the plans. Sometimes newbie's have a wonderful insight because of looking at something simply, seeing the obvious which I take for granted as being common knowledge and not worth putting on the plans. K I S S is always the best policy. Basically I'm always asking what different departments want shown on the plans which will make everyone's life a little easier. That applies to hardware also. So what do you like to see can the plans for your department? Do you use wood or metal jams? Are your halls using wood or metal studs? What brand of lockstep and hanging hardware do you recommend for our halls?

It helps me to walk myself thru the steps of installation to remember what to put on the plans but I always seem to forget something. And once the plans are out its a little to late to make those corrections.

Any comments?

 I have 5 years experience using Autodesk Inventor. I to have learned via the school of hard knocks. I did go to a vocational college in 1991 usinf Autocad version 10. How do you spell DOS?....You don't. I bought a tutorial from a local engineer, taught myself then showed my boss what I have been doing. After a few months of doing it on my breaks he took me off the labor crew and has me doing the company"s mechanical drawings. As you know, Inventor starts with 3D then converts to dwg. I retire in June and am in RBC. I am gearing myself to regular pioneering and RBC work. Have you any suggestions towards learning WT CAD?

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As far as I can tell so far it's very similar to AutoCAD. There are differences in where tools are located but it isn't a huge learning curve. Just have to read the tutorials they provide and experiment by pushing buttons.

Now the major difference I'm still wrapping my head around is MECS. Which is the Branch's version of the program and that is where the potential lies. So far from the reading I've done, the beginning of this master full tweak is the ability to draw in different languages.

Now that may not sound like much, but wait, there's more.

Say I want to draw an Electrical drawing for brothers in France, Taiwan, Russia or China an we are all working on different aspects of the same drawing. Their understanding of electrical is different than mine in that they use different symbols for the same results. Like wires go to outlets, or lights, or equipment. Well what symbol do you use for the lights in China, what symbol for outlets in France, what symbol for a GFI outlet in Russia, what symbol for a disconnect at an HVAC unit in Taiwan? Well I don't have to know. This program has the ability to draw in all those symbols simultaneously. If I were to complete a sheet showing a wiring layout for lights, outlets and so forth the program will print out all my notes in the language of the country I'm working with and insert all the symbols they're familiar with so we can all collaborate back and forth until the design fits the situation. And that goes for HVAC, civil and structural symbols. All the different symbols in each national understanding are represented. Plus the usual you'd expect like metric conversion measurements. What I did see also is that it will translate even scientific terms into the different symbols for different language groups. So if I was invited to participate in the construction of a collider I could, not that I expect that invitation anytime soon.

Now that's what I call very cool. And that's a difference I wasn't even thinking about until I started from the bottom, reading.

As far as my education in CAD is concerned, I'm in the same boat as you Tony.

It took me about six weeks to start really using AutoCAD, drawing plans. I took drafting in high school in 1968 with pencil and paper so I was familiar with plans and the drafting of them. And I was highly motivated to learn AutoCAD as I was designing a restaurant at the time and needed to get the plans done ASAP. I would read a chapter and do the exercises at the end until I became familiar with the concept it was trying to teach me. Sometimes I'd have to go back to the beginning of the chapter and reread the info after trying to do the exercises because I missed something or I had to drop what I was doing to take care of something else, like work, meetings, life, married with five children, ect... Eventually I got to the point where I didn't have to think about what button or command to enter and focus entirely on what I was designing. That was at AutoCAD R14 when I started and I know many of you where involved in drafting software long before that. But since I'm now drawing as part of a group I've had to learn new things like xref's and block editing and new ways to get to the same results because someone knows a different method of accomplishing the same thing and I'm drawing for them, working within their disciplines. It's a good thing to be humble and never stop learning new things.

The point is I believe anyone can learn anything without having to pay someone else to learn. Get a book. Talk with persons who use whatever you're wanting to learn. If you acquire knowledge by reading, acquire understanding by practice, you can acquire wisdom by making yourself available by turning in your volunteer form to your local RBC and be invited to join in this great work of building praise worthy buildings for our Heavenly Father.

I'm inspired to express this little thought and I haven't even gotten thru the entire tutorial yet. But you caught me in the middle with your question so there you are, stuck listening to my rants. I need to investigate emoticons for this forum.

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Dear Rick,

Thanks for posting your experience and your work with the RBC and the other brothers and sisters too. This is very encouraging! I have been reading this to my husband who has been in the construction and dirt work with heavy equipment most his life. Even though I am not a great help, we are able to travel with our 5th wheel and maybe help out in some kind of capacity. 

so please keep sharing, it is very encouraging. 

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A few years ago right in the middle of the melt down of the economy, just to make matters worse hurricane Ike rolled into Texas. I received a phone call from my cousin in Texas inviting me to go there and work with him doing hurricane repairs. My brother and I decided it might be worth the trip since work here in California and in his state of Oregon was kaput, nix, nil, nada.

I drove a Saturn for gas economy and he brought a diesel Dodge Ram pickup for pulling my 10,000 lbs dumping work trailer. We loaded both vehicles up with everything we could think would come in handy for residential or commercial work. We headed for Galveston, Texas. My cousin worked for a brother in Dallas and we were to represent his company and with my cousin who also lives in Dallas, we would work together. This brother's parents had a home on Galveston Island and we were to stay there and keep an eye on the place and in return have free rent and utilities. My cousin was to set up the jobs and my brother and I were to do the repairs. My brother and I both hold contractors licenses in our respective states and being Texas is a right to work state we felt this might work out, being able to focus on just working and not having to chase work also. Plus not having as many living expenses we would be able to afford having to care for two households. I brought my laptop and we would call and Skype with our families back home and put funds earned into bank accounts which our wife's could have access to to pay the bills.

When we first rolled through Houston on our way to Galveston we began to see the after effects of Hurricane Ike. Lots of roof damage being covered by the familiar blue plastic tarps. Bill boards and lighted signs missing parts or just poles standing with little bits of sign hanging on for dear life. Windows taped up or plywood covering missing windows. And as we continued east for another fifty miles toward Galveston the damage became more apparent.

By the time we had crossed the bridge onto the island we were driving through untold devastation. Boats were blown everywhere. Out in the middle of the fields before we crossed the bridge onto the island we could see boats of all sizes. Galveston Bay was littered with parts of houses and sunken boats sticking out of the water. I saw a very large boat sticking out of the front of what used to be a gas station along one of the main streets of the city. A set of pier poles lined their way out into the Gulf with just a few planks where a whole pier and restaurant had once stood over the water. Huge bull dozers had pilled the remnants of years of people's former possessions and memories. I couldn't believe the size of the mountains of debris. Piles that when we drove through them our cars disappeared from view of the sides of the road.

Since most of the island is only a few feet above sea level many of the homes are built on stilts with the bottom of the home at least 12' off the ground. Homes that used to be on the beach and whole roads along the beach had completely disappeared now to be part of the bulldozers work.

The eye of Ike had passed over the northern end of the island in September. We were arriving there in the beginning of November and although there was a lot of cleanup already done, the devastation was still as fresh in everyone's mind as if it were yesterday. We took the ferry across from the northern tip of Galveston to the mainland side and found it was wiped clean. We saw clean foundations of business's, poles standing alone where homes had been sitting as thick as any bustling coastal town would normally have sat. We learned later this area had been the home of many fishing companies with warehouses where they would bring their harvest from the sea. Large fishing boats were mored here and now it was all gone.

It was as though an atomic bomb had been dropped.

We made this trip across with the ferry weeks after arriving on the island and still it was very depressing seeing this scene. No bull dozers here. Nothing to clean up.

We learned later some had chosen to ride out the storm. What a mistake. Whole families disappeared off the coast line that day. There is a hospital on the island and I talked with a sister who had to remain there to care for patients who had been left behind because the ride on an ambulance would have killed them. She said never again. There was major wind damage to the structure and the whole bottom three floors were flooded from the storm surge. But they all survived. I hadn't heard if the building would.

The house we stayed in smelled of salt water. The carpets had already been removed. And all evidence of anyone living there had been removed by our employer. He had wisely gotten his parents to stay with him inland to ride out the storm. Afterward they got a new place to live around his area as they are advanced in age and the family insisted they move to a more safe area. We didn't have much time to settle in, we headed out to our first remodel the next day after arriving. We had to travel through the piles again back off the island towards Houston to relatively small community of Webster.

We started with stripping off the damaged roof and replacing it with new. While there we were visited by four sisters out in the field ministry. They called to us on the roof and asked if we might be interested in some good news on that fine day. My brother and I looked at each other, and without uttering a word to each other decided to have a little fun at their expense. We climbed down the ladder and listened to their presentation patiently till they were done and then let them know we were very interested in attending one of their meeting as we were new in town. They finally got suspicious and asked if we were witnesses, to which we slyly replied yes. I think I almost got slapped.

After we all stopped laughing they let us know there were two halls which survived with minimal damage. Those two were holding all the congregations from four halls in the area. Then they said we should go to a meeting in each hall and decide which one to join. They let us know where the two remaining halls were and we decided to stop by one which wasn't to far off the freeway and on our way home. On the way back to our new home away from home we drove by the one located in La Marque. From the hall there in La Marque we timed our return trip back to home and it was just about an hour to go through town and down to the southern end of the island to our home. Every where we needed to be was a distance. Glad I brought the Saturn because we went thru a lot of fuel.

When we went to our first meeting, we both reacted the same way. We had found our new congregation. We were two of six white faces in a meeting attendance of 250 brothers and sisters.

I have never before understood the term "southern hospitality" until we joined that congregation. We immediately felt at home, like we had always been there. Brother, sisters, young and old introduced themselves. We told our story over and over, why we were in the area. I have never come from a meeting in my life losing my voice, they are so loud with enthusiasm my tiny voice disappeared in about three feet. They love to sing in that congregation and they sing beautifully. I just listened several times just for the joy of hearing their voices. The brothers give excellent talks and everyone felt as though they were the focus of the speakers attention. My brother and I were called on to comment the first time our hands went up as though they were waiting for our comments.

Wow were we spoiled. We were invited to the PO's home for lunch on the following weekend to get to know us better. At that first meeting I asked if they knew anything about the local RBC because I wanted to let someone know I wanted to volunteer in in clean up and restoration work. They let me know one of the damaged halls was the home of the Branch's hub directing the work and it was called the TDRC, Texas Disaster Relief Committee. So we decided to pay them a visit before we went to lunch at the brothers home. The hall was about a mile from the hall we were now going to in the neighboring city of Texas City. We went in service on Sunday with that same brother and he did something at the door I've never seen tried. Our householder was friendly enough, and was courteously listening when the brother, a long time pioneer, said " You are a Christian aren't you"? I thought she was going to run right thru that screen door when she stepped right up and said " Yes I am", to late he had her in his net. She turned out to be a great return visit.

My brother went along with me to the hub but to my surprise let me know he wasn't a member of his RBC back home. When we passed thru the doors of the hub we found a bustling center of activity. We hadn't gotten there to early so we missed the consideration of the text and the brunt of the load of brothers receiving their assignments for the day. We saw many of the brothers and sister from our new congregation there. I asked who I could speak to about joining their group to help out and I was introduced to a brother Dudley. Turns out he was the head of the Branch relief committee and his assistant was a brother Lions. I was very surprised he had time for us. But he kicked everyone out of his office and invited me to sit down.

Brother Dudley is a very wonderful southern brother from Arkansas, I think, very polite, hospitable. After he invited me to sit down, he grilled me on what I brought to the table. I let him know I am a contractor of many years, building primarily restaurants with knowledge of commercial, residential and years of hands on experience. And I came with a laptop and AutoCAD. I explained how I was in contact with my RBC back home over the net and working on plans for them while I was in Texas for the foreseeable future. He said there were 2,800 homes damaged in some fashion or other along with the two Kingdom Halls. I told him how needing work had brought us to Texas but I wanted to help in any way they may need also. He asked me if I had my volunteer form filled out and I let him know, yes, back home. So he handed me a fresh form, which I filled out stating the skills we had already talked about. He asked if I had a couple of minutes for a small assignment that morning. We told him of our lunch plans and he proceeded to tell us of how the RBC kitchen was to be set up at the hall we were attending and some of the trailers needed stairs built and if I could take a few measurements and create plans for getting up inside, he would very much appreciate it.

That turned out to be fairly easy and we made our lunch date right on time. I was introduced to Texas style barbecue. All I can say is yumm. They love their meat. We ended up building those stairs and got everyone's approval on our skillful work. That small job turned out to be good advertising as many of the brothers now approached us for work on their personal homes.

After many weeks and completed assignments I asked brother Dudley if he ever got a response from the elder body back home here In California, and with a shrug and a big smile he pointed to his briefcase and said it was still sitting there, he hadn't gotten around to making that call. We had been there when ever he had an emergency problem come up and completed our assignment with good reports on our work, had fine reports from the brothers from La Marque so he decided it wasn't worth rocking the boat. Get back to work.

Not long after that I was invited to ack as a contractor for our brothers. I would get a brother or sisters paper work on what damage they had sustained from Ike. I was to visit the home and review what had been reported, ascertain what materials were needed to repair the damage, make all the arrangements for materials to be ordered, paid for and delivered to the job site. I arranged what kind of crews needed to show up, how many journeymen and helpers were needed and stay with the project until completion.

On one of my first homes I met a ninety year old sister who was very excited the TDRC had gotten to her. She let me do my assessment while she made sweet tea for refreshment. After talking a while she asked where I was from, when she found out I was from Modesto, California she let out a big old laugh and said she was from Modesto also, about thirty years ago.

Small world. It turns out no matter where you go in Jehovah's organization you find family. Long lost friends you've never met before.

I spent many months there, working just enough to support my family and myself, but the most rewarding work was for Jehovah. I met wonderful brothers and sisters where ever I went. Had some wonderful meals, did some great fishing when I could. That's another story. And after a while I realized I had been neglecting my field service being so busy working for our brothers.

That's where the assistant, brother Lions and I had a serious talk. I expressed my concern about not having any service time to report for a couple of months in a row because of my routine working for myself, making the meetings and working for the TDRC.

I have to take a moment to describe brother Lions. He's not a large man, physically. He stands about five feet tall. Thin and wiry, has a quiet disposition with a good sense of humor. The one thing that really stands out is, he has the biggest set of teeth I've ever seen in anyone. When he smiles you can't help but see that big pearly smile. He sat very close to my face and proceeded to tell me I had nothing to be worried or be ashamed about. "Those people out there have no standing of importance above our brothers. Why they could care less about our God, our brothers, our brotherhood and they are perishing for that stand. Don't waste another thought over them. Your brothers need you, they're in pain and our efforts are bringing relief to their misery. We need to spend as much time as it takes to get them back to a sense of normalcy".

I felt about two inches tall. So very apologetic for worrying about door to door service time and how my time card might look.

This experience, short as it lasted, a few months, taught me a valuable lesson. Like Peter who had to be told to stop calling unclean what Jehovah called clean, I had to readjust my thinking about what I felt was important. There in Texas I felt for the first time what real hospitality is like, although be it imperfect. And although I was a stranger in a strange land, I met family I didn't know I had. I got to truly experience personally what it is like to come to our brothers aid and feel their heartfelt gratitude. I always wanted to help in disaster relief and was always envious of my fleshly brothers and spiritual brothers who in the past had taken the time to aide our brothers in dire straights. Jehovah allowed me to be used in a wonderful way, experience something I hadn't planed on all because I made myself available. What a blessing and for me a glimpse into what we might be doing on the other side of Armageddon.

I probably would have spent a little more time there but I had to go home to help my faithful and loving wife move into a smaller house for us due to the economy. On the plane home someone gave me the Swine Flu. I was sick the very next day and a few days later the news announced if you were sick with the flu, quarantine yourself because people are dying and please don't spread it. I was sick for four months. Missed my first Memorial ever since I was born. On the bright side I haven't been sick with anything since. I don't recommend this form of treatment to avoid the flu.

Hope I haven't bored you with my experience, couldn't sleep. It's 7am and I've got to go to work now.

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