We are finally back in business here in Augusta! Our Internet service was finally restored today, Sunday, after being out for about 5 days. What we will try to do is recapture these past few days for you so you can see what has been happening here.
Being a four day weekend, we lost a lot of our Soldiers to the holiday, many of them took the opportunity to go off somewhere with family. We had a smaller church service today, not only due to the holiday, but also due to the fact we have had several graduations; we have also had some companies begin to change or stiffen their rules against allowing us to battle soldiers to church. Nor will they allow two battles to battle one person to church and then return to get them after church; learning to adjust and flow with these changes is always a huge problem; particularly when you get new cadre in who don't know the rules, but pretend to.
Yesterday, Saturday, a great group of brothers and sisters gathered to participate in Mormon Helping Hands. We divided up into several groups and headed out to the homes of many neighbors who had called in requesting help clearing broken trees and limbs from their yards. On Wednesday, we had a huge ice storm that devastated the area. Huge trees were completely destroyed, particularly those trees who don't lose their leaves such as the local oak trees, pecan and others. So, Saturday, Elder Gowans was on a team who was able to serve four homes; these homes were all occupied by our senior citizens. The first family we served had quite a forest in their backyard, which sloped down toward a small body of water. The trees were mostly down near the water and away from the house. Many branches and broken trees lay strewed all across the lower and back part of the yard. We worked there for nearly 3 hours. Elder Gowans operated one of the chain saws and cut up many of the larger logs with the great saw that was given him to use.
From there we moved onto another real nice home. They at one time had a real nice landscaped back yard with tall pines and obviously beautiful undergrowth; the ice ripped off the tree limbs which in turn buried the beautiful bushes, smaller trees, which made up the lovely landscape. We worked on this property for nearly 1 1/2 hours and then moved next door where at one time a gigantic oak tree had graced and shaded a large, 1/2 acre back yard, it had been completely destroyed by the ice. When we first arrived Elder Gowans thought it was a large hedge which ran along the middle of the yard, then as we got closer, it was obvious that it was large limbs and branches from this once beautiful tree. We spent the next 1 1/2 hours cutting it into logs to burn in the fireplace! Such a terrible shame! After this a few went two doors down and helped clear a driveway of tree debris; Elder Gowans, by then was worn out and had to head home for an appointment that evening. He would get home just in time to shower, change, cook dinner and get on the road. We thought we were meeting with the Sanders that night, but we obviously we had the wrong night as they were having a cookout with some friends, so we went and looked up a few soldiers who we hadn't seen for a while and invited them to rejoin us at church to be able to partake of the sacrament and feel the Spirit with us.
On Friday, we held our Institute class as normal, by then the weather was getting back to normal, however, that evening at 1030 the area was hit by an earthquake measuring 4.4 on the rector scale. What else can you add to the week? Well, during the week we were without power for about 36 hours, not as bad as some and longer than others. We had just got to the point where we were worried about the food in the fridge and had taken some outside on the patio where it was much colder than in the fridge. As you can probably imagine, there was not a lot of ministering going on; we did what we could via the phone, but even the phone signal was very week and we had a hard time getting any connectivity.
All this time gave Sister Gowans some time to recuperate, but still she suffers from too much pain. We hope she will be getting past the pain here shortly.
The following photos were taken around our apartment complex Thursday after the storm: