Basement and garage walls are poured.
Our excavator continued to battle with the rocks this week as he back-filled around the walls and began excavating around the construction. Not only did this take a toll on his generally positive attitude and good humor, but it also added to our costs. We expect that we will run over-budget with this phase of the project. To compensate, we are looking for areas where we can cut out future expenses. We are looking at items like counters, cabinets, entry door, and the driveway. Each of these areas have cost-cutting potential.
The ceiling and walls are ready for drywall.
While the heavy equipment was at work this week, I did smaller, more tedious tasks like removing the roofing and siding materials off the steeple and the cardboard that was attached to a couple ceilings. I hope that when the guys come to hang drywall, attach the siding and re-roof the existing structure that they will not have to spend much time doing prep work. Everything should be ready for them to do what they do best. Not only will this speed up their work, it should also save us some money.
Nancy and I also chose siding, roofing, windows, etc. Since she leaves for a seven week trip to Africa and Asia in a few days, it is important for her to offer her opinion about these decisions now.
As Nancy packs for her trip where she will train dozens of children workers, an investment that will improve hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives, I think about the decision we made to have me invest in this building project for this period of time. I believe that our choices matter. Some activities are more strategic. Some activities have more “Kingdom” value. If I was not working on this house, I would be traveling this fall. Instead of pealing off roofing shingles and dusty pieces of cardboard, I would be teaching and consulting with African leaders hungry for encouragement. Ironically, as I’ve considered these things, my annual read-through-the-Bible program has me in Ezra and Nehemiah. God instructed these godly men from long ago to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. God was glorified by their obedience and their work was a demonstration of his love for his people and his power to save. My the same be said of my efforts!
Tearing off the worn out steeple skin.
There wasn’t much I could do to directly help the sub-contractors this week, so I started to remove the steeple. I felt sad to remove this highly visible and symbolic link to the building’s history. It appeared to have exhausted its life span, so I felt it must go. To rebuild it seemed extravagant and beyond our budget.
However, after I removed the exterior parts, I found that the steeple’s structure was fairly sound. Maybe we could save it after all? I was unsure what to do, so I asked for input from my Facebook friends. To my surprise, a couple dozen people responded and their opinions were unanimous – we should attempt to save the steeple.
Encouraged by our friends’ enthusiasm, I will work to preserve this part of the old building.
The block wall went up Thursday then it rained.
The primary agenda this week was to build the basement walls. The block layers worked Wednesday and Thursday to complete the block wall and prepare for the three poured walls. I was grateful for the care they took to make sure the walls went exactly where they were supposed to go. It became apparent that if they made mistakes, the consequences would have significant and probably long term effects on the house. I thought many times about how important foundations are, whether the foundation of a building or the beliefs and values upon which we build our lives.
Due to a Thursday afternoon cloud-burst, we were not able to pour the three walls. It took all Friday morning to pump the water out of the basement hole which did not leave enough time to build the forms and bring in the concrete trucks. Hopefully, this job will finish early next week.
Friday, after pumping out about 15 inches of water, the forms for the poured walls went up.
Friday was an active day at the construction site. With the razing and digging complete, it was time to start building. Nancy and I enjoyed watching the guys pour the footers upon which the new construction will sit.
Also during the day I met with the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and framing contractors that the General Contractor has selected to do the bulk of the work. Due to the combination of remodel and new construction, this project provides challenges for them. Each one listened carefully to what we want to do and began developing creative solutions to the unique problems. The old construction and our desire to preserve the hardwood floor in the sanctuary is particularly challenging. It is a joy to be working with people who are dedicated to their craft and desire to please their clients!
Last week, I also cut down and cleaned up numerous trees. We have lots of fire wood! Being outside has given me opportunities to have periodic interactions with neighbors. Everyone seems pleased that we are transforming the property even though we are creating a lot of noise, dust, and smoke. Nancy and I look forward to residing there and becoming part of the community.
We, particularly Nancy, have continued with our international ministry. Nancy purchased air tickets for her two months long trip to Africa and Asia. She is scheduled to leave in a few weeks. We are not looking forward to being separated for so long, but we are grateful that we can continue in our primary calling, even during this time of transition.
Nancy and I are grateful that work officially started on our “project” this week!
I have particularly enjoyed getting to know Art, from Mountainside Excavators. He works very hard and put in long hours for us. He has given me excellent advice and he can also be funny! At one point he chided me with, “This church was certainly built on the rock, not the sand!” He and his crew demoed the back half of the building Wednesday. Then Thursday through Saturday they dug about 75 dump truck loads of earth, mostly rocks, to create the space that will become our basement. That was not an easy task and at times he wished the building had been built on sand.
Excavator Art carrying out some of the rocks from the basement.
Rocks in our basement.
To get a sense of scale, the rock on the top left of the pile is about six feet long.
With all the rock, progress was a little slower than expected. However, my guess is that since Creation this piece of earth did not change as much in one week as it did this week. It will probably never change this much in such a short period again. This week we:
- demoed the back half of the church building and carted it off the property,
- razed the 400 square foot shed in the back and burned the remains,
- removed at least a dozen trees to make room for the septic system, and
- dug the basement.
We are excited to see this progress and to sense the Lord’s pleasure with what we are doing even if it comes in a poorly interpreted parable from our excavator.
A church group from NYC helped us clean and move the sanctuary chairs
The final permit required before beginning construction.
There were a number of twists and turns along the way and the cost was much higher than we expected. However, Nancy and I are grateful that we received Elizabeth Township’s permission to begin transforming the derelict 50 year old Poplar Grove Chapel building into our home.
I received a message Thursday afternoon that the Township engineer had completed her review of our request for an exemption. She agreed that we should not be required to build a stormwater retention structure. She said, “We agree that the proposed improvements would result in a net zero increase from the existing conditions.” She even agreed that our current plan allows us to “still have the full 1,000 square foot exemption amount for future development.”
After receiving her message, I called the Township Assistant Secretary-Treasurer. I caught her as she was leaving for the day. She told me that she would not be in the office Friday, or Monday. However, she would be able to process the paperwork Tuesday. I suspected that “processing the paperwork” meant moving it from one box to another. So, I requested permission to personally deliver the paperwork to the Zoning Officer. She agreed that would probably be okay. The Zoning Officer told me that if I emailed him a signed document that he needed, he should be able to complete the process by Friday morning — yesterday!
I emailed him the document and arrived at his house Friday morning at 8am with two checks totaling $2500. He provided me with the final documents that are needed for us to begin construction! We have the building permit!
Yesterday, we also had a church group from New York City come to help us. They spent several hours moving chairs and other items out of the sanctuary into a storage area that we rented. Their efforts help make room for the contractors who we expect will begin coming soon!
We are grateful to be moving onto the next stage of this project!
If you would like to view a video that our son-in-law made for us about this project, click here: Video
We hope our wooded property will eventually be a peaceful sanctuary. However, it is now full of poison ivy!
When do you decide that the cost is too great and it is time to cut your losses and move on? This was a question that I entertained yesterday as the township reviewer was returning our “Stormwater Management plan” to Harbor Engineering, the firm we hired to develop the plan. The person who reviewed the one inch thick document had 18 “comments” divided into three sections. My experience is that every time a document changes hands, it costs at least another week.
Nancy and I purchased the abandoned church property in Lititz, PA in February and immediately began applying for permits to transform it into our home. At that time, based on the information we had, we expected the permit process to take several weeks. We are now approaching six months and the end is not in sight! This delay is costly and disheartening.
We are grateful for our local friends, Debbie and Werner Mosimann, who are allowing Nancy and me to live in a basement bedroom of their beautiful Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast and sharing their kitchen and lives with us. However, I fear we will wear out our welcome before we even begin construction of our own house.
Added to the discouragement from the delay is an outbreak of poison ivy rash that is spreading around my body. The half acre property has an abundance of the plant. In the past I have not been allergic and therefore I was not careful in the process of removing it. I guess I over-exposed myself and now I have developed the rash.
I see parallels between the permit process and the poison ivy rash. With both, I feel victimized. I don’t know when either will end. Both are uncomfortable. With both, there are some things I can do, but mostly I have to wait. So, I choose to trust God … and wait.
Nancy drove our Yaris and I drove our Tacoma with the trailer from Spokane to Lititz
Like me, you have probably heard that moving can be one of the most stressful life experiences. Nancy and I have moved a few times together. After our wedding, we moved into the Marengo House in Pasadena, CA. When our kids were young, we moved to Denver, CO. Eight years ago we moved to Spokane, WA. And now, we are moving to Lititz, PA. I say we are moving because we are currently living with friends and our stuff is in a storage unit.
I agree that moving can be stressful. However, in each of our moves the stress has been mitigated by wonderful friends. This move has made me keenly aware of how needy Nancy and I are. It is humbling to realize that we could not be effectively completing this move without a large network of friends.
It is impossible for me to list all the practical help we have received from friends. Some of the more obvious are: Our friends pitched in to help us pack the house for the initial drive across the country in the U-Haul truck in April. They showed up again to help us clear out the remaining items as we prepared for the drive across the country last week. They came back after we left to clear out the stuff we could not get to before we left. On this end, friends are opening their home to us until our house is finished. What would we have done, how would we have survived without all this help?
Furthermore, our friends have provided us with an abundance of emotional support. The “good-byes” in Spokane were sad, but so affirming! The assurance of prayer support have lifted our spirits.
Nancy and I are rich because of our friends. We do not take them for granted. We wish there were ways for us to return their favors, but that feels impossible to us. Instead, we pray that God, who has given us these wonderful friends, will bless each one and return to them an abundance of reward for the goodness they have given us.