April 30, 2021

After our 17 hour drive we settled in for our first couple days of learning. On Friday, we took a trip to Marianna — the city we would be spending our two weeks with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). We spent the whole day in Marianna learning about MDS, the local long term recovery group, and hearing people’s hurricane stories.

We first heard from Don Yoder, long-term volunteer with MDS, about the MDS history and mission.

We next heard from Pastor Kevin Yoder, Chairperson of Florida Inland Long Term Recovery Group and Pastor of Rivertown Community Church (RCC) — the church where we would live during our two weeks of volunteering.

Finally, we heard from Kay Dennis — Municipal Development Director and author of “Surviving Hurricane Michael”.

Juan Flores, junior nursing major, reflects on this day’s trip to Marianna.

Don Yoder helped me understand my role as a volunteer by helping me think about motivation. I realized that there are different types of motives to volunteer. Volunteering can be motivated by religion, in the name of something you believe in, social obligation, or a feeling to help others. Don also taught me about the four pillars of MDS: volunteers, accommodations, meaningful work, and sufficient funds. Through Don I learned about what MDS is as an organization. The second speaker was Pastor Kevin Yoder who experienced the hurricane. He showed me the work that MDS was doing to try and address the devastation that Micheal left behind. Through his eyes, I could see the importance of what MDS was doing in Marianna. After seeing what Michael did to Marianna, every board I nail into the house becomes a personal crusade. Finally, our last speaker was Kay Dennis, another person who experienced Michael first-hand. She taught me the importance of perspective. In her book, she interviewed many people of different backgrounds. Everyone in Marianna suffered from the hurricane in different ways and everyone is recovering differently. I bought her book so I too can see hurricane Michael through different eyes.