It’s been awhile since Hazel and I (Carleton Cole) have taken a mission trip with Chapelwood United Methodist Church. Before COVID the church was supposed to go to Guatemala to help with the Free Wheelchair Mission organization, but life got in the way. This week we’re in Baldwin, Louisiana. It is the location of the depot for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Every year a couple of thousand of folks volunteer their time spending a week to help out at a place called Sager Brown. Fitting it’s Black History month as Sager Brown was once a school for orphans who were not allowed in white schools because of segregation. Today the dormitories are used by mission teams who are lending a hand to all kinds of projects including community outreach and building hygiene kits which are distributed all around the country, and often internationally in times of crisis. Our team is connecting with Concord United Methodist from Knoxville, Tennessee. Much of the team spent their time in the depot which is a building about the length of a football field housing all kinds of relief items, from tooth brushes to cleaning supplies which are needed when calamities happen. Since Harvey hit Houston in 2017, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to understand the importance of preparation. Sager Brown is situated about 35 miles south of Lafayette, Louisiana often in the bullseye of storms that brew in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I spent the day with Carl Sandlin, and Dave Luther working to rebuild a welcome sign at the edge of the grounds. Time and the weather brought the old sign down, and today’s challenge was to rebuild by adding a lattice facing to make the entrance more appealing. At first blush it didn’t look to be much of a project, but wait simple carpentry is often not so simple. The frame had to be arched meaning the 1x6s had to be matched curved cutouts to hold the lattice in place.Sager Brown is very well stocked with tools which was certainly helpful as we used a circular saw, a jig saw and later a Dremel universal saw to slot the lattice in the frame. It still needs to be painted, but at least now the entrance has a new look. While getting the various tasks done is important, the purpose of the mission is more lasting. In a word it means relationships. Already we are making new friends from the folks from Tennessee as it turns out a couple who used to call Chapelwood home,  Fred and Peggy Gibson are now members of Concord in Knoxville. And while Fred and Peggy aren’t here, many of their friends are which allows for bonds between the two mission groups. Another focus is the daily devotionals with tonight’s thoughts are about deepening our relationship with God. Briefly, there are five things we can do daily to help our walk. 1) Listen well 2) Read the Bible 3) Seek the quiet 4) Pray, 5) Seek Community. It’s not good enough to reflect on those principles, but rather act on all five.

Tomorrow  I will be spending time in the depot

-Carleton Cole


When is a custom made door not a custom door? When it’s a door to a water heater in the exterior of one of the dormitories at the Sager Brown UMCOR center in Baldwin, Louisiana. Pictured are the before and after look in the rear of the Zook Dormitory. One of today’s project was to replace the warned and weathered door with a fresh fiber glass door which was specially made to specifications, except it didn’t fix. And when I say it didn’t fit, it had to be trimmed by about 6 inches along with the specially made door jambs. Ugh!

It’s good to have a couple retired engineers on any work crew. Carl Sandlin and Dave Luther certainly fill the bill. Their repartee is endless as they both have the goal of getting it right. At first there’s concern, how did the manufacturer get it so wrong?  Which then turns to the larger question, what is the best way to fix the problem? And how much can be salvaged?

Between Sager Brown’s vast tool shed, and Carl’s private stock, there was plenty of equipment to complete the project, but it proved to be quite a day for Dave and Carl as the two made a positive out of what could have been a very upsetting negative. Most people never have to consider a door. Perhaps to contemplate a handle or whether it needs to be pushed or pulled, but really nothing more. But when a door is needed to secure an exterior water heater, there’s a lot of more to consider than just the key.  The jambs have to fit perfectly so the door can swing properly, and then there are other issues to contend with, the exterior brick, the roof flashing, barriers which have to be overcome before and even after the door is erected. Then there’s venting. This door needs to have to an event mounted so the water heater can emit any excessive heat without overheating. 

In short it’s another “easy” project that takes all day. In fact one of the staff members and I had to make two trips to the “local” hardware store, about 20 minutes away, for lumber runs. In fact it felt a lot like Houston traffic on the way home in the afternoon, as we sat on a road for a good 30 minutes while waiting for  the local fire department to put out a car fire, or in traffic reporter parlance, “a carbecue.” Fortunately no injuries, just a charred car by the side of the road.

Carl and Dave did get the door affixed properly and tomorrow some caulking will be added to help seal to door from the weather problems which caused the problem in the first place. And when that’s done, there’s another project waiting in the wings, even though we don’t know what that will be.

-Carleton Cole


The UMCOR Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana sends more than $4 million in supplies in relief around the country each year. The massive warehouse is about the size of a football field filled with things that people need in a crisis. From the thousands of flood buckets to help homeowners muck out their houses, to hygiene kits for the many folks who are forced from their homes, the place is well stocked when the unthinkable happens. Just this week supplies are being sent to California which is coping through another round of flooding from nature’s wrath.

Today I spent the afternoon in the depot with Team Members Dot August, Patty Cordrey, Vicki Jud, Rachel Sciretti, and my wife Hazel verifying the hygiene kits that will be used in the next crisis. The specifications are clear, things like toothpaste and a tooth brush are obvious with a bar of soap, a hand towel, and even nail clippers to assist those who are caught without. And while the verification may seem to be monotonous, it really isn’t as there is plenty of time to socialize and get to know your fellow Team member better. By afternoon’s end, more than a hundred of the hygiene kits were verified, boxed and ready for shipping.

Meanwhile the builders of our team began a new project at mobile home for a disabled elderly man. The plan is to fix up his wheelchair ramp to give him better access to fit through his front door, but the home is aging and the door and the frame are badly weathered and need of repair too. So once again the simple is now complex. A new door is being ordered since it’s not a standard size, but the team of David Luther and Carl Sandlin began working on the frame.

Can I say a word about the kitchen staff at Sager Brown? As folks know, Louisiana is famous for its food, let’s just say you won’t starve of this mission trip. Lunch today was shrimp étoufée which was outstanding, and we have been eating well on previous days as well. It’s been a treat working at Sager Brown, and meal time has been a bonus.

-Carleton Cole


Turnips! It harvest time at Sager Brown and the mission team from Chapelwood was hard at work alongside their new friends from Concord United Methodist from Knoxville pulling up turnips today. Part of the mission of the Sager Brown UMCORP depot, is outreach to the immediate community of Baldwin, Louisiana. Once a month Sager Brown provides nutritious food for seniors and next week they will be getting turnips complements one of the beautiful gardens on the 24 acre grounds. I looked up the best way to cook turnips, not the greens, is to boil them and then make a mash. There are plenty of recipes on line so the folks getting the harvest can have a lot of fun creating in their kitchen.

Dave Luther, Carl Sandlin, and Carleen Woods continued their progress on a trailer about 10 miles down the road. The elderly gentleman in wheel chair needs up grade on his ramp. But before any of that can happen, there’s a need for a new front door. Unfortunately, the door is on order, and it’s going to take a few days, so a team from another church will have to finish what Chapelwood started. In one of the pictures you can see Carl and Dave working underneath the trailer adjusting the level on one the baseboards so that the landing is level, which is important so the wheel chair will roll through the door. The team finished assembling a new door jamb so the next team can assemble the door and then work on the ramp.

And remember that door outside the Zook dormitory? A couple members of the Concord UMC Team finished painting the door and the jamb that houses a water heater. Talk about an amazing improvement, that job proved to be quite a challenge, but well worth the time.

One of the things that makes this mission trip so successful is that there is something for everyone. Several members served at Hope Floats, a Thrift Shop, which benefits The Arc, a local non profit for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They spent one morning sorting clothes and offering encouragement to some of the residents. Back on campus more than 3,000 hygiene kits were verified this week in the Depot, and perhaps as many as 4,000 towels were washed and folded for another series of kits. And of course the grounds need upkeep, so things like pressure washing the sidewalks or landscaping and fun things to do especially when the weather was so beautiful this week.

And speaking of beauty, I’ve added some sunsets and the views all around the campus.

It’s been a wonderful week, and something to look forward to doing again next year

-Carleton Cole

Photos of Mission