By reaching out to help others, members of one volunteer group say they are easing the pain of a trip that took an unexpected turn.
Reverend Eldon Houston was among the missionaries who left Kentucky Sunday morning for South Mississippi. That night in Alabama, the 68-year-old died of heart complications. But the group decided to carry on with the trip in his honor.
With every screw that goes in and with every wall that is rebuilt, the Kentucky Methodists are reminded of how excited Reverend Eldon Houston was about helping Mississippi families rebuild. He died suddenly on the way there.
"We just couldn't believe what was happening," said David Warden, a volunteer. "We just watched him die, and we couldn't do much to help."
His friends say they can still feel his spirit.
Levi Crawford said, "'They got into a tool box of his without realizing it was his tool box. There was a blue fisherman's hat, and then we saw his initials in the inside the box. It was like one of those constant little reminders that not only are you doing the right thing, but the beloved one up in heaven is watching over you."
Friends say the morning after his death the group got together and decided to continue on.
Walter Ebert spoke fondly of Houston.
"Doing mission work was his life. That's why we knew when he did pass, and I was holding his hand when he passed, I knew we were going to come down here. Yes, it was the decision of everybody, but I knew Eldon wanted us down here. It was his passion, and he really would have been bent out of shape if we didn't come down."
The volunteers say keeping busy and helping others eases their pain.
"If we would have turned around and went back there, everybody would have still been mourning and grieving," said Ebert. "We're going to do plenty of that when we get back there. But we'll also go back there knowing Eldon had so much to do with what we did get accomplished that the grieving won't be anywhere near as hard."
The volunteers are members of the Red Bird Missionary Conference which is made up of several Methodist churches in Kentucky. They have dedicated this trip to the late Reverend Eldon Houston. They plan to hold a memorial service for him when they return home.