Sunday, December 31, 2006
Yes, when you head north the temperatures take a dive and this is how our dogs chose to deal with the colder weather! They did get adapted somewhat but were glad to get back to the coast!
This being the last day of this year brought a message from Pastor Rick this morning that I found to be "just what I needed." Amazing how God works that way!
At this time of year many of us are looking at the New Year with the hopes of changing some things. The usual ones are exercise more, loose weight, stop this or that habit ... the list can go on and on. We all start off filled with enthusiasm and dedicated to "making it" this time. And then comes a few weeks later and we are discouraged because we have already fallen short of our goal. Pastor Rick gave us 3 points to think about when deciding to make changes.
1. have faith! faith fills us with anticipation, looking ahead. Faith and fear DO NOT mix, like oil and water. It's when we loose that faith that fear gives birth to doubt and doubt gives birth to failure! We must stand firm and not let the devil steal our desire, our goal. Just remember that "if God be for us, who can stand against us?"
2. stay focused! to stay focused we must hold fast to our faith. They work hand in hand. The devil will throw in distractions and in time we will forget our goal if we don't stay focused. If the devil can't make you bad - he'll make you busy! That busy can take us off focus. We are to "throw off all that hinders us and run the race"...
3. follow through! take it one step at a time. If God said it -- do it!! Each day is a clean page, a clean slate! There are no quitters in the kingdom of God!
Faith, keeping focused and following through all work together -- and spell success! Keep that in mind as you think about the changes you would like to make in the new upcoming year! It helped me and I hope it will give you some encouragement also!
Monty and I would like to wish each and every one of you a safe and blessed New Year!
With our love and thanks, Susan and Monty
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Yes, we finally made it back to Mississippi! It took alot longer than we expected seeing as how nearly the entire northern part of the US also packed up and headed south after Christmas!
It was amazing, over 2 hours to get through Nashville, TN along with delay after delay. Throw in an accident where an 18 wheeler jack-knifes on the interstate and you have quite the journey!
The temperatures here sure are alot better than elsewhere! Today was in the 70s. Storms that tore up quite a bit in Louisianna have nearly blown themselves out this evening so hopefully we won't be drowned with the huge rainfalls and 80 mph winds they predicted.
It felt good to be back. We stopped in and visited our Convoy of Hope station to the north of us and they have filled their lots with RVs. Many of the RV Maps people are either already here or in route. This will be an added blessing for us as they are mostly skilled and willing to work solo or join in when we have teams.
Speaking of teams -- thanks for the prayers. Our month of February is nearly filled to capacity and rolling into March! If you are thinking of scheduling a team this info might be helpful. We are so excited at the thought of continuing the rebuilding of homes by the rebuilding of lives.
It will be nice to reconnect with our homeowners that we were busy working with a few weeks ago. Monty and I have been here so long that it was like "coming home" in a way. We both enjoyed our time away and our time with family and friends but found ourselves also feeling as though we had no purpose while we were away. I think it's another of those "God - things" He places in our hearts when we are busy following His calling!
We did spend some time with our families -- thus the photo above. That is our grandson!!! Meet Luke who is now 19 months old! Isn't he adorable! He is the son of our middle daughter and her husband. Seeing him, and seeing all 3 of my children was the greatest gift I could have received! PRICELESS! That's for sure!
Tomorrow brings the last day of yet another year. What an amazing year it has been, one that is truly impossible to describe. Hopefully you have been reading the blog for that is the only way you would truly understand what I mean by my statement! Make sure you continue reading as I know that 2007 will bring even more stories of hope, stories of life and even more miracles! I've said it before and will continue .... God is moving here on the coast! God is fulfilling His plan for not only the Gulf Coast but for the world!
We thank you for coming along with us this past year and pray you have a safe, a happy and an even more blessed New Year!
Yea God! Boo devil! Susan and Monty
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Yes, it must be the Christmas season as there are decorations everywhere we look. Most of the time the days just turn into other days and I have no idea what the calendar date is but with all of the "reminders" at this time of year I do know "the" day is getting closer.
Today has been an exciting day! Even though we are away from the coast for some business the telephone calls continue to come in. Today we have already received word from 3 teams that are planning on coming to volunteer after the first of the year! THIS is what we need to hear!
One team is coming from our hometown area. They are planning on an instate mission trip this year and should be coming around the end of January or the first of February.
Another team will number near the 150 total, yes, 150 volunteers! We haven't seen those numbers for who knows how long! They will be coming the last of March into the first week of April. Needless to say, we are FULL for that week! They are mixed with skills so that should be some kind of extra ordinary week for sure!
The third team will be coming from Illinois. They will be arriving around the third week of January.
These are the kind of phone calls and emails that we need to hear! So many times people ask us "how long will you be doing what you are doing?" and the only response is, "for as long as the volunteers keep coming." Convoy of Hope is committed to continue and so are Monty and I. We don't know where this will lead. We don't know the direction God has planned for any of us. The one thing we do know is that the need is still there, the people still need help and hope, their homes still need rebuilt and they still need us (you).
I will admit that doing what we did back about a year ago, quitting our jobs, walking away from our insurance... was a leap of faith! But God never calls anyone into anything without the promise that He will provide. That He has done! (and we doubted?!) But as for letting us know where our future lies ... He only lets us know what we need to know on a "need to know" basis. We are committed to listening to His calling and just being obedient and following wherever it is He leads us. We are thankful that Convoy shares our hearts!
I have a special prayer request. One of our Convoy leaders needs some special prayers. Cindi has somehow managed to injure her shoulder. She went to the doctor and has learned it is something called a "frozen" shoulder. The only treatment for it is aggressive therapy. Due to the fact that they are constantly on the road with their jobs, the therapy thing isn't possible. She did receive a shot and some exercises to do but could really use your prayers for complete healing. We all know that what we are doing can take a toll on our bodies. Once again we also know that with God nothing is impossible and everything is in His almighty plan. Please include Cindi in your prayers so she, along with the rest of us, can continue working to the best of our abilities.
Please pray for all of the residents on the Gulf Coast who are, for the 2nd year in a row, still not in their homes. They ALL need our prayers! With the suicide rate up 900% along the coast, prayer really isn't an option!
Until the next time we are in a wireless area and can write ..... Blessings, Susan and Monty
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Yes, I found my way back to the internet, something that is a bit difficult these days. I thought I had found a "way in" but no so...thus the delay over these past few days. Thanks for being patient and bearing with us. The holidays are always busy and there are always a few "extras" tossed in for extra busy!
The above photos are taken in the warehouse. You can see some of the furniture making its way to the Gulf Coast. To the right are the doors and their frames, also donated. The furniture has been coming in complete sets, an added blessing to those who lost everything. Getting something that actually matches and goes together isn't something most residents planned on!
I have been doing alot of thinking over these past few days. Remembering last year this time when we were preparing to make the move to the coast. One of those "if I knew then what I know now" things! I had NO idea!
Pastor had a message this past week that put it all into perspective. He spoke about the "cost" of following the Lord. When I received the direct call from God to go to the coast there was no question who was doing the speaking. And there was no question in my mind as to whether we would go or not. I think some might refer to it as "blind faith". In some ways they were right.
I thought I knew exactly what we would be doing, how it all would flow. NOT! God always has a better plan, one we aren't even able to fathom. This time was no exception. I also thought I had faith. I grew up in a Christian household and didn't know anything else, any other way of life. I had no idea what real faith was!
This past year, with all its difficulties, challenges, hurdles, highs, lows, battles and blessings beyond measure have been nothing short of mind blowing! I wouldn't have traded it for the world. There is no amount of money that could have replaced it! NONE!
I feel as though our family has grown to spread across the nation. I wonder if that's what Moses felt like when God had him look to the stars and make the covenant with him?
Pastors preach on relationships, how they are vital to our faith. Pastors know what they are talking about. Our relationship with God is, of course, first and foremost. But the relationships that develop from there, with God's people, cannot be "planned" or "scheduled". God has His own timing, His own plan and He is always right on time.
When I look back over this past year it makes me stop and think. We really had no idea what we were getting into. God did! We didn't know how our lives would be changed forever, how we would grow closer and closer to God each and every day. He did! We didn't know what the challenges would be. God did! We didn't know what the blessings would be. God did!
Whenever we follow the calling God places on our lives there IS a cost! Sometimes our reputation gets bruised by what other people think. But we must put our character over our reputation. Our character is who we really are! Our character is what God sees.
This year has been life changing, not only for us but for all of those who came and volunteered. Each week we meet a room full of new faces on that Monday morning at devotions. We watch those faces change each day. By the end of the week those new faces have become old friends and will be included in our family for the rest of our lives. They also have become family within their own groups. They come to volunteer and leave different people, they leave blessed beyond measure! Their lives will also never be the same! THIS is what the experience is all about! THIS is what God has in His master plan!
To all of you who took time from your own lives to come and be a blessing ... you know what I am talking about. To those of you who have only heard and/or read about it, think about experiencing it for yourselves. You won't be sorry! I promise!
This time of year has us all looking back over the past year and doing some remembering. I will always look back at this year as a year that changed my life! A year that has been unlike any other in all my 52 years! I have missed some things, some people, my home, my recliner at the end of the day, my bed where we both can sleep together, working in my yard, sitting in my same seat each Sunday morning, seeing my family at church....I could go on and on and on.
BUT ... the blessings I have received, the miracles that I have seen with my own eyes, seeing hope come to the hopeless, seeing life come to the lifeless, feeling the hugs of thanks that are unlike any hug I have ever felt, seeing the tears of joy flow from the faces of those who thought they had been forgotten about, seeing the change in my husband and most of all --- seeing the change in me ... these things are priceless, these things have made this year the best year of my life! This year has been a life changing year! I want to thank all of you who made this possible! I want to thank God for calling me!
Until next time .... God bless. Susan and Monty
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Christmas time brings thoughts of family and I would like for you to meet one of my daughters, her husband and our grandson! It's an amazing thing when your own children start having children of their own! What awesome blessings!!!
I had a question asked last night that made me think that you all just might be wondering what a typical day is like in the relief work. If you have been with us volunteering you already know and so I apologize if this isn't something that is of more interest to you. To those of you who have not been there, maybe this will answer some questions or spark more interest.
Each one of our work days (Monday through Saturday) start bright and early with devotions at 8am. This is a special time where the devotion hopefully gives all of us some "food for thought" for the day. It's such a blessing to begin each day with devotions and reflection on why we are doing what we are doing. At the end of devotions we all make a circle, hold hands in prayer and turn the day over to the Lord and His plan for each of us.
From there the team/teams make sure they have the tools and/or supplies they need for their work for that day. We have a couple of tool rooms where we store things and have quite an assortment of tools but it always seems there is something else we need. That might require starting the day with a trip to Lowes, or ending the day with one.
After all necessary things are loaded into vehicles the teams head to their worksite. On Mondays they are following Monty and I to the sites. If there is a team of 6 or less they are all working on the same site. If more, there are more sites going at the same time. From Tuesday on the teams know where they are going and off they head.
Once they head out it's time for us to take care of things "behind the scenes". There are emails to be checked and answered, things to be cleaned up, phone calls to be made and/or received and just general duties to try and get either started or done. We might need to go to the warehouse for who knows what. Sheetrock to be delivered and/or given to those in need. Furniture for the same. Doors and on and on and on. This is where no 2 days are the same.
Someplace in that morning time Monty and I try and catch a meal on the fly. From there we are headed to the worksites. We go to each site each and every day. I have photos to take to keep posted on the blog. After all, their public awaits! Many times they are working away so hard that they don't even realize I am there until the flash goes off! :)
The day continues with the teams working away, making phone calls with questions and then the calls come requesting materials or special tools that are needed and not realized that they would be needed when loading things that morning. When you get into rebuilding like this, you just never know what needs might come up. There is just no way to be fully prepared. Every home is different!
The teams usually continue working through the day. They pack lunches that morning so there isn't the delay that comes with trying to do the "fast"?? food thing. It also gives them time to take a rest and usually visit with the homeowner. Back to that relationship thing again! :)
Most of the time the teams will work until around 5 or so and then clean up the site, pack the tools and head off to the showers. We do not have shower facilities at the church where they are staying but the community college just across the street have kept their aquatic center open since just after the storm for the volunteers to come and use. There are stalls or open showers for the women and the men's are open style.
From there the teams are beginning to realize just how hard they have worked and how hungry they are. We keep a listing of some of our favorite local places and sometimes they will choose one of those or they might get adventurous and strike out on their own to see what they can find. They are almost always looking for some local cuisine to try and with most all restaurants now open that's not difficult to find! Just remember that it is the south and nearly everything is fried! Delicious but fried!
After they have cleaned themselves up and filled themselves up the tired muscles begin showing up. This brings them back to the church where they might sit around playing music (some bring their guitars) or just visiting and getting to know each other better. There are card games and/or board games that will get started too. But it doesn't take long before all is quiet and the only sounds you might hear is the snoring!!
The next morning they are all up, bright eyed and ready for a new day! It's amazing how God refills us for the next day!
I hope this gives you some idea as to how the days are spent. There are alot of the behind the scenes things that Monty and I get involved with (checking out more jobs, etcs) but this is about what the days are like for the volunteers.
As long as these volunteers continue to come Monty and I will be there to work with them, to help them bless the residents and help them see how God is blessing them in return. There are still so many homes and homeowners that need help! As long as the volunteers continue to come....
PS. Remember ... the 4 minute Convoy of Hope DVD is available to ANYONE and is absolutely FREE. Just email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and request your copy today! You'll be glad you did!
Until our next entry .... God bless! Susan and Monty
As I said a few days ago, the blog entries will be off and on for the next couple of weeks. We are traveling and tending to some business and at times there are no connections for me to get through on. Thank you for your patience and continued support. Sometimes things take us away for a period of time but our hearts are always working for the people on the coast.
I have a fantastic testimony from one of the volunteers that came from New Jersey. This man has made 2 trips and I hope you will enjoy hearing someone else's story other than my own.
" When you set out on a short term mission trip there are no firm plans as we learned again with this trip. When we returned to Gautier, MS in October we were ready for whatever the Lord had and He had many blessings for us. These are just a few.
We met Rosemary on Monday morning. We were the first team to be involved with her rebuild since the storm. A local church had gutted her home, ripped out the sheetrock and insulation 4' from the floor. They also ripped out all her carpet and appliances and that was almost a year ago. Rosemary had called Susan and Monty and said that she was at the "end". This sent up a flag with Susan and Monty.
When Susan and Monty met Rosemary they came to know that her mom was bed ridden for the past 3 years with arthritis and chronic emphysema. I can just imagine how may times she tried to get the house in order and had to stop to take care of her mother. How frustrating it was and how many times she must have felt like a failure, not being able to get anything done.
When we met Rosemary she was hopeless, she only looked at the ground as she spoke to us. She was allowing us to come into her house and pack all her possessions away after the flood. There was alot to be packed. Rosemary and my wife, Sue, developed a special bond as the week progressed.
As time went by we could see Rosemary gaining hope. She was starting to make eye contact and by the end of the week shewas smiling and kidding around with us. We took some great pictures with the new Rosemary by the end of the week. And, as usual, at the end of the week we were all sad that our time there was over.
The biggest blessing for me was to see a person transition from hopeless to hopeful. That is one of the "God things" that Susan speaks about. We had a team of 4 and God has a plan for us.
There was also a team of 12 there from Iowa. Their ages were from 17 to 80. They worked at 3 different sites blessing the homeowners and 3 of them worked with us on Thursday and Friday.
I would encourage ALL believers to pray about being a part of the rebuilding process in the Gulf Coast. Monty and Susan have been called to this mission field. They both love Jesus and both have strong construction backgrounds. They told us that they are going to be there as long as teams keep coming down.
In closing, this was our "2nd Tour of Duty" so to speak and we signed up for our 3rd!
Yea God, Boo devil. Walk in His love and grace.
Jack from New Jersey"
Like I said, I hope this will inspire some of you and touch each and every one of your hearts. Jack told it from his view and Monty and I would like to thank him and all his team members for taking time from their own lives to come and not only be a blessing to the homeowners but also to Monty and I. We look forward to their 3rd "tour" and will be ready and waiting for them!
Until our next entry --- hopefully tomorrow .... internet willing.... Susan and Monty
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Family after family was able to receive blessings in the way of complete bedroom sets all during the day. Furniture that they never thought they would have, furniture they all watched wash away during the storm! And to be able to put something!! back into their homes, before Christmas!! Like I have said before, God is awesome and we are so thankful to be here, watching God work on a daily basis!
I have a personal plea I would like to put out over the air waves --- if you have been here volunteering with a team, would you please contact me? The first of the new year is fast approaching and I would like to talk to you. If you were the team leader, you have my number. If you came along, get my number from your team leader.
I also want to let you know that over the next days the blog will "come and go". We have some business that we need to take care of and that business is going to keep me off line most of the time. Business does keep going, even if it is holiday season. People don't stop needing help just because the calendar has a special day marked on it. But at times we do need to get some added things taken care of so please be patient with us during these next days!
PS to Jack, Sue, Pastor Mike and Trish --- THANK YOU so much for the power point and testimonies! WOW!! You all are awesome and we, along with the victims of the storm, would like to thank you for the special love you have for all of us down here! We WILL be in touch!
May God bless each and every one of you!
Until our next entry ..... Susan and Monty
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The temps dropped low enough last night that we almost got concerned about the hose that delivers the water to our trailer. Even though being located on the south side of the back of a shopping center had it's drawbacks due to heat during the summer, we are glad to be there during the winter. We were protected just enough for things to all be fine. Not so with the case of our Convoy leaders just a few miles to the north. They awoke during the night to discover their lines had frozen solid and were making the necessary insulation changes today! The temps really change when you get directly off the coast line like where we are. Just a couple of miles can make a big difference!
Monty spent nearly the entire day at the warehouse. The furniture delivery was to come sometime between noon and 3pm and things inside the warehouse had to be shifted around in order to make room for the incoming supplies. The men from Mercy House were there by 1:30 ready and willing to get the truck unloaded as soon as it arrived. Then came the call from the driver saying he was nearly 2 hours away! The men were just happy to be next to the water watching the wildlife come and go, seeing some of God's creatures that come around this time of year.
The truck did finally arrive and what an awesome load it brought! Some of the nicest bedroom furnishings we have seen to date! There are headboards of all sorts, matching dressers, armoirs, night tables, even king and queen mattress sets! Come to find out this is the truck that was to have arrived a couple of months ago so his timing was off more than we thought!! :)
The men had it all unloaded, organized and ready to be sent out in about an hour. We are so thankful to Danny and his men for always being ready to help us when we need it. By the time everything was done it was time for the day to end. The sun sets at 4:57pm down here so dark comes rather quickly.
We will be returning tomorrow morning to start sending out the blessings!
I want to send out a special "thank you" to one of our hometown churches, Life Church. Thanks to Bob and his family who conducted the toy drive for us down here. We received the gifts today and want to thank you for everything you did, for thinking of all the kids down here and for taking time from your own lives to bless the coast. The toys will be used at The Refuge Christmas outreach next Saturday and will bring many smiles to both children and their parents alike! Bless you for all you did!
Until tomorrow ..... Susan and Monty
Monday, December 04, 2006
It was a bit on the more than nippy side today, atleast for down here. But the sun was out and after tonight we should be okay. Thank goodness for the little box like ceramic heater Monty got for our camper trailer! It keeps it quite toasty!
I finally felt better today! After being down for 9 days it had just about gotten the best of me but never fail, I am back now! I didn't even lay down once today (wasn't really time anyway)
This morning we received a phone call saying the semi with 918 sheets of sheetrock was on its way to arrive at the warehouse within an hour. We haven't seen that much sheetrock in quite a few months! Thanks Convoy, it will be put to good use! Monty had the entire load unloaded, incident free! It's always nice to have the driver be the kind of person who doesn't mind joining in the work of unloading. And it's even nicer to have that driver leave with a smile on his face!
By late afternoon we were back at the warehouse with those people scheduled to be blessed with some furniture. They loved the look of their new dressers, mirrors, entertainment center, desks and twin beds. I never tire of seeing the surprised looks on their faces when they arrive and fully realize that it is FREE, no strings attached!
Before we could have them loaded we received word that another semi load of furniture will be arriving tomorrow afternoon! This also looks to be bedroom furniture from out west. Monty got busy scheduling the men from Mercy House to come and help get it unloaded as these trucks have to be unloaded by hand. Those men are always glad to help and will be "on hold" until they get an exact time of delivery. And soon after the delivery is unloaded we will once again be reaching out to those in need of furniture. The blessings come in so they can go out so they can come back in again. It's the kind of merry go round that we love to be on! We would like to extend a VERY SPECIAL thank you to Steve S. up in the great state of Washington for everything he has been, and will continue to do, to get this furniture down here to those suffering so much after hurricane Katrina! It's just a shame he can't see all the faces and hear the thanks himself! It's a shame YOU can't see and hear them also!
Until tomorrow .... keep warm and God keep you healthy..... Susan and Monty
Saturday, December 02, 2006
I missed the Christmas parade today and am missing most everything right now!
Hopefully tomorrow there will be a glimmer of light which will lead to a touch of better health.
Until then .... Susan and Monty
Friday, December 01, 2006
This beautiful photo taken at Bellingrath Gardens by Diane a couple of months ago is about the only thing of beauty that I have seen this week!
It seems my health has taken one nasty turn after another. Now I am in a full scale war against the flu and it's still a toss up as to who will win!
To top things off, our temperatures also took a nose dive last night! Now I will admit, it's not nearly as cold (or white) as it is back home for us, but it's still in the mid 30s at night and inside a camper trailer that's a bit nippy! I give up trying to maintain any temps in the camper with a fever that has me hot one minute then cold the next. Even the dogs wonder what in the world is going on!
We did get the final papers on the grant project for Mike and Faye completed. This afternoon we stopped by and got the last piece of paper. We also took them some Christmas decorations! Faye's brother bought them a small tree with the lights already on it and she had it decorated with her favorite, poinsettias. She said the only thing she wanted on it was the white ornaments shaped like glass balls. Simple, we thought, and we promised her we would see what we could do. We spanned the cities from the east of us to the west of us and finally came up with 2 boxes of white! We also threw in some "extras" to spruce up their FEMA trailer a bit more. Just because you are living in a FEMA trailer doesn't mean it shouldn't be decorated for the birth of our Savior! Mike was feeling a bit rough as he had dialysis yesterday and was also feeling a bit fluish at the same time! Seeing the Ole Miss football decoration for his tree did put a smile on his face! (Monty was thinking of him!) :)
I thank all of you who have been praying for me and ask that you keep them going! I'm managing to use up each and every one!
PS We just heard that the semi loads of furniture coming from the west coast will be on their way and it sounds as though this is some really nice furniture!!!
Until tomorrow ...... Susan and Monty
Thursday, November 30, 2006
The only thing I can manage to get across to you now is a request for prayers.
I thought I was on the mend but NOT! I have been hit with an intenstinal virus and one of the worst head colds and sore throats ever! Your prayers would be appreciated!
Until this evening, when hopefully things are better..... Susan and Monty
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
My favorite birds! I have seen more of them the past week than ever before, must be the season. The cranes are also returning. We tried to go to the bird sanctuary yesterday but found it closed due to construction. Another Katrina catastrophe, no doubt!
Today was a day with a bit more energy. It seems like everyone on the coast is sick in one way or another. Colds, sore throats, stomach pains ... you name it and someone has it. Back home we would blame it on the weather but down here ... I don't think so, not when it's in the upper 70s.
Our main project today involved being at the warehouse. Two more families were blessed with being able to get all the interior doors for their storm damaged homes. These aren't just any old doors that you can walk into Lowes and purchase from the shelves! Most of these are solid wood, red oak! They are so beautiful and the families realize the extra special blessing they are! It's such a joy to be able to see the smiles on their faces and know God has touched them with these blessings.
We also learned that a semi load of sheetrock is due to arrive early next week! The blessings continue to roll. All that sheetrock is in preparation for the new year. Prayers for teams are pouring forth from the coast! The month of December is more than bare, but we look at that as a good thing too. People can concentrate more on the birth of our Savior and have a bit more time to do so.
It was also great news to hear that our team that came from Mt. Vernon, Indiana is planning a return trip after the first of the year. Cecil called today and they are putting together the dates! We assured him that we WILL be right here, working away and awaiting their arrival! Goodness knows there will be plenty of work!
Convoy of Hope puts out a newsletter and I would like to quote from the latest issue: "There is a reason why Convoy of Hope is still working in the Gulf Coast. Even though the headlines have changed and the news has turned elsewhere, litter and debris still line the streets. Thousands of homes remain untouched since Katrina wrecked havoc -- the initial devastation compounded now by a year's worth of mold and infestation by rodents. Thousands of families are still displaced. Homeless. Helpless.
At the same time, hope is rising from the rubble! Ever since we began this "journey", we have watched in amazement as the caring compassion of our staff and thousands of volunteers has cut through come of the enormous pain wrought by the damaging storm. Convoy of Hope has been used to not only providing physical needs, but to mending mental and spiritual wounds as well. This is why we are still there! And it is why we intend to stay, with YOUR help, for as long as we are needed.
This Thanksgiving season, we are continuing our "God Cares" Outreaches to bring hope to the people of the Gulf Coast, to let them know that we do still care about their needs, that we will still be available to help them and that they have not been forgotten. PLEASE join us in this most important undertaking. YOUR neighbors on the Gulf Coast still need YOU! What will YOU do to show you STILL care?" (powerful and 100% truth)
Now would be a good time for YOU to think about putting together a team for after the first of the year. Vacations will be renewed and most likely it is colder where you are than here! You just can't get alot further south than right here! There probably won't be snow for Christmas here but you can bet it will still be Christmas! :)
Until tomorrow ..... Susan and Monty
Monday, November 27, 2006
After our dinner together with our home team on Friday night we all started falling like flies!
During the night Monty got up and came inside the church only to find Rob laying out on the floor of the sanctuary in stomach pains. At the same time it was happening to me. By morning it was a race to the restrooms, not a fun time at all.
Monty took the other 2 men from the team and wrapped things up at Dane's because it was obvious Rob wasn't making it to work anywhere. They decided to pack it up and head home, Rob feeling well enough to drive. They drove part way and stayed the night before arriving yesterday afternoon. By the time they stopped Sat night the other 2 men were also suffering!
I was down so far on Saturday that I wasn't sure if I would make it back up! Sunday was a bit better but not much. By today I think I'll live!
We have no idea what hit us --- a big mach truck would have been less painful --- but whatever it was, Monty escaped!!!
It was very upsetting to me that I couldn't even say goodbye to our family. I love all 3 of these guys and we had such a fantastic week! To have it come to an end like that is just the devil in action as far as I am concerned! We know the devil and his means and this was him for sure!
We are just glad all are back home, safe and sound, and feeling better by now. Dane even called this morning to see how they all were doing because he, too, did not have the chance to thank them and say goodbye!
Since Monty and I have been on a 3 month run of working 7 days a week we have decided to take today and tomorrow as a breather before getting into alot of holiday outreach items around here.
We aren't the only ones that the devil was busy attacking lately. Our Convoy leaders, Fory and Cindi also went back home to Minnesota to take care of some family things and while they were there Cindi also got very ill. They are back here on the coast once again and although she is better, she still has a ways to go to be back to normal! When you are working for the Lord it makes the devil quite unhappy and he has his ways of getting to all of us at times. THIS is where YOUR PRAYERS are priceless!!!! We thank you for praying over all of us! YOU are keeping us going!
Thank you to Rob, Keith and Kevin for everything they did while they were here! Yes, working at Rosemary's and Dane's made a powerful impact, but what you brought to Monty and I is priceless! You brought family and the touch from home that we so desperately needed! We are anxious to see you again soon!
Until tomorrow ..... Susan and Monty
Friday, November 24, 2006
We've teased Keith most of the week, all the work he gets himself in to seems to have to do with a closet! And those closets haven't been the largest ones we've seen either! :) Just try hanging sheetrock inside of a small closet, then try going back and mudding the thing! There isn't even room to turn around in most of them but he has been working away, all week, and getting them done! Yes, there have been times when he would love to have covered the entire closet opening with sheetrock and made it disappear but Rob stepped in (stilts and all) just in time!
As you can see, Monty got "completely" in the act today! Sanding has to be the least "favorite" thing to do when it comes to finishing. You can see why by just looking at Monty in the last left photo. No, he does not have on white gloves, that's nothing more than sheetrock mudd dust! Thus the reason for the mask! But that's what it takes to get a smooth seam and after all, we're building houses for Jesus so nothing but the best will do!
The team is still working away in Dane's and almost completely done with taping, thanks to Rob and the stilts so he can reach the top next to the ceilings. Also a tough job unless you know what you are doing! They had an awesome drying day today too. Temps again in the 70s and dry breezes, something a bit uncommon down here in the swamps.
I spent part of my afternoon at the warehouse having fun blessing alot of people from our church here with furniture. Four families came and now have a good start on actually furnishing their homes with beds and desks and dressers. We are so thankful to Convoy for arranging the deliveries of the furniture! I just wish they could see the faces of the people receiving the blessings!
We will be back working at Dane's all day tomorrow - the last day for our home team to be here. I can't even think about them leaving -- Pastor Dave --- can we PLEASE keep them? I know, their families are missing them but .... we love them so!!!!! Okay, we'll deal with that "sensitive" subject tomorrow!!!
Until then ...... God bless all of you!!! Susan and Monty
Thursday, November 23, 2006
What an amazing Thanksgiving Day! The sun was shining brightly, the temps were up in the 70s and the food was outstanding!
The photos tell the story, in sequence, of the day.
First thing this morning the team decided to address an issue here at the church that Pastor Rick brought to our attention. They were putting in the tiles in the ceilings near the projector screens. There were some gaping holes and no insulation. No more! All repaired and set to go!
From there we headed to our Thanksgiving dinner down on the Pascagoula river at Billy Joe's 97' houseboat. You can see the line of people sitting outside on the "porch" area -- quite a crowd. We literally feasted on barbequed turkey, regular turkey, barbequed wild hog (delicious) and chicken with dumplings, complete with all the fixins. The Teen Challenge girls joined us, all 13 of them. Sitting there along the river, the ability to be outside enjoying the beautiful day, such a wonderful way to spend a Thanksgiving Day! Keith, Kevin, Rob and Armando really enjoyed the "sites" on the boat. Armando was able to join us, even this morning in the work. He didn't have any plans for the day and we were so glad to have him join us! (You can also catch a glimpse of Monty taking a quick snooze on the boat before we headed back to Dane's for the guys to get in a couple of hours of work.
Monty decided to praise the Lord from Dane's front porch! Then you can see Armando and the rest of the crew finishing the sheetrock, complete with Rob on his stilts! I told you the man came prepared!!!
The last photo was taken along the beach as the sun was setting. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day! I watched it go all the way down while also keeping an eye on the pelicans that were landing to roost for the night! It was a few minutes to really take in all the blessings that have come our way since we have been here working for the Lord. I've said it before and will continue to say it, being here is the greatest blessing I could ever hope for! Yes, I missed my family at home but I was able to spend today with another family. The laughter that came from today was priceless! Kevin, who was really hungry again at the end of the day, Keith who not only sampled the HOT sauce at Billy Joe's, he "lathered" it on his dressing, Rob who was in his element both on the water and up on his stilts, and Armando who made some new friends!
We closed out the day, all of us together, having dinner (some of us breakfast) at the Cracker Barrel and once again sitting forever exchanging stories and laughter and getting to know each other better and better. Priceless!
It is our hope that all of you had a wonderful day, full stomachs and time spent with not only your families but with God. Without God none of this would be possible!
Now we very quickly switch gears into the Christmas season. Some of you will be up before the crack of dawn tomorrow morning shopping the early bird specials. We all need to keep in mind what the season is really about! Just as we can't have Thanksgiving without God, we can't have Christmas without Him either!
Relax in not only the after effects of the turkey, but in the arms of our Lord!
Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty PS I think last night's blog got "messed up" and if so, I apologize. I think it was preparing for turkey instead of paying attention to what it was supposed to be doing?!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Here is the group photo of our family here with us this week. This morning we said goodbye to Bob and Jolene. They had a long drive ahead of them, headed to Florida for the holiday. I think Bob was more than ready to go but Jolene would have liked to stay!
Rob, Keith and Kevin headed to Dane's house this morning. They are doing the sheetrock finishing which will keep them busy the next few days. Rob came prepared - he brought his stilts to reach the ceilings! Keith was busy doing some sanding on the first coat that had been put on by our team from West Virginia. Dane was off work at noon today so he was excited to be able to work with the team. Monty spent most of the day also helping, he loves working in the field.
I spent most of the day driving Steve and Raetta around the areas to see the disaster details. Raetta is putting together a DVD and we covered enough ground for her to have some really good footage. We went to the gulf side, seeing all the "places" where homes used to be, we saw the concrete wave monument in Pascagoula, a couple of the homes we have worked in and then traveled to Ocean Springs to see the progress on the rebuilding of the highway 90 bridge. It was a beautiful sunshiny day and her photos turned out great. The big bird you see in the top photo is a crane, the largest bird. They are returning to the area this time of year and this one sat here all morning as if he were posing for photos. You can see the muck and mess in the water, the tide is extremely far out and everything that was under the water is exposed. The crane loved the idea of catching lunch quite easily! Steve and Raetta were on their way to northern Alabama by mid afternoon to spend the holiday with his family. Steve's mother passed away recently so this holiday will be a bit tough.
When we all gathered for dinner this evening it seemed strange to not have the rest of the team with us. Part of our family was gone and we missed them! We pray for safe travel for all of them.
As I sit here this evening, thinking about tomorrow being Thanksgiving Day, it just seems like this year has passed so quickly. I know that the older we get the faster time seems to pass, but this year has been an exception. With the temps in the 70s again it still seems like it should be summer, not the end of November. When I think about all that has happened this year, the decision to quit our jobs and come here to follow the calling God has placed on our lives, the entire thing seems surreal at times. Monty and I just have SO much to be thankful for! Yes, I will really miss being around the dinner table with my family back home, not seeing my brother that is making the trip from Florida, but I wouldn't trade it for the world! I have seen God, seen and experienced miracles beyond my wildest imagination, and been blessed far beyond words and am so very thankful for being called by God! There is nothing in this world to compare it to, no job, no anything! Being with and working directly with God day in and day out is .... it's indescribable! Monty and I would like to thank all of you who make this possible! Without you and all you do we would not be able to be here! THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!
We pray each of you has a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day!
Until then ...... God bless! Susan and Monty
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
There he is -- the Birthday Boy--- Kevin turned 42 today! He's the top left photo -- working hard isn't he!? You can see more of him in the bottom right photo helping Rob tear out more of Rosemary's house.
The top right photo is a treasure, I think! This is Rob with Rosemary! She became quite attached to him and I know he will always remember her. She trusted him so much and he had a way of reaching her in such wonderful compassion that she says she will be at church this Sunday! When it came time for them to leave her home this evening it was REALLY hard for them to part!
The next left photo is Keith hard at it in the electrical area. Right is Jolene cleaning the windows.
Next left is Steve pulling the firring strips from the ceiling and hoping they don't snap back in his face! The right photo shows Kevin really working, with Rob.
The last left photo shows Bob, bundled up in this mornings 31 degree temps and ready for work. This evening he's using an Icy Hot on some of the "new" muscles he's found!
Raetta took a day off of the jobsite today to work on a special gift for Rosemary. She had taken some photos of her hybiscus in bloom and planned on painting a picture for her. When she took them to have blown up to see the detail better the photos were so outstanding that she decided to frame them and give them as gifts. They were beautiful and Rosemary loved them!
This entire team has been so great in these past couple of days. For Monty and I personally it is renewing and like being home! With Rosemary there is a life long bond. She even called me this evening to say how happy she was to have worked with them and how sad she was that we are done in her home, for the time being, and that they would not be there tomorrow. She told me she would meet us at church Sunday morning! God at work --- once again!
It's just so amazing to see these friends, "family" from our home church working together, sitting together at dinner each evening in laughter and having such a great time bonding and becoming even closer to each other. When teams come down, even though they might all attend church together, they still don't know one another as well as they think! When you live and sleep and work with people on a 24/7 schedule you REALLY get to know them! This team is bonding stronger and stronger each day, all becoming even closer family members. This is the relationship that Jesus wants for each and every one of us!
We all enjoyed some true Cajun food for dinner this evening. Once again it's a time of sharing parts of each others day, laughter and family time around the table. Like I said, such a time of blessing for Monty and I that no one can truly understand unless you have been here with us over these past 10 months!
Tomorrow the team will be dividing themselves. Bob and Jolene are heading to Florida for the holiday. Steve and Raetta will be heading north to Alabama for the holiday. But first I will be taking Steve and Raetta on a tour where they can capture some video to take home. We will miss them when they leave. We pray for safe travel for all of them.
Rob, Keith and Kevin will be going to Dane's to start the finishing process on his sheetrocked walls. With the skill of this team I wouldn't be surprised if they completely finish his house and are ready for priming and painting. They are working through Saturday, although we will take some time on Thanksgiving to have a holiday meal.
We want to thank our home church for sending us this team, for sending their best! Thanks to Pastor Dave for everything he did to get them here and thanks to the rest of our family for continuing to support us as they have been!
Kevin says Hi to his daughter, Kristy. Keith says Hi to Karen and the boys (Jonathan -- we miss you), Rob says Hi to Candy and his daughter Joy! You all are so awesome for allowing us to spend our holiday with your loved ones!
Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty
Monday, November 20, 2006
Here they are, all hard at work. We are giving them a hard time, blaming them on the cold weather snap "they brought with them". The temps were down in the low 30s last night, today winds and only 54 but after another repeat day tomorrow it is to warm back up into the 70 range!
They were all up and ready to go this morning. Rob would have been out the door at sun-up if he would have known where it was he would be working! (He does construction for a living and is the top right photo).
You can see them each at work, like a finely tuned machine. Rob had their jobs all lined out after getting there and surveying the situation. Raetta (first left) is busy making a hand painted plaque for Rosemary. She is painting one of the blooms on her hybiscus, a beautiful flower still in bloom!
Rob (first right) is tearing out the kitchen. What a job, cabinets and all had to come out but he made quick business out of it.
Keith (middle left and making his third trip) is busy doing more sheetrock tearout on a higher up level. And he thought they came down to finish the sheetrock--that comes Wednesday at a new location!
Kevin and Steve (middle right) are complete with masks and tearing out insulation -- NOT a fun job but they had their gear and were getting it done.
Bob and Jolene (last left) are also busy and didn't even notice me taking photos. Bob is removing the nails on the old cabinets (safety first) and Jolene is cleaning up the mess!
As I said, they were working in sinc with each other and all making amazing progress. The electrician came and will also be pulling her permit and starting some major work. Due to that fact, after the rest of the tearout is done tomorrow the team will then be moving their work location to Dane's and yes Keith -- you will be finishing sheetrock! On Wednesday Steve, Raetta, Bob and Jolene will be leaving us and heading elsewhere for the holiday weekend. That will leave the three men to work at Dane's. (Dane's is the house that is raised and knicknamed the "high and lifted up" home). Dane was more than thrilled to learn we would be returning. We didn't tell him ahead of time so it was a great surprise. He was just informed by his insurance company that he has 180 days to bring his home to completion and so our help is another of those God-things again! God's timing is always perfect!!!
I had my meeting with the company we are trying to get a grant from for Mike and Faye. It looks as though all the paperwork was in order and I only need to get a couple more things from them and it will be ready to roll. The gentleman from ECD Hope seemed very positive and said he would get right on it and see if he could rush the project. I told him we still hope to "speed" build their new home sometime in January or February and that Joe, from the West Virginia team is heading up the entire construction process. ECD seems to be right on board so please keep them in your prayers. If this all comes about it will be the first of anything like this done here on the coast!
Monty and I also had the opportunity to meet Rosemary's mother this morning. What a wonderful lady who is bedridden and missing out on the process of her home. It may be for the best as it can be very unsettling to see all of your things destroyed. She was so extremely thankful for all the volunteers and wanted them to all know how she felt. It was a blessing to us to meet her.
We also were able to bless a couple more families with some furniture this afternoon. The update on what is coming also came by email. Seems there are over 700 rooms of furniture that we may be getting so the blessings will continue to spread! I would ask that this whole process by kept in your prayers. EVERYTHING we do down here is making history and this furniture is BIG! We know God will provide but also knowing you are praying for that provision helps alot!
Thank you for making history with us. Like I said yesterday, be sure and stay tuned as this week will be filled with many reasons for all of us to give thanks!
Special note to Joy (Rob's daughter), we are taking good care of your Daddy! Thanks to you and your mother for letting him come and spend some time with us! We love him almost as much as you!!
Until tomorrow ..... Susan and Monty
Sunday, November 19, 2006
We were privilaged to be invited to Pastor Palma's church this morning. They were dedicating their new kitchen, a dream they never thought would come true. We used to go there on Wednesday nights and have not been in quite a long time. This morning we knew why we loved going there so much. I told Pastor Palma that I felt like I could have been the only one he was preaching to this morning -- it was the Lord speaking directly to me through Pastor Palma!
God has instilled in all of us the standard of greatness! This greatness comes through humility, when we humble ourselves God will lift us up. The way to humble ourselves is to serve others.
All failure is due to lack of focus! He challenged us to focus on the TRUE purpose of our lives. I know the true purpose to which God has called me! It's as plain to me as the smile on my face! God called me to serve Him by serving others in their worst times of need! Katrina provided that for me! When we know our purpose and are following it, we will be renewed with a sense of destiny and greatness. This greatness is not to be confused with pride, they are opposites.
I know who I am, where I am from and where I am going! I have been sent by God Himself, our creator and redeemer, to this place, to do what we are doing, to glorify His name through this service!
This relief mission, my purpose in life, it not about color, not about denomination, not about being male or female, it's about the glory of God, nothing more! What more could a person want anyway?
This evening we are so very blessed to have not only friends from our home town, these are FAMILY from our home church, Vineyard! There are 7 of them, or there will be when they all arrive. Rob, Keith and Kevin arrived early evening. Bob and Jolene not until around 8pm and we are still waiting on Steve and Raetta who should arrive around 10pm. This is such a wonderful blessing for Monty and I, to have family here over Thanksgiving. I myself have never been away from my family over this holiday so having a team from our church is even more special. They will all be working in Rosemary's house all week, there are a multitude of things needing done. Rob is our experienced carpenter, he does this for a living! He will be leading the team! Having them here is also such an emotional thing for us, the support and love from home pours from each of them. Bob and Jolene will be heading to Florida to spend the holiday and Steve and Raetta up to Alabama to his family. Make sure you stay tuned and don't miss a thing as this week promises to be great! God will be working through all of us, miracles will be happening and it will be an awesome week!
We all have so much to be thankful for this year! Start counting your blessings now because if you are anything like me you have a list that will never end!
Thank you Pastor Dave for sending this incredible team! We miss all those who aren't here but we know everyone is here in their hearts!
Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Today we took the opportunity to travel and visit with another relief effort located in New Orleans. You can see that it is the Vineyard Church effort. The bottom 4 photos show it in more detail. There weren't too many around as they are traveling home for the holiday. This next week they are closed down due to that fact. We did get to visit with one of the relief workers for a few minutes. This Vineyard has a congregation of nearly 1,000 on Sundays. We learned they just got into this new facility a few months before the storm. It's nice to see how other efforts are working. This one is concentrating alot of their efforts in the lower 9th ward and will have more work than they can handle for who knows how many years! But sad to say, they are like the rest of us and have seen the volunteers slow down. They are still coming but are much smaller teams and only one each week. We were still amazed at the devastation, in most places it looks as if the storm happened yesterday.
You can see from the top 2 photos, one taken in Bay St. Louis and the other in Waveland. The line of trees used to be a line of wonderful old southern homes. Now there is absolutely nothing but nearly dead trees and wasteland! And this goes on for miles and miles and miles all along the coast to nearly a mile inland! Yes, alot of the debris has been cleaned up or atleast piled up. There are still FEMA trailers being brought in for the residents that are left. Most of the east side of New Orleans is dead -- that's the only way I can think to describe it! You see nothing of life, no people, no animals, no businesses, no anything! It's just so hard to describe it until you actually see it for yourself!
We had not taken the opportunity to see Bay St. Louis or Waveland yet. It's just mile after mile of nothing, just broken trees and weeds growing where someone used to live and have a nice home and yard. There aren't even broken signs to tell you what used to be there. And forget about finding your way by reading the street signs, they don't exist! And this is nearing the 15 month mark!
Once again I come to you, pleading ... think about coming and volunteering! The new year is just around the corner and everyone will have new vacation "renewals". What a better way to spend atleast part of your vacation blessing others. You will find that the blessings are returned to you in great abundance! THAT we promise!!
Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. Please keep these residents all along the coast in your prayers. The suicide rate is up 900% down here -- yes, you read it correctly -- it's not a typo! Take those prayers with you to your church tomorrow and pray them with your entire congregation! There is power in prayer, we see that power each and every day and thank you for remembering all of us!
Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty
PS Happy Birthday to my brother, Mark! I love you and really miss you!!!!!