Thursday, August 31, 2006

She's 84 with no air -- until today

The top photo is a new adventure that Lowe's has undertaken here along the coast. They are Katrina Cottages that range anywhere from around 550 square feet to the largest at 1350 square feet. We took a look at a couple of models yesterday and they are really something. They are built with steel stud framing instead of the regular 2 x 4 lumber. The price per square foot is about the same. They are just enough space and not too much.

The bluish gray house is a Habitat for Humanity home. They are also quite busy building homes along the coast. In this area they are working on 5 at once. When we stopped by yesterday we found a huge group of people working on them. After visiting with them we found out that they all work for one of the local shipping industries here. The work has slowed down for them and rather than fire them or lay them off their bosses decided to continue to pay their full wages if they would agree to do work for Habitat. They all were thrilled to be doing what they were doing. But something really struck me! All of these people working lived right here. They all had various ranges of destruction on their own homes and yet here they were, rebuilding for others -- and enjoying it --- in near 100 degree temps to boot! What hearts of service! What examples for all of us!

Yesterday we received another load of sheetrock, thanks to Convoy of Hope. We can now continue blessing those who need it most. We already were able to bless a member of another church here with some so they can continue the work they have started. We are so thankful to Convoy for everything they do for everyone here on the coast!

I would like to close this evening's blog with a Bible verse that our own Pastor from home sent me through email today. It says it all! Thanks Dave, we miss you more than you know!

Isaiah 1:17 "Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphans. Fight for the rights of widows."

Until tomorrow ... bless someone... Susan and Monty

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pascagoula Monument & Americore

The marker on the monument unveiled in Pascagoula yesterday says it all. You can see the actual size of the 3 waves with both Monty and I there to give you perspective. Hard to imagine yet we see the results every day. We didn't make it to the ceremony yesterday but had to go today and see it. Makes one really stop and think!

Today we also something new being created for upcoming volunteers. What a blessing this will be-and all thanks to Americore. They are taking the old Pascagoula Recreation Center that had flooded during the storm and are creating it into a sort of "hotel" to house volunteers! You can see how hard these kids are working, their clothing is soaked - and it was morning when we took these photos! They are using skill saws to cut away bleachers that were installed with the idea that they would never be removed! What used to be the gym is being transformed into the sleeping quarters. They will have a full kitchen, a lounge area to relax in, full and multiple showers for both men and women and a work out area (for those who still have energy to burn)! This idea came about when many of the local churches that have been housing volunteers started to realize their dream of having real church again. Housing the volunteers became difficult because the rooms they had been using needed to return to offices and/or classrooms again.

Americore saw the need and acted. The churches will still have the work planned out for the workers, this place will just be housing them. A "hotel" if you would call it that! It will be an incredible blessing for everyone here. Even we sometimes get to the place where we wonder if we will have enough room to house our own volunteers. We only have one room for women and one for men. Problem solved! Now all we need are the truckloads of volunteers to reach the point of overflowing!

We are so thankful to Americore for their inovative idea and then for stepping in and putting it into action. We are hoping that there will be a way we can step in and assist them in some areas. They are putting together some things for us and we look forward to working with them.

From the very beginning Monty has always stated that we are "one body" and everyone should be working together. Leave the church "labels" at the state line is what we like to tell people. This venture is a perfect example of just that. All of us working together for the one goal of rebuilding homes and lives! It's just that simple. It doesn't make any difference where we attend church, it just makes the difference that we DO attend church! Service to others and relationships -- just the plain facts layed out by Jesus Himself. All we need do is follow His example!

We thank Americore for what they are doing. Their target "open" date is September 14th. Just in time for what we hope is cooler weather that will bring the volunteers pouring back to the area!

Please keep all of these relief efforts in your prayers. "One Body" working together, following Jesus! Sounds like fun to us!

Until tomorrow where we will be telling you about yet another relief effort working here along the coast ..... Susan and Monty

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We ALL remember ...

Today we ALL remembered.

All you had to do was turn on the television and you remembered. The stories ... the lives changed forever ... you couldn't forget about it today! Hurricane Katrina changed the country one year ago today.

This evening, as the sun set in the west and the lightning struck in the north, Monty and I sat at a local memorial service here in Gautier. Ordinary people, just doing their jobs, were honored as heroes. Everyone remembered that day, everyone had their own story, but everyone that was there lived through it and knew that that was the most important thing.

Not one memorial went without mentioning the volunteers and how "we couldn't have done it without them". It's the common theme down here. Names aren't important, what they did is! How they loved, served, came from far and wide, and how they brought hope and life! "They" is YOU! YOU were honored today, even if you weren't here! "They" thanked YOU! And so do we! YOU made a difference, YOU made history, YOU changed lives ... forever!


I have been pleased with all of the media coverage I have been able to see today. They have told the truth. They have shown the facts. They acknowleged how far we have come AND how far we have to go. I was afraid the latter wouldn't be shown to the degree it should be.

Monty and I were in a neighborhood in Pascagoula this afternoon, one we have not been in before. We both were shocked at the number of FEMA trailers still standing there. Nearly every single house has one. Most of the homes have not been touched. You might ask why? Many reasons. The first is the homeowner has no funds to do anything! They might be waiting on insurance, knowing it probably won't happen. They might be waiting to see if their loan application has been approved. They might be elderly and unable to do anything. They might be so devastated emotionally they can't reach out and ask for help. There are any number of reasons. It's not up to us to question "why" they haven't done anything! It IS up to us to get in there and do something! It's not a choice we have, it's a command given to us by God! God doesn't take kindly to being answered "no"!

We are so thankful that we are here, on the ground, able to do what God has called us to do. We thank YOU for making it possible for us to be here. We pray you will continue to do so. There is SO very much work to be done. We are commited and need your help to fulfill that commitment.

For those of you who have been here, in the trenches, and know first hand what it's like --- THANK YOU! For those of you who have thought about it and just haven't made the commitment, you've been thinking long enough, it's time to DO something! As I have said over and over again, there is something here for everyone! There is no such thing as unskilled labor! YOU are in the business of changing lives and this is a wonderful place to DO what we are commanded to do!

Please continue to pray for the coast. It will take years, but we ARE getting there, one day at a time, one team of volunteers at a time! We are rebuilding homes but most importantly --- we are rebuilding lives!

May God bless everyone, especially those along the coast! Susan and Monty

Monday, August 28, 2006


These photos were taken last night.

We attended a memorial service held in Pascagoula at the high school football stadium. The minister officiating referred to it as "holy ground". It was just the beginning of the numerous memorial services marking the 1 year of Katrina, tomorrow!

The newspaper today has 4 complete sections commemorating the service of volunteers. I would like to quote some of the comments as they are my thoughts and feelings also.

"The volunteers that have come to help have made the terrible no just bearable, but joyous."

"The impact has been phenomenal. So many people are repeat visitors. We had so many people answer God's call."

"Their zeal -- there's no difference. They are wide eyed. The change that happens to them is bigger than what they do." This was describing how many volunteers feel God's primary work is in people and God's secondary work is performed through people.

"No trumpets sounded, no parades rolled and often no official welcome or direction was given. But each of these champions will remain larger than life heroes, forever in the hearts and minds of South Mississippians.

They rescued those who could be saved and recovered those who couldn't. They provided shelter and brought food, cleaning supplies and oh, so many clothes. They came alone and in groups. They gave money and time, both sacrificed from their families and jobs. They gave love and compassion, shoulders to cry on and invaluable skills, anything to help ease the pain of our broken homes and hearts.

Against government orders and requests to stay away, so many volunteers came with one thought in mind -- to help our devastated communities. Truck drivers, teachers, attorneys, homemakers, doctors and many others loaded vehicles with emergency supplies and drove to the wasteland they had seen on television."

Quoted below are more comments from those who received help. These came directly from the newspaper, and these comments were paid for by the victims.

"May God bless you for all your help and prayers. We would have never made it without you."

"Thank you for all you did, for your smiles that took away our fears, your acts of compassion we will always remember through the years."

"They know you are Christians by your love. Your amazing ministry rebuilds not only roof and homes, but hope and courage. God bless your commitment."

"I couldn't have made it through post Katrina without you."

The following is from another article about volunteers.

"Seemingly before the wind stopped, certainly before power was restored, they began arriving. The initial wave brought the food, the drink, the clothing, the gasoline to get through those first desperate, chaotic days. The second wave brought hammers, saws, shovels, drills, all the tools necessary to begin removing Hurricane Katrina's afterbirth. As summer turned to fall and fall to winter, they came, wave after wave after wave. From near and far, points domestic and international, some 350,000 volunteers set aside their lives to help us rebuild ours. AND THEY STILL COME! To paraphrase one volunteer, they climb, pound, beat, lift, drag, haul, scrub, sweep, crouch, sweat, tear, chop, fall into bed exhausted and rise to do it again."

All of these thank yous go out to all of you who have volunteered. These mear words cannot begin to describe the feelings of those here. But words are the only thing they have!

On behalf of Convoy of Hope, Monty and I would like to thank you for your sacrifices, your love and your prayers.

Tomorrow is a day of remembering, a day of both sadness and hope. The hope would not be here if not for people such as yourselves.

THIS EFFORT IS FAR FROM OVER! As a song once said, "we've only just begun..." (ok, I gave away some age there but it was for a good cause!) :)

May God bless all of you as you continue to keep the coast in your prayers and you continue to do what God commanded us all to do!

"In as much as you have helped the least of these, you have helped Me."

Thank you and God bless .... until tomorrow .... 8-29-06.... a new year! Susan and Monty

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Why do we do what we do?"

Today was a wonderful, Spirit filled day at church. It's one of those days where you find yourself wondering where the time went, where did the morning go?

When The Refuge has a service that includes baptisms you need to sit back, hold onto your seat and get ready for the Spirit to move!

The above photos are some of those being baptized. What I really want you to note is what they are being baptized in---- can you figure out what it is --- what it was?

Okay, forget trying to guess, you'll never figure it out!

It WAS a plastic container that Convoy of Hope shipped relief supplies in! It's a square that only measures about 3 or 3 1/2 feet across. It is wrapped with plastic, inside and out and then that plastic is wrapped with duct tape. The "steps" are plastic cartons held together with tye wraps. Another layer of plastic is placed on the floor as a "runway". Inside the "baptismal" is a cement block that the person sits on. They must pull themselves as far forward as possible to enable Pastor Rick to completely dunk them without hitting their head!

Now you may look at this and think, how ridiculous! Why don't they get a "real" baptismal? Because this container is sentimental and when you are trying to recover from Katrina such things are put on the back burner and you "make do with what you have". And --- It Works!! God didn't say the baptism wouldn't "take" unless it was done in something "proper". And the uniqueness just adds to the uniqueness of baptism! It was an awesome morning and done all too soon. We are so thankful that this church is growing by leaps and bounds each and every Sunday. Chairs had to be set up this morning and that is awesome! God's kingdom is growing and I know that brings Him true joy!

This brings me to today's sermon topic, the title of this entry.

Stop and think about the question, "why do we do what we do?" Monty and I have been asked that more than once. How could we quit our jobs, leave our families and come here to work disaster relief? How could we leave the comforts and securities of home?

You want to know why? Because God called us to do so and we said "yes". It's that simple!

This whole world is about us being one church, unity and reconciliation, reconciling others to Jesus Christ! God commanded us to share His good news, He didn't ask us to do so if we had the time or if we had the extra finances to do so, He commanded us to "go and make disciples"!

Too many times we Christians walk around as if we are ashamed of the gospel. God allows us to go through certain things in our lives in order for us to take our lessons and share them with others. If we don't use what we have learned, we will loose it! We seem to be afraid that we might offend someone, step on their toes! Amen! It takes stepping on our toes to get our attention most of the time!

There are so many people walking around trying to fill that hole in their heart with anything they can find; drugs, alcohol, pills, sex, internet porn, the list can go on and on. There is only ONE WAY to fill that hole, that is with Jesus! How will they know if we aren't the ones to tell them? How will they know if we aren't the ones to show them?

I have said it before and will repeat it for as long as we are on our mission, rebuilding the homes is second! Rebuilding lives is FIRST!

When volunteers come and SHOW the love of Jesus, they are responding to God's command. They are obeying. They are bringing people to Christ!


Come join us, spread the word of God, bring others to Jesus, be a blessing ... and be blessed!

Until tomorrow....Yea God! Boo devil! Susan and Monty

Friday, August 25, 2006


Everyone watches as Gladys and son, Gerald are being interviewed by Convoy yesterday!

Today was one of those days that never ceases to amaze me, us. Just when you think you have your day pretty much planned out -- God steps in!

We had planned to start off with breakfast this morning but when we reached the restaurant we found them closed to do some more repairs. Okay, we'll just head on to someplace else, no problem. As we are heading toward Pascagoula for our 10 am appointment we decide to stop in and see if the glass company can fix the leak in our front windshield. If you remember, a few weeks ago a rock hit it and it needed to be replaced. Within minutes they had it fixes, or atleast we hope so as we won't know for sure until the next rain.

From there we decided to skip the idea of eating and go on to our appointment. The local electrician who has been so helpful to us told us that his daughter was still not back in her home. He had been trying to help her, in his "spare" time but wasn't able to stay at it long enough to really get things accomplished. He asked us if we would take a look and do what we could to help out. Of course we will. When we pulled up to her house we looked at each other in amazement --- her house was one of them we had torn out when we came with our church back the first week of December! We thought that all of those homes had to be done by now! WRONG!!! Her she was, no subfloors still and in a state of total disarray. When she saw us she remembered who we were and couldn't believe her eyes. The main thing I remember about this house was her, Denise. At the time we stood outside what was left of her home and let her talk. Her main concern was her 8 year old son. She is a single mom and was just realizing how tramatic the storm had been for her son. She told us that it took over 3 days for him to cry and when he did he couldn't stop. The only thing he wanted was to be able to go to his room! And here we are --- 4 days shy of 1 year later--- and this little boy still cannot go to his room! It broke my heart! We reassured her we would do everything we can to get her back into her home as soon as we possible could! Thus here is our next "to the end" project so those of you who are coming down with a team sometime in the near future, welcome to Denise's house! Only God could have brought her and her son back into our lives. I truly believe it is God telling us that this is not over yet and showing us just how desperately the teams of volunteers are needed! She is not the only one like this, she is just one that we can start with, one we can concentrate on, one we CAN get back into her home!

During that meeting with Denise I got a phone call from Convoy of Hope wanting more information for their upcoming video. She asked permission to pull photos and/or wording from this blog and of course I said yes! What an honor it is to me to have someone want to use the thoughts and feelings and words that come from my heart!

From our meeting we stopped by Bethel Assembly to check on our friends, Pastor Tim and Sherry. They are coming along nicely with the rebuilding of the church. The children are back in their nursery rooms and the school is growing, just as it should. Pastor Tim was telling us the story of a volunteer in Slidell that had been in a motorcycle accident and is paralyzed from the waist down -- at the age of 27 and engaged to be married! Now you would think that would be just about one of the worst things that could happen to a person --- think again! Pastor Tim and Sherry went to pray with him, to try and cheer him up and they were the ones cheered up! This young man was busy working through his therapy and beginning to feel some sensations in his upper legs! He refuses to look at his life in despair, he says "it could have been alot worse".? Makes us all sit up and take notice at our own situations --- and then say a prayer of thanksgiving to our Lord!

From this last stop we were now way past time to eat and headed back toward Gautier. Just as we were going down the highway we noticed the clock, lights and radio acting funny. Monty took a look at the voltage meter and it had none! It was all we could do to get the van to the shop where they tested the battery --- and replaced it! Problem NOT solved! We drove it back to the church here to let it cool down. Looked like the alternator would also need replaced. Just what someone wants to do on another extremely hot day, work under a van that has all engine parts so shoved together that it is nearly impossible to just check the oil! And once again, God steps in! My phone rings and it's our dear friend at the Spanish Village, Armando. He's just wondering how we are doing. When I tell him what is happening he and his sister in law and her husband insist on coming over to help. Her husband is a mechanic!!!!!!!

We did take a minute to eat a sandwich and here they were, ready to help. Within 2 hours the old alternator was out and the new one in and we are running like a top! Such a blessing to us! All they wanted to do was to give back to us to thank us for some of the things we have done for them! Isn't this the way God wants the world to be? Another "food for thought"!

It's just these kind of days that make us so thankful to God for calling us and bringing us here! It is truly an honor to be here in the service of the Lord. His plan for us is always so much better than anything we could possibly imagine! He shows Himself to us in so many ways, every day. What an awesome God we have and what a privilege it is to serve Him each and every day!

Until tomorrow ... do something nice for YOUR neighbor --- and see how good it makes YOU feel!

Blessings to all of you ... Susan and Monty

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Convoy of Hope's video

Allow me to quote something from one of Convoy of Hope's brochures.

"Convoy of Hope is consistentely one fo the first responding relief agencies on site, distributing life-sustaining aid to victims. The organization distributed more than 21 million pounds of food and supplies, but our work is not done. We are commintted to stay engaged with the people of the Gulf Coast through 2007, helping to restore hope as they put their lives back together."

The above is in reference to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Today they came here to Gautier and Pascagoula to make sure the volunteers continue coming, that the relief effort continues to move forward and these victims have the chance they deserve to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Late this morning the crew rolled in, cameras and microphones ready to go. We knew they were coming and had been asked to line up a few homeowners to give their stories of how the volunteers had impacted their lives. Each person I called jumped at the chance to be able to give back in some small way. But this wasn't a small way! They not only agreed to tell their stories, they agreed to be video taped and for this taping to be used in a nation wide campaign! They never batted an eye!

Our day started at the home of Delores and Tom. You are able to see them interacting in their brand new kitchen. The testimony that Delores gave was "right on" as the camera crew said! She spoke from her heart and that was exactly what was needed. Nothing less and no more was required! She told how she remembers each and every team, where they were from and what they did in her home. To this day she still talks on the phone and emails with most of them. God was "right on" when He said relationships is what this world is all about! Funny how He's always "right on".

From there we traveled back to see Gladys. It has been weeks since we had seen her and I admit, I missed her! Both her oldest son, Ira, and her youngest, Gerald, were there with her. She is moved in her house but still has things to be put away. That doesn't matter to her. She's in her home! She also spoke from her heart, admitting that her memory isn't what it used to be (she's 93 and entitled to that)! Once again the camera crew got exactly what they were looking for. Even they had a tough time holding back the tears as she told her story. It was hard to say goodbye but I assured her that before too long I plan on coming and visiting her, sitting with her on her front porch and feeling more at home than I have in a long time!

Our final stop was at Barbara's. You can see the entire crew out in front, photographing the outside of her home and doing a wrap up interview with Fory, who heads up the entire relief effort all along the coast with his wife and side kick, Cindi. Barbara was her true, spirit-filled self and the crew was nearly speechless by this point. I think seeing the rebuilt homes, talking with the homeowners and getting to know them, even if for only a very short time, really did touch their hearts and will make creating this new video even more special for them.

When all was said and done the crew had over 2 and 1/2 hours of tape. Their challenge is now to take all of that tape and condense it into 4 minutes! I sure am glad I am not them! But these guys knew what they needed and knew when they had it. They know what they are doing and this video will be outstanding. We now pray it will accomplish what it is meant to accomplish --- bring more volunteers here to help in the rebuilding!

Their hope and goal is to have it ready by the middle of next month. If your church, or any other church you know of, would be interested in receiving a copy to try and inspire a team of volunteers to come down, please contact Convoy of Hope through their website and they will be happy to see that you receive one as soon as possible.

That website is

Please pray for these people as they put this video together. This relief effort is a long way from over. Convoy is committed to staying and so are Monty and I but none of us can do it without YOU!!!!

God bless Convoy of Hope and God bless all of you.

Until tomorrow ... Susan and Monty

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Catch up" day

Having a chiropractor in the group of volunteers is one of those added blessings we enjoyed when the team from New Jersey was here a couple of weeks ago. Hey Steve, we sure could use another adjustment about now!! :)

Today was one of those days not filled with a bunch of excitement or big news. But it was one of those days where paperwork can be gone through, where clerical things can get done and where just plain "stuff" gets taken care of. It might not seem like there would be much clerical to do in a relief effort like this. Wrong!!! It just seems to pile up, get pushed aside and waits for days like this.

Maybe I should explain the "process" that happens here. When people call us for help the first thing we do is talk with them and complete paperwork telling us about them and their situation. This isn't done in a couple of minutes and can be quite lengthy. Everyone has "their story" and it needs to be told to give us a better understanding of where they are in their rebuilding. An example: today I received a phone call from a gentleman who needed help on his house and on his girlfriend's mother's house. Taking two houses at once is a challenge. Both he and her mother are senior citizens and disabled. She had a contractor who came in and did some really shoddy work and then walked off the job, never to be seen again! And of course, she had already paid him a substantial sum of money! These kind of contractors should hope I never get the chance to see them face to face!!!!

His house is located nearer the water and he lost everything. He has been trying to get a few things done and all those few things has consisted of is gettting it torn out. He not only needs the physical help, he needs help with getting materials also. By this stage in the game he is approaching desperation and feeling lost in the shuffle of life in general.

Each time we receive a call (and there can be 10-12 a day sometimes) our hearts go out to them. If only we could tell them that we would have a team right over there and would work until we have them done and back in their homes. If only.... It just doesn't work that way! What we do tell them is that they are now "on the list" and that is step one. When it looks like we might be able to get some volunteers over to help we will call them back and schedule a time where Monty and I will go and see their house. We never send volunteers someplace that we have not checked out ourselves first. The caller seems to understand but yet I can always sense the feeling of just being on another "list" and that list just floating out there in never never land.

Trying to decide who gets help and when is tougher than I could ever have imagined! The book we currently have probably has over 200 people on "the list"....waiting. The selection process is something that must first be taken to prayer, hard prayer. God is the only one who can tell us who is next in line. It can be heart wrenching and confusing and down right tough! But God always sends us where we need to be and we trust fully in that leading. God's timing is always right, never too early and never too late.

Next week we will be making those calls, scheduling those visits and trying to decide who gets to the top of the list. Since we have finished Barbara's, it's time to bring another one in the list. I would ask you to pray that God sends us the "right" one.

I haven't even touched on just how more difficult it is when we do go and see the homes and talk, in person, with those who have lost so much. We usually go to 2-3 a day. Emotionally that is all I, myself, can do. It rips at my heart to see the devastation, to hear their stories and to see the looks of despair on their faces. THIS is where the ministry comes in! THIS is the other side of the relief effort. No matter how hopeless their situation seems on the outside, we MUST give them hope, we must let them see Jesus through us! THIS is once again where we need your prayers, for wisdom and strength! THIS is what God has called us to do and THIS is our mission!

This is the beginning process. We thank you for all your prayers, for coming along with us on this mission.

With the one year anniversary only days away there will be more news coverage on the TV. We pray the "real" situations will be shown, that the "real" hearts and lives will be shown to the world once again. Everyone must realize that there is sooooo much more to do, sooooo many more people whose lives are resting on the hope that their name will be pulled from "the list" and they will once again be able to go "home".

May God bless all of you in your homes!

Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

8 years today!

Yes, 8 years ago today Monty and I were married! What an amazing 8 years it has been. I imagine we have already been through more in those years than some couples have been through in 48!

God is such an amazing God and His plans are always just right. We all go through what we go through just to get us to where we are today. As Monty has said many times when asked if he could go back and relive his life, what would he change; he responds saying that everything in his past has brought him to where he is today and therefore he would not change a single thing or he wouldn't be where he is now! A good lesson for all of us! Too many times we look back on our life with regrets, wishing this and that hadn't happened, thinking we would do this or that different if we knew then what we know now. That isn't what God has in mind for us. Yes, we have all messed things up, some of us more than others. BUT there is such a thing as Jesus on the cross and forgiveness!! Too many of us waste our todays with regretting yesterdays. God wants us to live for the now, do what we can do today, live as He would have us live, for today!

Two years ago this past June I didn't think we would be able to celebrate one more day together. One night at 3;15AM Monty woke me up saying he was having a heart attack. At 3:15 in the morning it's hard enough to comprehend anything, let alone your husband telling you he's having a heart attack! Well, he was right. We were at the hospital in less than 15 minutes and within the next 45 minutes he was gone! Not dismissed gone, gone gone! His heart stopped and it took shocking him twice to bring him back! I refused to leave the room thus my memories are quite a bit different than his. But one thing we do have in common is this ---- that night everything in our lives changed!!!!!!!!! Everything!!!!!

Today is all we have, no more and no less. God promises to provide our every need --- for today. Yes, we make plans for our future but God has the final plan! I know I never want to relive that night. And I also know that whatever God sends my way He will be right there to get me through. I also know that if it had been God's plan to take Monty to be with Him that night that is exactly where Monty would be --- with God! Do you know that about your spouse, about yourself??

If we were to live our lives as if this were our last day on earth and our first to meet Jesus in heaven, how would we live that day? A thought to ponder, isn't it!

I thank God that He did not take Monty that night, and I will continue to thank God for each day He gives the two of us together. Each one of those days is a blessing, not to be taken for granted, not to be wasted and not to be spent any other way other than in service to Him!

This may not be my usual blog filled with information about the relief effort, but in all actuality, it is just that! This relief effort is due to the fact that Monty and I are together, due to the fact that we chose to follow God's calling upon our lives, chose to be obedient and to trust in Him to the maximum! We thank Him for each other and we thank Him most of all for LIFE, for LOVE and for our SALVATION!

Can you thank Him for those same things? Think about it. If you can't --- do what it takes so you can!

Until tomorrow .... "LIFE IS GOOD" PS. I love you Monty!! Susan (& Monty)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Houston Photo Night

Here is our Houston weekend!

It was incredible and filled with so many blessings!

We arrived back safely this afternoon, after coming through one of the worst rainstorms I have ever driven through! But God protected us and we are now back "home".

As you can see by the first photos, we did get to go to Lakewood Church on Saturday night and what an experience that was! Being there was unreal and an enormous blessing! Having our picture taken with Pastor Joel Osteen was amazing and we thank him for taking the time to meet and talk with us.

The next photos are of Plum Grove Assembly of God church where we spoke on Sunday morning. The group is the team of volunteers that will be coming to work with us in 2 weeks. It will be such a wonderful blessing to those here. This team is taking time away from their regular duties, their families and their familiar surroundings to come and bless those who need help in getting their lives and homes rebuilt. When God touches the hearts of people such as these volunteers He also sends them back home filled with their own blessings. We are so thankful to Pastor Parker and his church for inviting us, for taking care of us so nicely, and for planning this trip. It was a wonderful weekend filled with so many blessings and we are so thankful!

The second to last photo was taken as we drove into the city of Houston. It's huge and the roads create a "spaghetti bowl" unlike anything I have ever seen before. It took more than one map but we did figure our way to and from the places we needed to be! A miracle for sure!

There was a bit of sadness when we returned "home" today. Today was the day Diane was going home! She will be returning in a month but to come back and not have her here waiting for us just doesn't feel right. She has been here since February and we haven't known life at The Refuge without her! She flew home to be there for her daughter as she is about to give birth to Diane's grandchild. We don't know if it's a boy or girl but as soon as she does know I will let all of you know! Please keep this entire family in your prayers. Diane has such a heart for this relief effort here and she has been here for so long that being back in the "real world" will seem more than a bit strange! She will be returning in a month, for another month of service. We know she needs to be home at this time and even though we miss her we know she will be back with us again soon. We also want to send a special thank you to her for keeping our dogs this past weekend! Without her doing that we would not have been able to make the trip! We love you, Diane and will be talking with you soon!

We thank all of you for being with us on this mission. We thank Convoy of Hope for allowing us to serve through them. We thank our home church, The Vineyard, for everything they do for us! (we hear that our lawn at home looks better than when we were there) :) and we thank you, the reader, for your prayers and for reading and keeping up with the reality of what is happening down here on the coast! There will be renewed news in the next few days since the one year anniversary of Katrina is approaching. Our prayer is that the news will show the reality, tell it like it is and be an encouragement to others that help is still needed! The job is NOT done and it is NOT all okay yet! Thank you for doing what you do to keep the mission going!

Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty

Sunday, August 20, 2006

We are in Houston

Okay, I said we would be off for a couple of days but I got an extra minute to write.

We made it fine and well! It took about 7 1/2 hours to get here yesterday but the drive was easy and we only hit a patch or two of showers. When we got to the hotel room we were more than pleasantly surprised! The pastor had booked a wonderful room for us, it's larger than our entire trailer "back at the ranch". What a wonderful joy it was to shower in a shower where I had room and didn't bump my head during the process! We are so thankful to Pastor Parker for their hospitality!

We showered and took off for dinner and headed into downtown Houston to Lakewood Church where Joel Osteen and his wife, Victoria are pastors. They purchased the dome where the Houston Rockets basketball team used to play! This place is HUGE!!! We should have photos in the next couple of days. It was wonderful! It's nearly impossible to describe what's all there. They have classed for children of all ages and the decor inside would draw any kid to church. They only time I have been in a church with that many people was when Billy Graham came to Indianapolis and was at the Dome! The worship music was fantastic, along with everything else that had to do with the service. We celebrated communion and heard an inspiring message from Joel. When it was over we had the opportunity to meet both Joel and Victoria in person. They meet and greet those who have never been there, they signed my Bible and then we had our photo taken with them. Like I said, it was such a blessing to be able to be there in person and receive the inspiration we needed while here.

This morning we were blessed to find our way to the church, Plum Grove Assembly. It was less than 30 minutes from our hotel and another nice drive. We were welcomed with open arms and also enjoyed attending the Sunday School class prior to the church service. Pastor did not have a message for the congregation --- we were the message. We had prepared a Power Point presentation which included numerous photos of our mission and some general information. It went off without a hitch and hopefully touched the hearts of those who might be considering making the trip next month.

Pastor and his wife treated us to a really nice dinner afterwards and we now have a couple of hours to rest here at the hotel before returning this evening for a meeting with those who have already signed up for the trip and for those who might have questions or be considering going.

This has been an awesome opportunity for Monty and I to share what God has been doing all along the coast. We are only 9 days away from the 1 year anniversary and although that will bring some news back through the media it won't tell it all. Coming and sharing with others brings a renewal and reality --- telling and showing how it really looks, how far it has come and how far it still needs to go. Without volunteers continuing to come the rebuilding process will come to a screeching halt and thousands of people will not receive the help they so desperately need!

I challenge you just as we challenged those this morning, listen to the still, small voice and know that it is the voice of God! Listen to the direction He is guiding you and then make the choice to follow His leading! God is an awesome God and He knows the plans He has for your life, plans for a future and hope!

Thank you for all of your prayers for us for safe travel. We will be leaving Houston tomorrow morning heading back to Mississippi. Please continue to keep us in your prayers and continue to pray that the needs of the people all along the coast who have suffered so much since Katrina, will have their needs met, and more!

Thank you for coming along with us on this mission. We could not do it without you! We pray God's blessings for all of you.

Until tomorrow ... love to all ... Susan and Monty

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Goodbye Stephen

This morning we bid farewell to Stephen as he headed off for another semester at college. Diane presented him with a new Bible, just the kind he has been wanting. It has all sorts of "helps" to get anyone through anything they might encounter during a lifetime. It's quite an awesome gift and like I said, just what he had been wanting. We wish him well this semester and look forward to his coming home off and on for long weekends. Please keep him in your prayers.

Due to the extremely late hour this blog will be quite short.

I want to let you know we will be "off the air" until Monday evening. We are leaving for Houston, Texas in the morning. We will be guest speakers at one of the local churches there. They have a team coming in a few weeks and have asked us to come and build up their enthusiasm. Please keep us in your prayers for safe travel and for the words that come from God. We will be back on the blog Monday night, God willing.

Blessings to all of you. Until Monday evening .... Susan and Monty

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Power Point Preparation

Okay, who is doing the learning and who is teaching? Diane and I both are trying to get it figured out!

I spent most of the day getting our photos arranged for our presentation this weekend in Houston, Texas. I think I have it but who knows for sure. The rest is up to the Lord. I have no problem with public speaking and really do enjoy it but my prayer is always that the words come from God and that He remove the ones I don't need! You've been reading the blog long enough to know exactly what I am talking about!!!!! :)

After rain downpouring all night we were very glad we covered the trailer loaded with items to take to the warehouse. We made that trip first thing this morning thinking it might be a bit cooler --- NOT! There is no such thing as cooler here, let alone less humid! But we did get it unloaded before being completely drenched.

Diane, Stephen and Monty worked in Stephen's house getting more sheetrock hung in the kitchen and Monty getting the final two doors hung. It's coming along nicely and should be ready for the cabinet installer when he arrives. Stephen leaves for school early tomorrow morning but Diane will continue working as usual. When it comes to drywall finishing, rest assured she is one of the best! It's amazing the talents one aquires down here!

We were awaiting the phone call from the sheetrock delivery driver all day but it never came. He must be delayed for some reason or another and hopefully will arrive tomorrow.

It was especially awesome to receive the email I did this evening. It seems our New Jersey team is already planning a return trip for the end of October! What an answer to prayer! The need is just so great and they realized just that when they were here. We are so thankful to them for answering the call and putting the plans together. We pray blessing on all of their plans. We look forward to seeing them again and will make sure they are able to work on another blessing for another family! Isn't God awesome!

We want to thank all of you who have responded with your cards, calls and prayers for Monty's family at this difficult time. Things are still extremely painful and all of your thoughts and prayers are appreciated very much!

Thank you for coming along with us on our mission to rebuild the coast. Please think about being one of those who puts together a team of volunteers and makes the "life changing" trip here to help. If you do so, you won't be sorry!

Until tomorrow....we love and miss you ... Susan and Monty

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Stormy night

Last night proved to be quite interesting after I finished the blog.

There was a line of thunderstorms that blew up on the radar like we have never seen before! It looked like a bomb went off and the radar turned red!

We waited it out as long as we could in our trailer before "evacuating" to the church, dogs and all. When the winds started they really started! The sand in the parking lot was swirling around in mini tornados! The lightning was constant, no breaks in between. The rain finally came but it wasn't a hard rain. We waited it out inside the building for about an hour and then all it did was rain lightly during the night.

The results of the wind were another subject. There has been a Convoy of Hope relief tent set up out back, just next to our trailer, ever since they landed here in October of last year. It was covered by tarps on 3 sides and the roof, until last night. This morning there was only 1 side left hanging on and the roof had been folded back about half way. This gave us the opportunity to get inside and do some major cleaning and reorganizing. It took all afternoon, and quite a few breaks as the heat index hovered around 110 degrees, but we got it all done!

I also learned, again!, how powerful and fierce the fire ants can be when you disturb their home! My feet and ankles will show the results by tomorrow! I knew I should have left my tennis shoes on instead of changing into flip flops! :)

We started the morning by making a trip to the warehouse to pick up some greenboard and a couple more pieces of sheetrock for Stephen's house. They got all the kitchen cabinets removed yesterday and were ready to get the new walls up today. Diane and Stephen were hard at it all day and made good progress. Their electrican also came by and okayed everything as good to go.

Monty was busy working in the tent and building the shelving so desperately needed inside the warehouse area in the back of the church. The existing plastic shelves are slowly collapsing and won't hold out much longer. Monty had an awesome plan "in his head" and when it came out in the real thing it is exactly that - awesome! These will be just what we need, and also portable, just in case. In fact, he is still working on them at this late hour!

This evening was special for Diane, Monty, myself and Stephen. Stephen will be leaving to return to college tomorrow after lunch and we took him to dinner to show a small thank you for all he has done this summer. We will all miss him so much as he is now our family. We know God has wonderful plans for him but will miss him anyway! He said he will be back on weekends when he can and will want to join in and help out. His heart of service, at such a young age, is such a blessing! Please keep him in your prayers, for safe travel (5 hours one way) and that he will do well in this, his final year of school. Convoy of Hope has made a lasting impression on him and we thank them for all they have done for all of us!

Monty and I would also like to thank all of you who have been keeping he and his family in your prayers and for all of the supportive comments. This is an extremely difficult time for all of them and being so far away makes it a bit tougher for him. Thank you for your kindness and love!

Until tomorrow ... Yea God! Boo devil!! Susan and Monty

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Welcome the new Disaster Response Vehicle

What a vehicle!!

Today we were blessed to not only see the newest Convoy of Hope Disaster Relief Mobile Command Center but also the 2 gentlemen who head up the entire disaster relief efforts. Kary and Paul brought the newest in relief efforts here for us to tour. This vehicle is amazing and will be such a blessing the next time it is needed.

The trailer used to be a mobile medical vehicle a few years ago. The equipment was outdated for the US and it was donated to Convoy. A "few" dollars later it is the latest and greatest! It will sleep 6, the main core of first response volunteers. It will also allow for communication with the outside world when there is none locally. Survivors will be able to come to the command center and get word back to their loved ones, through email, that they are alive and well. The storms can also be tracked and information relayed to headquarters through the latest technology.

It was an honor to meet both Paul and Kary and to have the opportunity to see this command center first hand. Once again both Monty and I are so very blessed to be a small part of this wonderful relief effort that Convoy does! Thanks guys, may God continue to bless you and yours!

Today Diane, Monty and Stephen continued working in Stephen's house. Their new cabinets have arrived and the installer will be working there in about another week. The old cabinets needed removed and also the walls behind them. This got completed today and tomorrow they will start hanging the new sheetrock and finishing it in preparation for the new cabinets. Stephen did get to take a break this afternoon and come and see the command center also! He even got a new hat! We have been so blessed to have him be a part of our team, a part of our family, this summer and are sorry to say he will be leaving for Ole' Miss this Thursday! I cannot tell you how much we will miss him but we are also so very pleased that he is interested in continuing to work with disaster relief once he graduates in a year! God has touched his heart this summer and has a wonderful plan for his life! Yea God, Boo devil!

Monty and I also want to thank you for your prayers for his family. The death of his uncle is a rough one and all of the family needs your continued prayers. It is especially hard for us being so far from home. Thank you for everything!

Until tomorrow .... hug your family this evening, better yet, call them and tell them how much you care for them ... Susan and Monty

Monday, August 14, 2006

Pure Joy?

Thought you might enjoy seeing the full outside view of Barbara's house upon completion! It really looks nice, don't you think?

Yesterday Pastor Rick had another thought provoking message and it didn't take long to put it to the test. I would like to ask for special prayers this evening, for Monty and his family. There was an awful tragedy this weekend, Monty's uncle committed suicide! It's always a loss when a family member passes away but to go this way is exceptionally tough! Please keep this entire family in your prayers during this tragic time.

The message - "Consider it Pure Joy when we go through trials and temptations". He took it straight from the book of James 1: 2-4.

He explained that God "chooses" us to go through the situation we are going through because He knows!!! we can handle it. God sees the beginning, the middle and the end! The testing produces perseverance, staying power, teaching us to stand firm! God knows that once we come through it we will come out on the other side "not lacking anything"! We are to stand firm, not letting our arms go limp from the weight but holding them high and lifted up in praise to our Lord. God sees and knows every detail of our lives! What is going on with us is not a coincidence, not happening by chance! God knows and is with us every step of the way! Thus the reason we are to face those trials with Pure Joy!

I know it's not easy. It can be very rough and you can be sitting there thinking you are the only one going through what ever it is you're going through. But --- you are NOT alone! God promises to be with us in everything!!! and as I have said before, God does NOT lie!

Monty and I could tell you one experience after another where God has been right here with us in whatever it is we are going through, in whatever way we are being tested, being tried! The devil no longer knocks on our back door trying to get in to us, he just comes right on in the front! He knows just how to get to us, where that "hot" button is, and just how to use it! Keeping our focus on God is the only way to get through! Considering those trials Pure Joy takes focusing our minds on our Lord, nothing else! Try it and see the blessed results!

A thought provoking question, "How can they know we are Christians if they cannot see us?" What do others see when they look at you? Do they see a Christian? Just "food for thought".

Thank you for all you do for us, for the thoughts and prayers. Those are what keep us going. I told someone the other day that those prayers you pray, well, sometimes I can actually "feel" them, sort of like I feel the shirt on my back. I feel them in the physical sense, and that is very comforting and gives me the feeling of strength! Thank you!

God bless all of you!

Until tomorrow ... Susan and Monty

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Goodbye New Jersey

For some unknown reason I am unable to download any photos this evening?

This morning we started the day with Pastor Mike giving devotions before loading up the team and heading to the airport in New Orleans. He told the team that their mission trip is not over and challenged them to continue to "let their light shine" when they return home to the real world! It was an amazing devotion and a great way to send them off. We trust all went well at the airport, even with all of the extra security, as we have not heard anything and they should be safe and snug at home by now. We will truly miss them. Each and every team brings something different to us and this one was no different. Mixing all of the different personalities, all the different skills and then throw in the different emotions and you always end up with a great group of people. We just want to thank them again for taking time from their own families and lives to come and bless the people along the coast! I repeat, without people such as theirselves this relief effort would fail! Thanks to all of you, NJ, we hope you will come back whenever you are able!

It was cleanup time after they left. They all do a wonderful job in cleaning their rooms and usually all we need to do is go through the refrigerator and it's taken care of. They left behind some great snacks and we are always thankful for those! Steve --- you were right, the chocolate chip cookies are soft and chewy!! :)

This afternoon Monty and I were blessed to supply our Spanish family, Zoyla and hers, with a great roll of carpeting, some padding and a couple of nightstands for their trailer. It's such a blessing to be able to do so. This time I was caught off guard when Zoyla's sister, Maria, told us that she wants to be able to give back some of the blessing and would like to join in with the next team coming to volunteer! I assured her we would call and she would be able to help as much as she wanted to. Such a blessing for us and the next family who we will be rebuilding for! The best part of the entire thing is that Zoyla and the entire family are now coming to church! Zoyla cannot speak or understand any English but that doesn't stop her! Pastor Rick and Diane have a program to translate his sermon notes into Spanish so she can follow along. The rest of the family can understand, to a certain degree. They don't have to understand every single word, they just feel the Holy Spirit and know they are in the right place! THAT is the rebuilding that really counts!!!!

We thank Convoy of Hope for making the connections necessary to aquire the materials to bless those along the coast which in turn bring them much more than material blessings. The blessing of salvation is priceless!

Tomorrow is our chance, and yours, to attend church and thank God for all of the blessings we have. They are endless, think about it. If you had to write them all down, for an assignment, it would be literally impossible. We may think we are "poor" in the worldly sense, but what about our spiritual sense!?

If this were YOUR last night on earth, where would you be spending eternity? If you're not sure, better be headed to church tomorrow and get sure!!!!!

Yea God, Boo devil!!!!

Until tomorrow .... blessings to all of you ... Susan and Monty

Friday, August 11, 2006

Welcome home Barbara

Well, here they are and they pretty much speak for themselves!

It was the day we had been waiting for since we started on May 6th. With 9 different teams involved, and the blessing of the Lord, Barbara returned to her completed home today.

You will see the group photo of the New Jersey team who worked right up to the last minute with all of the finishing touches they wanted to put into the house.

There were so many people there to welcome her home, the head coordinators of Convoy of Hope, pastors, family, friends, neighbors, so many people who loved her and are so happy she is now able to return "home".

The circle is a circle of prayer before entering her home. Pastor Mike of the New Jersey team did us all the honor of blessing her house.

You can see the ultimate shine on her tile floors, thanks to Diane and the team making sure all 3 coats of sealer were applied correctly.

Her beautiful bathroom is also shown in the color she had always wanted, green. Her brand new kitchen in all its beauty. The house went on and on and she cried as she entered each room. She was especially touched when she went into her bedroom and saw that the team had located all the parts and drawers of her original bedroom furniture that was everywhere in the filthy garage, cleaned it up and set it up in the room! Then she knew she was finally home!

The final photo is Trish, living the All American Dream, perched on the front porch, next to the cement block with the flag painted on it, in her straw hat on a very hot day, drinking a bottle of water and munching on Goldfish!! What a perfect end to a perfect day!

I know I have said it before but I will continue saying it over and over again, Monty and I are so very blessed to be a part of the disaster rebuilding! It is an honor to work for these families and do what we can to restore their homes and hopefully a part of their lives! A day like today is just affirmation that God has us right where He wants us! We thank Him, and all of you, for making this possible for us!

Once again this team has joined with all of those in the past and become a family, not only with us but with each other. We try and tell them that it will happen and we see the doubts, but those doubts change as each day goes by and at the end of the week they know! They have lived it, they feel it in their hearts and they just know that their lives have been changed, they will never be the same.

There are always "feelings" that happen and this evening was no different. Matt, the electrician told us that although he likes the work he is in, he has never really felt a "passion" for it, until here! It's just another God - thing! He has felt it and will never be the same!

Don't you wish you could feel that same thing? Working for the Lord ... there is NOTHING like it in the world! NOTHING!

Thank you Convoy of Hope, Camp Hope and Bethel Assembly for all you did to make it possible for us to put Barbara back into her home! May God increase His blessings to you a hundred fold! And please !!!! keep doing what you are doing!!!!

Until tomorrow.... please keep this team in your prayers as they will be flying home tomorrow and with all of the heightened security they could use some extra prayers!

Blessings to each and every one of you ... Susan and Monty

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Her "everything" hurts!

This is why her "everything" hurts! Yours would too if you spent the past 4 days, and into the evenings, in this position, grouting tile floors! Like I said before, this isn't your regular grout, it's latex based and comes in tubes like whipped cream and is time consuming to say the least! Diane and Stephen have been crouched down all week and both of them would like to find some new knees right about now! There are just no appropriate words to thank them.

To top it all off, Stephen was at Barbara's this morning at 6:30 AM!!!! using the weed wacker trying to spruce things up even more. I wonder what the neighbors thought! :)

The NJ team hit it hard again today. They looked like worker bees when I pulled up this morning. They were all working outside, planting, mulching, power washing the house, painting outside, hanging a new flag and who knows what all! You could feel the hand of God working through them. It was such a blessing just to watch them going back and forth, talking the entire time, deciding what would happen next and who would be involved.

Tomorrow they will finally get to meet Barbara, although she was spotted doing a "drive-by" this afternoon by those who recognize her! I knew the anticipation would get the best of her!

We hear that not only will her pastor be there, Pastor Tim and Sherry, but it was announced at the Wednesday evening worship service.

I heard from the reporter today and they are right on schedule.

It's at times like this that Monty and I feel so blessed to be a part of this relief effort. To be here, to see and meet and get to know all of the teams, to see their hearts of service, to feel their enthusiasm and watch them grow while they are here is nothing short of a miracle. And we get to see them happen each and every week.

Once again this evening they are all sitting around playing guitars and worshiping the Lord. Stephen can hardly stay away and we don't even want to think about the fact that he must leave next Thursday to return to college. God really blessed us with him and we have grown to love him so very much. I KNOW he will miss the 3 of us! But we also know God has tremendous plans for Stephen's life and will bless him greatly.

I would like to ask for your prayers for our "grand reveal" tomorrow. Barbara has waited a long time and gone through more than you could know and deserves to return "home". Please keep all of us in your prayers. Tomorrow is a day to give God ALL the glory, to thank and praise Him for all His blessings that have been poured over all of us who have had the privilege to bring this house to completion for her.

Until tomorrow ... GO GOD!!! BOO DEVIL!!!!
We love you all. Susan and Monty