Saturday, September 30, 2006

We're back....and refreshed

It just doesn't seem possible that our time at home with family and friends is over! Where did the time go?

We arrived back in MS this evening, after a long 2 days of driving! The trip went well, no real incidents other than Monty picking up a "rock" or something in the windshield of the truck that will now require it to be replaced. Insurance is a blessing in cases like this.

There are so many people to thank for the past days of refreshing and refueling. First of all we want to thank Pastor Dave at our home church, Vineyard. It was so incredibly awesome to see you again and to have you be such a fantastic part in the Celebration Service! As we have said in the past and will continue to say, we are blessed to have you as our Pastor but even more blessed to have you as our friend!

Another thanks goes to Jeff and Karin, along with congratulations on their wedding. For us to be a part of it was such an amazing blessing! We wish you both all the best and know that God brought you together and that ALL the roads of your lives brought you to where you are today---together in the Lord!

To all our Vineyard family -- where do we begin? I won't mention names as I would be here all night! You invited us into your homes and your lives and made us family again! You blessed us with your prayers and even more with your love and support! It is so true that without all of you we would not be able to fulfill the calling God has placed on our lives! We love "all y'all" and miss you already! The chance to be home with all of you is priceless! To our Small Group --- there just aren't words!!! To Ellen --- I MISS YOU SO MUCH!!!

To our local radio station, Spirit 95 and Denise especially, thank you for the interview, for coming to the Celebration Service and for being a great friend! We appreciate your support of our mission and everything you all do to spread the word of our Lord!

To all the churches in the GBCMA at home --- the Celebration Service was incredible and we are so thankful for your support! You gave us an opportunity to let everyone know more about what the Lord is doing down here and the opportunity to expand our family even more! Thanks for all the hard work you did, all the planning and all of the support! It means the world to us!

To our immediate families -- it was so great to see you again! I must admit that I really!!!! missed my parents and realize more and more each day the blessing they gave me when they brought me up in a Christian household! I miss you already but hold you in my heart!

To the staff at Trinity Broadcasting Network television station in Greenwood, thank you for inviting us to speak on your local program of Praise the Lord. It was a great way to keep the information out to the public and to let them know that this relief effort is a long way from over! Thank you for all of your programming that brings the love of the Lord to all people! Keep up the blessed work.

I could go on and on with the thank you notes but for the fear of missing someone I will leave it as it is! You all know who you are and just remember how much we love all of you!

We are back and ready to roll once again. Our team from Missouri just arrived and we will be meeting with them as soon as they grab something to eat. They are a skilled bunch of men who will be working on Dane's house all next week. We are so very blessed to come back and have a team just as anxious to get started as we are!

There are so many things getting ready to happen here on the coast and especially here in MS. Make sure you stay tuned and don't miss a thing! Faye and Mike have a new house in the making, it will be an incredible venture and Spirit filled all the way! Dane's house will show some real progress and there will be new people coming our way that we aren't even aware of yet! God is moving and getting ready to move even more! Buckle your seatbelts and get ready for the ride of your life!

Thanks for bearing with us while we were away from the blog. We apologize for the blank space but we just had to step away for awhile and get ourselves refueled! We did, it was awesome and we are back!

Until tomorrow ..... God bless all of you .... Susan and Monty

Friday, September 22, 2006

Time Off?

This blog entry is coming from my parent's house! I didn't realize just how much I missed my family and it is soooo nice to be able to be here. It's just so energizing to sit at the family dinner table and "remember when" with all the stories. I have been blessed with such a wonderful Christian family and the stories can go on for hours and hours and the laughter just gets louder and louder. I thank God for my family and all of the support they have given Monty and I with our mission.

Even though we are supposed to be taking time off when you work for the Lord there is no such thing! The phones keep ringing, the people still need help and the work never ends.

To update you on Faye and Mike's situation. For all of you who have been praying, thank you! Things are about to happen to blow this situation wide open, ready for the Lord to step in and take over! I don't want to give away too much at this point as there are so many things in the wings but just know that your prayers are working and we need you to keep going! I can't help but give you a hint though; you know we are unable to rebuild the existing home but as usual, the Lord always has a better plan. There just "could be?" a new one in the plan?! Keep praying!

We are also awaiting another semi load of furniture to land on the ground and be a blessing to who knows how many people. It was expected a couple of weeks ago and we pray it is on it's way as the need is so great! Keep that in your prayers also!

We will be giving a city wide presentation in a couple of days. So many people do not understand what we are doing, what is really going on and how desperate the situation is. Trying to relate that to others can be a bit more than difficult! And trying to do it in 45 minutes is next to impossible but it's all we've got and we will do the best we can. We have photos and live video to show but somehow, even with words, it won't tell the "real" story, show the "real" lives and the "real" pain and REAL hope! God will enable us to do what He has called us to do, that we trust in!

It also looks as though the month of October is going to be a great one! The volunteers are returning, the heat is lessening and the work will be getting done at a much faster rate. That means the blessings will be flowing even more, if that's possible. For those of you who are planning on coming, we look forward to meeting and working with you and have you become an extended part of our family. As I have said before, your life WILL be changed -- for the better! We thank you for making the commitment and will be keeping you in our prayers for safe travel.

I apologize for the shortness of this entry but we need to get back on the road. We thank you for your faithfulness and will be back with you as soon as possible.

Until the next time .... God bless you all....Susan and Monty

Sunday, September 17, 2006


The group shot of the Pennsylvania team on the front porch of Mike and Faye's home. The cross in the background was put up by the team as a special blessing to the family!

We miss you all and love you!!!!!

This morning Faye and grandson, Jacquez were at church. Jacquez was excited to go to children's church! The donut before church "added" to his excitement! :) When Faye and I went to pick him up from class the teacher, Pastor John, told us that Jacquez chose to give his heart to Jesus today! Now this little guy may be only 5 years old but he loves Jesus and that's all that counts! Praise be to Jesus!

Also this morning we were blessed to have guest speakers from Convoy of Hope International at church. Dave and Beth travel the world with missions and having them here was wonderful! Dave had a powerpoint on all the different areas of their missions. They are world wide and he and Beth's schedules must be more than full. The blessings they take with them are priceless! It was an honor for Monty and I to be able to spend a few minutes with them after the service and hear a bit more about all they are doing. Dave had been one of the first responders here in Gautier after hurricane Katrina and had a few memories to share. We thank them for following the calling God has placed on their lives and for being obedient to that call! Keep up the blessings and we will be keeping you in our prayers!

Dave had the message this morning and it really "hit home" with Monty and I. It was on "weariness", something we all can relate to. He had 4 points that I hope you will find as insightful as we did.

1. Weariness is inevitable!

We need to remember that there is no more effective lie than the enemy convincing us that we are a failure! That devil knows just where our "target" hot spots are.

2. Weariness is NOT defeat!

Our partnership with the Lord is in His kingdom and takes patient endurance. Maintaining proper balance in both is the tough part. But we must remember that the things of the kingdom cannot be gotten without patience!

3. Victory is ours if we do not give up!

The power of God is no less true just because it doesn't happen quickly. We are here because of the plan of God.

4. Jesus is administrating our victory! He and He alone!

We are all challenged to keep sight of God's plan for our lives. Don't substutite the direction of God's call on your life!

As I said, this message really hit home for us. We have been here, on the ground, for 8 months now and we are tired. When Monty and I left our secular jobs to enter into the relief ministry full time we promised we would take time off to report back to those who support us and who can "refuel" us with their love. For the next couple of weeks we will be taking time to connect with them and report. Because of this "refueling" this blog will not be written each and every day. I will do my best to let you all know what is happening. We ask for special prayers for this time, prayers for strength, for rest, for re-engerizing, for peace! We thank you for those prayers!

October is going to be a fantastic month! The volunteers are scheduled and we will be returning with full "tanks" and ready to go and share the blessings and love of our Lord!

Thank you all for your wonderful support. Rest in the Lord yourselves, be renewed, be forgiven and be loved!

Until our next time .... God bless you!!!! Susan and Monty

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Monty catches crabs on his birthday!!??

Here is how we spent Monty's birthday! We returned to the bayou and caught a big mess of blue crabs!!! Our bucket was nearly full and some of them were nearly 7" from point to point!

It's a relaxing time, listening to the water, being with nature and watching the miracles of God all around us!

The highlight of my day was when I caught an alligator!! Okay, he was only about 5' long but he was awesome! I dangled the bait (a chicken neck) on the string and he headed straight for it. He hung on and pulled quite hard until he did the jerk and flip over thing and that neck snapped off the line and away he went. I was able to pull him up out of the water while on the string and he was heavier than I thought! I fed him 3 times and he was full!

We took all of the crabs to Faye and Mike as a surprise. She was boiling the water within a minute of us walking in the house and was thrilled! Mike was on his way home from dialysis and he would be quite surprised. They all love crab and we loved catching them so it worked!

This morning we had to break some news to Mike and Faye. We will NOT be able to rebuild their existing house! There is just too much structural damage to the home. Rebuilding it is not an option, but there are options popping up all over the place and we will get things rolling starting Monday. We all need to remember that the Lord is the one who directs our steps and only He knows the final result. It is up to us to be obedient and follow Him. There will be a time of grieving for Mike and Faye as they have lived in this house for over 17 years. We told them that they should grieve and rest in the Lord. Great things are about to happen for them and we want them to enjoy each and every step of the journey! Please remember to keep them in your prayers. They need them and so do we. Please pray that we will hear and know the direction the Lord is taking us in this rebuilding! And then be sure and stay tuned to see the miracles!!

We thank all of you for your constant prayers. THEY are what keep us, and everyone on the gulfcoast, going! May God bless and keep each of you!

Until tomorrow, which is the Lord's day...go to church and thank the Lord for all of your blessings! Susan and Monty

Friday, September 15, 2006

Goodbye Pennsylvania

Mother and son with Faye and Mike's 5 year old grandson, Jacquez, who really got a kick out of the masks worn while Penn was doing the tear out on his grandparents home!

Our Penn team was up and ready to roll early this morning. Some of them were showing signs of "wear" but kept on going to the end. They were determined to finish the tear out on Mike and Faye's house before leaving around noon. They worked and worked and were even more than a couple of hours later than planned when they finally did get on the road! It was so difficult to see them go and it was evident by the expressions on both Mike and Faye's faces as the team drove away from their house! The bond that was formed between them and Faye and Mike will last a lifetime! It's just something that is so hard to describe and something that has to be experienced to fully understand! Although it is only a week by the calendar, it seems like a lifetime when you are here, bonding with each other! God orchestrates the entire relationship thing and He never makes mistakes!

Delores came by to say goodbye and she also has added even more team members to her growing family! Mona will forever live in Tom's heart, his "angel", as he called her! Sometimes the friendships built are stronger than if they had been going on for a lifetime! Like I said, it's just something you have to experience to fully comprehend!

This morning our Convoy of Hope leaders, Fory and Cindi came for a visit. They came bearing gifts, and what gifts they are! They came in contact with a 93 year "young" lady who found a way she could be a part of the relief effort. She started making quilts, the most beautiful quilts I have ever seen, and didn't stop until she made 100 of them! Yes, you read correctly, 100 of them! And she vows to continue! Fory and Cindi brought 40 of them here to The Refuge as a gift to Pastor Rick and Vicky to use as blessings to others! What beautiful blessings they will be! We thank this wonderful lady for continuing to fulfill the calling God placed on her life and for not allowing her age "number" to limit her in any way! I have said it before and it's worth repeating, there is ALWAYS a way for someone to volunteer and be a part of this disaster relief! One just needs to listen to the Lord and one will hear His answer! What is He telling you to do?

Monty and I would just like to send our thanks and love to the Penn team. They labeled themselves as "unskilled" but they were only thinking along the lines of construction. This team had exactly the skills that were required for this week! They were each hand selected by God for specific areas of rebuilding and each one answered the call of God! Most anyone can be taught a construction skill or two but NOT everyone can come filled with as much empathy, compassion and love as this team did! THAT is a gift and they made the decision to use that gift as God directed them! For that skill, "thanks" just doesn't cut it ... but it's all we've got!

Penn team --- we know you will be "adopting" Mike and Faye and Mike Jr.. Monty and I will be blessed by your adopting them, and for that --- may God pour out His blessings on all of you!

Until tomorrow .... God gives us blessings so we can give them to others and in turn receive even more blessings! You were blessings to us and we love you all! GET SOME REST!!!!

Susan and Monty

PS Tomorrow is Monty's birthday so if you know him, call him and wish him a happy birthday!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It's not all cheeseburgers!

The first picture shows what happens when you are 16 years old and have worked harder than usual. It's early morning and he's just not ready!

The next photo is Pastor, who wanted us to be sure and know that he's "not all cheeseburgers", he was the only one able to move the solid concrete steps in Faye's back yard today! How he did it I'll never know!

Today was the day the tear out of Faye's house started! What a day it was! You just never know what you are going to get in to when you do a tear out! They pulled the paneling from the walls only to discover sheetrock underneath it! We also found out that the front room used to be a porch and has the original outside walls of the house. We discovered that one bedroom had blown in insulation, which is the worst mess when tearing out, thus the reason for masks and protective eye wear and gloves. The kitchen cabinets are gone, the counter top, sink and most of 2 bedrooms and family room. When Mona started on the ceiling in the family room the first full piece (4x8) of sheetrock came down in one piece, quite unexpected! The water was pooling in the ceiling and when her light fixtures came down the water flowed like a fountain! What kept this place from shorting out and burning down is beyond me! The main outside wall in the family room, where the water was coming through, is so rotten that it will need completely rebuilt. But this team worked and worked and worked, through the heat, through the dust, through the dirt, through the bugs jumping from the walls and through the falling pieces of sheetrock! They were like steam engines and just kept going. They will be returning for a half day tomorrow before heading back home. By then they should have the house completely gutted and ready for the next team coming in.

This evening we had a special treat. We were all invited to the home of Jamie and Cindy, members of the church here. They cooked us original gumbo and it was outstanding! I am not a fish person but this was delicious. And then the team surprised Monty with a birthday cake for dessert, complete with Builder Bob on top! His birthday is Saturday and they managed to really surprise him! It was a great evening and so nice to spend an evening in someones home. We want to thank them for their hospitality and generosity! We will be back with another team!

We also want to thank team members Ron and Sherry, who spent over half of today in the warehouse. Ron works as a forklift operator in his job and really was a blessing to us here. The entire warehouse is organized now, food with food, cleaning supplies with cleaning supplies and chemicals far from the food. It not only looks great but now has so much more space to accomodate the incoming trucks over the next few weeks. Thanks guys, we really appreciate all of your hard work!

This team has been wonderful and as usual, it will be VERY hard to see them leave tomorrow! They have also become our family and we have had so much fun together. I have laughed harder than I have laughed in a long time and my sides hurt from so much laughing! We wish them God's protection as they start their 2 day journey home tomorrow. Please keep them in your prayers.

We thank all of you for coming along with us on our mission. Without all of you it wouldn't be possible! Please keep everyone in your prayers!

Until tomorrow ... God bless all of you!! Susan and Monty

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And the inspector said ...

Faye has a wonderful sister, Joyce. This morning there was one bedroom that still needed cleaned out, until Joyce arrived at 6:30am and climbed through a window to get in and finish the room! (I think I might be related to her)

The team worked in our warehouse all day today. There was a surprise awaiting them, and us, as it was flooded with all the rains last night. It wasn't anything they couldn't handle though, with the help of some good push brooms and opening the doors to dry things out as much as possible when you are located next to the river and in a swamp! Ron manned the forklift, good thing he does this for a living, and they spent the day organizing and cleaning. What an amazing result and it's actually organized to make some sense! Ron will return tomorrow morning to finish up on a couple of things and we will pronounce it done! This is such an enormous help to us as this warehouse will be housing some donated windows, patio doors and furniture over the next few weeks and space had to be made! We are so thankful to the team for the great job they did. It was quite warm in there and most of them were more than dirty at the end but they made it through and still had their sense of humor in tact!

Yes, the inspector came to Faye and Mike's this afternoon. We were there waiting, along with Project Recovery! The Pascagoula inspector was such a warm and kind gentleman. We look forward to working with him. He said the structure itself is sound and we are cleared to rebuild it. We will be pulling another building permit in order to rebuild the addition but that is easy. Rebuilding it might not be so easy but we will get it done! We are excited about finishing the tear out tomorrow. By the end of the day it will be down to studs only and we will have tarped the roof to stop the water from flowing in. These past 2 nights it has absolutely poured down rain and the inside of the house is soaked! We thank God that Mike and Faye are safe, sound and dry in their new home!

In rebuilding this home we are taking a step of faith unlike any we have taken. As I said, the addition that was started is completely incorrect and against all building codes. It will most likely have to be taken down and redone. You have seen the photos from the past few days and know the problems we must overcome. Much of the existing flooring has holes in it and will need rebuilt. There are areas where it will need jacked up and corrected. The entire roof will need redone, including the roof decking. It will be a step by step process, each step taken to the Lord in prayer first! Please join us as we will need the Lord's guidance and wisdom! And we will need volunteers!!! Without them this cannot happen! They (YOU) are the keys to completing this rebuild!

For an idea of some of the things we will be needing; lumber of all sizes, roof and floor decking, wall and ceiling insulation (rolls), everything electrical you can think of as the entire house will need rewiring, plumbing will also need redone, kitchen cabinets, bath vanities, we would like to put in a handicapped shower unit, toilet, kitchen counter tops, all appliances ... and this is only the beginning but something for all of you to take to prayer.

I had an idea and am praying someone else will agree. It would be awesome for people or organizations to "adopt" this family and do what they could in providing supplies. This could be done through fund raisers or from taking up special offerings, or whatever means you could think of. This family is desperate and they do not have the financial means to purchase anything!!! And I mean anything! You could be an extension of God Himself in doing this. Take it to prayer, think about it and discuss it with others. Then just comment on the end of the blogs and I will get back with you. If you include personal information on the blog I will make sure it is not published. All comments are viewed by us before being published, for the privacy of the person commenting. May the Lord bless you as you consider blessing these people!

Tomorrow is a big day, the last day for the Pennsylvania team. They have been such a wonderful blessing to us and to so many families here. We wish they could stay longer. To Mike and Faye they are angels!!!! God always sends us His best and we are so thankful to Him for doing so. Mainly we are just thankful to be here, to be His hands and feet and we pray that when people see us they see Him!

Until tomorrow ... be a blessing so it will come back to you and you can bless some more!
Susan and Monty

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Harsh Reality

The sign hangs on the front door of Faye and Mike's house, the house that is now merely a shell waiting for the city inspector to meet with us tomorrow to determine if it will be torn down or we will continue to gut it down to the framing studs and rebuild. It's all in the hands of the Lord at this point. We are prepared for whatever the decision as we know it will be God's and with His direction we will be able to put Faye and Mike and their son into a new home!

The photos here are the harsh reality of what conditions they have been living in. The may be difficult to see but just realize that THIS is their home, THIS is what they have endured since the hurricane, over one year ago.

First, far left is their bathtub area. What is keeping the tub from falling through the floor onto the dirt below remains to be seen. The flooring is so rotten from the moisture that you can see the dirt below. We told the team to leave the linoleum on the floor as it may be the only thing holding it up.

First, far right is the seal plate below the window in their family room. This is an outside wall, the wall where all of the water has been pouring in. It is completely rotten and will need to be replaced as it holds up this side of the house.

Next left is the closet in one bedroom. The water level is quite evident, along with plenty of black mold.

Next right is the ceiling in another bedroom. Tell me this stays dry??

Next left is the bedroom wall and if you look closely you will see the hole in the floor next to the hole in the wall, the dirt fully exposed and the only thing that was covering it was the wet carpeting. The son slept in this room and was amazed that he didn't have "critters" coming up through and into his room!

Next right is yet another hole in a bedroom. Now please note that there are only 3 small bedrooms in this house and these photos are of only 2 of them. The third room has yet to be cleaned out to see its full condition!

The final left is the part of the team that did all of the work today. They came in and removed all of the soaking wet carpeting (it rained ALL NIGHT last night), worked with Faye in cleaning the closets and clothing that was stacked up trying to stay dry, the linoleum in the kitchen and a couple of the sheets of paneling in the family room for us to see what was underneath! This team had to really!!!! help Faye through this painful process. Going through things in the home that has been theirs for the past 17 years, throwing away things that the storm ruined, cutting the ties with what has been home, no matter how bad ... these things are extremely difficult and we thank the Lord for sending this team as they were all hand picked by Him and just what was needed for the task.

Mike had another kidney dialysis today, they take over 4 hours and he has them every other day. He insisted on coming back to the house, to be a part of things, yet he was so sick he could hardly hold his head up. We took a break, surrounded the entire family and prayed! Thanks to Pastor Tony we are claiming healing for Mike!

The final right photo is our "master" painter, Mona. She and Charlie worked with Delores again today. We thought they might only be there for half of the day but super organized Delores had another plan and she now has 2 rooms complete, except for the flooring. She hadn't thought that would happen and is thrilled! Just as the others, these 2 were also chosen by God to be with Delores. Charlie is a music teacher, just what Delores retired as, and I hear Mona had here first piano lesson, and was fantastic!

We had a special treat this morning. Two of the "master organizing" women stayed here at the church and took care of 3 rooms of organization! We now have nails with nails and tools with like tools, what a thought! Monty built some great shelving and we got it in the room but that's where it ended. Finding time for such things is nearly impossible and some may think that keeping them here was a waste! WRONG! Getting those things organized will create efficiency with the next incoming teams and thus is a blessing for not only us but for everyone else coming to volunteer. Just as the others, God sent those two organizing women just for that task! Thanks girls!

Tomorrow is a big day. As I said, we will be awaiting the decision of the inspector and preparing our strategy from that decision. We will be pulling all of the team to work together in the warehouse for the day. We are preparing for incoming blessings of furniture and windows and need to organize (there's that word again) some things to make sure we have the room. Since the warehouse is located on the river they will have the opportunity to picnic lunch on the water and enjoy some of the fisherman doing their jobs. We pray for good weather!

I would like to put out a special prayer request for Mike this evening. As I said, the dialysis makes him very ill and we pray for a restful night for both he and Faye. Goodness knows they need it! We thank you for taking them into your hearts, and families, and praying for them. God tells us that we can move mountains with our prayers ---let's take Him up on it!

Until tomorrow .... Thank you for coming along on this mission with us! God is moving along this coast like we have never seen and we don't want any of you to miss a minute of it!!!
Susan and Monty

Monday, September 11, 2006

Welcome Pennsylvania - It's hot!

Pennsylvania got started today, and came to the understanding of what hot is --- and it's not that hot here now! Today we had the usual sun with the occasional thunderstorm mixed in and around 90, not bad compared to what we have had.

The team divided themselves into 2 teams. One team went to Delores's, which you see in the last 4 photos. They were busy sanding, painting and whatever she needed. Delores is one of those extremely organized women who has the finish list for her entire house - on paper! She is one of the best job site superintendents I have ever seen! We need to hire her when she is done with her own house! One of the members of this team is a music teacher, which is what Delores retired from -- one of those God things again! They enjoyed their time there and will be returning tomorrow to continue working away at Delores's list!

The second part of the team went to Faye and Mike's to get started cleaning out their house! What a job that was, and will be for the next couple of days! The pastor is with this team and he decided the best way to get some of their larger furniture out was to rent a UHaul truck - fantastic idea! They got most of it out and into the storage unit that Faye rented this morning in preparation for the team. You can see the family photo above along with Monty and his new "lady"! How can you not fall in love with her wonderful smile! Both of her grown children were there lending their hands and then here came her sister, who called herself the "black angel"! -What a ball of fire and a joy to be around. The entire family was there throughout the day, doing what they could and trying to keep Mike from doing anything but supervising! This team realized what happens inside the house when it rains - it rains inside the house! The sun did come out and helped to partially dry things. The team will be returning tomorrow to keep on going and keep on blessing.

We did learn today that the city inspector will be meeting us at Faye and Mike's house this Wednesday afternoon and hopefully they will make the decision as to whether we gut the house and start on rebuilding or declare it structurally unsound and then they do the demolition and we start from scratch! Either way, we have our work cut out for us! The only thing we do know for certain at this point is that God knows the outcome and all we need to do is follow His direction and all will be to His glory! Please continue to keep this family in your prayers as Mike will be having kidney dialysis tomorrow and that pretty much sends him to the bed for the rest of the day! Atleast now he has a cool, dry and comfortable home in which to lay down! Praise the Lord!

Word came to us today that the Convoy of Hope video that was made here a few weeks ago is nearly ready. If you remember, they are making it as a plea to keep the volunteers coming to the coast. It will be available to any church who would like a copy. I'll try and let you know when we receive ours as they will then be available to anyone requesting one. The volunteers are critical to this relief effort and we desperately need them (YOU) to keep coming. We thank those of you who have already been here and truly understand what is happening here!

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

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Blessed to be a blessing

Ever seen blue crabs before? We hadn't until we got here. It's been months ago when we watched people catching them and decided to make the "big" purchase ourselves and give it a try. We got the nets at Walmart for $1.50 each and they have been in the back of the van for all those months. Today was the day! We packed up ourselves, our dogs, some water and the bait - which is turkey necks! You tie the turkey (or chicken) necks in the bottom of the basket type nets. Then you just drop the basket in the water, letting it drop to the bottom and wait. Monty caught 2 within minutes. I, on the other hand, took a bit longer but did finally catch a couple of good size ones! Monty got his "training" from Linda, the lady in the photo. She was there with her family but we soon learned that family may not be so "family" when it comes to crabbin'. To each his own! :) We had some fun and ended up giving our big catch to Linda along with our basket nets! She had a cooler full of them and they will make some good meals for them.

Once again at church service this morning they had to set up chairs for the overflow of people! God is growing this church each and every week and it's awesome. And yes, Mike and Faye were there, along with their older son, Mike. Dad Mike wasn't feeling well at all but he made it and left with a smile. I know they will be back and I also know they will be blessed even more than they already are! God works that way!

And that is exactly what this mornings lesson was about - giving! Pastor Rick gave us the 4 principles of giving and reminded us that giving of our first and best fruits is what God commands us to do! Not out of what is left over!

I think we should all note the 4 principles he spoke of:

1. God owns it all anyway!
All of our giving is a spiritual decision. What we do have is given by God for us to manage.

2. Remember that we are in a growth process.
We cannot serve both God and the bank. We are to choose the right thing over the easy one.

3. The amount isn't important!
It's what we do with what we are given that counts. God gives us more so we can bless others and then we are blessed again! (think about that and re-read if needed)

4. Faith requires action!
When the Lord speaks to us we are to be obedient and follow His direction for our lives. We don't want to miss the blessing He has for us.

All of these points helped me to better understand giving. I hope they help you also.

All of the over 350,000 volunteers that have come to the coast to help after Katrina understand that faith requires action and they have acted --- in a BIG way! I have said it before and will continue saying it --- DO NOT speak negatively about our government in regard to this disaster! They did what they could when they could! Our country has never experienced a disaster as widespread as Katrina and NO ONE could have been prepared! NO ONE!

It's about time we Christians stepped up to the plate and did what God has commanded us to do since the beginning of time! SERVE OTHERS! BE A BLESSING! CHANGE LIVES!

Thank you to each and every one of you who have done so! You will be blessed!

We thank our home church, and all of the churches who have supported us with prayers while we have been here doing the best we can to fulfill the calling God has placed on our lives to serve and give. Without those prayers this would be an impossible mission!

We thank Convoy of Hope and every other relief organization who has stepped up to the plate and served. It takes each and every one of these organizations doing their parts and then all of us combining together to rebuild homes and rebuild lives! We are humbled to be here, and we ARE blessed!

Until tomorrow when we start a new week with our new team from Pennsylvania ... May God bless you as you serve in the capacity He has called you. Susan and Monty

Saturday, September 09, 2006

He slept all night - and snored!

Yes, first thing this morning Faye called me telling me that Mike not only slept through the night last night, but he woke her up with his snoring! And she was thrilled! For weeks he has been waking with nightmares during the night and she felt as though the snoring was music!

Both she and Mike have probably thanked us over a thousand times and we continually tell them (they already know) that it's all God. He's just working through us. And for that, we thank Him. She also assured us that they will be at church tomorrow morning! We will be watching for them!

I still feel as though someone needs to pinch me to verify that yesterday really happened as it did. I know we pray and ask for miracles and should NOT be shocked when they happen. We are taught to pray with expectation but when the miracles are as many and as continuous as yesterday I still am surprised!

Once again we thank ALL of you out there who have been praying. It's YOUR prayers that make the difference! From what I heard today, there are prayers coming all the way from places like New Zealand and abroad --- thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Today was a day to slow down a bit and yet get prepared for our team from Pennsylvania who are due to arrive later tonight. They have been on the road for 2 days now and will be ready to relax and stretch when they get here. We are so thankful for volunteers who make such a long trip in order to be a blessing to others!

We also spoke with our Texans who left this morning and all seemed to be going smoothly on their trip home. Denise and her family extend their sincere thanks and appreciation for everything this team accomplished! Angels indeed!

I have a special prayer request for tomorrow. You may remember that our neighbor ladies from home were to leave for their big move to Pittsburg over a month ago when Frances, who is 94 years "young" fell and broke her hip the night before they were to leave. She has been doing well and in rehabilitation for the past weeks. Tomorrow is the big day-- they are getting on a plane tomorrow morning and heading to their new home. I would like to ask for prayers for them. These past weeks have been very stressful and tomorrow will be both stressful and a relief. Please pray for safe travel, for continued healing and for a sense of peace when they arrive in their new home and are near family! Our home church has grown to love these ladies almost as much as I do and they know how difficult it has been for us to remain here with all that has been happening with them. There are no words to express our sincere thanks to all of our church families who have stepped in and cared for our ladies as they have! We know you are "just doing what you do" and we love you so very much! THANK YOU ALL!

When we all attend our homes of worship tomorrow morning we all have so much to be thankful for! We all need to count our blessings alot more than we do! When you go to church tomorrow, please give God all the glory! Our God is an awesome God and we are a blessed people!

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

Friday, September 08, 2006

The miracle has started ...

Thanks to all of you and all of your prayers the miracle has begun!

Allow me to introduce Mike and Faye to you. This is the couple I spoke about a few days ago when I titled "we need a miracle". If you didn't read, please go back and do so as I don't want to retell it again.

In these photos you will meet the both of them, see their brand new mobile home from the outside, see Faye in her new BIG bathroom and then see them with Monty and their grandson, who they are raising! You can literally feel the joy coming from the photos!

I want to back up and tell you the whole story!

The morning began with it being the last day of work for our team from Texas. It was also the day where we were blessed with a visit from 4 people from California. They flew in last night and were here to check things out. They are making plans to send a group of senior high students and adults here to Gautier next spring. They needed to make this trip in order to make some major decisions. They requested a trip around the area and into some homes we have been working in. They only had 5 hours to spend here before flying back home.

Monty went with the Texans to wrap up the sanding and finishing of Denise's house. He also had to stop in and check on the progress of the truck repairs. We did bring it back home this evening, a bit better but still needing the transmission rebuilt. It will need to wait a few weeks as the truck is needed back on the job for now.

I left with the Californians. We toured the cities, seeing everything that still needs to be done, and they were more than shocked! "Why hasn't this been in the news?" was a popular question. The only answer I can come up with is that it is old news by now!? We stopped in at Denise's house and they had the opportunity to meet and talk with her as today was her day off of work. From there we traveled along the coastline seeing even more homes in devastation. They had asked if we could drive by Faye and Mike's as they had heard our conversation about them this morning in devotions. Of course, we drove by and when we did their son came out, wondering who we were. When he saw me he went and got his mother who invited all of us to get out and come in. She continually apologized for the house but wanted them to see what it was really like! And see they did! There were tears flowing and hearts breaking! Reality can be harsh sometimes! We were able to spend some time talking with them and giving any attempts at hope that we could. While we were there FEMA called Faye with the news that they had their paperwork for emergency housing completed but would need a deposit of $250 - $300 before they could move any further. Faye told them she didn't have it and that they would just have to wait!? At that point she noticed I was watching and asked if I would speak with them, hoping we could get the fee waived. FEMA was extremely kind and considerate but explained that the money was for the deposit on the trailer, a deposit to get the power turned on and another deposit to have the water turned on. They had a trailer, right here in a mobile home park in Gautier that was ready --- today!! I reassured FEMA that I would have that deposit money, no matter what. They agreed to go ahead with the process and would call me back in a couple of hours. In less than 30 minutes they called me back --- we need to make the deposit payments and they can get the keys to their new home! (It's now 12 noon and I am in the van with the California team driving down the road) I will need to contact Faye and make sure they can meet me and get all of this paperwork completed and get to all of the deposit places before 5pm today! At this point I really have no idea where this deposit money will come from but I DO know God will provide! Just then the California team speaks up and says they ARE paying the deposit money! They said THIS is why God sent them here today! I am in no place to argue and can only thank them from the bottom of my heart! I called Faye and they will meet us in 2 hours! She can only cry at the thought of a new home, not really knowing that it is a full size mobile home at this time!

By now I have been on the phone with FEMA 3 more times. The gentleman I worked with was incredible. He told me he knew the medical state of both of them and especially Mike. He pulled some strings and got them placed just where he knew would be best for them! It was such a blessing when we got to the office and finally met him! He was truly sent by God!

We managed to sign the lease, meet the park supervisor, pay the lease deposit, pay the electric deposit, pay the water deposit and have it inspected in one hour. We were told it might be Monday before the power would be turned on. That was fine with Mike and Faye. Not so fine with GOD! When we returned to see their new home, the power guy had followed us back and turned on their power! The water was already on! They could move in! Seeing the miracle??

When we walked into that home with them it was ... I don't know if I have the words! The tears flowed, the smiles were uncontrollable and the shouts of "glory to God" were probably heard by the neighbors! It was beautiful! It was completely furnished! All they need are some bed linens and clothes from home and they are set! Seeing more of the miracle??

Mike had been through dialysis yesterday and was really feeling rotten when we stopped to see them this morning. He could hardly stay standing! This afternoon, after us taking him to all of the places to get everything done, in and out of the van; when we walked into his new home he couldn't sit down! He tried but only got up and would go and look at things again and again! Faye fell in love with her big bathroom --- thus the photo of her in the bathroom! The FEMA gentleman planned ahead --- this mobile home is handicapped accessible!!! To God be the glory!

Mike and Faye and the 5 year old grandson that they are raising are most surely enjoying their night sleeping with air conditioning, without mold and with peace!!!!

For this miraculous day we thank YOU, the people, for all of your prayers! Without you this would not have happened the way it did! We thank FEMA for everything they did! Without them this would not have happened the way it did! We thank Project Recovery fot what they did. Without them this would never have happened! To Amy and Mike -- may God bless you abundantly! You are angels! And we thank Carol, Paul, Darien and Lynda from California for their generosity and their love! We look forward to seeing all of you next spring! May God shower His blessings on each and every one of you who made this day possible!

Most of all we would like to thank Convoy of Hope! Without them allowing us to be here on the ground, doing what we are doing, we would not have shared in this day of miracles! These are the days that refuel us, days that God tells us that we ARE doing what He called us to do, days of such joy that no amount of paycheck could EVER cover! THIS IS WHAT THIS MISSION IS ALL ABOUT!

And most most most of all we want to thank our home church family, Vineyard Community Church! YOU have made this entire mission possible for us! YOU have been there for us from day one! YOU are what keep us going! YOU ARE OUR FAMILY AND WE LOVE YOU!

Mike and Faye have said they will be at church with us this Sunday! "To God be ALL the glory!"

Our family has grown --- again! YOUR family has grown! God's family has grown!

We say goodbye to Texas this evening and thank them for everything they have done this past week. We love all of you and will miss you, but we also know we WILL see you again! And thank you for sharing in this day of blessings! We pray for your safe travel home tomorrow!

To all of you, from both of us, keep the prayers going. We have a long road ahead of us in the rebuilding of Mike and Faye's home, however it gets done! But the miracle HAS started and God will make sure it keeps going. Only He has the divine plan and we pray to be obedient to that plan!

Thank you again! Until tomorrow .... Susan and Monty

It was awesome to share

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sanding, sanding, sanding

The Convoy of Hope that arrived yesterday with more food and supplies! They have already sent over 26 million tons of supplies since Katrina -- and it's still being shipped in! Monty has one of the 38 pallets that were on board. THANKS CONVOY!!

The Texas team was sanding, sanding and sanding some more today. They are also mudding, mudding and mudding some more while the men tackle the actual cutting and hanging of the sheetrock. These people will never want to see another piece of sheetrock for as long as they live! But Krina just might want to go into the business!!!!

Monty and I went by Leon's this morning to check on the progress of rebuilding the transmission on our truck. A heavier jack is needed so that is on the "to do" list for tomorrow. Today was Leon's birthday so we learned how to wish him happy birthday in Spanish! It brought a smile to his face, probably because of our pronunciation!!! We are just so thankful that he knows how to work on these trucks. Taking it to a shop is out of the question because of the costs involved. Please keep Leon in your prayers!!

I am learning to master the art of PowerPoint! And I thought when we left home and our jobs that I wouldn't be working at the computer anymore!! WRONG! We will be presenting a slide presentation to our city churches in the next few weeks and getting it put together is tough! We have so many photos and trying to select just the right ones is not an easy job. It took me over 3 hours this afternoon and I pray the results will tell the story we want to tell.

I must make a comment on the weather today ---- it didn't reach 90 degrees!!!!! I don't think I can remember the last time it was below 90! It rained a bit last night and the clouds stuck around until late morning, thus the bit cooler day! To say it was welcomed is truly an understatement! Dare we think it might be getting a bit cooler down here?

We look to tomorrow with a bit of sadness as it is the last day for our Texans. We have had so much fun with them and as usual, they are family now! It's always so hard to see the teams go but we know God has changed their lives forever while they have been working this relief effort and for that we are thankful.

Thank you for coming along with us on this mission by reading our journal and keeping us in your prayers.

Until tomorrow .... If you think you aren't rich --- count your blessings! Susan and Monty

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The miracle begins ...

Here they are, the entire Texas team!

The group photo was taken this afternoon as the Convoy of Hope truck was preparing to leave. Convoy once again brought an entire semi load of relief supplies. It held everthing from drinks and food to gasoline cans and children's furniture items. 32 pallets to be exact! It is always such a joy and blessing to be able to unload their trucks and we are so thankful to all the companies around the nation that donate these things! My only wish is that those companies could be here to see the faces of those who are blessed by their gifts! Once again ---- THANK YOU CONVOY OF HOPE!!

The team continued their sheetrock work in Denise's house. The women are going to be professional finishers by the end of the week! The men are learning just how important it is to have straight walls when framing. It makes a world of difference when it comes to hanging the sheetrock! We are so thankful to this team as they came in feeling as though they had no real skills and yet they have been so eager to learn and so quick to pick up the skills needed to get the job done!

We also want to send out a special thank you to our Spanish friends, Leon and Armando. Leon is under Monty's truck, probably as I write this, trying his best to find out what is wrong with it. It might require the entire rebuilding of the transmission but we are praying for something a bit less drastic than that. Tomorrow will tell us more. We are just so thankful to these men for not only knowing how to work on a truck like this, but to take the time and effort to do so! And considering Armando just had knee surgery last Friday it's a miracle he is even up and around! Thanks guys, you are awesome!!

In reference to the title of today's blog ... remember a couple of days ago when I said "we need a miracle" and told you the story of Mike and Faye? I also told you how we had called Project Recovery and were working hand in hand with them. Today was the day Project Recovery made their visit to Mike and Faye. Over 2 and 1/2 hours later, after they had prayed, cried and laughed together, mountains began to move. Amy, from Project Recovery, called me with her report and the news that they have been working with FEMA to apply for emergency housing for this family. By late today it sounds like the miracle has taken yet another step forward. FEMA has open space in one of their "parks" here, on a street where Mike and Faye actually have family living, and we just might be moving them into their new FEMA trailer as early as tomorrow! The final details will be done tomorrow and we will know for sure then. Mike has his dialysis tomorrow and that always sends him to bed for the rest of the day. It would be more than awesome to be able to bring him home, to his new home, where it is free of mold and does not have rain pouring in through the ceilings, and put him to bed in a clean and comfortable bed! Keep those prayers going as the miracle is only just beginning. The next steps will be more difficult. We will need to get the city and CORE in on the story in order for them to inspect the house, hopefully declare it structurally unsound, and then tear it down. If this comes to pass, first of all it won't happen quickly. And if it comes to pass, we will then need to do what we have never done before in rebuilding --- start from the ground up with all new! So you keep those hands folded in prayer and keep those ideas flowing as we will need every ounce of "miracleness" that is possible. God tells us that we "do not have because we do not ask" and on this one we are surely asking --- and believing that "with God nothing is impossible"!

Thank you for all you are doing to keep this relief mission going forward. We have come so far and yet have so very far to go! Be sure and stay with us every step of the way --- it will be life changing --- for the people here on the coast --- and for YOU!

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

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

There when I needed them most

Puppy love is awesome, isn't it! It's hard to tell who loves who the most here! Denise's brother is the owner of the little puppy but we sure had fun with her yesterday!

The next photo is of Denise's house, complete with car in the driveway and FEMA trailer to the side. Everything packed into such a small space! Most homes around here look like this.

Texas team was busy again today with hanging more sheetrock, taping, mudding and sanding and then sanding some more! I think they are really starting to get the hang of it! By tomorrow they will either be professionals or quit!! :)

For us this team has been great! They are willing to get in there, way out of their comfort zone, and learn whatever they need to in order to get the job done! They just have the hearts of servants and we thank them for everything they are doing!

This team is also doing something we have not had a team do before. They are staying at a local campground! They brought down one RV and rented a couple of cabins to go with it. It was something they wanted to do and planned ahead for it and it's great for them! We miss having them around here in the evenings but have decided we will just go to their place for a change! :)

Monty spent the day working with the team, until I called and had a "problem"!!??
I was driving back from taking photos of the team when I heard a clanging noise at the rear of the van. Before I could wonder about what it might have been I heard a big bang and knew I had a blowout on the back tire! All I could do was get to the side of the road and the local policeman was right behind me. Before I could even complete my call for help to AAA the policeman had the tire changed! He asked to remain nameless, said he was just doing his job! I don't think his job description included crawling underneath the van, in the dirt, on a 95 degree day and changing my tire! I thank him for taking the time and being so thoughtful! And I will not reveal his identity --- but he knows who he is and I say THANK YOU!! I did make it to Walmart on the spare that was totally dryrotted and they replaced the blown one with a new one! God is good!

This evening we once again attended the monthly dinner meetings held for this district of Assembly churches. This evening's hosts were Liberty Assembly and the meal was fantastic! I need to find that lady who made the awesome Oreo Pie --- there are no words!!!! Delicious!!!!
The meeting is such a wonderful time of fellowship with other pastors and their wives, to find out what all is going on in the district and for us, to really feel a part of the city and the church! The guest speaker spoke about a new ministry he is starting, placing pastors at Nascar race tracks to reach out to the drivers! What an idea! And it has already caught on and is changing lives at each race! Just an example of all the ways God places people out there, doing His work, spreading His word!

We also were shown a picture of the new disaster relief building that Liberty is building. It will combine a food pantry to serve those in need along with a youth facility -- the best of two worlds! It looks to be an amazing facility and will be such a tremendous blessing when another disaster takes place! They are currently running a pantry, and have been since the storm. Pastor told us they still serve over 60 families per week, and they are only open 3 days a week! We pray God will continue to bless their efforts and the lives of those they are touching!

It was also great to hear that our Pastor friends that had been meeting in a tent since the storm finally have their temporary building complete and are now having church again --- with air conditioning and without bugs! They will hopefully begin breaking ground on their new permanent facility within the next few months! Please keep them in your prayers as they have lost so much with the storm and are such an incredible group of friends to us that we would love to see get really settled into church again! They are now going to be able to get back to their Sunday night services and will be having mid week Bible studies also! Praise God!

As you can see, it was a busy and blessed day! We once again thank you, the people, and Convoy of Hope for allowing us to be here working for our Lord! It's an amazing blessing and we feel honored to be such a small part of the big picture!

PS. Our "need a miracle" family update ---- the counselors are meeting with them tomorrow and have put the wheels in motion to get them into safe housing and are working on getting an analysis of the structural condition of their home! PLEASE continue to keep them in your prayers! Today was Mike's dialysis day and he isn't feeling well.

Until tomorrow ... may God bless and keep you .... Susan and Monty

Monday, September 04, 2006

Texas Steak and Cake

Today was a holiday. The calendar said it was. But it made no difference to this Texas team. They worked and worked and then worked some more. You can see in the photos that they were busy hanging sheetrock in the kitchen while the women were busy sanding, mudding and cleaning all day.

This is the home of our newest project, Denise. When Monty and I were here with our church group of volunteers back in December '05 we tore this house out. We thought that it would be done and she would be all moved in by now -- WRONG! Her father has been trying to do the work on his own, along with his own house and a full time job as an electrician! Let's face it folks, there's only so much time in the day!

To top it off, Denise had hired a contractor that appeared to be a good one -- another WRONG! He did do some work and then took off, with money in hand! Denise is a single mother also working full time and trying to do the best she can do. This kind of "rip off" happens in so many cases down here and it just makes my blood boil! Ripping someone off is bad enough, but under these circumstances it's ... I can't think of a "printable" word!

So here we are, doing what we can to get her and her young son back into their home. The team did a wonderful job with the sheetrock and will be even better tomorrow. The first day is always a learning day, everyone is pretty much out of their comfort zone. But that's okay, and expected. It's their hearts that make the difference! Hearts of service, hearts of compassion and love. If you have that, the learning is alot easier!

The big surprise of the day is when Denise came and announced that her mother and father were cooking steaks on the grill for all of us. This came complete with salad, baked potatoes and bread. If that wasn't enough, out came the strawberry cake for dessert! After a day of being in the heat and covered with a combination of sweat and sheetrock dust and mud, the meal tasted even better! We were all so blessed to be invited into their home, to sit down and share an outstanding meal, and most of all, to be able to fellowship and get to know each other better! It was a wonderful ending to the day, one that won't be forgotten anytime soon!

So it did end up being a holiday for all of us. After all, isn't Labor Day associated with labor and aren't picnics tops on the list of entertainment for the day? We managed to pack it all in expand our family at the same time! I'm pretty sure that's what God means when He tells us how important relationships with other believers are!!!

We want to extend our sincere thanks to Denise and her parents. The meal was outstanding and such a wonderful surprise but we are just thankful to be God's hands and feet and here to extend His love to everyone we meet, starting with Denise and her family!

I know I can speak for everyone when I thank God for bringing us all here! We all feel blessed to be doing His work!

Until tomorrow ... We love you all ... Susan and Monty