Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
This cross sits atop nearly all of the cemetary plots around here. Amazing site, and thought provoking for sure!
Saturday night we welcomed our team from California. They are staying at the East location, where we live. They spent yesterday getting settled in and were ready to go this morning. They are working in numerous locations doing everything from sheetrock finishing to electrical to plumbing to porch finishing to mudding. Tonight they will be going to a barbeque hosted by a friend of theirs who lives here, a woman retired from the Coast Guard. It will be a special treat for all of them!
This evening we are expecting our team from Missouri to arrive. They will be staying at St. Luke's church located in the 9th ward. They are a group of students, mixed with adult leaders, and will be doing their share of mud outs while they are here.
I wanted to talk a bit about Hands 2 Go. It is the relief organization that is the "brain child" of Pastor Larry who is from New York. He comes and spends 3 weeks out of each month here and feels that is where God has called him. He and Pastor Teresa put the wheels in motion to start Hands 2 Go and were running things on their own, as best as they could, for quite some time.
Back in December of this past year they took a special man, Joel, to lunch. Now Joel is from northern Indiana and had been here quite a few times volunteering in whatever way was needed. He would plan on coming for a week and end up staying 3 or more. Pastors Larry and Teresa asked him if he would be interested in being the director for Hands 2 Go. He agreed and gave a year commitment to doing so.
There are 2 locations where we house volunteers. The place in New Orleans East used to be the church. After the storm the entire congregation was gone. The church building in the 9th ward opened up and Pastor Teresa moved operations there. The building at East has been transformed for the volunteers, bunk beds, full kitchen, 2 showers and all. The church in the 9th has an upstairs area that has also been transformed for volunteers. No longer are there church offices. Instead there are more bunk beds with a full kitchen in the downstairs area.
Everything changed with the storm. Everyone changed after the storm. And things are still changing by the day. Churches everywhere have transformed the space they have to help others. Some are just doing everything they can to have church again! Without the volunteers neither would be possible!
Both of our locations have the option of having 3 meals a day prepared for them (at a small cost) or they can use the facilities and prepare for themselves. We have both and both work, according to the teams needs and preparations.
Hands 2 Go has a 10 year commitment to the area - - - yes, you read correctly - - - 10 years! You might wonder why so long? If you wonder that, you haven't been here and seen for yourself! After you have seen you will understand! You might even think that 10 years is a short time then!
If you ask Monty and I how long we will be here we will not have a definitive answer. Only God knows that and He's not big on giving us His long range plans. I know that if He did, we would mess things up for sure. We do know that we are committed for as long as He would have us here. If another storm would come in this upcoming hurricane season . . . we would be first responders and go from there. Like I said, God has the set of plans. It's hard to explain unless you have been here. It's even harder to understand unless you have been here. It's a life unlike anything else. It's not a life for everyone. It IS the life for us! It's the dream for us, it's the calling for us and it's where we will remain!
Hopefully this has answered some questions you might have, or maybe created enough that you want to come and see for yourself!? Either way, we thank you for having the heart to come with us on our mission, for praying for us and for just thinking of us.
Please continue to pray for the people here, those trying to rebuild their lives and those coming to help them.
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
This is a Katrina doll. She was made to be handed out to children who lost everything in the storm. This one sits atop a cabinet, always smiling and reminding me of God's love, no matter how tough things appear.
You might be wondering about the title of todays blog. Well, last night Diane ventured out on her own, heading to Walmart. Now considering that the nearest one to us is 31 miles from here and completely across town she thought driving to Slidell, which is just east of us across the lake, would be closer. She was right, BUT only if she would've taken the proper exit. When she realized she missed the exit she thought she would just go to the next one, turn around and be back on track = NOT! It took miles to get turned around and then she found herself deadlocked on the interstate due to a fatal accident. As if that wasn't bad enough, the "low fuel" light came on in her van! With miles to go yet she sat patiently in the van, waiting . . . with the engine turned off.
When the road finally started to clear she was on her way . . . maybe! She did get to the right exit but after travelig for miles the Walmart was still nowhere in site and the fuel gauge wasn't refiling itself. It was time to stop and ask for directions (one of those female things)! Yes, she was headed in the right direction, just go about 5 more miles. When she finally got there she breathed a sigh of relief; but a bit too soon. She had gone to cash a money order and when she reached the counter there was a sign that said they could not cash money orders because they were out of cash!!?? (Remember, she is traveling alone!) This prompted her to hunt down a clerk to whom she could plead her case. Not only did the clerk feel horrible, so did the other patrons in line. Finally the clerk agreed to nearly empty the drawer and cash her check. This allowed her to finish her business and finally fill the fuel tank on her van. To say that her nerves were a bit on the frazzled side is an understatement. Diane is a VERY health minded lady and after going through all of this she "broke down" and just had to buy a Coke! She admitted it was probably the first one in a year! So what should have been, at the most, a one hour trip not so quickly turned into a 3 hour trip! And believe it or not the old saying that "patience is a virtue" was of no comfort to her!!!! The rest of us got quite a laugh out of the story!!!
This morning we all packed up in the church van and headed into town to help another church clear out a couple of rooms where they were going to get carpeting installed. It was an awesome experience as this Pastor had a short video of what he saw when he first returned to town and saw not only his church but his house. Even though we work in it every day seeing it is still hard to take. Not only did he loose his house, completely lost it as it cannot be rebuilt, his uncle lived across the street and died in the flood. This pastor and his wife are living in a trailer and are determined to completely rebuild their church before even thinking about finding a home for themselves! He said they have no money to purchase a home but know God will provide when the time is right! Quite an inspiration to all of us! Two of our team returned to help install the carpeting this afternoon!
It's these kind of experiences that make up our days here. God gives us the gift of laughter and the gift of compassion at the same time. Sometimes it can be tough bouncing between the two as they are extremes. But . . . it is such a blessing to be here, experiencing all God has for us, working together to rebuild lives! There is nothing like it, there is nothing to compare it to, it is God all the way and all we need is the strength and obedience to follow Him!
Thank you for your prayers for both!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Sunday, May 20, 2007
As I mentioned on Friday, we were headed to a minor league baseball game for an outing and it was a blast! It felt so good to be out with a group of people who all share our hearts, who all understand why we are here and also realize the need for some time away from the disaster work, time to get to know each other better and time to laugh together. And laugh we did. My stomach was hurting by the end of the game. And at the end they had a fireworks display unlike anything I have ever seen before! All in all it was a wonderful night!
Yesterday we said goodbye to Mike. He had been here for a few days helping us out with numerous jobs and had to head back home. Before taking him the the airport he wanted to sample the beignets that New Orleans are famous for. In case you have no idea what those are, they look like square donut style pastries that are covered (and I mean covered) with powdered sugar. You can get a plate of 3 of them for 99 cents! We were able to sit outside and enjoy the cooler morning. We took a stroll through a couple of the streets before heading back "to the ranch".
Later in the day Monty and I took a drive around some areas of the city to try and get familiar with part of it. I am amazed at the size of the city! It's much larger than I had realized. The damage is confined to the east side and the 9th ward, all within a 10 minute drive. It's nearly mind boggling to be in one part of the city and see that is was untouched by the storm and then in the blink of an eye see complete devastation! From every building being just fine to every building being destroyed! Seeing the beauty of some of the homes and other homes with nothing left to even rebuild from! I doubt it will ever be something I get used to.
We did stop and check on some of the fishermen and they were pulling them in! It seems it must have been the time where the fish were coming nearer to the shore for feeding time and that helps the fishermen catch them. I haven't seen large fish like that from those who just fish in the lakes back home in Indiana!
This morning we were off to church. Dovie had asked Diane and I to help serve the dinner meal after church. Each week the church supplies a complete meal for all who attend the church. The menu today was courtesy of Teen Challenge. They had food from an event they had and there was more than enough food left to go around and fill each and every person here today. The baked fish, baked chicken, pasta salad and rolls were a hit, not to mention the strawberry shortcake for dessert! For some, this meal is the only "full coarse" one they will get for the week! I heard many of them tell me that this was THE only homecooked meal they get! There is always enough left for some to take plates back home with them. What a way to bless the people who have suffered so much loss. Jesus set the perfect example for us as He also fed the multitudes when they came to hear His message!
Tomorrow we will be starting with our first team since we arrived. Ezra has a family from his home church who will be joining us. It should be a great week and another opportunity to help the people of New Orleans rebuild their homes through the rebuilding of their lives!
Thank you for all of your prayers. You are our "covering" and without you none of this mission would be possible. We pray you had a wonderful message from your own church this morning and you were "fed" by the words that feed us deeper than any bread can!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty
Friday, May 18, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
Here it is -- home sweet home!!!!
Don't be mistaken, look closely. There are 2 trailers in this photo. Together they make the size of 1 regular mobile home! We are thrilled to have our own shower and a small kitchen; the finer things in life! :)
It was a very long day on Saturday but we made it without incident. The rains even held off for us. I can't say the same for the heat! We're already in the 90s, summer is here whether the calendar says so or not. But we did enjoy the cookout they had planned and it was a great time of fellowship and getting to know the workers that are our neighbors. We also got Diane all situated in her new surroundings and laughed when we looked and saw that she is next to the only tree on the property. She had already made a nice little sitting area under the tree but also realized that when one is sitting the mosquitos (which are the size of small horses) come for their own feast!
Yesterday we went to church and it was great! Pastor Teresa had a wonderful message and all us mothers received a small gift. This church serves a dinner for the entire congregation EVERY Sunday and we had a feast this week, something extra special for the mothers.
When the storm hit here (the church is in the heart of the 9th ward) every single member lost their home and every single member left town and have not returned. There was doubt as to whether it would even continue to be a church. Pastor Teresa had another plan. She took hold of this church, renovated the downstairs into a cafe and there are around 70 plus people coming each Sunday! I'd say God is moving at quite a pace here!
From church we decided we needed to make a trip to Walmart to pick up some things. Well, the trip consists of driving 31 miles to get there! When I tell you that there is nothing in the area we are I REALLY mean there is nothing! In the subdivision where we live there are only 3 homes being lived in! If we decide to go to the nearest grocery store it's also a 15 minute drive! So we did our best to stock up on what we could. Oh yes, the Lowes is across from Walmart so it is also not a "quick" trip to get materials needed.
Today we were still busy getting things put away and trying to finish up the organizing of things. We were given a chest of drawers and some pots and pans -- both of which we are not used to being blessed with. I might even be able to cook a thing or two now! :) Monty was busy with Mark and Ezra getting the materials needed to close in the area behind the church. They plan to make it a patio area where teams and staff can meet to fellowship and not be eaten alive by the bugs. There will be 9 windows in the place and tomorrow they will be "raising the roof" literally! We are keeping Joel's mother (he is the director) in our prayers as she is having some surgery this week. He is there with her and God willing, he will return here this weekend. We also pray for his safe travel.
Diane and I finally made our way to the church this evening to be able to go online and therefore send our love to all of you out there who have been covering us with your prayers. As I have said, God specifically spoke to me and told me to "take back the city". That cannot be done without your prayers lifting and holding us up. We ARE living a dream and thank you for making it possible.
I hope to be able to reach you through the blog each day from now on. If I do miss a day please bear with me. This week is alot of re-adjusting and next week I should be here at the church fulltime and able to blog every single day again.
We pray all of you are doing well. Don't forget to count your blessings!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty
Friday, May 11, 2007
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
These seas are calm, for now.
If you have been watching the news you may have heard about the storm brewing out east in the Atlantic. Maybe we watch just a little more carefully now that we live here but the weather people make sure we know what is happening all along the coasts. Tomorrow the local weather will be sending planes over the disturbance to see if it is a tropical storm with hurricane possibilities or not. All those in the path of this storm, regardless of its category, could use our prayers right about now. The rains are falling, the waves are pounding about 15 feet in height and none of that is a good thing.
Also, now is the time more disaster help is needed. The tornados that hit Greensburg, Kansas are devastating, to say the least. They have put out a request for volunteers to just come in and help the residents go through their belongings and see what, if anything, they can salvage. This is an extremely tough time for everyone in this small town. We know what it looks like when you are wiped off the map with a hurricane and tornados are just as deadly and savage. This would be a great time to rally some troops from your church, your community or your families and send some help in the way of financial or material if you yourselves cannot physically get there. If you would be able to get there and don't know how to go about it, contact your church, or any church, or go through the Convoy of Hope website at www.convoyofhope.org for information. We have seen what a life changing difference the slightest bit of help can bring.
In Esther 4:14 it states "Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Is this your time to help, to allow people to see Jesus through you? Take it to prayer and listen for God's response, then follow what He says! You'll never be sorry you did!
Until tomorrow . . Susan and Monty
Monday, May 07, 2007
If you put your nose close enough to the screen you just might be able to smell it!
Today was the beginning of some repair work on Monty's truck. As I said before, some of this has needed done for quite some time and we just had to put it off. Now there is no more delaying -- it must be able to not only make the trip west but it must be able to make two trips, each one pulling a trailer. Hopefully it will all be done over the next couple of days and ready to haul.
Just getting our tool trailer ready to go has taken some time. Tools have a way of getting rather spread out in several locations. Once they were all rounded up it was then time to get them into the trailer, and balanced for hauling. It's really close! :)
And then there was the near last minute shopping needed. Since we don't really know where the stores are that are open we decided it best to make sure we are sort of stocked up on some things before getting there. I know there are two grocery stores but where the Walmart was near where we will live, well, it's no more. I don't even know for sure where we are to get gas and diesel fuel so we'll make sure we go in as close to full as possible.
We have also learned that trying to locate places online isn't accurate. Take for instance our bank. I went to one of the local branches here and asked where the closest one would be there. They pulled up 6 locations, 5 of them destroyed! The only way to know they were destroyed was to check for their hours of operation.
All we'll need is a map and some time to travel. BUT --- most of the street signs are still missing so this time it will take a bit more time! God and His sense of humor again! :)
In today's devotion it talked of SPEM prayer as an outline to use when praying for missionaries. Thought I would pass it on for those of you who are keeping us held up in prayer.
SPEM stands for spiritual, physical, emotional and mental areas of prayer.
Spiritual for the truth that leads to spiritual understanding, eliminating confusion.
Physical for the security and rest we find in God.
Emotional for relief from distress.
Mental for insight and wisdom and the peace that can only come from God.
For all of you who have been our "prayer warriors"--THANK YOU! I just thought this little outline was "right on" the dot!
Until tomorrow. . . thank you for the prayers that hold us up and make it possible for us to continue the calling God has placed on our lives! Susan and Monty
Sunday, May 06, 2007
The state tree is in bloom and today we finally got the opportunity, and location, to stop and take some photos of them -- and to smell them. I'm sure they will be in heaven because they smell so wonderful! "They" are magnolias and they are beautiful. I thought the trees would just all bloom at once but that's not the case. Some of the blooms are already done and falling from the trees and others are just buds waiting to open. Either way, they are beautiful and just another example of the beauty of God.
Yes, Pastor Rick was back and preaching this morning. He challenged us all to not give up when trials and tribulations come our way. We all know that when we are working for the Lord we will face some pretty tough opposition from satan AND we all know that Jesus has already won the battle for us so we just need to hang in there and finish what it is God has called us to do.
As you can see, once again the sermon was just for us!
It was our last Sunday here at The Refuge and Pastor sent us out with prayer for the next step in our walk. We were also treated to lunch with some friends and just like I thought, it was hard to fight back the tears! We have been living in the back of the church, on the parking lot, for almost one year to the day and yes, it has become comfortable. Thus one of the reasons God is moving us onward. As they told us in our school, God calls us but He doesn't tell us to stay!
Speaking of moving, thank you for the prayers for our daughter as she made her move from Indiana to her new job in Florida. She arrived safely and is excited about starting a new life. We all thank you for praying for her!
I'll close with one of the verses used in the sermon this morning, a verse we should carry with us constantly; "Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always."
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Thought it might help to have a face to the name. Yes, Pastor Rick was dismissed from the hospital today. Thank you for your prayers and I would ask that you continue to pray for renewed strength and healing.
Even though the calendar says it's only the first of May the temperatures have already started rising. The humidity also came along with the heat today thus making it quite sticky. I guess I just spent too many years in Indiana and got used to "seasons" that are much different than here! :)
We got a little bit better start on our moving today. Monty is working away at getting tools arranged in the tool trailer in such a way that they can travel. I spent some time going through things in the camper trailer. Most of what is there can stay right where it is and can travel fine. My work will mostly come when we "land" at our new space.
In one of my devotions for today God really spoke to me (again) about New Orleans. "God is not seeking the most qualified or talented; rather He is seeking hearts that are surrendered to Him. He is seeking those who are available, dependable and willing to be used. In those lives, God will show himself strong and He will be glorified."
"Are you available?"
So many of you have made yourselves available and as I sit and reflect on all that has been accomplished because you made yourselves available it renews my strength and spirit as we head west. THANK YOU!
"Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou are the Potter, I am the clay; Mold me and make me after Thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still."
Tomorrow is our last time at The Refuge for Sunday service. It will be very difficult to say goodbye to so many friends who have become family. But . . . God has new plans, new family and new blessings.
As you attend your church tomorrow please pray for us and at the same time thank God for all He has done here in Mississippi!
Until then . . . Susan and Monty
Friday, May 04, 2007
Posing at one of the monuments at the museum. You decide which one is the bronze statue!!
Today was one of those days where it rains all day and you really know you are living in a swamp land! Makes it difficult to get much done but we are making progress. Our "out" date is set forthe end of next week.
Monty took his truck to be looked at this morning and it seems there are a couple of major "issues" that must be taken care of before we go or we just might end up with the axles coming apart and our tires falling off while traveling west. Not a good thing so it will be going into the shop next week and will most likely be there for a few days.
We have an extremely urgent prayer request for this evening. Pastor Rick is hospitalized with chest pains. He was taken to the hospital this afternoon and they have decided it best to keep him overnight. He is resting as comfortably as possible but still in some discomfort. Prayers for healing would surely be appreciated, for him and his wife Vickey, their entire family and the church congregation. Monty and I both know how quickly chest pains can change peoples lives. We thank you for surrounding Pastor Rick with your prayers of healing. God is in the business of healing and aren't we all glad He is!
Until tomorrow . . . Hug your loved ones especially close tonight. Susan and Monty
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Yes, here we are as we visited the museum. Seeing the Blue Angel jets was awesome. We did see them flying the skies a couple of times also. It was amazing!
We have some sad news to share this evening. You might remember photos of Steve and Carol, or may have even had them as your volunteer coordinators when you were here. Last week Carol's mother fell and broke her hip. We heard the news that she passed away Monday afternoon. It was quite sudden and we would ask for prayers for the entire family. Steve and Carol had just finished another stint here on the coast with Convoy of Hope and were heading for a vacation to visit children. That visit will be put on hold now. The family needs held up at this difficult time and we thank you for doing so.
Due to the late hour, (we just returned from our classes) this will be a short entry.
May God bless Steve and Carol and their families! We love you guys!!!!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty