Tuesday, July 31, 2007

CA is here

A view of clouds forming over Lake Ponchatrain during a storm. We were crossing the bridge between Slidel and New Orleans East.

First of all, a special note to Cathy and the team coming from PA -- yes, you most definitely can bless the children! The entire family was in church Sunday and came up for prayer after. Bless all of you for having such hearts of love and service to others!! We love you!!

Monty and I made it back this evening and just in time to see our newest team from California coming in from working. This is a men's group from church and they are all skilled in construction of all kinds. There are two of them who are carpet layers, a skill we hardly ever get so we are taking full advantage of them! They have been laying carpet and vinyl in the church offices. Both Pastor Teresa and Pastor Larry should be very surprised when they return tomorrow! I've been told I will be surprised when I see my office area also---somehow I think I'll probably be surprised AFTER I get it put back together!! :)

Some of the team is tearing the roofing off the new upcoming warehouse and I can't even describe what they looked like other than covered with tar! They also looked like they had the time of their lives up there! Men and destruction sort of go together.

Tomorow we will be welcoming a team from the state of Washington, again! This is a youth group and they have all sorts of things planned for the community so it should be a great week. Be sure and stay tuned.

Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Goodbye Michigan

Just a part of the pile left behind by the gut out from Michigan! A pile of what we call debris but the homeowner calls their life! The mirror stands along side, not damaged so badly and waiting for possibly a new owner to come by and pluck it from the pile. This is what we do with some things that might be usable for someone else. No need to dumpster "dive" around here, just drive up and down the streets.

The Michigan team left for home early this morning. We pray for their safe travel and that they will return to the city soon.

The Washington team worked as if it were a regular work day today. Just because it was Saturday on the calendar made no difference to them! They will take a day of rest tomorrow.

Monty and I started our day at the church. The pews and benches are now completely refinished and placed back in the sanctuary. From there we headed off to Pastor Teresa and Greg's house to put in the base trim. Greg had the job of pulling all of the furniture away from the walls, quite a job in itself. I set up the miter saw on their front porch and did the measuring and cutting and Monty did the nailing and caulking. We got the entire job done and had a blast while doing it! I'm not so sure their dog, Banjo, had such a good day though. He wasn't too happy with the sound of the nail gun and the saw. He will probably sleep very well tonight!

We did hear results from Monty's family in regard to their health. His sister, Shelley, is doing well and resting at home. The news with his uncle, Larry, isn't as good. They found a mass on his pancreas and spots on his liver. Neither of them can be corrected with surgery. Needless to say it's rather upsetting and your prayers would be helpful - for the entire family!

I want to let you know we will "off the air" from tonight until Tuesday night. We have a meeting at our mission school on Monday. We are in the final stages of our application process to become missionaries with the school. It's an exciting time for us. God is leading us in His plan and we pray to be open and obedient to whatever and wherever that plan is to lead us.

We will be back here blogging on Tuesday night!

Have a blessed couple of days and don't forget to thank God for all your blessings as you attend your house of worship tomorrow!

Until next time . . . Susan and Monty

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gut Out --- weeds first

Yes, the Michigan team continued their gut out but they had to find their way through the weeds that were as high as the house before they could even find the door! The photo with the weeds is the house next door. Their house looked just like this one. It's what happens after 23 months with no one there and nothing done. At home we call it vacant, that word doesn't begin to describe what we see here, one house after another, entire subdivisions!
The photo of the television is an excellent example of what happens inside the homes after this long! Looks like something from a horror movie.
The team took many of these water breaks as the temps rose into the 90s and then the rains came to only add to the humidity.
The photos of the growth of molds inside the homes are fascinating! The patterns of the mold and how it just eats everything it touches are amazing. You can see that the floors have already fallen through and the mold shows the water line. Because the home sat this way for all this time not only do the walls have to come out, so do the ceilings. They have soaked up the water also. And the entire electrical system will have to be redone and no electrician will come and work unless the home is stripped to the stud walls. And even some of the stud walls in this home have to be removed and replaced as the studs rotted at their bases and separated themselves from the subflooring! Destruction unlike anything most people have ever seen. And we just keep finding them, they seem to never end!
The Washington team helped our neighbor across the street pull a few more things from his home. He had a team of roofers there the other day and those guys worked till nearly 10pm that night but they got the new roof on and completed.
From there the team went and worked in another home. This team is staying through the weekend and will be working tomorrow -- a Saturday! What a blessing to all the homeowners whose lives are blessed by them being here!
I am still working on refinishing the 2 church pews that survived the storm. I have been able to refinish them and yet preserve the water lines that happened as they floated in the 11' high flood waters inside the church for nearly a month.
Monty was busy painting the base trim we both will be installing in Pastor Teresa and Greg's home tomorrow. It's the last thing they need done. Greg plans on helping us, it should be a fun day for all of us!
One of the Michigan teens left this morning but not before she wrote a letter to all of us. She wanted to let us know what this week had meant to her and how it had changed her life. I won't quote the whole letter but there was a line in it that is one of those "quotable quotes" that all of us should "ponder" on daily. She said that being here was "nothing at all to do with me and everything to do with God"! Words to live by!!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back problems

Pastor Larry's office got a complete transformation this week. Brandon and his team repainted the walls, trim and window casing. What an improvement!

Our Washington team set a new record yesterday -- they hung 50 sheets of sheetrock in a single day! Mark had to go to the warehouse this morning to get more. The teams is determined to get this house sheetrocked this week. The homeowner is coming home and they want to get him in his home as soon as possible. When I talked with this team during their planning stage they assured me they knew sheetrock and that is what they wanted to due while here. They weren't kidding! They did help out on the mud and gut out early this morning until the sheetrock was on site. Thanks so much to this team for their dedication and determination!

The Michigan team worked the mud and gut out all day. Once again a home that no one had been inside of since the storm. The family has temporarily relocated elsewhere but want so badly to return. Today was a start toward that, even if it is nearly 23 months later! Today was the first sign of hope they have had in that length of time!!

This evening was our chapel service of praise and worship and testimonies from those team members who want to speak up about something that God has done in their lives. Six men spoke up and it was amazing. One of the gentleman was on the very first team to come in and help mud out the church. He stood in amazement at how much better it looks today! He gave powerful words of encouragement and praise to the younger ones. He spoke about how God is blessing what they are doing and that they are our future and he feels very positive about our future because of these kids.

The entire service is always moving and brings both smiles and tears, all in the joy of the Lord!

On a personal side, we did hear that Monty's sister came through her back surgery fine. We want to thank you for your prayers, you don't know just how powerful they were, and are. The doctors planned on repairing one low back disc that was blown out. When they got there they found more and the lowest one actually had a splinter of bone broken off and that piece had actually pierced through her spinal column! The doctors said it was a miracle she wasn't paralyzed! Just another miracle of God is what we thought! She should recover well but will be on total rest for the next four weeks.

Monty had back problems of his own today. We were blessed to locate a wonderful chiropractor here locally. The doctor was also a man of God and treated us more than fairly. Both of us have been to chiropractors over the years and just had not located one since relocating here. Now that we have one the back problems will be taken care of on a regular basis. Monty is doing fine, just needed a day of rest after the treatments.

We thank you for your prayers. Without them we would not be able to make it day to day!

Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

House painting -- with no rain!

Before I get into anything about the day I have a special note for Cathy of Pennsylvania. You asked what you could do for Javante and his family (the little boy and his grandmother who came to church). We have rounded up some furniture but what they could really use (that we can't find) are bed linens for queen and full size beds, towels and pots and pans. I thank you for wanting to do something -- you all have such hearts of service! We thank you for the thought and if I can help you with anything just give me a call.
Now, for today. As you can see, most of the Michigan team continued with the outside painting of Tom and Carol's house and it looks fantastic! Amazing what a team can do when they all work together! Jansen took these photos for me as this house is quite a distance from where we are and I can't always get to all the jobs going on that day!
Our Washington team was just a couple of streets away working on sheetrock and construction of a new homeowner. This team has some skilled workers and we always try to use them to the best of their abilities.
Ciri is working on decorating our church. She has some wonderful ideas which should really make the church light up.
Allen and Dovie welcomed their two nephews to the group this evening. Those nephews also brought along a friend so our teams have just grown by 3 more people for the next week or so.
Monty and I had the blessing of meeting with a couple of our Convoy of Hope friends this afternoon. They had been in Mississippi and drove over here for a couple of meetings. They had the opportunity to stop in and visit with Mike and Faye. They were happy to report Mike is doing well and out of the hospital. It was also the first time they got to see their new home and they were happy with what they saw. We were so happy to see them and hear how things are going up in Missouri.
We did get an update on Monty's sister. She had her back surgery today and was resting comfortable when we spoke to her step father. Thank you for your prayers!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Welcome Washington

This picture was taken this past Thursday night at our Chapel service. We packed the house! The service lasted a little over 3 hours! We have service every Thursday night. It's a combination chapel and testimony night. Hearing the teams talk about how God has touched them during the week is so uplifting and miraculous!

Early this evening we welcomed our incoming team from the state of Washington. For some of them this is a repeat trip, begging to come back after last years trip. For others, this is the first time here. I had a conversation with one of the men this evening and he only decided 4 days ago to make the trip. As they drove to look at the houses they will be working in tomorrow he was shocked! He couldn't believe the devastation, how the neighborhoods are empty and the homes are left standing! He wasn't prepared for what he saw -- and he hasn't seen anything yet! This team brings skilled workers with them so they will be hanging sheetrock and doing some general construction while they are here.

The Michigan team continued their work on Tom and Carol's house and hanging the sheetrock. They also were putting on some outside siding for another homeowner. Busy, busy all over the city!

Mark and some of the team are busy scrapping metal and wiring from our upcoming warehouse. Both can be profitable and therefore must be done asap before someone from the streets decides to do the same thing.

I spent most of my day working on refinishing church pews and benches that have been through the storm. It's a slow process but they are looking better each day.

As you can see, our days are spent here and there. Keeping up with where everyone is can be a challenge. It's so fun to hear all the stories when the teams gather back together and share their days. The joy that comes from them is contagious. That "joy of the Lord" thing!!

We pray you are operating in that same joy.

Until tomorrow (when Monty's sister has her back surgery) . . . Susan and Monty

Monday, July 23, 2007

New Orleans on FIRE

Yes, fire it was!! On our way back home this evening we saw the heavy smoke, realized it was really close to home and sure enough, it was about 1/2 mile from us!
We arrived before the fire trucks and even though they did all they could it was a goner! Their main focus was saving the red brick apartment building next to it. They share a wall and the red brick has the ability to be rebuilt. You can see just how hot it was with the pillar of black smoke. We were standing across the canal and across the street and you could feel the intense heat.
You can also see by the people that it brought everyone out to look. I didn't know there were that many people on this side of town!
And this happened on the one day where there was no rain! The temps were a bit more tolerable as the humidity levels were a bit lower. With the slight breeze it was almost tolerable!
Our Lansing, Michigan team was divided in three teams after orientation this morning. A couple of them headed to St Lukes church building to paint a room upstairs. After destroying the wasp nest in the window they were good to go! They should be able to finish it tomorrow and then move all the furniture back inside.
Most of the team went south to St. Bernard's Parrish to Tom and Carol's house. They had alot of outside painting to do along with quite a bit of work inside. They had a good day to do both.
Another part of the team, along with Monty, went to Michael's house to hang sheetrock. Michael is a firefighter and a pastor. He was feeling pretty depressed about his situation and after some sheetrock and some more ministry he was doing better. The team will continue their progress there tomorrow.
Ciri had her dance class at church this evening and Javante was 30 minutes early! He was so excited he couldn't stay home any longer. He was also thrilled that his grandmother decided to stay and not return to Baton Rouge just yet! I had to leave before they got into the dancing but would have loved to see him. I'll try and get some photos at their Wednesday night class.
Another great note of the day. Javante's family is in dire need of some furniture, bedding and kitchen items. I decided to tap into some of the awesome resources we had while working in Mississippi and sure enough --- they came through with flying colors! We have a couch, kitchen table and some dishes donated. All we need to do is drive over with Monty's truck and pick them up! God just continues to work all along the coast! I am so thankful to Rebuild Jackson County for recognizing that the need spreads all along the coast and being willing to extend their resources not only out of the county but out of the state! Thanks to Carla and Sharon!! You girls rock!!!!
This team tapped some of their own resources before leaving for this trip. They all came out dressed in scrubs for the day. They said they do the same thing on their trips to Mexico. First of all, the scrubs are very cool in hot weather and they are able to get them donated most of the time! What a thought! Maybe some of you that are coming in the future, or thinking about coming might like to try the same thing. And maybe some of you who cannot make the trip could do the organizing and get the same thing donated for your team??!!
I also have an update on the prayer request for Monty's uncle. They found a mass on his pancreas, did a biopsy and are awaiting the results. Things don't look very good so your prayers would really be appreciated. His sister has her surgery on Wednesday so this is a pretty rough time for the family and rough on Monty for not being able to be there with them.
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"American Dreams"

Yes, once again this evening the skies are black, the lightning bolts are the only light and the thunder is rolling! Seems like an everyday occurance anymore. Today it's hitting a bit later than usual.

We were up early this morning saying goodbye to our team from New Mexico. When we arrived at the church they were already deep into the cleaning process! Walking up and seeing kids with brooms, mops, cleaning supplies and bags of laundry was awesome! No one was complaining, the only negative words were from those who didn't want to go home! This group was truly amazing and such a blessing for us. And then when I stop and realize that most of these kids did not know each other before coming, they are from churches all over the state, it's even more of a God thing! We were sad to see them go and pray they will come back soon and continue to bless not only the community but also us!

Our team from Alabama left last night. They only had a 6 hour drive and were looking forward to their families, their own beds and a good shower! We also hope we will be seeing more of them.

Monty and I took the day and got some errands done. We spent quite a bit of time downtown and managed to get alot accomplished! That's always a good feeling.

This evening we had quite the surprise. I don't know how many of you remember the television show that aired about 3 years ago called American Dreams? It was set back in the late 50s and early 60s, my time of childhood. Anyway, if you do remember you will also remember the blonde who played Meg (Brittany Snow). While Monty and I were having dinner this evening at the local mall food court we looked up at the table next to us and there she was --- MEG! We both knew it had to be her, even with her hair up under the hat she was wearing. We waited until we were finished and I just had to find out for certain that it was her. I went up and excused myself and then asked her. A big smile came over her face when she said yes, it was her! She smiled even wider when I told her I was sad when the show came to an end. She was visiting the city and planned on going to the east side to see the devastation while here. It was a high point in my day to see a celebrity who was so warm and welcoming and thanked me for talking with her!

On a not so light note; we have a couple of personal prayer requests. Next week Monty's sister will be undergoing back surgery on her low back and his uncle will be having some pretty extensive testing done. We would really appreciate prayers for the entire family but especially for Shelley and Larry. We thank you as we know God is a God of healing and also a God who never leaves us.

Don't forget to thank God for all your blessings and sing out those praises to Him in church tomorrow.

Until then . . . Susan and Monty

Friday, July 20, 2007

Divine Appointment

From tearing out the old framing of the dropped ceiling to chiseling the tile from the floor to doing whatever it took to pull the pile of sheet metal that had been the roof, the team did the job! If you look closely at the bottom left photo you can see the sheet metal buried in what used to be the neighbor's yard and fence. Both no longer exist, not even the neighbor! We are so thankful to this team for digging in and being as creative as needed to do what needed to get done. Our next step will be to power wash the inside, put on a new roof and go from there! Pray that our needs are met with this project.
Part of the team started a sheetrock job today. One of the local firemen had been busy helping others and today it was his turn. The police and firemen were the first people we tried to get help to. Some refused saying there were others out there who needed the help even more. Not any more, today he started seeing his home come together instead of come apart!
Those who had been at the church in St. Bernard's Parrish got their tiling project done! Working inside that building was like working in a hot box but they never complained, just worked for the Lord!
Monty and I both were busy inside St. Luke church most of the day. I had a wonderful conversation with Jenny from California who is in the planning stages of bringing a team here in November. We pray God will bring the people to help the people!
I was using some chemicals that required me to prop open the main door of the church. When I looked up there was this little boy standing there watching me. He asked if we "help people", his grandmother and aunt lived down and across the street and needed some help. I didn't really understand what they needed so Monty and I just decided to take a walk with the little boy and see what they needed. The story unfolded all afternoon. They were a bit shocked when we came walking up but it didn't take a minute for them to start to open up. The aunt had just moved into the renovated apartment (duplex) and needed things like bed linens, pots and pans, towels and clothing for 5 children. We took the informationa and told them we would do our best. Within 2 minutes of getting back to the church the grandmother came walking in. She continued the story by telling us she is the grandmother of 23 and doing what she can to help her two daughters get settled from the storm. She herself lives in Baton Rouge but comes here all the time to help them. She also told us about loosing her 30 year old son and her father in the storm. Since then she has also lost a brother. We prayed with her and after telling her about the church (for the second time) she thought she would try and come this weekend.
About 2 hours later her comes the little boy again. I was still working near the door and he was just facinated with the inside of the church! His eyes were huge as he stood and looked around. He was asking me about when I was a kid and when I told him I grew up on a farm he was filled with questions. He told me he had never been on a farm. He then asked me if my daddy had been with us on the farm. You should've seen the look on his face when I said yes and that my daddy was still on that farm! He then told me his mother died in 2001 from a heart attack. I told him Monty had a heart attack a few years ago and he was surprised and answered, " he didn't die, did he!" He told me he had nothing to do but sit on the porch with his aunt and grandmother. He thought that when they moved here they would have a yard. He has no idea where he will go to school in the fall because the school he was supposed to go was closed from the storm. In the end I found 5 coloring books and a pack of crayons to take home and give him something to do for the afternoon. His face shown as if I had given him gold!
Needless to say this child was a divine appointment for both Monty and I. He definitely stole my heart and I will be tapping my resources come Monday and see what I can come up with! He told me he would definitely be there come Sunday morning and I have no doubt he will be. And I also would be willing to bet that anytime he sees either Monty's or my truck parked in front of the church he will be coming to see us! You can just see the hunger for Jesus in his eyes and in his heart! Please pray for this entire family! They are just one of nearly 150,000 who suffered so much loss in this storm!
Thank you for all your prayers.
Until tomorrow . . . don't forget to count your blessings! Susan and Monty

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a TORNADO!!

There are days when you experience God's awesome power and then there are the exceptional, unpredictable days.
Today was one of those, beyond measure! In the top 2 photos (click on them to enlarge them) you will see the power of God like never before!
The cloud scenes in the last two were after the tornado went back into the clouds and moved north of us.
Yes, it was a full fledged tornado and there we were, standing in the parking lot of what will soon be our new warehouse, the team working away and taking a break to watch the lightning strikes coming sharply from the sky. And then all I heard was Monty's voice above everything else, calling my name! When I turned he was pointing towards the sky saying something about a tornado? When I turned back around sure enough, it was such an incredible sight and considering the camera was already in my hand I snapped the first one and handed it off to him.
At that point is when I climbed up on the old semi to get a better view. By this time the entire team had come around the corner and watched in amazement with us! Part of the team there was from Kansas and even though you might think they are used to such sights == NOT! They kept asking when the sirens would sound and were in total shock when I told them there are no sirens!
The cloud formations had already moved over us when the tornado formed so we knew it was not moving in our direction. All of us just stood out there, watching, some praying for the people who might be in its path and others speechless. Some were immediately on cell phones talking with loved ones at home. I find it a real God thing that when any kind of disaster is en route or has happened that the first thing we think of is our family and how we need to connect with them!
We watched for quite a few minutes and then saw it go back up into the clouds. There were a couple more trying to form but never quite made it. And then the swirling cloud mass sort of disbanded and moved on north. The team went back to work but the sight and feeling didn't leave with the clouds.
It's these times when I can literally feel the protecting hand of God on all of us here. Even though we were standing there watching this sight there wasn't fear. We were just in awe of the sight we were seeing. We all just knew God was protecting us and that nothing was going to happen to us! It's really hard to describe but a feeling you never forget.
As I watched it, standing on that old destroyed truck, the main feeling I had was that there was a wall around us, kind of like a force-field, one that would repel the tornado if it came near us. And as I felt that wall around me I also saw the tornado hang around for a few minutes and then just get drawn back up into the clouds. Like I said, really difficult to describe but such an intense feeling. I also know that the wall I felt was a wall created by all the prayers of protection from all of you who are walking with us on our mission! THANK YOU!
I pray you all feel just that kind of protection as you walk through your days!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jansen is the insulation king!

Sorry that I couldn't get out and take photos today but I will do my best to correct that tomorrow. Another day that I worked in paperwork and the time just went away!

Yes, Jansen led a group today and started insulating Mary's house. Jansen is from the Angola, Indiana team that came down last week. He felt God calling him to stay so he is here until the end of August. He really stepped up today and took this team and got alot of work done. When they finish the insulation the next step will be hanging the sheetrock. With more and more houses getting ready for insulation he could be the master within days!

Monty and his crew continued working with the metal roof that came off of the upcoming warehouse. It finally took renting a powerful, and large, saw to cut through everything. Alot of work but as I heard the one gentleman say, "I didn't get this far in the world by quitting." I don't think he has worked in humidity and heat quite like this but he didn't complain.

Another group did another gut out and made real headway there. Seems like they never end!

This evening we had our weekly dinner meeting. We usually meet at Pastor Teresa's but this week we met at Matt and Jen's. We all brought in different things for dinner and had fun learning a bit more about each of our families back home. Driving to their home also took us through an area of the city where we had not been. It bordered the Garden District and from what we saw in the dark - it's beautiful. We plan to make another trip in the daytime and take some photos so you can see some of the beauty here, across the river. Matt and Jen's house didn't take any water but did get struck by one of the tornadoes that hit the area. They had some major damage but their insurance company didn't give them any problems so they are now complete with all the repairs.

Now if we could get the rest of those who suffered so much loss headed in that direction things would start coming together and lives would be rebuilt!

Until tomorrow . . . we can pray for just that! Susan and Monty

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One mission opportunity after another

Yes, the pile is growing and it is becoming closer to a warehouse each and every day. Today Monty and the crew tackled taking out the heating and air unit. You could see it in yesterdays blog, the holes in the roof were pouring rain directly on top of it. That unit had been purchased and installed only one month before the storm and it was a total loss. It's just another of those things we don't think about when we think of everything that has been lost.

They also worked on getting the tin roof cleaned up. What you can't see in the photos is that the winds literally peeled the roof from the structure and tossed some of it to the back of the building and some more to the right side. Both messes were in large sheets and today they managed to get the back part done. The part on the side will take a very large saw and some really cautious work tomorrow. Some of it rests on the next door neighbor's property so I'm sure they will be glad to see the team at work removing it.

Monty tells me each day there are more and more people coming around, wanting to see what is happening. He has had more than a couple of opportunities to minister to them and if you know the "new" Monty you know he makes the most of each of those opportunities! Today the gentleman was changing the bearings in one of the wheels on his van, right in the middle of the road! It always helps to make ourselves known in the neighborhoods, to let them know what we are doing, to let them know we are no threat of any kind, that we are only there to help. They all respect that and end up watching out for everyone on the job and the buildings after we leave for the day!

Another part of the team headed back south of town with Jess leading them in the rest of a tear out that was started with our hometown football team a couple of weeks ago. Marion lives in another parish (county) and they are no longer picking up debris from the streets, the homeowners are required to rent dumpsters, and they aren't cheap! But she did get one and the team helped load it with what was torn out a couple of weeks ago and continued inside. By the end of the day they had completely filled the dumpster and were using one of the rooms inside the house to stack things until the dumpster can be dumped and returned empty. They will be returning tomorrow and should be able to pronounce it done by mid day.

Some of our Alabama team continued helping one of the local churches down in St. Bernard's Parish. This pastor is the one who allows us to used his warehouse. He also lost all of his congregation but is determined to rebuild. He is a wonderful, caring and giving man and it's our pleasure to do what we can to help him. The team is installing ceramic tile on walls, not an easy job but they are doing a wonderful job.

I spent my day with paperwork and bookwork. When Monty and I joined this relief effort it was with the intent to help them get it organized and running smoothly. It never ceases to amaze me just how much paperwork can accumulate! We are making progress each day, step by step.

Tomorrow we will be starting an insulation job to go along with all the other ones we have going. Should be a fun learning day for some of the youth and the adults leading them.

Until then . . . Susan and Monty

Monday, July 16, 2007

Look at it now!

Remember me saying something about the "joy of the Lord"? I think the first photo says it all. Here they are, Jess and Brandon, the young adult long term volunteers who somehow find this joy in every single thing they do! They are standing in the middle of some of the worst mess known to man and this is their attitude! It becomes contagious for the rest of us!
And then we have the REAL team that pretty much stays behind the scenes doing whatever it is they do? Please allow me to introduce Jax on the left, Allen and Dovie's child, our oldest, Bitty in the center and Jess's child, Duke on the right. There is one team member missing, our Chinese Crested Hairless, Samson, who wasn't feeling photogenic that day! They also keep all of us and the volunteers laughing.
You can see by the photos that the team was busy once again transforming the new warehouse to be. It is such a dramatic change just in the last few days! All of the walls are gone, you can see the girls hammering the nails from the studs. And then green "box" is the baptismal! Even though it's dirty and covered with mold it is cleanable and we already have a church that will be so excited to receive it.
The photos on the right show just how messy this job is. Yes, they do come clean after a shower but it takes more scrubbing than they could ever imagine. It makes you think that the best thing to do with the clothes and shoes is to throw them away rather than take them home!? They made such progress today that most of them will be moving on to another tear out tomorrow! I can show you the photos but I can't get the sounds to you, the singing, the laughter, the screaming when they uncover the home of thousands of cock roaches, it's just an amazing thing to drive up on the job. They don't usually even see me until the flash of the camera goes off. They are so into what they are doing --- and doing it all from the goodness of their serving hearts! Such a God - thing and we are blessed to see it every time a team comes.
For you parents who sent your children, they are awesome and we thank you! We only promise one thing -- they will come home different children -- God touched children!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Welcome Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico

Just a couple more neighborhood photographs.

Yes, you read correctly that 3 teams arrived today! Should be quite a week filled with blessings going to and from! The team from Mississippi (8) is only staying one night and working through tomorrow. They are connected with the New Mexico team. Our New Mexico team (35) is mainly youth from all over the state. They have been on the roads for 3 days in a large Greyhound type bus so they were really glad to get out and get settled. They are staying at our church location in the 9th ward.

Our team from Birmingham, Alabama are here with us at the East location. There are 12 of them and most of them are skilled so they will be getting some homes caught up for us this week. One of them even drove his own truck loaded down with tools! What an answer to prayer -- for us and for the homeowners where they will be working!

It appears that there might be an added blessing for all of us this week. The weather has the temps under 90 degrees for the week! Even though we have had more than our share of rain and it is forecast to continue, we'll take it over the intense heat any day!

I do have an update on Ms Faye and Mike. Mike is back in the hospital with blood pressure problems. The doctors are having trouble keeping it from falling too low. I spoke with Ms Faye a couple of times today and she said he is also fighting depression. When a person never has a day where they feel good it can work on your mind and he is in a battle right now. Your prayers are appreciated and if you worked with them this might be a good time for a phone call of encouragement and prayer!

We hope you will be keeping up with us this week. As I said, it will be an awesome one and packed with surprises and news!

Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Our neighborhood -- really it is!

Yes, welcome to our neighborhood. You might think I am kidding but think again -- everything you see in these photos is less than a 5 minute drive from our trailer.
I want you to look very closely at the top photo -- if you click on it you can enlarge it. The house on the right side has a hole in the ceiling. That is what saved the residents lives. They had to break through the roof to get out on top of it and save their lives. The neighborhood where these home are was under over 20 feet of water. If you also look closely at some of them you can see water lines. Those water lines are where the water settled. On some you can see more than one line. After the water completely covered them, even over the second story, it settled and sat for nearly a month. Take a good look at the garage of the one house and see where the brick itself cracked overhead. Garage doors are either knocked off completely or hanging by who knows what. Most of these homes have been mudded out, meaning the furnishings have been taken out. Some have been gutted, meaning sheetrock is gone, electrical is gone and all that is standing are the stud walls. Blue tarps put on roofs by FEMA are long shredded and blow in the winds now. Some homeowners do what they can to atleast mow their lawns. Others are most likely gone and the weeds have taken over. Sometimes that is a blessing as it hides some of the horrendous damage. In this area there were many who lost their lives. The spray painted markings made by the New Orleans Police Department (they were the ones who came through this area) are still on the homes, sometimes on the siding, sometimes on the brick, sometimes on the front door, but all are visible.
The last two photos are what used to be Six Flags. And yes, it is less than 5 minutes from us. The lettering on the sign saying they are closed due to the storm held more truth than they knew. The photo on the right is what is left, fencing closing the entire area, weeds taking over everything and what you cannot see is the damage to the equipment and rides. We were not allowed on the grounds. Trespassing will land us both in jail. But the feeling that I got just sitting at the gates, thinking of what it must have been like before the storm, the life, the laughter, the screams of excitement, the rides going around and around, up and down and upside down, seeing the roller coaster flying by and wondering how it stayed on the tracks -- and now all you feel is death or no life, however you want to word it! Weeds take over the parking lot when before you would no doubt drive around and around looking for a place to park. The dead trees laying everywhere, they couldn't survive being underwater for such a long time. It really brought home the utter devastation and death that came with this storm. The sadness can be overwhelming, the tears come before I even realize they are falling. The silence is deafening. And if you look closely you will see the enormous storm clouds overhead. It started pouring down rain before we could get out of the area. That just adds to the feeling.
Some people are trying to rebuild, some are out mowing what is left of their lawns, some are washing their cars, trying to have some sort of "normal" in their day, some have even planted a flower or two, again for the normal feeling. But most aren't even around. Most are gone for good, where? we have no idea. Will they come back? Who knows. I doubt if they know. What are they supposed to come back to?
This is where volunteers come in. If you could only see what happens when a group of volunteers drive up and unload at a home. It not only brings life into the area, it brings hope! Hope is the key! We may not be working on their home but if we are working on someone's home theirs just might be next. If they see some sort of progress on their neighbor's home then there might be some sort of progress coming for theirs.
Seeing all of this, and seeing it every day, seeing it everywhere we look --- prayer just comes naturally -- and constantly. Showing you these teenie, tiny photos is to show you a teenie, tiny reason why we need your prayers and your help!
Thank you for both.
Until tomorrow . . . God bless New Orleans! Susan and Monty

Friday, July 13, 2007

Goodbye Angola

Yes, it was a sad evening as we said goodbye to our Angola team, Joel's hometown and home church! Even though we know they will be back again it's still difficult to say goodbye. And seeing part of the team sobbing because they are going home doesn't help! This team was filled with alot of young adults and to see their hearts of service is so uplifting to all of us!
They continued with the mudding and gutting of the church becoming a warehouse. When they got back they were once again past the point of getting clean! They come back covered in nothing but blackness! And yet they are smiling from ear to ear and wishing they could've done more?!
Monty continued with his team of women who got in and have transformed the inside of Michael's house! He has the soffett now on and should have the outside completely buttoned up after Monday. It's humbling when the women come to me to thank me for sharing my husband with them!
This evening Joel and all of us long termers went into town and got caught in yet another downpouring of rain! It's a daily thing around here and sometimes multiple times during the day! I don't think the word "drought" is ever spoken down here!
We pray for protection for the Indiana team as they travel all night tonight and into tomorrow. There is also a special prayer request in the comments section of last nights blog entry. Please be sure and read it as this little boy really needs all of us praying for healing!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mold, Mud and more Mold

Take one church, place it directly in the path of two of six levee breaks allowing it to be completely covered, let sit in standing water for nearly one month and here is the result. And these photos are only a few and such a small peek at what it really looks like.
The sign on the outside of the building now sits next to the markings made by the officials that came in and checked for survivors. When we arrived to begin this process there was still nearly 4 inches of water inside the entire building!!!!
The results are plain to see, mold everywhere, water everywhere and everywhere nothing left, not even the framed walls! Every single thing must be torn out, the carpeting that has turned to mush, the sheetrock walls that will only come off in small, wet chunks, the ceilings, even the framed walls. All of the furniture has to go, the church pews, the desks, the filing cabinets, all the paperwork, all the records, all the life inside the building.
And yet, no matter how bad things are, God always manages to shine through with some sort of "beauty among the devastation" -- the flowers in the vase sitting next to a wall covered in black mold! How they got there, landing upright, looking almost untouched? A God-thing!!!
The team doing this mud out must not only wear rubber boots and rubber gloves they must wear special masks to protect them from the mold. And I haven't even mentioned how it is to wear all that gear, working inside the building and have the temps in the mid 90s outside! Most of them have to literally throw away their clothing after they finish the day!
Another miracle of the whole thing? All those working are smiling behind those masks! During the testimony time this evening the team spoke of the joy inside their hearts while working. Joy is very different than happiness. Happiness comes from what you are doing, joy comes from the heart, from working for the Lord! Each one of the team working here today, and those working elsewhere, felt that joy!
Sue and her daughter, Liz, worked all day with Monty. He was rebuilding facia on the outside of the house and the women were inside cleaning. I'm certain that when the homeowner came home from work (he lives alone) he smiled in unbelief! They cleaned his entire kitchen and want to go back tomorrow to clean things even more! It's things like that, the unplanned things, that show the joy of working for the Lord!
This team had originally planned on only working half a day tomorrow and then heading home. Their plans have changed. No one wants to go home. They all want to get in as much work as possible before leaving so they are working the full day and leaving around 7pm instead! Please pray for their safe travel.
Speaking of prayer, Monty received a phone call from a dear friend today. Armando is a man without a country and caught in the system. His mother is in Mexico and dying of cancer. He is unable to be with her and called Monty asking for prayer. We know you will join with us in praying for him.
Pray for everyone on the coast, all those who have suffered so much loss and those whose loss continues. We all should praise the Lord for the many blessings we take for granted!
Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our own warehouse?

Sorry there are no photos this evening. It was one of those days where I couldn't get out from behind the computer.

There was a great blessing -- as usual -- God sent just who we needed when we needed them. We are in the process of getting computers, printers and a fax machine hooked up to move us into the real world once again. All the way from Angola, Indiana we have a gentleman who spent 18 years with Xerox -- our own specialist! He got the fax machine working like a charm and I now have a printer at the office. Tomorrow he will be working on getting things networked! Before we know it we will be a real office!

Monty spent his day on the roofing and sheetrock job. The team got the roofing done on Monday and are working inside now. The kitchen ceiling had to be torn out and redone with new sheetrock. The team is working away and will hopefully have him done before long.

The other job going is exciting for us. There was a church in the 9th ward that lost every single member after the storm. That's just about the norm around here. This pastor is past retirement age and has decided he isn't coming back. He is in the process of turning over that building to us and we hope to make it into a warehouse. Funny thing is that it was a warehouse when that pastor took over and made it into a church. BUT --- the building has not been touched since the storm. This means there is still water standing inside and thus a smell unlike anything you have ever smelled! The only way the teams can work inside something like this is by smearing Vicks VapoRub under their noses before putting on their masks! They also had rubber boots brought to them for this job. They did get a start on it and will most likely be inside doing the same thing for the next two days! This is a large building and every single thing has to come out, all the walls, all the ceilings, all the electrical, all the plumbing and all the anything that is inside! Please keep the teams in your prayers. The mess is more than anyone can imagine, the smell even worse and then add the temps in the high 90s with humidity nearly that high and you have a difficult day! We did have one women get a bit overheated this afternoon so Dovie brought her back to the church, in the air conditioning, with plenty of water and some much needed rest. It can happen very quickly and usually before the person realizes what is happening. We are so thankful to this team for coming with their willing hearts and making themselves available to do whatever needed to be done!

This evening was our weekly dinner meeting at Pastor Teresa's and as usual, she had a wonderful message for all of us. It's always so refreshing to get a mid week boost from the Lord!

We pray you are also getting much needed boosts from the Lord! If not, ask Him, He always answers!

Until tomorrow . . . Susan and Monty

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

We made it back

Yes, we made it back from our trip to Mobile, Alabama late this evening. We are a bit "brain dead" but also a bit more rested, if both are possible at the same time.

My first note is to the person who commented about knowing a gentleman from WI who would like to come and volunteer for a couple of weeks in the fall. First of all, I cannot publish your comment because you had personal information in it. I did email you and pray you receive it and can respond back to me. We are always looking for skilled volunteers and I would love the opportunity to speak with you personally.

As I said, we have been in Mobile doing a bit more work at the mission training school we graduated from last month. It was so good to see everyone again. They have become another extension of our family and we have missed them alot. We are going through the application process to become direct missionaries with them. There is alot of work to be done and over the past couple of days we made great progress. The brain dead comes from testing and talking and even more talking! And those of you who know me are already laughing that I could get tired of talking --- I can hear you all the way down here --- but I DID get tired and I did get some extra rest this morning! Hey -- when God gives you a gift He expects you to use it!! :)

Our Angola, Indiana team has been busy getting the roof completely on Michael's house and the sheetrock hung in his ceilings. We drove by this evening and the roof looks really good. We want to thank our hometown football guys for getting the whole thing started.

We pray you are all well. Thanks for keeping up with us and until tomorrow . . .
Susan and Monty

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Angola, Indiana part 2

Just another beautiful face from the "Feed the Multitudes" on Wednesday! Quite the proud papa also! :)

This morning we bid farewell to our Angola, Indiana team only to welcome part 2 of the team. They divided themselves and came in two groups for two weeks. There are 10 in this group and once again it was nice for Joel and his daughter, Jessica to have folks from their home church come and spend the week with them.

We did hear from our own hometown team and they arrived back home safe and sound! Thanks for the prayers for their safe travel.

I want to send a VERY special thank you to Gary, from Illinois! He organized and sent us two very large boxes of safety equipment! There are things in there that are just outstanding and just what we need to be working in the environments that we are working! There just aren't words to thank people who do such amazing things for us. Gary and his team came and worked with us when we were in Gautier, MS and the entire week really touched Gary's heart! Somehow when we opened the boxes I felt a bit of his heart coming from inside! Thank you to Gary and everyone who was involved in sending us such wonderful blessings!

Monty and I attended the local Vineyard Church again this evening. They had a guest pastor from Boise, Idaho. He came and brought the first team of volunteers after the storm and over the next 13 months sent another 14 teams! He had a great message on the story of Mary and Martha. Martha had the personality of a "doer", task oriented. Mary had the personality of someone calmer, someone who sits and takes things in. Pastor brought home the fact that Jesus loved them both and we find both in the church. It takes a "blend" of both personalities and both are blessed. A thought that really made me think as I sure lean toward the Martha side! Sitting still isn't an easy thing for me.

I also want to let you know we will be "off the air" for the next 2 days. We will be returning to our school to do a bit of continuing education. We would appreciate your prayers for safe travel and for God to open our hearts and minds to receive what He has for us. We are in process of becoming disaster missionaries with International Gospel Outreach. It is a process that happens after graduation so we will be making a few trips back and forth to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. God has called us into this field and we need to see where He is leading us. It's bound to be an adventure!

Thanks for coming along with us on this adventure. We will be back "on air" again Tuesday evening. Until then . . . rest in God's blessings. Susan and Monty