Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Yes, late last night I made the flight back to Texas. Both links of the flight were smooth and I enjoyed watching all of the city lights below.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
He is doing better and preparing for our incoming team tonight. He will be keeping them there at camp tomorrow and working wonders both inside the warehouse and developing a new kitchen pantry for both Mercy Response and the church.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend our home church on Christmas Eve and have a wonderful Christmas Day with family. We ended up spending the entire day together, playing games and opening gifts.
The following day we met my Aunt and cousin who was in from New York, had lunch and it was a short time after that I felt my world spinning and things went very downhill from there causing me to spend the rest of that day and all of yesterday in bed. I missed have Christmas with my daughter, son in law and 2 grandchildren but the last thing I wanted to do was "share" this with them.
My son and other daughter will be coming here to my parents tomorrow where we will exchange gifts and they will take my to the airport on their way home (he lives in Indianapolis)
I was able to make it to Columbus First Assembly for church this morning and see family that we spent our entire summer with. They have come a long way with their rebuilding and yet have quite a ways to go in some areas. One step at a time.
We pray all of you had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to what God has in store for the upcoming year.
Until next time . . . thank you for your prayers and please keep them coming!
Be blessed. Susan and Monty
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I would also ask for prayers for Monty as he is staying here in Texas and has come down with the flu as of this morning! He also does not like to fly and felt he would get more rest if he stayed here?
We pray all of you have safe and blessed holidays.
Be blessed and celebrate the birth of our Saviour!!!!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty
Sunday, December 21, 2008
This season of Advent, of preparation, of expectation . . . kids expecting gifts, adults expecting family and friends for meals and get togethers, all of us hold some sort of inner excitement during this time of year.
And now we see the calendar and realize that we have only a very few days until "it" is finally here! What is your "it" you are waiting for, planning for, expecting?
As Monty and I see the lines of traffic, distances that normally take only a few minutes now taking literally hours ---it causes me to wonder if there is excitement and anticipation in those long lines or the opposite?
Pastor Nathan has been focusing on just those thoughts the last couple of weeks. I hope all of us are focusing on what this season is all about . . . how our lives have been transformed through a small baby, born in the lowliest of circumstances and just how much His love for us causes us to have amazing love for others.
It's through that love from Him that the callings on our lives happen. It's through that love from Him that He enables us to step out, trusting completely on Him and share that love with others, perhaps changing the way they are looking at this season --- and life!
We thank all of you who have made that possible for us these past years and this past year. Monty and I have made 3 major moves this past year, moves that brought us closer to those who are in such need of hope, moves that allow us to see miracles and to realize even more that Jesus is the "reason for the season."
We pray all of you are able to keep your focus on that reason this season.
Until next time . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
On Monday morning Monty and I set off for Galveston to conduct a couple more interviews. We met with Ms Marie who I have spoken about before, she's living in her home with no power and refuses to leave. Well --- they should've started her new roof yesterday and through a series of miracles and local contacts we did get her to agree to leave home (nights only) for the next 2 weeks so the roof can be put on. It wasn't easy and she insisted she would be sitting in her yard every day, all day and only sleep at the Catholic church at night --- whatever it takes! We do plan on going in after the roof is on and finish gutting and major cleanup, with her supervision, of course!
From there we visited with Ms Saralynn. She relocated to Houston due to the damage and still has live black mold growing inside. We will also be returning there to finish the gutting and then see from there.
We were literally speeding back to camp because we were to load up a van, hook up a trailer and return to New Orleans to take down more of the camp. Phil and his son had already stopped at camp and each picked up a vehicle and trailer and were about an hour ahead of us. As it was, we didn't arrive in New Orleans until after 11pm.
The next morning came quite early and we were on site taking down the kitchen and tent where the volunteers slept. I was in such a hurry that I forgot my camera and I am sad because you just have no idea how extremely large this tent was! It took all day long to empty the kitchen, take down just the outside of the tent and start packing vans, trucks and trailers. We were blessed with great temps, even with the fog making visibility at zero! By the time we hit the bed that night we were exhausted.
But . . . yesterday morning rolled around and we were back at it. Monty was working the bobcat as fast as we could load pallets. We got the tent steel framing down and taken apart. The outback kitchen was completely dismantled and the walls are now piled on the ground. That involved taking out all the electric, doors and windows. I managed to take out the last window and have it fall on my head -- atleast there I wouldn't be hurt! And it didn't even break! I also managed to smack my own forehead with a tool used to pull nails leaving myself with a goose egg, bruise and cut! Graceful for sure?
I wasn't the only graceful one yesterday --- Phil managed to fall off the step ladder on to the ground --- unhurt, thankfully. Whoever said disaster work was easy???
But the camp is nearly down and although we will still be making a few trips after the holidays we all felt ALOT was accomplished over a 2 day period. And we all felt the helpful effects of some Naproxen to help us along! None of us are as young as we think we are -- and today we all feel as though we are approaching 100!
So -- again, I am sorry for not keeping you better informed and I thank those of you who emailed and thought we might be listed as "missing persons."
Too bad we couldn't be in 2 places yesterday also --- Convoy of Hope showed up with a semi load of items for us to use and distribute --- what an amazing blessing it all is and will continue to be! I received a call from the Spanish speaking Assembly of God church in Galveston just today and they are having a Christmas outreach party this Sunday and wondered if we had anything we could donate to them --- do we ever!!! They will be here tomorrow to start picking up things!!! Thank you Convoy --- you all are awesome!!
And on Tuesday, while we were away --- Diane hopped her plane and headed home for the holidays --- and hopefully some much earned rest?? When she left here she was enjoying the warm temps and said it has taken her 2 days to get "unchilled to the bone." And they are expecting yet another winter storm tomorrow!!
As you can see --- this week has had enough activity for 3 weeks -- and it's not over yet!
Another update --- my brother came through his surgery just fine and is resting at home. Thanks to all of you who kept him in your prayers!!
Until next time . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty
Friday, December 12, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Yes, last night we broke all state records with 3" of snowfall! I have to admit that sitting inside the trailer watching it fall in the park next door was quite beautiful.
I have experimented with this blog entry and can only hope I was successful -- the attached video is the result of sitting inside the trailer all evening watching the snow falling. I do hope it works and you are able to click on it and watch and listen to "Samson's Song."
A bit of background info on Samson -- he is a Chinese Crested Hairless -- with a yellow sweater on! Ordinarily they do not bark but due to Bitty's teaching he has a rather odd sounding voice and when Monty started howling to them both last night Samson jumped in with his own version of song. I managed to capture a bit of it and hope it brings a smile to your face! (It's amazing what one resorts to when one cannot get out or on the roads!)
We are currently awaiting the arrival of our gentlemen from Nevada. They will be here for the next couple of days, checking out the camp and the areas we are working in. This afternoon will be spent touring Galveston. Thank goodness the sun came out and the snow melted and all roads are now open and traffic flowing.
The snow moved on to New Orleans and I am anxious to hear from Diane to see how things are going there!
Until next time . . . enjoy the video . . . if it works I hope to do more.
Be blessed. Susan and Monty
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Last night the winds started howling and blowing quite strong, the rain was pounding -- our camper trailer was rocking and rolling all through the night! It's at those times when you pray it was well built and will stay standing on its legs!
This morning we awoke to temps in the mid 30's and a community who has stayed home and waiting for the warmer temps to return! With the rain falling it makes the cold a "wet" cold and not easy to bundle up for! Funny how we all get used to our own weather!
Yesterday we had a wonderful visit with our friends from Convoy of Hope, Paul and Nick. They came down from Springfield, Missouri to see our camp and offer their assistance. It's always nice to see them as Monty and I have worked with them over the past 3 years and when they stop in it's like family coming to visit!
They had a list of things they will be shipping to us next week, all things needed, either for the camp directly or the people in Galveston. They will also be sending any volunteer teams who contact them asking for a place to serve. They already have a team of 35 who are highly skilled and want to come in February. We are more than happy to welcome them and use their expertise!
After a meeting with our own director, Phil we started the process of diving into case management. I got busy copying all the forms needed and Diane and I worked on compiling the names of those we have already helped, making notations and preparing to call them and see where they are and how they are doing.
Monty set out on a mission of getting materials to hook up a 50 amp service for incoming RVers, not an easy task but an educational one. We have the water hook ups and electrical service but not for the 50 amp --- give him a day and we'll be all set.
Very early this morning Diane, Phil and Phil's son all headed back to New Orleans to continue dismantling that camp and deciding what to bring here and what to leave there with the church. I can't imagine how difficult that trip must have been, driving a 1 ton van and pulling an empty trailer behind in the strong winds and rain! "No news is good news" so I am sure they made it fine.
I have started the phone calls, the "long" phone calls, checking to see how homeowners are doing, where they are with their recovery and listening to their stories. It takes quite a bit of time for each one but it's where we must start. It seems a couple of them have received their FEMA or insurance funds and have a contractor on board. Then there are those who are stuck in "no mans land" waiting and waiting and wondering and wondering and hoping and hoping for some kind of help. Two of them were nearly in tears when I called, said they had been trying to reach us for quite some time!
The next step in the process is making a home visit. Both Monty and I go, no one should ever make a home visit alone. He is an extra set of eyes and ears and can assess the structure of the home and damage while I am getting info from the homeowner. It also takes quite a bit of time but we come out with priceless information and hopefully are one step closer to getting them some help.
I also just received a phone call from 2 gentlemen who are flying in from Nevada tomorrow. They are also coming to see the area, to see the camp, to get an idea what to expect when they send a team in January. We will be taking them on a tour of the Galveston area and letting the city speak for itself.
This is one of those times of year when I have to make myself realize its a holiday season. I see those who are suffering so much, those who are hurting, those who are taking baby steps forward into progress and those who themselves don't even realize its the holidays! Disasters don't stop for the holidays on the calendars but sometimes they can bring a small sense of "normal" into our world --- if we take the time to look! I thank God for that --- for always being here for us --- for sending His Son to keep us focused on what is really important!
I pray all of you are keeping your focus on the Son at this time of year and all through the year!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty
PS A side note prayer request, my youngest brother, John, is having surgery today and could really use some extra healing prayers! Thank you! Love you Johnny!
Monday, December 08, 2008
When a homeowner returns to find their home looking like this --- where do they begin? To whom do they turn for help? How can they make sense of anything, understand anything, know what to do?
The answer to all is ---- case management! Without case management there is no long term recovery.
Many of you already know that this is the area I have been very active in. Today got the ball rolling for me even more. I attended a training session taught by the Lutheran Disaster Response. I have been through the ones taught by the United Methodist Church and this was the opportunity to hear from the other expert in the "business." Both of these organizations are leaders in their fields and much can be learned from both. It is my opinion that every single case manager should go through atleast one of these trainings.
FEMA also had some time to speak with us. They are always a wonderful source of information and we are very blessed to have 3 representatives here who really do have a heart for the people and want to do all they can to help us help them.
A couple statistics that you might find interesting --- throughout the state of Texas there have been 750,000 applications for FEMA assistance. In the county of Galveston there have been 75,000. And the deadline is this coming Monday with no extension in site at this time. There is also another statistic that says 10% of the applicants will fall into the "unmet needs" category, meaning they will not have sufficient funds to bring their homes to completion! Do the math and you will soon realize that this is a big job! Ike was a big storm but got lost in the media due to our economy problems, the presidential and vice presidential etcs and therefore missed the media coverage. If it's not in the media it's not on peoples minds and the ones who suffer and those already suffering!
Another statistic, of those who have already received the maximum dollar amount anyone can receive from FEMA ($28,800), over 500 of them are not eligible for the SBA loans that follow! Again --- do the math! Could you rebuild your home with that amount of money? NOT! But --- could you rebuild with that amount if all you had to do was purchase the materials and people came in and offered free labor? You bet! This is where the case management is critical! We must reach the people as soon as possible to offer this to them and help them use their funds wisely. Many times that amount of money is more than any of them (or us) have ever seen at one time! We come along side them, we advise them, we walk them through the process, we gain their trust and allow God to come in and do His mighty work!
We are beginning. Now comes the phone calls to the people, making the appointments to do the interviews, to introduce ourselves, to listen, to empathize, to just love them and meet them where they are at! Please pray for us as we begin this process, an in depth process that lasts as long as . . .
Tomorrow we will be welcoming our friends from Convoy of Hope as they make the trip to see our camp and send volunteer teams to us. They will come as they always do --- with a truck load of supplies! Blessings!!!!!!
Until next time . . . Be blessed! Susan and Monty
PS Happy belated birthday to Monty's sister, Shelley! You are in our prayers!!!!!!!
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
We did 2 outreaches in one day!!!!!
The morning started with finishing preparations for our outreach of vitamin water, regular water, baby products and hygiene products. I don't know the count of everything but I do know the 1 ton van was packed floor to ceiling along with the tool trailer attached. We landed --- and in less than 20 minutes it was all gone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, every last bit of anything we had! God was moving and it was incredible. Just as we were closing up everything a woman with 3 small children approached and asked for a box of baby products -- we had none left. But --- without her knowledge her young son had picked up a box for her just minutes before and she was brought to tears!
Since that one went so well and so quickly we decided to return to the camp and make hot dog lunches and return to hand them out. After a trip to get food products, grilling 750 hot dogs and preparing all the sack lunches with chips and cookies it was back to Galveston for the second outreach of the day.
I had to jump out of the picture to head to the Long Term Recovery Meeting but upon arrival they had decided to cancel it due to the holiday week. They had no phone to reach everyone so --- I headed on to Galveston and met the others there.
The people were there waiting for us. We set up the area and in less than 2 hours we had all 750 hot dogs gone!!!! We also gave out another monster batch of vitamin water and regular water. Absolutely amazing. The folks couldn't thank us enough, people driving by on the street called out their thanks for us being there --- a God thing all the way.
All of today brought us to another plan --- for Thanksgiving Day. Tomorrow we will be preparing ham sandwiches and lunch bags of goodies to return to Galveston Thanksgiving Day for another free lunch. From there we will then head to our own dinner. It's just impossible for any of us to sit down and indulge ourselves knowing the need, seeing the need, feeling the need and hearing God's call for us to act!
As we packed up after our 2nd outreach we told those still there that we would be returning on Thanksgiving Day and the smiles were priceless!
Please keep these families and folks in your prayers over this holiday season. As you all gather together with your families please realize that not only is it impossible for them to gather due to their homes being destroyed, they don't have the finances! Disaster don't look at the calendar before they hit. Prayer is the most powerful thing ALL of us can do!
Monty spent his day working on the shower trailer, working in the warehouse and just keep up with the keeping up of the camp maintenance. The shower trailer now has curtains hanging at all the windows, ones that won't fall down and ones that will keep some privacy for all inside. He also created a way to hold the tin on the outsides even better. He keeps the rest of us going!
We thank all of you for keeping up with us as we travel through the chapters God has written for our lives. YOU are the ones that keep us traveling forward!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty
Monday, November 24, 2008
Even though there was only 5 of us we went straight to work. If you remember I talked about the shower trailer being moved over here from the New Orleans camp? It has seen better days and we decided to "spiff" it up a bit. Monty headed out for materials and we started pulling all the old rusted screws from the outside while Gregg went inside to take care of the trim around the windows that had taken on way too much water and needed replaced.
After removing all the old screws we got all the new ones put in, the trim put up inside and Diane started painting the inside trim while Pam and I went to work on the not so beautiful orange colored trim on the outside of the beige trailer. We went with a milk chocolate color paint and although we thought we would only use that on the trim we decided to do the entire trailer in it. Monty worked on one of the windows and will get the others before we fill the old screw holes and finish the job.
It was nice to do some real hands on work and the weather was more than cooperative!
This afternoon I had an appointment with Pilar, a homeowner in Galveston. Her story is enough to bring the biggest man to tears. She immigrated from Spain to the US over 40 years ago and has raised 4 children here. Her youngest, Tony, is disabled and has Down's Syndrome. When her father died in 2005 she purchased a duplex to rent as income for she and her son to survive. That duplex was severely damaged in the storm. Since this was her income and now she has none, she took a night job at the local IHOP since she is full time care giver for her son. With no rental income she is now in danger of loosing the home she and Tony live in --- and the car she had to purchase after the storm for transportation. Her car insurance was liability only and she had no flood coverage on her duplex. She is extremely depressed but standing on the word of God which promises that He will not give her more than she can bear! I met with her for quite some time in order to get all the details and hopefully find some resources to bring her some help! Case management here I come!
This evening Monty is helping Pastor change the fuel pump on his truck -- quite the job but between the both of them they'll "get her done". His truck is only a year older than Monty's and we've been this road before!
Tomorrow we have a big outreach planned. We loaded the van and an additional trailer with vitamin water, regular water and boxes of Hope which contain either baby products or hygiene products. We will also grill a bunch of hot dogs in the morning and head south into Galveston to hand out everything! Should be a great blessing for alot of folks just before the holiday.
I will be attending my first Long Term Recovery meeting tomorrow afternoon also. Last week was just the first meeting and I am so glad to get in on the very beginning of building the Long Term Recovery! Please pray for guidance and resources for all of us!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Yesterday we bid farewell to both of the Colorado teams, the Indiana team and the Wisconsin team. Diane had a rough time saying goodbye to her home church! No one has any idea just how much home teams mean when we are all so far from home! And I don't think there were enough tissues to come to the rescue of Ryan and all his tears of both joy and sadness! This week changed his life, and he touched the lives of all who met and worked with him!
Even though all of those teams left yesterday we were joined by a local Houston Vineyard church who came and worked for the day. The local Vineyard churches have been such blessings, coming to work a day or two. They joined right in with the remaining New York team and once again had a fantastic day.
When evening came the New York team had made dinner arrangements, invited the 2 remaining Wisconsin team members who didn't leave for home until this afternoon, the Houston Vineyard team headed back north to home and Gregg, Pam, Diane and us headed for Pizza Hut -- a real treat for all of us!
By the time we all made it back to the church it was time to socialize and the games began. There is a ping pong table in the area along with a few games and once again it was impossible to tell who was from where -- it was all one big family. I have an idea that the laughter could have been heard for blocks! There were even some ballroom dance lessons going on!! And what you must realize is that these team members have worked every single day doing physical work like never before and yet they have energy left for all of this? Has to be a God thing for certain! Something about that "joy of the Lord" thing!
This morning we all met together to offer our worship and praise to God -- I wish every morning could be Sunday morning!
This week will seem rather quiet -- maybe a minute or two for some much needed rest? We are all staying right here for the Thanksgiving holiday and have been invited to Carol's home for her special family dinner! What a blessing that will be for all of us.
We sincerely thank all those who have come and served, for all the family members who stayed behind and "held down the fort" to allow those to come. God will richly bless each and every one of you and we pray you will return (anytime) to work with us again! YOU are the lifelines of any recovery work!
Until next time . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty