Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The joy of gutting

They were a bit more sleepy eyed this morning but all it took was a good breakfast and they were off and running.
Masks on, gloves on, hammer and prybar in hand-- they went to work.
One team went back to Marie's house to continue but had to postpone that work due to the fact that the roofers had arrived. YEA!!! Space is premium at her house and they soon decided to let the roofers have the space to work and we would return once the house is dried in and we are ready to go. Good decision!
The next team continued at Sandra's house and finished up around mid afternoon. They, and the team from Marie's joined the third team at their brand new work site -- more gutting! When we checked on all of them in the afternoon they were making great progress. The third part of the team will be returning to this one tomorrow -- it's quite the job!
The thing I hope you see in the faces of those working are the smiles --- yes --- their mouths are covered --- but --- look at the eyes! They speak for themselves! Every one of these team members is experiencing the joy of the Lord! It may be dirty and nasty work but when you have God's joy inside of you it's all a wonder and a blessing to be a part of.
They have all met and bonded with their homeowners and will remember each other forever. God is all about relationships and that is never clearer than working in disaster situations. We even received a phone call from one of the neighbors today -- just thanking us for being in the neighborhood!
We are so thankful to this team, driving the very long distance and being ever so flexible to go wherever and do whatever!
Tomorrow may be a holiday on the calendar but this team is working as if it's just another day to serve the Lord!
To all of you, Monty and I wish you a blessing filled 2009 and hope you are as excited as we are to see this next chapter God has written for all of us!
Until next year . . . Susan and Monty

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back to welcome Minnesota team

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.
Sleeping was something that didn't happen much -- I don't unwind easily, especially when not feeling well. But I did get to spend a part of the day with 2 of my kids and rode to the airport, complete with a teary goodbye!
It was up (not so bright) and early this morning. The Minnesota team arrived late Sunday night and Monday Monty had them work in the warehouse and creating a new kitchen pantry inside the church. They did a wonderful job and took a part of the afternoon to travel into Galveston to see what awaited them today.
They are working on 3 different jobs, all of which are quite dusty and a mess!
Part of them are at Marie's where they continue the gutting of flooring, walls and ceilings. Marie is right there with them every step of the way and is really enjoying watching them. One of the guys said he has fallen in love with her and wants to take her home!!!! She's pushing 80 and he is in his late teens!!! I think I see God's hand!?
Another part of them are at Paul and Susan's home removing all of the subflooring inside the home. The water completely destroyed it and as Paul is seeing for himself -- all those extra hands can really cut down on the work and the amount of time it takes to get it done. Susan had some yard things also needing done. Everyone there is realizing what these homeowners and families have been through.
The final part of the team is at Sandra's home where they are also completing the gutting process and taking down some of the now dead trees. It seemed quite a shock to them that in order to get the home ready for rebuilding they actually have to make quite a mess!
I am anxious to hear the stories and see their faces when they return for dinner this evening. Many of this team are in their late teens and early 20's and are really getting their eyes - and hearts - opened up in a whole new way!
We continue to stand on our promise that if you come and help someone else after a disaster your life will be changed forever! God always has some special blessing for each individual that comes to represent Him!
With this year quickly drawing to a close it's always time to reflect on the past and see just where we could've done better, tried harder or reached farther. For every team of volunteers we have had over this past year I would imagine they feel they did do better, tried harder and reached further!! And they are right!!
Blessings to all and once again, thank you for all of your prayers and support! YOU are our life-lines and we are forever grateful!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holidays and illness

Yes, remember that I told you Monty came down with the flu the day before I left for Indiana -- and I came down with it the day after Christmas! Right now I am fighting to get well enough to get back on the plane tomorrow evening and head back south.
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

Blessed Christmas to all

Very early tomorrow morning I will be flying back to Indiana for a short holiday visit. Please pray for safe travel -- I really !!! don't like flying!

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

Season of expectation

Expectation --- what comes to mind when you hear this word?

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

Unloading, again

A couple of photo updates. Anything to bring a smile to your face!!!!
Today was spent catching up on a few errands, it is nearly Christmas! We checked out the local NASA Space Shop where we were able to pick up a couple of small things for our grandson. Anything we purchase here has to fit into a suitcase when I fly home.
From there we headed back and started the unloading process. Remember -- 3 vehicles and 3 trailers! We did get 2 vehicles done. It was one of those days where the sun would come out and before you turned around a cloud came over and dropped showers. Atleast we got the stuff inside the warehouse where we can focus on organization at another time.
Monty surprised me and had all the laundry from this week done before I knew it! Since he repaired the drum in the dryer last week it now actually dries our clothes in record time!
This evening we decided to go and "people watch" at the mall --- watching them come off and on from the interstate was the amazing thing! Driving at a max of 30 pmh on an interstate! We did make it to the mall and just as we thought -- packed! I think we might have been the only people walking around without!!! packages.
We pray all of you are able to keep your focus on the real reason for this season and not get caught up in the materialism of it all. Without Jesus . . . I don't even want to go there!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back and forth and back again

So very sorry for not getting even a spare minute to explain why I have been off line this week.

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

Home Visit Day

You might need to click on the first photo to enlarge it and get all the detail. Yesterday they returned the space shuttle to NASA, which is located just a couple miles from us. It was an amazing sight as they flew it over the area a couple of times, just to let us "plain folks" see the wonder of it all! The chase plane was right with it the entire time. Like I said -- amazing to see!
Yesterday we also welcomed a couple of gentlemen from Las Vegas, Nevada. They will be putting together a team and coming to work in January. After getting a good nights rest they headed south, into Galveston, to tour the area for today. We gave them some areas and some addresses where we have been working and most likely where we will begin the rebuilding process. That should give them plenty of information to take back home tomorrow and get the team fired up and ready to go. It was nice to spend the evening with them, sharing stories and getting to know each other better. When they return with the team it will be like family coming back!
Monty and I spent the day making home visits to clients who are likely candidates for rebuilding. There is alot of information that must be taken, releases of information and liability that must be signed and assessments of the homes that all take place within that home visit. Today we visited with Sandra and with Paul and Susan. You can see a photo of each home, of how the inside looks now. You can either see devastation or you can see the possiblities of rebuilding -- both are in there.
Each of these homeowners were blessed to be covered by insurance, both wind and water. Or you think they are blessed --- getting through the red tape of each is quite the process and that is where we come along side them, helping them as much as possible to make sense of everything and to be aware of the resources available to them, both now and later. We hope to be able to come along side each of them and rebuild. They use the funds they receive to purchase the materials and we bring in the volunteers to provide the free labor. This not only stretches the dollar for them but it can make it possible for them to have a home again! It's not an easy task. It takes alot of preparation. It takes the funding to be in place. It takes the volunteers to come. But we all know that God is the author of the book and we just need to be ready, to be aware and to follow what it is He is putting together. After meeting with them, talking and getting to know them, explaining the tentative plan, we always take the time to pray with them. It's the beginning of a long lasting relationship and what God called us to do! We are blessed to be a small part in His almighty plan.
Diane is on her way back from New Orleans, vans and trailers in tow. We pray for safe travel for all of them. They should arrive anytime now. Pastor Nathan has called upon some of the church members to stay around a short time on Sunday and help us unload all 3 vehicles and all 3 trailers into the warehouse! We thank them for the extra hands, feet and strong backs!!!
On a side note -- I mentioned prayers for my brother who was having surgery the other day --- as he was headed out the door to the hospital he received a call that it had been rescheduled until Monday due to another emergency!!!! We thank you for the prayers and know Monday will go smoothly and he'll be fine!
Until next time . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We broke a record?

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

"Winter" in Texas

Yes, Texas does have winter! We are finding out today!

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

Case management begins

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

Midnight return

Yes, we made it back to Texas around midnight last night. Quite the long drive too! We made the return trip pulling yet another shower trailer! This one is smaller than the first one but quite awkward to pull --- built on top of a flatbed trailer which puts it rather tall -- but Monty did an excellent job of driving and we all made it safe and sound! Praise the Lord!
When we arrived in New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon we were just in time to make a run to the airport and pick up John, a gentleman from Colorado who has made numerous trips to the camp and knows his way around town quite well. He will be there for the next 2 weeks doing what he can to help dismantle the camp and bring things over here.
On Thursday Monty and I headed out for Wally's house. Mercy Response has built him a new home and I spent the day trimming out everything, base around the floors, casing around the doors and some window trim. It felt good to get back to "hands-on" work and especially trim work as that is what I really enjoy. Monty was busy helping both me and anyone else who needed a hand in whatever they were doing.
Diane and John headed to Mable's house to do electrical and numerous "punch list" jobs. They got everything done, and then some. John did return for half of Friday to clean up trash.
Diane went with us on a return trip to Wally's to finish the trim and do some fire caulking in the lower garage level.
We were complete with everything by early afternoon and headed back to camp to pack up and hitch up the shower trailer. Hitching up took some time as rear lights on the trailer needed replaced and it needed strapped down to the trailer it is sitting on.
Our main prayer for yesterday was that the high winds calm down before we headed out on the interstate. The night before the temps took a real nose dive leaving us with wind chills in the mid 20s ---- not something New Orleans is used to! Our prayers were answered and the winds were nearly non existant by the time we were on the road. Even though Monty couldn't drive over 60 mph and the trip was nearly 8 and 1/2 hours, we are home safe and sound.
Today we loaded up more vitamin water and headed back to Galveston for another outreach. As we expected, within 15 minutes of our arrival our water was gone! One gentleman came just to help hand it out, putting it in pick up truck beds and the back of SUVs for parents and local workers. We hope to do another run or two next week.
From there we headed to what is called "the Strand" in Galveston. There was a special "Dickenson on the Strand" weekend planned and although we had no idea what is consisted of we needed some recreation and thought we would sample the local culture. It was amazing -- people all dressed in Dickenson era clothing just walking the streets, certain reinactments of that era and plenty of foods. The photos you see were taken at the parade -- quite the event and we all agreed it was great to see the community involved in something that took their minds off the devastation -- even if just for the day! Something "normal" -- priceless!
As I said and you can see by this -- we are constantly busy -- and things going on in all directions! We are praying that the volunteers are busy back home scheduling their trips to come here and help out. The new year is just around the corner and people will be planning their time off and mission trips. PLEASE consider coming to Galveston and lending a hand! No special skills are needed -- we can teach you and we have the tools to do so! I hold fast to the one and only guarantee that I have given out since day one --- volunteering in a disaster zone WILL change your life!
When you attend your home church (or any other church) tomorrow remember to thank God for all your blessings and remember those who are suffering loss and devastation at this time of year. Just because it notes a holiday on the calendar doesn't mean that everyone is celebrating!
Until next time . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Trailer transformation

I had hoped to show you more photos but once again -- blogger has a mind of its own and isn't cooperating!

For the past 2 days this is what we have been doing -- revamping the shower trailer! It went from beige with a nasty orange "trim" to a wonderful chocolate brown, no trim but a newly rubberized roof in bright white. Awesome and quite a job!

Yesterday was a bit more of a challenge as we were painting and the winds were blowing the ladder with wheels down the parking lot! We were bundled up underneath our painting clothes and neither Diane or I could get warm last night, sort of chilled to the bone.

Today was much better, sunshine and light breezes. We started with helping Monty coat the roof. He spent the morning walking across the top of the trailer, balancing on the 2 inch roof trusses and praying to not miss one and step clear through the roof and land on the floor. Diane and I worked the sides and edges. We will need to apply another coat and possibly a third but even now it looks great. Diane even got busy and painted the steps leading to both the mens and womens sides!

By early afternoon I was on my way to the Long Term Recovery meeting. It was only the 2nd one since they have formed a group and it's in the usual mass confusion of the beginning. Everyone wanting to help and no one having money to work with. Relationships are in the beginning stages and on Monday I will once again be attending case management training meetings. It takes some time to get these Long Term Recovery committees headed on a productive path but once they do . . . results!

I also received a phone call from Pilar this morning -- she received an offer on her duplex and plans to sell it, no matter how low the offer. She really doesn't have much of a choice as she is ready to loose her own home due to lack of mortgage payments and has no other means of income. It's really the best thing for her but I do wish she could've gotten a better offer. God will provide and she places all of her trust in Him!

Tomorrow all 3 of us will be heading into New Orleans to load up and bring back many of their tools and such and bring them to our camp. We also might be lending a hand to help complete their last 2 homes for the homeowners. We hope to be back in a couple two or three days and until then we will be "off-line."

Be sure and stay tuned, so many things going on and all right before the holiday!!!!!

Until then . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holiday Outreaches Galore

Yes, this has been quite the Thanksgiving season!
The photos tell only a small bit of all the days.
On Tuesday we had the double outreach in Galveston -- see the last blog entry. Wednesday was spent preparing the meal to be taken again on Thanksgiving morning. You can see that Diane had the task of preparing 45 boxes of pasta and turning it into pasta salad. Monty is happily displaying the spice cake we sliced and packaged, all 15 of the cakes. The rest of us were busy preparing the bags, adding the condiments, chips and plastic ware while Pam single handedly made 750 ham sandwiches! We started around 9am and were finishing up around 6:30pm.
Thanksgiving morning greeted me with the "hitting the wall" syndrome! I am one of those who will keep going and sometimes it takes the "wall" to hit me to realize that I have kept going too long. It was one of those mornings. Gregg, Pam and Diane loaded up the lunches and within 90 minutes had them all handed out to those who were thankful beyond words.
There was a hot meal also prepared for those who wanted to come -- the Salvation Army reopened their doors for the first time since Ike hit and caused them so much damage. From the looks of the news the place was packed!
Gregg and Pam were able to head north to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving evening with family before heading back way north to South Dakota. It was sad to see them leave and just then we realized just how terrible the shower trailer really looked! Their trailer had kept it hidden and when they left . . .
Yesterday was spent doing this and that. We had an artificial Christmas tree donated and I got busy and put it up outside our trailer! No room inside but also no reason we can't have a tree. It came complete with more lights than I could possibly use and after a trip to Big Lots it was decorated with ribbons, just plain ribbons tied on the branches. And the miraculous thing --- it held up perfectly in the rains last night!
Today we decided we should start on the painting of the shower trailer. The skies were clearing and it was a bit cooler than the 85 yesterday. We had selected the color that looked like chocolate pudding --- chocolate cures all --- remember! :) Even though the skies did not stay clear and the temps continued to drop Diane and I got three quarters of it done. It will need a second coat but for now it looks better than before and might not be quite the eye sore to those who come to church tomorrow!
Speaking of church, tomorrow is the "official" leftovers potluck here. The tables are all set and I have a feeling there will be a mountain of food! What a great way to combine fellowship and food!
Today we also received word from our executive director that the 3 of us are to be ready to head back to New Orleans next week. There are 2 homes that need finished up. When those are completed we will be loading up the trailer and bringing supplies back here. Should be quite the busy week. We have no idea how long we'll be there but most likely 5 - 6 days or so. Another chapter in our adventure!
We hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and took time to realize just how blessed you are -- no matter what your situations might be --- remember that God is an awesome God and He has given all of us more blessings than we can possibly count!
Diane, Monty and I did miss seeing our families on Thanksgiving Day but we also realize that God is growing our families by leaps and bounds in our adventure of walking with Him on a daily basis!
Blessings to all of you!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Double Outreach Day


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!

Be blessed!

Until next time . . . Susan and Monty

Monday, November 24, 2008


At breakfast this morning it was more than quiet -- only Gregg, Pam, Diane, Monty and I. All the chairs sitting empty, the coffee pot still had coffee in it, the breakfast food seemed so small -- guess you don't need dozens of eggs for only 5 people!?

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

And then they were gone

Yes, as of a few hours ago the last team members headed for home. What an amazing week! When Diane ran the numbers we realized that 25 different homes had been completed this past week, either gutting and/or yard cleanup! Amazing statistics but we serve an amazing God!

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

The miracles continue

Here they are, nearly the entire gang of all the states! What an amazing group and what amazing miracles throughout the week!
Wednesday morning Diane, Tiffany and I were headed to the sea wall with lunch for everyone. We thought it would be a nice break for all of them and a chance to enjoy the awesome weather. While on our way we stopped for gas and ran into a woman who needed a ride to the next exit. After talking with her for only a couple of minutes we realized she was fine. As soon as she got into the van with us she broke down in tears, asking for prayer as she was trying to get her life back on track. What a God appointed stop! Please pray for Melinda as she admitted to suicidal tendencies and needs all the prayer she can get.
From there we made our trip for lunch and checking on the ongoing jobs.
The worship service/orientation on Wednesday night was awesome and had Pastor Nathan not finally ended it I think we might have been there all night! Our dinner time prior to worship was packed with team members, church members and worship leaders -- literally packing the house!
Yesterday was equally busy. Once again out went the teams, many to finish the jobs they started the day before and some to new ones. Those that were finishing jobs started a new one after lunch.
Luke spent his day shoring up the walls on one home that had been gutted. After gutting he realized it wasn't all that stable and being the Christian contractor he is -- he knew just what to do and did it to perfection.
The NewYork team found themselves gutting a duplex that was beyond any of our imaginations! All of the furniture was still in both units, complete with refrigerators. The toilets had backed up into the house, nearly 4 inches deep! You get the picture! And this location was in an area where many people might not have even gone into. Yet this team went in, used the safety in numbers concept and did a fantastic job. They are returning there this morning to finish and to also cover the exposed walls and floors in scripture and possibly surround the house with prayer! They were putting their ideas together last night before dinner and were ready to go!
Speaking of dinner, our executive director came and blessed everyone with some very special barbequed chicken for dinner last night. It was fantastic and enjoyed by all.
A couple of the men are here working around camp today, inside the kitchen area, in the shower trailer, in one of the bathrooms and with any electrical or plumbing issues. It is always a God thing when we receive volunteers with specialized skills as they come just when they are needed most! I think it's one of those promises in the Bible!?
We are just getting this day started and are anxious to see what God has in store for all of us!
Don't miss it!
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NY joins the crowd

Each picture carries its own story -- and there were many stories of yesterday!
All of the teams from all of the states were combined and divided into teams from that main group. One team stayed here at the volunteer camp and helped Monty inside the church building, outside in the warehouse, took down the old shower tent and unloaded trailers into the warehouse. They were all a bit more than tired last night!
Another team went to Mirvena's home. She lives in an area where there is water on both sides and her home had 13' of water inside --- yes --- 13 feet! You can see from the photos, her truck that was parked underneath the already raised home is now gone, everything covered quite deep with mud and who knows what. All her furniture and belongings were still inside the home and are now trash. The piles continue to grow and the city continues picking up. I have to admit that in the 3 years we have been doing this I think her home is the worst I've seen! The team dug, put on masks and gloves and did the job. They will be returning again today to finish the job! They told us that Mirvena came to the house and couldn't find the words to thank them enough. Whether or not her home can even be rebuilt remains to be seen.
The other part of the team went to William's home. William met us there and told how he has lived there for 25 years and had done all the work inside by himself. He was pleased that his vinyl tile flooring had made it that long. It did not make it through Ike. He was able to salvage his piano and some chairs. Most everything else also went to the curb and was trash. He worked with the team all day and will be there again this morning when they return to also finish the job. The team was going to make a pit stop prior to returning to his house to cut down a tree "situation" for another homeowner, something a person could do more than full time -- still -- after 2 months!
By dinner time the New York team had arrived. There are 15 of them and none of them have done this type of work before so today will be a true life-changing event for all of them! They were a bit nervous at orientation this morning but will be fine once they arrive on the scene. A couple of them are here at the church this morning installing a couple more cabinets in the kitchen and an overhead fan for the oven. They will join the rest of their team at lunch.
Speaking of lunch -- Diane and I are cooking hotdogs and taking them to the teams. We plan on setting up a station along the water where they can all come and sit down for a couple of minutes and enjoy the wonderful sunshine and warm temps. Years ago Galveston built a "sea wall" that is literally a concrete wall along the water that was meant to protect the city. It did the job and even with Ike it helped spare some of them. All along the wall there are places to park, a place to walk for miles and even some places where concrete benches are placed for some to sit and view the ships coming in and out of the area. Sometimes you just have to make the volunteers stop and take a few minutes to see the nice things in the area.
This evening there will be a special worship service/orientation for the teams and is open to the entire church congregation. We plan on showing slides of all the work done this past week and hope it will be a pleasant surprise for the teams to see themselves in action. Be sure and stay tuned for the results.
Until next time . . . Susan and Monty