The first week of December 2005 our church, Vineyard, made its first trip to MS to work disaster relief. I remember Pastor Dave trying to get information as to what we might be doing when we arrived. No matter who he spoke with he couldn't get any info so we drove in rather blind and without many tools. When we arrived, which was very late at night, we were shown a room in the church area that had no walls, no ceiling and I remember laying on our air mattress on the floor and looking up at the ceiling insulation thinking it would for sure fall on my head during the night as I slept. (It never did, it had fallen the week before on another team)
The next morning we awoke to the smell of bacon frying and knew breakfast must be around the corner. Tim and Sherry were trying as best they could to cook for us on nothing but hotplates. I jumped in and made eggs (to order) not only that morning but each morning thereafter. We were then introduced to the other team that was there with us. They were from California and had flown in. We saw them each morning but that was it. During the days we were working on different homes and in the evenings everyone was busy trying to find someplace for dinner and then falling into bed trying to convince our muscles we would be ready to go the next morning.
On Wednesday evening there was a church service and some of us went in our PJs. One of the men from CA was a Pastor and he preached the message that night. I remember these men were always smiling and seemed to love what they were doing.
On the last night they were there we all gathered in the make shift kitchen and took some photos of all of us together. I didn't even know their names.
When Monty and I returned about 7 weeks later to commit to "a year" of disaster relief coordinating the volunteers with the homeowners we had no idea how our lives and those of CA would be intertwined.
The first of March we were told a gentleman from CA was coming to volunteer with us for a month. We were thrilled to meet Scott, a young man who was taking a year out of his life to work with others. He went with us everywhere we went and he became like a second son to us. It was tough to see him leave.
In about another month part of the CA team made another trip to help out. Some were returnees and others were new. It made our hearts feel good to see familiar faces. We saw alot more of them this time as we put them to work in and around the church and they completely redid the church daycare. We knicknamed it the CA kitchen! Another part of them dove into Gladys's home and also completely transformed it nearly brought it to completion.
Once we were relocated from Pascagoula to the next town, Gautier we fell into the pattern of seeing new faces each and every week, our family growing with each one.
Within a few months we received a call saying they wanted to make another trip and work with us. Once again we were thrilled. Again, some of the original mixed with some new guys. They asked for a family where they could all work together and really touch lives. We had no problem in providing them with Charles and Lynn. When they left that week this family had 2 new rooms and a driveway!
At spring break this team helped send their school, Kings Academy, to work with us. All 50 of them! What a blessing it was to see them cooking away at their chuck wagon in the back parking area and to be able to join in the meals and fellowship and worship! The kids are returning again this spring break!!
And low and behold, our very last week in April of 2007, when Convoy said we were closing up shop, our CA team came back yet again. This time all but 1 gentleman were returning faces. That week was such a mixture of emotions. It was such a blessing to Monty and I to be able to share all of those emotions with this team.
And that brings us to now. This team has tried for over a year to bring us to CA for some rest and relaxation. Each time we would think we could schedule a trip -- it didn't work for some reason or another. But now . . . after all this time we have it in the works and it IS going to happen. We knew that if we didn't get it scheduled this time it would be who knows how long since we will be returning to MS by the end of this month.
We are so grateful to this team for everything they have done. They have changed the lives of so many, they have touched hearts, they have new families and they have surely brought a smile to our Lord and Savior! To us they are family!
We are looking forward to seeing the far west. We pray for safe flights and we pray for these people, for their church and for them to continue to be such enormous blessings everywhere they go. It will be so awesome for Monty and I to get to meet the women behind the men, to meet their children and to be welcomed into their homes! What an honor for us!
Thank you California --- we love all of you and look forward to what God has in store for all of us in the future. The one thing we do know for certain is that you have changed our lives, you have blessed us and you are -- and always will be --- FAMILY!!!
For this reason the blog will be a bit sparse for awhile but when we return we will have photos, stories, bodies rested a bit more and hearts overflowing with love!
Until then . . . Monty and Susan