Thursday, April 30, 2009

Plans, plans and more plans

I couldn't resist taking the lower photo. On my way to Lowes this morning I always have to pass this beautifully landscaped fountain at the entrance of a subdivision. This morning someone put soap in the fountain and all day long it was spewing soap suds. When the winds blew it was quite comical as the suds bubbles were streaming across the road right onto cars. Sort of a natural car wash??
You can see in the upper photo that Victor's roof is coming along nicely. They feel like they will have it done by time to leave tomorrow afternoon. We pray the weather will continue to hold its rain drops tight in the sky until they are done! We are so thankful for the work they have done.
My day started with the weekly case management meeting where we learned more about the DHAP program, Disaster Housing Assistance Program. They pick up where FEMA leaves off with those who were housed in hotels and getting the information was important.
We also learned at the meeting that my FEMA educational summit meeting scheduled for next Tuesday has been cancelled due to the swine flu!!! Yes, Texas is being hit quite hard, the first death was in Houston on Monday. Schools are closing, Ft Worth is nearly shut down scrubbing their schools. Things are being cancelled daily leaving each days schedule uncertain. We pray this will have no effect on our conference and outreach but no promises.
After checking on the roofing team, checking in on Hai and talking with numerous clients I headed back to get some much needed paperwork ready for the funding request table. It takes quite a bit of work to get all the documents they require and I still have a couple to get done before I can schedule the appointment. Some of these homeowners just need the materials so they can finish the work themselves. Others will be dependent on volunteers -- and this flu thing is effecting the flow of those --not positively!
Monty, our new volunteer Jim, and Phillip spent the day moving trailers, scrubbing nearly everything getting ready to be transported to the outreach and completing the long list Diane had for them to get done. Phillip will be flying to New Orleans very early tomorrow morning so he can pick up the UHaul truck owned by Mercy Response and drive it back here to be used for the outreach. The truck has been in the shop and got done just in time to be put to use. Please pray for safe travel for Phillip.
As you can see, we are going in all directions with the outreach and yet trying to stay in touch with our homeowners. They realize we will not be working in their homes over the next week and even though the outreach is going to be awesome it's tough to step out of their homes. We just hope they all come to the outreach for all the free things!
Speaking of free things -- I have mentioned my great working relationship with Lowes. Today they really surprised us. Both Mike and Alex will be coming to our outreach! Not just as spectators -- they are tapping all the local Lowes stores for their kids birdhouse projects and received permission from their boss to come and set up a place where the kids can come and build them! Amazing!!!! And they are both so excited about it! They are also going to donate 2 full pallets of water for all the volunteers! As I have said so many times --- it's all about relationships and I plan on not shopping anywhere else but this Lowes store!!! Thanks to all of them who are always there with whatever we need!
Be sure and stay tuned as each day is not only packed with preparations -- it's also packed with surprises and added blessings around every corner!
On a very special note --- SUPER thanks to Monty's mother, Judy, for her contribution to our support today! She seems to always know just when we need it!!!! We love you and only wish we could thank you in person!!!! What a mom!!!
If you would like to help with our support (we aren't sent or sponsored by any organization but friends and family who know our hearts) you can send your tax deductible donations to our sending agency who will deposit directly into our account. We thank you and know God will bless you abundantly for your gifts. Please send them to:
International Gospel Outreach (IGO)
PO Box 1008
Semmes, AL 36575
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A new start

What a way to get a new start?! This is the trailer I talked about a few days ago, the one with the snakes living on the inside and the homeowner didn't realize that even without floors, walls and ceilings that the trailer was structurally unsound???? She made the decision and followed through, even though it was tough. We called in Service International and they did the rest - in a matter of about 30 minutes!
Service International was started by a church. They come in with the demo equipment and take down homes that need taken down. All they require is a signature from the homeowner and away it goes. They tear it down and they remove the debris -- one stop shopping! What an amazing ministry! And every single thing is free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
They were supposed to be leaving the area last week but their time was extended due to the need. They told me today that they have over 30 more homes needing destroyed! For us and the homeowners this is a good thing! This couple will now have the opportunity to explore their options and look toward a new home. It's a tough way to go but the reality of a disaster.
Today was a mixed bag! I started with a trip to Lowes to arrange more estimates for more homeowners. I don't know what I would do without Alex and the crew! They are just amazing! I took in a photo of Hai's before and after -- they were shocked and thrilled to play a part in the whole thing!
While at Lowes I had to pick up a few more materials for our Presbytarian team working on Victor's roof. They were having a couple of "issues" with the structure of the roof and a bit later in the morning I called Monty to go and advise them. He got the questions answered and got them moving forward. I admit that being on a roof when the temps are in the mid 80's and humidity even higher isn't the best place to be but they were troopers. They even had a woman working with them today!
From there I headed to Galveston to Marie's house. The Houston Foundation was to meet me there to see her home and hear more about the rebuilding process. They have provided funds for rebuilding and wanted to see some of the results first hand. It was an honor and privilage to meet them and have a chance to talk about some of the things happening and some things that are still needed. Marie and Amy were thrilled to be a part of the whole thing. Marie is still waiting for her electricity to be turned on --- any day now!
After Marie's I headed to Benjamin and Rita's. They had all of their paperwork ready for me to pick up and review. Even thought they received funds from FEMA and had some insurance money they still ran out and need work done before they can move in. They had everything in line and now I just have to do the paperwork on my end, present their case and pray we once again receive the check and are able to finish their home and get them back in.
My afternoon was spent with Twee and Kenny with V Families. We had cases to discuss, homeowners to meet and paperwork to complete. They address the social and economical needs of the Vietnamese community and our working together is a great match. They were heading to Hai's to offer her some more help when we finished.
Monty and Phillip were back at camp preparing more things for next weeks outreach and conference. Diane must feel as though her phone is permanently attached to her ear right about now! Things are coming together, schedules are working out and we pray the weather will cooperate! Please join us in that prayer (and more).
By the time we all got around to burgers for dinner (thanks for cooking Diane) we had a few laughs about the day and called it quits -- until our team of one man arrives tonight. Seems he is here to work for a couple of days before attending his own convention in the area. We hope to have him at the Vineyard church in Galveston to work a bit more on their newly tiled floors.
This day has been here and there, to and fro and forward and back. I actually think I met myself coming and going on interstate 45 but not sure I recognized myself! :)
It just never ceases to amaze me -- the blessing of working with those of like minds -- do what needs to be done to help the people! I think I see Jesus smiling!
Until next time . . . be blessed and take a look upward -- see Him smiling? Susan and Monty
PS Almost forgot -- Marie's daughter, Amy, had a huge box of pastries for all the guests this morning. She sent a large ziploc bag full of them back with me for this evenings dessert. I left them on the table in our camper and forgot to take them up to the kitchen. When Monty returned he found nothing but a few pieces of the plastic bags and found both dogs sitting in the corner of the couch -- crumbs still on their faces!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are now unable to move from the couch and are literally burping all the time!!!! :) Aren't dogs great !!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Convention Preparation

We are beginning to shift a couple of gears. Shifting them into an even higher gear than normal -- if that's possible!

Next week the National Convention for Vineyard Pastors will be held in Galveston. It was scheduled before the storm and they decided to keep it there. We're really glad they did as we hope it will raise some awareness and let the Pastors see first hand what happens in a disaster and what Mercy Response is involved in.

The convention will start on Tuesday and end on Friday. Part of the schedule required each Pastor to sign up to play a part in the "Renew Galveston Festival" that will be held on Wednesday. Together with Convoy of Hope we will be throwing a huge outreach for the community. It will include a hot meal, BBQ smoked pork loin with the fixins, a free kids zone with all kinds of things to keep them busy and wrapped up in fun, groceries to be taken home, a health fair with all sorts of things going on, haircuts, a prayer tent, live music and more. And the best part -- it's all FREE!!!! Yes, not a single penny will be charged! Monty and I have participated in outreaches like this in the past and its absolutely amazing to see the faces of those being blessed and having so much fun.

BUT -- there is alot of planning that must take place beforehand. Diane has been working on this for a couple of months now and the time is ticking. Today we all headed to the school where the outreach will take place. We took our chemicals and covered the block with fire ant killer. These are quite the nasty insects here and can wreak havoc on a persons feet within seconds. We shouldn't have any trouble with them now! It was more than a bit warm but we "got er done".

From there Monty and Phillip headed back to camp to get the BBQ wagon ready to be transported. One of the burners isn't working properly but the company assured us it will be ready and corrected in time.

Diane and I headed out to cover more local businesses with our flyers. She and others took over 6,000 flyers into the schools last weekend and the phone calls for information have already started.

Monty and I are especially excited as our own Pastor Dave will be coming down for the convention and we hope to get to spend some time with him and take him on a tour of homes.

These next days will be filled with preparations along with continuing the work in homes. Hai understands all that is happening and content to wait for it all to calm down. Marie is also her usual patient self. Victor's team continued putting on his new roof today, we actually made it through the day without rain!!! Praise the Lord! They will be back there again tomorrow.

Please keep this convention, all the Pastors and all the volunteers in your prayers.

Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's all about relationships

Monday -- of another kind. We don't have any teams of our own this week but that doesn't stop us from getting the work done. You can see from the photo that we called upon the PDA, Presbytarian Disaster Assistance. They came in prepared with open and willing hearts and hands and will be putting a new roof on for Victor. It's quite the photo -- Mercy Response stands with PDA who stands with the Vietnamese village leader -- all working together -- crossing cultural and religious boundaries -- and all smiles and filled with warm hearts and love for the Lord! I just thought it was a great shot of what this is all about!
The other photo is Phillip -- all smiles also. He finished laying the tile in Hai's house! He only has a bit to grout tomorrow and he will be able to call it done! After spending 3 weeks on his knees he has a right to smile.
We also got the absolutely fantastic news that Marie's house passed its electrical inspection -- the final one -- today! The city should be there in a couple of days and bring her power from their pole to her house. She might be able to turn on a light -- for the first time since the storm!!!!! Can you hear her praising the Lord?!
I must cut this short as we are in the middle of yet another severe thunderstorm this evening and the winds and rain are pounding us. I just haven't seen rains like this!!!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Friday, April 24, 2009

How do we stop?

Yes, that's our director Phil with his new bbq grill and smoker ready to be taken to our national Vineyard Pastor's convention in 2 more weeks! He had to come and bring it along with our old grill that had been repaired and new wheels put on! Something about a man and his tools??!!
Fridays are days when teams, every one of them, must come to terms with stopping their jobs and knowing they are out of time to bring them to the point of "done." Fridays are tough days, the tiredness has set in, the anticipation of returning home to loved ones, and yet feeling that sense of urgency to get everything done. We talk about it every Monday, we explain that production is not the number one thing here, we do what we can to convince them that this is not your average work week where not getting something done does not mean you didn't do a good job! It's still tough! The line "if we only had one more week" echoes throughout the day. Some really mean it -- they would stay another week -- and others just wanted to finish what they started in the week they have here. Either way, it's not done BUT it will get done! More teams came before them to get them where they were this week and more teams will follow them to carry on with what they did and yes -- there will come the team that will bring it to "done."
This team did accomplish getting "done" in 2 homes --- quite the accomplishment! They finished Margie's house and today they put the final touches of installing the counter top in Naomi's house. An awesome feat and one not done by any other team to date!
They pushed forward with all they had in both Laura's house and Hai's. Laura called me this morning to say she had stopped by (she works alot of hours) and when she was talking about how beautiful her home was she couldn't hold back the tears! The team got the laminate flooring all done except for the kitchen! The painting is all done and we only have a bit of trim to do! What a blessing for Laura!
Hai's team shifted from Laura to her to make sure they could get her tile flooring sealed by the end of the day. The cabinets are in, the sink needs installed, the appliances are in (Hai even made microwave popcorn for the kids last night) and everything looks fabulous. The plumbing in the bath will be completed by Monty on Monday and I'll start with her base trim. Each week she gets closer and closer to that awesome dedication day! Be sure and stay tuned as I have invited each team to return for that special day! Wouldn't that be incredible -- a representative from every team who put so much love, time and talent into creating a home for she and her children!
This evening the team is doing their regular end of stay cleaning. Even though they are tired they still find the extra "umph" that it takes to leave the building and warehouse just as clean as when they arrived.
They will be heading home very !!! early tomorrow morning and we will miss them. As I have said in the past, when teams return it really is like having family come to visit. This team is such a special group of family members for us and we pray for their safe travel and that they will once again return to come and bless anyone and everyone in any and every way they can. Just being obedient! So simple yet so awesome!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Start with 4, end with 2

Yes, they started with 4 jobs on Monday and by this afternoon 2 of those jobs were completed. Margie's bedroom and ramp are completely done and we are thankful for those who made it happen in only 2 weeks! She is thrilled yet will miss having the company. Please keep her in your prayers!
Walter's house is put on hold until he gets some major plumbing and electrical issues taken care of. The team sadly wrapped up by mid afternoon and headed off to help at Laura's house. You can see most of them inside getting a tour of what has been done and what still needs done.
Hai's house is taking shape by the day. You can see a view from the back end of the family room looking into her new kitchen. The cabinets and counter tops are now installed along with her microwave (also newly vented outside), her washer and dryer installed and stove and dishwasher also installed. If we don't be careful she'll be moving in! :)
This morning was my weekly case management meeting. I also had an agenda to present Mr Khanh's case to unmet needs to request money to purchase his appliances. This process is quite detailed but works well. I went in front of the case review committee which makes sure I have all my documentation in order. After passing that I was then sent on to the unmet needs committee who decides whether this is a needy case. By the time I got there they were all convinced and therefore I will be receiving the funds to go and purchase a refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer, bath vanity and sink for Khanh, his wife and their 4 boys (all under the age of 9). It will be an amazing day when we pull up with our trailer -- fully loaded with everything! He was in tears at hearing the news over the phone! It's one of those days where I thank God for all the education He has provided me over these past years. Each disaster is a learning experience and the opportunity to use past education. And yet the learning is never over -- and I love the entire process!
Tomorrow the teams will be in both Laura's house and Hai's. Darrell and Howard will be heading to Galveston to put the counter tops in at Naomi's house. Yes, we already had the dedication but this was the only thing needing done and tomorrow it will be totally done! She is thrilled at just the thought! When the men finish there they will be headed back to San Leon to finish up their day and their week! Is it the end of the week already??
We are so thankful to all the teams who have come and as always will be quite sad at the end of tomorrow when we know we must once again say goodbye to those who have become extensions of our families!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

House full of love

The floor tiling in Hai's house is nearly complete. The photo shows Phillip -- seems as though he's tiled himself into the corner in the bathroom??? He actually does have a plan and has done a fabulous job in her house! Good thing he's only 21 as he's spent the past nearly 3 weeks on his knees every single day!
The other photo shows the process of installing her cabinets. By the end of the day they had them all in and will be installing the counter tops tomorrow along with the stove and microwave oven. In a matter of 2 days her kitchen will actually become a kitchen! She stood in amazement as she watched it happen with her own eyes! She came to me this afternoon, nearly in tears, and told me that she wouldn't trade this house for any brand new home -- anywhere! She said this house has been built with so much love that no new house could ever measure up! I think I saw angels dancing throughout! When I ran into Pastor Bob he agreed whole heartedly.
Margie's flooring is all in along with the base. The team will finish up a few last minute finishing touches and put her furniture back and then pronounce the project complete! Margie would like teams to continue coming but has to come to the realization that our work is done and we must go on and help those who are waiting to be helped. She is a perfect example of the ministry coming first and the rebuilding second!
Laura's house is being transformed by the hour. The painting is moving right along and the team will finish the laminate flooring in the back bedroom tomorrow and possibly be working their way down the hallway and into the laundry room. Once that bedroom is done they will start moving everything from the kitchen into that bedroom. We are all anxious to see what the kitchen actually looks like as it has been filled from floor to ceiling with the furnishings Laura is left with!
Walter was up and more than ready for the team. He had been up and shaved and had his false teeth in place!!!! He had a reason to get up and shave and put his teeth in -- and it had nothing at all to do with the structural rebuilding of his home! They did get some more insulation put in and when we get the jackhammer rented tomorrow morning they will be able to get some of the rough in plumbing started in his bathroom. The women were busy cleaning things for him and getting alot of his laundry done -- most of it from what he could save in the storm! He misses that women's touch since his wife passed away 3 years ago!
Monty spent most of his day in Galveston with the electricians that are working in Marie's house. We were very blessed when Nehemiah's Vision, the Baptist based relief effort, offered the services of their experienced volunteers to us. They are working through a Texas licensed electrician and getting the job done. The inspection should happen tomorrow and with a couple of prayers we should pass with flying colors and be able to continue forward with her rebuilding. Marie has to be one of the most patient women I have ever met! But we are now moving forward and hopefully will have her done soon!
As you read through this it is my hope that you see the hope that comes to homeowners in this type of disaster ministry! I have said it a thousand times and will continue to say so --- volunteers bring hope; hope that they will be able to return to some sort of normal life again, that someone really does care about them and they see the love of Jesus shown to them through the lives of these volunteers! What an amazing miracle -- one Monty and I are blessed to see daily and one we know each volunteer takes back home with them!
Until next time . . . be blessed . . . help someone. . . experience the miracle! Susan and Monty

Monday, April 20, 2009

Up, down, up

Yes, Bear Valley has returned - with new team members! They drove through snow and rain to get here but made it last evening. Travis and Ryan also returned from their weekend in San Antonio so we were back to a full house.
This morning we were all up and ready to go. With orientation and job planning covered last night it made getting up and out on Monday morning alot smoother. We were all blessed to welcome Pam back to do our cooking -- for the next 3 days!!!
This team is divided into 4 teams, Laura's, Hai's, Walter's and Margie's. Both Margie and Walter will probably be completed by mid week and those teams will be divided between the other two.
Walter got some insulation today, Laura is primed and nearly ready for paint and laminate flooring to begin, Margie's ceiling is done and her laminate flooring will also be done tomorrow or Wednesday and Hai's tile is nearly done and some is even sealed. Her cabinets will start going in tomorrow and possibly the bathroom plumbing will be complete.
All jobs were remarkably smooth but this team has been here before and knew what to expect and were prepared. It was great to see returning faces and even greater to see the new ones who came to see the blessings for themselves.
Our rains are completely gone and the skies filled with nothing but blue. With a north, dry breeze and full sunshine it's great for drying primer and/or paint and/or tile sealer so they all worked at great speed. We pray it will hold throughout the week.
This evening was spent with our nightly team meeting. This time the entire teams sat around the table in discussion and if they accomplish all they have set out to accomplish it will be quite the week!
Please keep them all in your prayers -- and pray for teams to keep coming. Our month of May is rather sparse and with all the houses in "waiting" we sure need the teams!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Saturday, April 18, 2009

They left with the thunder

Walter greets the men who installed his new windows in the lower level of his home.

Yesterday was the day where teams do everything they can to "finish" what they started. This is always tough on most teams as they won't finish -- we try to get that point across in the orientation but it's still against everything we know. We are taught that if we don't finish what we started we didn't do a good job. That just doesn't work here in the disaster field. They furthered what the team before them did and prepared for the next incoming team. Their part is critical -- and still tough!

Our engineering college students who decided to spend their spring break working instead of laying on some beach somewhere all headed back to school this morning. They did finish Margie's new deck and ramp! Quite the accomplishment considering it wasn't a small project! We were sad to see them leave, especially knowing Stevo wasn't feeling well. He wasn't the only one, Phillip has been in bed all day with an upset stomach! Prayers for healing definitely needed!

Ryan and his friend, Travis headed off to San Antonio for the weekend to do some sightseeing before returning Sunday night and working Monday. Ryan will be on a plane headed back to Wisconsin on Tuesday morning and Travis will return to his home in Houston. Ryan says he's praying that his flight will be delayed so he can stay! If that flight had been today it most definitely would have been delayed -- the storms have been constant and we are totally flooded -- everywhere! Stepping out of our trailer will put us in atleast 4 inches of water --- and it hasn't stopped! In fact -- we are under a tornado warning right now! Yes, a warning! They are different here than in the midwest. They issue a warning when they realize one could pop up any minute. This close to the water causes advance warnings to come early -- to keep our heads looking toward the sky. The worst of that storm has passed us and is in Galveston as I write or I wouldn't be on the computer!

Matt and Jess, from Wisconsin, are staying until tomorrow and working at Hai's today. They hope to do some more grouting and possibly find out where her leak is in the ceiling? It seems to be coming from the roof itself and since it's a new roof??? Monday will tell us why.

Matt and Jess also had a huge surprise for Hai when they arrived -- they had stopped along the way and bought her a brand new lawn mower! For those of you who have been there you know just how much she needed one! And what an amazing blessing!!!

As I write this Matt and Jess just returned to camp and had quite the adventure -- all roads are flooded, standing water and cars under -- every direction they turned was water -- but they finally made it!

We also have water issues in that the church is flooding along the outside walls! The city park next to us is completely under water also! I can't even guestimate how much we've had today but if someone reported nearly 10 inches I would believe it!

We are glad the team made it out when they did and we pray for safe travel as they head back north!

Until next time . . . be blessed and stay dry!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Susan and Monty

Thursday, April 16, 2009

She wants to keep him

All of this evenings photos were taken at Margie's house. You can see the work on the deck and ramp, she even tested it out later today to see how it worked and smiled the entire 12' down, they are priming the molding that will go at the top of the walls next to the ceiling, they primed the ceiling and need just a bit more material for the deck and it will be done. Margie has won the hearts of everyone there -- so much so that Stevo (in the photo with Monty) stayed behind this evening to get that first coat of primer on her ceiling! She has been up each morning, dressed in her pretty flowered shirts, shorts - complete with makeup and lipstick on - waiting for the team to arrive. She even told Ryan she could be his "Texas Grandma" if he would come back! It's this kind of hope that brings life to the homeowner! Tomorrow will be extremely tough for her, the last day for the team! It will be even tougher for the team! They just don't realize it yet.
Hai's house is nearly all tiled. Phillip and Matt will finish the bedroom tomorrow and possibly the bathroom? Jessie finished cleaning everything and doing some paint patching on walls and relocated to Margie's for the afternoon and will return there tomorrow. I was thrilled with the results of our unmet needs table at case management this morning -- another relief effort will be picking up the cost of her kitchen cabinets -- Praise the Lord for the extra dollars we will now have to use elsewhere! And even more good news -- we hear from our incoming team for next week that they have experience in installing cabinets and doing trim---guess where some of them will be working? Step by step we get closer and closer!
Laura's guys have the taping and mudding complete and even jumped over and helped Butch's guys for a bit while their last coat of mud was drying! They might be priming tomorrow. And next weeks team will be headed here on Monday to prime, paint and hopefully install her laminate flooring. If all that can happen she will be ever so close to coming home. We can skirt her trailer and build the deck after she moves in!
Walter is moving ahead at a speed that he never expected! The three young college men have taken him to a whole new level. He now has the back wall rebuilt and is teaching them so much about so many parts of construction. Tomorrow they will be taking one of our donated shower stalls to him. It will be installed later but we need to get it inside before too much framing takes place and it won't fit. We also will be sending a couple of volunteers back to work with him next week. His age (92), his ability to teach anyone anything and his ability to purchase all needed materials make him a great candidate.
And they just keep calling . . . yesterday I made three more visits. All in the Vietnamese community, all out of money, all used all money to rebuild and all ran out before it's done. We did find that most of them are willing and able to do their own work if they had the materials. I spoke with the long term recovery to see if we could approach case management in that direction and they thought it was a wonderful idea. In case management we are taught about keeping the client participating in their own recovery and what better way than allowing them to do their own rebuilding if they choose! We'll see how it all works!
As we look at wrapping up this week each team leader is making notations in their client notebooks. They make the notes for themselves and for the next incoming team. These notebooks have proven to be amazing at organizing the homes. Many thanks to our neighbor, Shelley, for not only coming up with this idea while she was here but for also going the extra mile and purchasing the materials to make it happen!
Be sure and stay tuned for Friday. It will be both joyous and sad -- but it will be a blessing beyond description!
Until then . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

They just keep coming

Yes, even more volunteers came today! Ryan from Wisconsin made it and his friend, Travis, who is living here in Houston also came to help.
Our 2 newest men from Indiana went to start helping Walter. Walter is our 92 year old gentleman who built his house many years ago. The back addition blew completely away and he doesn't want to rebuild it. He is content to repair what is left and with the help of these guys he will get a good start this week. There will be one more guy flying in this evening and he will join these two at Walter's tomorrow through the rest of the week.
Hai's house continues to get floor tile. I don't know how Phillip spends every day, all day, on his knees and is still able to walk! Maybe being only 21 helps?? Matt and Jess were busy grouting and helping clean the back porch -- what an improvement. They were also treated to an authentic meal which each one was more than thrilled with!
Margie is getting her new deck and ramp -- after quite the afternoon of digging through some mighty tree roots! Her bedroom ceiling is also sheetrocked and will be finished tomorrow. They also enjoyed quite the "lunch" of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread and chocolate cake! Margie was up at 6am starting the meal! Funny how her aches and pains didn't get in the way of cooking for the guys!!!
The guys at Butch and Teresa's not only learned to lay carpeting they grouted and tiled the bathroom floor and were learning to trim doors! The learning curve jumped up a knotch and they passed with flying colors. They were treated to a "lunch" of steak, shrimp and the works!
Laura's team got a lesson from Monty in hanging sheetrock and were very pleased to welcome Travis to their team. He has plenty of experience to lend to the team. They feel like they are getting a better handle on the process now.
As you can tell, the day was more than busy and yet amazing! All the team members are learning and learning and then learning more. I love to see God working through the homeowner into the teams!
You might think the teams are being spoiled with all the great lunch menus -- it's the only way the homeowner has to say thank you! Most all of them LOVE to cook something special to "try" and say thank you -- and college guys do love to eat! Another perfect match!
Tomorrow is the day where everyone is working full steam ahead. They even decided to move the dinner hour an hour later -- just so they could work a little longer and get more done!
Be sure and stay tuned!
Until then . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty
PS Don't forget to get your taxes in before the deadline tomorrow --- and yes --- I am working on ours as I write this!!!!!! :)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Indiana with Wisconsin = awesome Monday

Last night we welcomed Rose Hulman Engineering School men to the camp. They have sent volunteers before and this time they are all "new" except for Stevo -- we knew he would be back! By this evening there will be 3 more of them arriving.
Wisconsin will also be welcoming 2 more this evening. I wasn't kidding when I talked about this week being a revolving door!
All were up and ready to go this morning. We had ironed out alot of the job details last night and were out the door quite early for a Monday morning.
Two were off to Butch and Teresa's to continue helping wherever needed. They ended up learning how to lay carpeting. As their leader, Whitney, said ,"it's a great learning experience." He was smiling too!
Another team headed to Hai's to continue the tile and grouting. Jessie spent most of her day on her knees and did a great job. You can see Matt visiting with Peter -- the one who didn't talk? He was telling Matt all about his card game. Meanwhile Irene was putting the spacers in the tile with Phillip. What a team!
We started working in Laura's mobile home today. She needed some good cleaning before putting in insulation and preparing for sheetrock tomorrow. Before we call her complete we will have skirted the trailer, built a new large deck, sheetrocked the inside, installed all new laminate flooring and new window air units. This team is just getting the job started.
Another new job was Margie. Stevo and his team started insulating the bedroom ceiling and also preparing for sheetrock tomorrow. They will be joined by some of the new team members arriving tonight who will be working outside on her new deck and ramp combination. Margie herself was being visited by the nurse who was trying to do her best to keep Margie healthy. The nurse was very excited that we were installing a larger deck and ramp since Margie has fallen a couple of times off the wobbly steps she has now.
I spent some time getting final preparations lined up to apply for funding for Khanh and his family. They are the ones needing appliances and hopefully by Thursday afternoon I will have the approval and be on my way to purchase a great and long overdue load of appliances for their family and they can put food in a refrigerator instead of a styrofoam cooler and cook on a stove with an oven instead of a propane hotplate and maybe even wash and dry some clothes!
Usually Mondays are a bit hectic and scattered but today was a pleasant surprise. Everyone was ready and stepped right into the work needing done. Monty will be helping those at Laura's to get the hang of installing sheetrock only partially -- when walls only needed gutted at the 2 or 3 or 4 foot level it puts a whole new meaning to the installation process.
Diane is enjoying some much deserved time off while her daughters and granddaughters are here in Houston. We know they are all enjoying the sunshine and sandy beaches that were just recreated in Galveston!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sad goodbye to Timothy

His team cancelled out on him at nearly the last minute but he was committed and came as a team of one.

He planned on staying for one week. God touched his heart and he listened and extended his stay for another week.

It was one of the first times his wife was without him!

He tiled floors, he grouted floors, he painted walls and he jumped in with Monty to work out the kinks in electric. He did whatever was asked and smiled and laughed and showed the love of the Lord to not only Hai but to her children who are crying for attention.

But most of all he ministered to both Monty and myself! He and his team came and worked with us last summer in Indiana and we knew from the start that he was a special friend destined to become family. Seeing him again, getting to spend so much time with him again, laughing together and working through some more than difficult times -- all were a blessing just because he was here with us!

To his wife, Lindsay -- we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for not only sharing your husband with us but for understanding the calling God has placed on his heart. He is a very special man with a very special talent for that calling. God has big plans for him -- for the both of you! He places us with our mates for all sorts of reasons, some we understand and others that leave us shaking our heads but realizing it's the perfect match to bring about the perfect balance in each others lives.

We miss Timothy already but we also know we will see him soon. God brought us all together as family and we are so very thankful!

For those of you who have emailed and commented and called with your response to Hai's salvation -- bless you for seeing the work of the Lord! Make sure you stay tuned for the pictures of her baptism next Sunday!

We pray you all have a wonderful and blessed Easter. I received a phone call from my daughter this evening and she was telling me my grandsons understanding of Easter. He is nearly 4 years old and in preschool. He came home with his colored picture of Jesus with the words "He is risen" at the top. She asked him to tell them the story he learned from school and this was it: Three bad men killed Jesus. They put him in a cave and some men came and put a lock on the cave so Jesus couldn't get out. An angel came and opened that lock so Jesus could get out. Then the angel went and told all her friends! Precious and just as Jesus says, "the faith of a child." It brought both a smile and tears as I listened to her and listened to him thanking me for the Cars stickers we sent him in his Easter card! My heart aches being away from them, not being there to see them grow and change. I pray they have a wonderful and blessed Easter!

To all of you -- have the faith of a child on Easter -- hearing the story for the millionth time yet hearing it for the first time! The awe, the amazement and the joy of what Jesus did for all of us!

Until next time . . . HE IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! Susan and Monty

Thursday, April 09, 2009

She gave her life

Mercy Response says "the thing is not the thing", we tell volunteers that the rebuilding of the homes is secondary to the ministry that happens with homeowners, we encourage volunteers to drop their tools if the homeowner comes in and wants to talk or share their story, we've all heard the saying about preaching the gospel using words if necessary . . . all for a reason, all for a purpose!

A few weeks ago I had a volunteer come to me about a homeowner, telling me that homeowner did not know Jesus and asked me what I was going to do about it! My answer was to roll up our sleeves and SHOW them Jesus! He looked both puzzled and disappointed. He was ready to preach -- using words!

This week we have seen transformations that are nothing short of miracles. You all know that Hai is raising her 5 children alone. Her life is filled with turmoil, sadness, feelings of being alone, confusion, fear, loss . . . all together on any given day. She has been telling us that her 4th child, Peter, doesn't talk. They try and try to get him to do so but nothing! This week he spoke, and he spoke and he continued to speak. Phillip has been both laying tile flooring and grouting -- yet he has taken the time to spend with both Peter and Daniel -- time individually with them -- and Peter started talking! Miracle 1.

Daniel is only 2 years old and more than a handful. I think he alone could give the Super Nanny a run for her money! He is the 5th child, his father is gone, his home is gone, his mother is wearing more hats than the local hat shop and he is lost in the shuffle of it all. The only way he figures he can get attention (and have it work every single time) is to act out -- to be a trouble maker. He has thrown an egg through the open window onto the new tile floor, he has run his car through the newly painted walls, he has taken white paint and smeared it where it doesn't belong -- and a number of other things! This week he has been listening to Timothy, Phillip and Monty. He hasn't acted out with any of them. He has laughed and played and been quite a different little boy. Miracle 2.

Early this evening I received a phone call from Pastor Bob. He was in tears and just had to tell me what had just happened with Hai. I was afraid of what he was going to say and braced myself. He told me that she had just left his church (she isn't a member there but goes there for most any kind of assistance) As she was finishing faxing her paperwork she started telling him about all the volunteers that have come to help her. She talked of their devotion, their work, their smiles but most of all their love. She just kept telling him about it. He asked her what her relationship was to the Lord. Her answer, "I'm Catholic." He followed by asking her "if you were to die tonight are you certain you would go to heaven?" Her answer was a resounding "NO!" He ministered to her, they prayed and she gave her life to the Lord! They both prayed again, both with tears of joy! She will be baptized a week from this Sunday -- we WILL be there!

He wanted us to know. We want YOU to know! Those of you who have come and worked in her home, those of you who came and knew her even though you were working in someone else's home -- those of you who have never been here, have only seen her picture here on the blog -- those of you who have prayed for her! THIS is God! THIS is why we are here, why we started in this disaster "ministry", why we continue doing what God has us do and why we plan on continuing to do what He has called us to do for as long as He has us do it! THIS is what being the hands and feet of God is for! THIS is IT! Miracle 3!

The angels are rejoicing, God is smiling -- He welcomed one very special child into His family today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Until next time . . . be blessed! Susan and Monty

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Major "testing"

The top photos were taken at NASA. One is the Saturn V that has been restored to its original condition, quite the massive rocket! The other is the actual vehicle that was used to drive around the moon! It was really awesome to see things like that in person. We watch on TV and then getting to really see them is amazing!
The other photos are at Hai's house. The electrical problems continue to plague all of us. Monty and Timothy have spent the entire week trying to get things worked out and still have a ways to go. I don't understand enough about the actual problem to relay anything other than they are quite concerned and will continue to work through it.
Phillip has also spent each day down on his knees, either laying the floor tile or grouting it! Even though he is only 21 years old even he says his knees hurt! The floors look beautiful and we pray the electric will be the same --- soon!
Yesterday was a day spent with meetings and more meetings. The biweekly long term recovery met and talked about the number of homes that are being worked in and how they continue doing their best to get the extra funding needed into the hands of the relief organizations doing the work. We, as Mercy Response, have received the most funding. They also confirmed that we are the only group working in San Leon and as they receive requests they will be forwarding them directly to us. I received 2 more yesterday that have been fully funded by CORE before they left the area and closed up their operation. I plan on contacting both homeowners in the next couple of days to start the case management process. Now we just need the volunteers!
I also met with Benjamin and Rita in Galveston. We have been working in their home for quite a few weeks and have made amazing progress but they are now out of funds to work with. They are gathering the documentation that I need to match with an estimate that we have already done. From there I can go to the long term recovery construction division and request the needed funds. It's a process to get all the ducks in a row but the process works!
Today Diane and I spent the morning in Galveston. This year the annual nationwide conference for all Vineyard Pastors will be held in Galveston. It was planned before the storm and they decided to leave the plans as they were. On one of the days Convoy of Hope will be helping us sponsor a huge outreach for the communities. It will cover an entire city block and everything will be free. We will have live music, groceries to take home, hot meals served all day, a kids zone with all sorts of things they can play in and on, free haircuts, free health screenings, you name it will be there -- and all for free! So today we got the flyers and headed into the city to spread them around to as many businesses as possible. I think I wore the seat of my jeans off getting in and out of the car so many times but we got them into alot of places and will return to hit the other end of town soon. I also have to get them into San Leon but need to make sure we have them written up in Vietnamese as well as Spanish.
For those of you who have helped keep us in the field with your support I am working on a newsletter to get out to you. Finding time to get it done isn't easy but hopefully it will be in your mailbox before summer!!!! Once again, our thanks for your faithfulness -- no matter what is happening in our economy!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Monday, April 06, 2009

In blows a new week

Before and after photos of Terri's house -- quite the improvement!

It was a weekend packed with things to do. Most of my Saturday was spent at the computer trying to get caught up. I did get alot done but still had alot to do, paperwork just never ends does it?! Monty did take a couple of hours and go fishing but it seems nothing was biting.

Timothy and Phil Jr headed up north to help Phil Sr get a platform built in a local church. It was dinner time before Timothy returned. Phil stayed to spend the weekend with his family.

Sunday found Diane under the weather with a cough that just won't let up so she decided to not go to church. She did get some sleep and was doing a bit better today. We were sad to bid another goodbye to Gregg and Pam as they headed home to South Dakota. They decided to leave their camper trailer here as they plan on returning in a few weeks and a blizzard was happening over many of the areas they would be traveling through. We pray for their safe arrival home and another safe trip back to us! Timothy, Monty and I had a quick lunch and decided to use a few of the free NASA tickets that were purchased for us by one of our past teams. It was a beautiful day although the winds picked up and nearly blew us away. We spent the entire afternoon there and it was awesome -- brought back alot of memories and taught me alot of things I never realized. We got the see the main command center and that was really neat. It was a trip that could have taken all day but we just ran out of time. Thanks to the team who was so generous as to purchase the tickets so we could go when time allowed.

Today had us loading one of our trailers with items to donate to Pastor Bob's church for their Easter outreach this coming Saturday. We took trash bags, hygiene kits, water and more hygiene items. It should be a great day, fun for the kids and gifts for everyone. We are blessed to have played such a small part.

Monty, Timothy and Phil headed off to Hai's house. Monty and Timothy were tackling some electrical issues while Phil continued tiling the bedrooms. They worked until late in the day and were back quite late for dinner. Progress continues one step at a time.

Diane and I spent our day with Phil, book work, paperwork and financial work! We made it through everything we needed to get through and I even got a bit more of my own paperwork caught up with! Amazing!

The team we had scheduled for this week cancelled so it's just the 5 of us making our own team! It has caused us to have to step out of a few homes this week but we pray the teams coming in next week will grow in size and we will be back to spreading as many blessings to as many homeowners as possible.

Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty

Friday, April 03, 2009

Crawfish and Completions

Taking a bunch of "yankees" down south is one thing -- taking them to dinner is an entirely different experience = FUN! Yes, the special at the one restaurant in San Leon is pleased to have crawfish season arrive. We took the crew last night and they all had a blast! It's fun to enjoy and good meal and laugh after a long day of work!

Today Monty had to be at the DMV at 2AM and wait in line until they opened at 8AM to be certain he would be able to do the driving portion of his CDL testing. He was 2nd in line and PASSED with flying colors! After a week of intense studying he accomplished his goal and is truly glad it's over! Good job Monty! Now all we need is the truck! :)

This morning we started off with our second home dedication. You can see Naomi, Diane and myself in the photo. Naomi lost everything in the lower level of her condo and nearly lost her entire condo as the one just to the front of her caught fire in the storm and burned to the ground. We have been sending teams in and rebuilt her entire lower level. All she needs is the kitchen sink and she is done. We wanted to bless her home before she completely moves back into the entire home and she was thankful we did. It's a great way to start the day.
From there the teams headed out. Terri's house is now completely painted. She did call first thing this morning and decided to change the trim color, it was too dark. Sandy and Doug got the entire thing done, the front room cleaned out and we are now ready to move inside with the next team. What a great job guys!
Diane and Pam painted in Benjamin's house and got it done.
The rest of us returned to Hai's to continue the ceramic tile, grouting and finishing of her cabinets. The tile is done except for a couple of bedrooms and the grouting is coming along fine. The cabinets are done and will go in next week --- especially since Timothy from Florida decided to extend his stay for another week and cabinets are his speciality! I see a God thing again!
Marty headed north to Austin to visit with family for a couple of days before returning to Indiana. He will only be in Indiana for a week before returning back here to stay for who knows how long!
The week has been an extremely busy one and I find it hard to believe it's Friday already! The teams have done incredible work and blessed homeowners beyond their wildest expectations! It is our prayer that the volunteer teams continue coming as we have homeowners on the waiting list and more calling every single day!
For Sandy and Doug -- we thank them for being the hands and feet of Christ to Terri this past week. We pray for protection as they head back to Washington very early tomorrow morning.
For the rest of us we pray for a bit of needed rest and a blessed weekend. Same for all of you wherever you are!
Until next time . . . be blessed. Susan and Monty