Out Here Hope Remains

There is hope for the helpless ... Cry Out To Jesus. -- Third Day

Monday, October 31, 2005

Monday Report!

Today was a different kind of day. Whenever someone wanted to know the answer to a question, they looked for me instead of David. There were some disappointed faces as they realized he wasn’t there and all they had was me. But I did the best I could … and for a few I told them to come back Thursday when David would be back. We did not do a bus run today, things were just too busy preparing for the coming rain. We had the crew from Illinois and tonight three men from Missouri came to work. We also had six from Americorps. I appreciate all of the workers, but the Americorps are special. They are young people who work down here right now for FEMA, doing some interviews. They work six days and get one day off. Can you believe that they spent their one day off working around the church? One of them helped a lady pull up her wood floors. A few of them helped me deliver some beds and move some vanity sets. Some worked in the clothing room. All of them had big smiles. They are from all over the U. S. Of the four that helped yesterday, one young lady told me that she was Jewish but still liked our worship services. I would venture that for those four, this was a first visit to a ‘church of Christ’ worship service. Opportunities seem to be growing. Today I met a 92 year old man. He will be 93 tomorrow. He was an absolute delight. I also met a tired woman who has a chronic sickness. She has a FEMA trailer in her yard, but no keys to get into it. I met the director of a relief effort at a Lutheran church in Biloxi today. He stopped by to ask about our operation and to see if we had any MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Since FEMA has pulled out of here they are hard to come by. You can buy them on Ebay, though, I hear. Saturday night some brothers and sisters from the Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville will be cooking a dinner for us and our friends and neighbors to share. This outreach event also serves as an encouragement to all of our workers. Charles called me today and reminded me that they will be coming and doing this. I think it will be great. A brother from Oxford, MS called today to ask about our church building. We haven’t talked about our building repairs much … there’ll be time for that later. I told him that I wanted to urge us to look at nice padded chairs rather than expensive cumbersome pews. But I don’t always get my way! Maybe his church or another one will help us get chairs in place, but that will come later. We’ll have to have a talk about carpet and colors and all that important stuff. THANKSGIVING is not far away. We are contemplating a cookout for our community. I’ll share the plans with you as we get closer. Pray for Nathan, the painter from North Carolina. His 7 year old niece, Brittney, had surgery today to remove some fluid from her lungs. They do not know what is wrong with her, but she is having some significant symptoms. He is worried about her. Lee asked about climate. If our weather information is correct, we are on a warming trend. We had a cold front come through last week which sent our night-time temps into the lower 40s. Now, temperature is one of those things like beauty - it’s in the eye of the beholder. I thought the temperature was glorious. Great for snuggling under the covers, great for wearing a nice jacket (Thanks, Dusty for the jacket), and great for drinking hot beverages as the sun goes down. Not great for living in a tent. Not great for those exposed to the winds. Not great for those who do not have a television and didn’t know a cold front was coming through. It was even not a great thing for some we know who are living in their homes … but with sheetrock and paneling removed, and cracks in their walls you can stick your hands through … it’s a bit chilly. It has warmed up a bit, though, and we’re thankful. However, it is only a temporary reprieve from the coming winter months. Although our winter is milder than much of the US to the North of us, 40 degrees feels quite cold to us. Tomorrow we face thunderstorms. With all of the supplies and equipment we have on the ground, we are hoping that we are well prepared for a deluge. We need one. It has only rained a few times since August 29th, when we got a big storm. Well, enough weather talk. Perhaps The Weather Channel will invite me to do the weather opposite Heather Tesh or Alexandra Steele? Of course I’d rather enjoy the cool weather with my Maggy. On a personal note, we now have six rooms painted in our house, and some of the framework back up in one room. There was a little stumble when the painter opened a new can of paint to do some trim painting, and afterward saw that the paint didn't match. (That's what that picture of my light switch is about on my picture page). But it's fixed now. We are still looking to get the rotten floor in the Kitchen replaced / repaired and some work done in the back bathroom. Once we get the back bathroom ready, we can take up the flooring in the main bathroom and just hope we do not find more rotten flooring. I want to keep at least one bathroom functional for obvious reasons! Flooring is another issue, with some rooms being carpeted, some rooms we will sand and stain a wood floor, and some rooms we will place some other kind of flooring. And there’s heating/cooling units. After that we should be able to move back into the house and start thinking about furniture and a dishwasher and replacing my recliner! All in due time. I don’t want to have an anxiety attack by naming all of these things at once! QUESTION: Does anyone who reads this blog have contact with the AIM program in Lubbock? I’d love to have some of those students come and spend some time here. Help me out! Wow, this is tooo long! I’ll try to be more concise … maybe. Until then, here is a long list of stuff that would be helpful to us. CURRENT NEEDS: *Volunteer workers, both skilled and unskilled. Carpenters, plumbers, roofers, electricians, sheet-rock hangers, and painters can all be kept very busy! We can use ladies to sort clothes, load the bus for bus runs, and go with us on the bus runs. *Ministers who can give up several days to come and pray with the community members, conduct Bible studies as available, and fill in on work as needed. *Youth ministers who can bring their teen groups (mature teens willing to serve, please) for one or two days on the weekends. *Small electric heaters *Hotplates *Towels, Sheets, Pillows, Blankets *Deodorant *Laundry Detergent in boxes or bottles we can give away easily. (Note: The big 5 gallon buckets of detergent are nice, but we would rather have smaller quantities to spread it further!) *Plastic tableware (forks, knives, spoons) and napkins. The FEMA trailers come with no items such as these. *Snacks, drinks, and other foods that can be kept in our Dining Hall for workers as they labor here on a volunteer basis. *Cleaning supplies (pine sol, mops, brooms, buckets, etc.) *Delivery Truck. At some point State Farm will come get our totaled church bus and we will need a delivery truck to make daily deliveries through our neighborhoods. This is from the "I doubt anyone can help with this, but it doesn't hurt to ask" department. *Large Print Bibles. We have a lot of elderly people here in our community, and they cannot see the small print editions. I have a special need for a Thompson Chain Reference Bible if anyone wants to make an investment in an older man who is hungry for the Scriptures and needs the helps to get him started. It needs to be LARGE PRINT and NIV please. *Chocolate and Coffee. Ok, those aren’t necessities. You caught me. All of my contact information is to be found at http://www.123jesus.com/. My picture page is located at: http://community.webshots.com/user/jedobber Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Gearing Up For Another Week

It’s almost 10:00. In the “old days” before Katrina, that used to be time to do some serious e-mails, internet surfing, blogging, and other cool stuff. Now it’s past my bed time. So this may be a little shorter than usual! Our main Chief of Staff around the building is David Kilbern. I will write a long post about David one day. But for now just let me say that he needs a break and is taking one … for a few days. David and Elaine are just incredible servants who want no attention called to their work. They are just doing what they have been taught to do by our Teacher. In my opinion, they are excellent students. So, that means that I will be trying to keep things moving along while David takes a break. I look forward to it. Who knows? I might paint the foyer purple or even put up a lifesize statue of myself so that people can throw rings of flowers around my neck! Being in charge could go to my head! We had some volunteers from Americorps today, and it looks like they will be helping us out as they can. We also had some newcomers from Illinois show up today. I’m looking forward to getting to know them. I think they are here until Friday. Carlos and Nathan continue their faithful work as well. Today I delivered appliances to several homes. This is a wonderful effort fueled by the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Effort in Nashville. If I was in charge I would tone down the paperwork they require, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to help all we can. We had 87 in worship this morning, with 15 or so visitors from our community. Very encouraging. Tommy Stewart, I wanted to tell you that the couple across the street came to worship this morning for the first time. They have lived there 50 years and never visited our assembly before today. One of the widows I wrote about in yesterday’s post was at services this morning, as well as other visitors. CURRENT NEEDS: *Volunteer workers, both skilled and unskilled. Carpenters, plumbers, roofers, electricians, sheet-rock hangers, and painters can all be kept very busy! We can use ladies to sort clothes, load the bus for bus runs, and go with us on the bus runs. *Ministers who can give up several days to come and pray with the community members, conduct Bible studies as available, and fill in on work as needed. *Youth ministers who can bring their teen groups (mature teens willing to serve, please) for one or two days on the weekends. *Small electric heaters *Pillows *Hotplates *Blankets *Buckets *Towels & Sheets *Deodorant *Laundry Detergent in boxes or bottles we can give away easily. (Note: The big 5 gallon buckets of detergent are nice, but we would rather have smaller quantities to spread it further!) *Plastic tableware (forks, knives, spoons) and napkins. The FEMA trailers come with no items such as these. *Snacks, drinks, and other foods that can be kept in our Dining Hall for workers as they labor here on a volunteer basis. *Cleaning supplies (pine sol, mops, brooms, etc.) *Delivery Truck. At some point State Farm will come get our totaled church bus and we will need a delivery truck to make daily deliveries through our neighborhoods. This is from the "I doubt anyone can help with this, but it doesn't hurt to ask" department. *Another need that has come to my attention is large print Bibles. We have a lot of elderly people here in our community, and they cannot see the small print editions. All of my contact information is to be found at www.123Jesus.com. My picture page is accessible by looking in the left hand column on this page (John's Pictures). I try to update with new pictures every few days. Thanks for reading. Good night.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Learning to Live Again

Today started off with a near-meltdown on my part, although I managed to hold it together. We were very thankful to have crews show up that we didn’t know were coming. We have plenty of work, that’s no problem. But when you have three or four needs at once, it begins to get to me. We had a group of teens come from McComb, MS. My sister in law works with a lady who got this group together and brought them down. I had to be in place to take them on the bus to give out some of the things that they brought down. At the same time I needed to deliver some appliances. At the same time there was a question about some other stuff I don’t even remember. Anyway, I was not dealing with all of this good stuff very well. And it is all good. We're thankful for each one. I think I arrived on the scene a little more tense than usual for some reason. I got the kids on the bus and we started meeting people and giving them things they needed. It was fun, and it was interesting hearing their comments on what they were seeing. In one funny moment we stopped and talked to three guys. One Anglo, one African American, one Hispanic. So I gave a Santa Biblia to one of the girls and told her to give ‘him’ a Biblia. These kids had done mission work in Mexico so I figured I was speaking their language. She hands it to the black dude, who promptly informed her he couldn’t read that. Of course we were all breaking apart on the bus, so she handed it to the Mexican dude. This fellow proceeded to inform her that he was a Native American, and not Hispanic. She was totally embarrassed, which made a great memory for the group! We have a family here from Cullman, Alabama. I’m not sure how long they are staying. We had a hardworking group today from the Inner City Church in Mobile led by Bill Draper. Bill Ford worked today, from Senatobia, MS. Unfortunately he has to return home tomorrow. We also had three brothers from Prattville, Alabama with Richard Medlin. Another cool thing happened today. Two kids about 12 years old each showed up. They are from our neighborhood. They came to help. They toted boxes, loaded the bus, went on two bus trips, and did anything we asked them to do. They have a servant heart. I hope they’ll come back. On the way back from our afternoon bus trip we could see the cruise ship Holiday coming in to dock at the Port of Pascagoula. We rode over to the river and watched it come in. There are hundreds of homeless people (due to the hurricane) living on that ship. They get three meals a day, and their laundry done. They have had to travel from Mobile (where the ship was previously docked) to Pascagoula each day. Now they are closer to home. I wonder if we can get on that ship to hold a worship service? Who would I even call about that? FEMA is paying the bill. As always there are probably people who worked today that I didn’t mention, things that happened that I do not remember at the moment, and stories to tell that do not occur to me at the moment. Tomorrow I plan to preach on the parable of the Good Samaritan. However, I want to focus on the blessings missed by the priest and rabbi. When we pass by our fellow human beings who are hurting, we become thieves. We rob ourselves of the blessings God has in store for the compassionate and service-minded. Tommy in Starkville, the house you worked on is coming along great. The couple now has a FEMA trailer on the lot, so they are in good shape. I hear that we are close to doing all we are going to do in that home. The theme of the day on the bus route was “Loss”. Tomorrow will mark eight weeks since Hurricane Katrina slammed into southern Mississippi and Louisiana. Much has evolved in our relief effort, but one thing that does not seem to have evolved is the sense of loss. I talked to two ladies today who lost their husband in the recent months prior to the storm. Both of them talked about how this experience intensified their sense of loss. Years of memories washed away in a sudden unexpected tidal surge. Though they are strong women, they are left to clean up the destruction without their husbands. No one to hold them. No one to assure them that they will make it. No hands to hold, no arms to embrace. A lady in her eighties simply shrugged and sighed, and went back to sanding her baseboards so that she could place them back on the walls of a home she barely recognizes. A lady in her sixties talked to us for a long time and I think hated to see us go. Her son lives across the street, but he was flooded also. Occasionally I have a moment of sadness, sometimes it's anxiety about getting back into my home, sometimes it is helplessness to fix the problems of someone I have met. These moments ultimately pass, but I do have a sense that we are learning to live again. Maybe that's a sense that you cannot understand until you visit here and see what this has done to us all. But there's little time for self-pity. We stay very busy, and God continues to surprise us with His tender mercies. I'm gonna smile my best smile And I'm gonna laugh like it's going out of style Look into her eyes and pray that she don't see That learning to live again is killing me ---Learning To Live Again, Garth Brooks

Friday, October 28, 2005

Catching Up

It’s been almost a week since my last post. Due to continuing restructuring of the cable system as everything is put back into place, I have not had the ability to post in the past few days. Plus, there just do not seem to be enough hours in the day to do all I’d like to do. I’ve had many ‘blogable’ moments, but I’m sure I will remember few of them. I have enjoyed the visits of some friends during the past week. Dusty Rush came from Conway with his new youth minister, Jason. I enjoyed meeting Jason. And Dusty has a great new ‘baptistry story’ to tell, but I’ll let him tell it when he is ready. Like many who visit, Jason wants to come back and bring a work crew with him next month. Friends and fellow bloggers Cecil May, III and Tommy and Carrie Dublin also served here this week. Cecil brought his preaching friend from across town, Miles Mayo, whom I enjoyed meeting. These visits lift my spirits and give me strength. Having an old friend around who is here to help is such a blessing. I am also enjoying meeting new friends. I can’t name them all… I don’t even know all their names. For a blog connection, a friend of Dee Andrews was here this week along with his wife (John Ash). Mrs. Ash’s name stars with a “D” but I can’t remember if she is a “Donna” or some other name. Forgive my poor memory, please. Pleasant people for sure. John is an elder at Pleasure Island Church of Christ in Gulf Shores, Alabama. He is also a blog reader. The church there has funneled thousands of dollars our way to help with reconstruction efforts. Also from Gulf Shores church is J. V. Lamar, who brought over a lady last night to be baptized into Jesus Christ. He is doing a lot of work now at Bayou LaBatre, AL - another forgotten area that was demolished by Katrina. A father and son who are both firemen came from the Rivergate Church in Nashville with a U-Haul truck full of good stuff. A truckdriver named Tony was here. He has a great testimony concerning his son who passed away last year and the work he is doing for God as he travels the interstates. He brought a semi-load of supplies from four small towns in Iowa. He drove them down for free, with someone paying for his fuel only. We had a few families from the Christian Home Church of Christ near Dothan, AL. . Isn’t that a great name for a church? It is also a good description of the heart of these families. They brought a lot of supplies as well. A group of people arrived from Illinois yesterday. Today they roofed a small house for a lady caring for her 84 year old father who has Alzheimer’s disease. Tex brought three or four guys from Monroe, LA. Their joy was contagious. And there are more people … more stories … more servants …. I just do not have the ability to recall all of them. Also this week it turned cold. I woke up in the middle of the night and I was cold in my camper. I cried for the people who were in tents and didn’t know that a cold front was coming through. Since then we have given away almost 300 blankets. Everything is evolving quickly here. We have moved most of our supplies and food to delivery status - taking them out on the bus each evening to the people in our immediate 15 blocks surrounding the neighborhood. We have put all of the donated clothing that is suitable for winter on the racks in our auditorium. There is some donated warehouse space where we can store materials until we need them. Through our partnership with www.openchurches.com, every $1,000 donated gets enough sheetrock and repairs done so that someone can move back into their house. It won’t be completely finished, but getting back into our homes is a big goal for everyone. On a personal note, there is some painting going on at my house today. Maggy and I spent the morning picking out colors and buying some paint. Nathan Walker, from North Carolina, is painting our house. We have run into some rotten flooring in the kitchen that needs some help. We will also need help getting some floor covering down. We hope it will not be too many more weeks before we are able to live in our house once again. Then we will be looking for something to sit on and sleep on. But that’s down the road a ways. CURRENT NEEDS: *Volunteer workers, both skilled and unskilled. Carpenters, plumbers, roofers, electricians, sheet-rock hangers, and painters can all be kept very busy! We can use ladies to sort clothes, load the bus for bus runs, and go with us on the bus runs. *Ministers who can give up several days to come and pray with the community members, conduct Bible studies as available, and fill in on work as needed. *Youth ministers who can bring their teen groups (mature teens willing to serve, please) for one or two days on the weekends. *Small electric heaters *Pillows *Hotplates *Blankets *Buckets *Towels & Sheets *Deodorant *Snacks, drinks, and other foods that can be kept in our Dining Hall for workers as they labor here on a volunteer basis. *Cleaning supplies (pine sol, mops, brooms, etc.) *Delivery Truck. At some point State Farm will come get our totalled church bus and we will need a delivery truck to make daily deliveries through our neighborhoods. This is from the "I doubt anyone can help with this, but it doesn't hurt to ask" department. All of my contact information can be found at www.123Jesus.com. Thanks again for reading. I think I will be able to update more regularly now, but I have thought that in the past!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Saturday Stuff

We had a lovely dinner at the Dodd house. The food was fantastic and I ate toooo much. I enjoyed the company so much. They let me ramble on about stuff and acted interested. Good friends. The Dodd's new daughter, Jordan, is beautiful. Just like Taylor! The time with Ronney and Sylvia was also cherished. We hit a traffic jam on the interstate on the way home, had to be re-routed, and didn't get home until midnight. It was kind of hard to get up this morning! I have spent most of the day at my house. Nathan the painter has been painting some primer. He also helped us move our washer and dryer into the utility room. However, the electrical outlets aren't quite ready, so that's another setback. I've learned that nothing is simple. We live in a very complex world. For every action, there are 75 equal and opposite reactions. Most of the homes that are being worked on have provided an endless supply of odd-jobs that no one expected. One person tells something to another person, and by the time that spreads through three or four people it becomes something totally different. Now there are several fires to put out, all because of one misunderstanding. It happens all the time, everywhere we go. You have to wonder what really happened when God said, "Let there be light". I know the Scripture says, "and there was light". But I wonder what other things were set in motion because there were light. Thankfully our Soveriegn God knew about all of those things. But as surely as the introduction of humans into the ecosystem created a stir, everything we do is creating a stir. Ripples on the water from one stone expand outwardly and we never know where that ends. A kind word, or an unkind word each create their own ripples. An act of service, or a withholding of service create their own ripples. A prayer with a hurting person has to create ripples in the Kingdom that we never see. So my Saturday stuff is a bit boring. Sweeping, throwing away, moving things around ... all necessary ... none very interesting. I don't know what's going on at the church building except I do know we are short of workers. Help is coming, though. We sometimes know about it, and we sometimes do not. But each worker is setting in motion some kind service that will bless more people than he or she can know. Tomorrow I'm going to preach a sermon called Why We Need Jesus In Our Lives. Most of my sermons these days are topical ... and this will be no exception. I hope it sets some things in motion that results in people inviting Jesus into thier lives. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Amazing People

Today some of our relief worker teams are working hard to finish up projects before they head out of town. There may be workers I do not know about who will be here, but I think this is going to be a slim weekend. We are very close to having four or five houses re-fitted with sheetrock and painted. These are just small steps toward getting back in our houses. For each person who gets back in their house, there are hundreds who are almost as far from home as they were the day after the storm. Of course, having a livable home is one thing, having something to sit, eat, and sleep on is something else! But we will take each step as we can and try not to look too far ahead. Tonight we plan to drive over to Pensacola at the invitation of Danny and Terri Dodd. They have two beautiful children, Taylor and Jordan. We will be meeting Jordan in person for the first time. She was born just a month ago. Tomorrow we will be cleaning out our house. There’s lots of leftover sheetrock pieces, dust, mud buckets and stuff like that. Anyone want to come help us clean up? It looks like a good day’s work. We will mop our floors, and after drying someone will vacuum them to get up any remaining dust. Following that, our walls will be primed and painted over the next three or four days. We still have to pick out some cabinets and tops for the kitchen, and replace the cabinet / sink in the bathroom. There are light kits to buy and molding to replace. I used to have this fantasy about building my own house. Let me say assuredly that I have been disabused of that fantasy in a big way. There are so many interesting people who have come through. Both Linda and Bridgette (from different places) stayed longer than planned, and let their respective team go home without them. Both have pledged to come and work again in the future. Nathan the painter came from North Carolina and says he is here as long as is needed. He also gives great shoulder massages! Bob the camper expert from Kentucky has been here twice, and I believe he is coming again. He can fix anything and does so with a smile. Pete from Muscle Shoals, Alabama was here twice. I don’t know if we’ll see him again, but he was a hard worker who had a gentle spirit. Clif the college professor cried with the heartbroken people he interviewed. A bunch of college students from somewhere who are associated with Camp Kanakuk filled us with joy and faith as they served. David J. has been an absolute machine under the supply tent. No one man can outwork him. J. V. gets things done and keeps us on our toes. Madolyn stormed in and blessed us with big smiles, big hugs, and a lot of food! We nicknamed her F5, because she is quite a tornado of service! Danny brought two big baseball player dudes who moved my refrigerator out of the house for me. But about every three feet they moved the refrigerator they had to go outside and barf. It stunk worse than the worst thing you’ve ever smelled. Ten hard working men flew from California from a community church and worked all week. We didn’t even know they were coming. Lots of friends have bought my lunch at La Fiesta Brava. Do you know that most of these people thank us for the opportunity to serve? This is just a short list … no way to mention them all … but just a sample of the greatness that has been presented to us in the Kingdom. Each servant glows with the brilliance of Jesus Christ. They are all inspirational. In truth, all of them draw me closer to our Master because they are true disciples. Each one deserves a trophy and a standing ovation. I have a feeling they will settle for a crown and a robe of righteousness that comes from the One who knows their hearts.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thursday Evening Musings

Today I got to call two strangers and tell them that we would like to hang the sheetrock in their house at no charge to them. If you can hear happiness over the phone, I heard it. Maggy and I were blessed to have lunch with friends Danny Dodd and Ronney & Sylvia Wheeler. The Wheelers are from Fresno, California. Their church collected $50,000 for Hurricane Relief and sent it to Whites Ferry Road Disaster Relief. I’m sure those receiving those funds will be blessed. Ronney will be speaking at the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola this weekend. I had a camera in my pocket, but for some reason I never got a picture. This afternoon we loaded up the bus and headed out to some neighborhoods to bring blessings to others. It was a good trip as we gave away lots of things, including some things sent by my friend Cecelia from Nevada (Thanks, Cecelia!). One of the benefits of doing these bus runs consistently is that people are beginning to call me by name. Relationships are being developed that are surprising to me. On a personal note, our house should be primed Saturday and painted Monday on the inside. This is another step toward us getting back home, and we’re so thankful. We were supposed to get an estimate on our inside a/c unit, but I guess they couldn’t make it by today. I wanted to write more, but multiple interruptions have scattered my brain and I’ll just let this be it. Here are some things to pray for: *Pray for our citizens who need housing to receive FEMA campers as soon as possible (and that they be given the keys to them as well). *Pray for our church that we will be strong and be servants of our community. *Pray for the relief workers who are coming from all around the country to aid our community. *Pray for this preacher who hasn’t felt much like a preacher lately, but has felt more like a minister than he ever has. Website with contact info: www.123Jesus.com Pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/jedobber

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Too-Long Post!

Things are very quiet here at this moment. It is almost 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday night. We have had our worship devotional. Everyone has gone home. The workers who are here are bedded down and trying to get some sleep after a hard day’s work. And this quiet has a sweet sweet sound to it. For the past three days there have been moments when I thought to myself, “I need to put that on my blog.” But I haven’t taken the time to do it. It was great to see bloggers Chris Lockhart and Kenny Harris this week. (Thanks, Ken, for the 1 lb. bag of Community Coffee, Medium Roast. Awesome!) I had some big laffs with them on the bus as Chris kept offering cold water to the people we stopped to help - even though we did not have water (cold or hot)! Also tomorrow Danny Dodd will be here with my old friends Ronney and Sylvia Wheeler (Fresno, CA). As I think about the past few days, it all seems pretty much a blur. Yesterday a highlight was a birthday party for one of our elderly members. She has an adult son who lives with her who suffers from MS. She turned 80 yesterday. After she blew out her candles she told me she had never had a birthday party since she was 16 years old. We have replaced the sheetrock in her house and it will be painted tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Flora. Today was a day when almost no one was here at the building to help. This made for some hectic times, but we’ve made it. This afternoon we loaded the bus with food, hygiene supplies, water, pine sol, mops and brooms and went to a FEMA campground where about 50 campers were. I took Andy and Kelli and Bridgette and someone else with me. The someone else is someone whose name I do not yet know. I do not know most of the workers’ names. I have our fearless leader (David Kilbern) beat, though, because he doesn’t know anyone’s name (hi Dave!). Dave spoke at the Rotary Club today and many of our community leaders want to join with us to help with homes. Really incredible things are happening, and we give God all of the credit. The www.openchurches.com people have been so awesome in their help to us, and it’s just beginning. A $1,000 contribution to them will re-build a home in Pascagoula. Gateway Church of Christ is building 10. What about your church? Next week we will have some Prayer Teams hitting the streets. Cecil May III, Tommy & Carrie Dublin (fellow blog readers), and a dozen other folks are headed down this Sunday. Dusty Rush and the youth minister at his church are headed down here as well. Some of these people will do nothing but greet people in the name of Christ, offer to pray with them, and be available to bear their burdens. My friend James Guy is co-ordinating this effort. If you'd like to come, e-mail him HERE. This is, to me, going to add an important element to our outreach over the next several months. Last week I met a woman who is living with her daughter in a tent in her front yard. Her landlord isn’t too swift in the home repairs. She asked me an astounding question: “Are any of the stores open?” This tells me she has not been off of her lot since the storm. She didn’t know that the grocery stores were open. Since then I have made it a point to go by several times. She will not take many supplies from us, just what she needs. Today she told me that she flagged down two trucks towing FEMA campers. A few hours later she got a phone call from a FEMA representative. I pray that Debbie will be living in her camper next time I go by her house. That tent has got to be a lonesome arrangement for a single mom trying to make it on her own with no job, no transportation (truck was flooded in storm), no electricity, no hot water, no possessions, no appliances, no nothing. The stories are endless. I’ll share more with you as you go. I invite you to come and work here for a few days. Many who do come to work do not want to leave. People are actually talking about moving down here to live with us. I can tell that God is building something great. We will work and watch and revel in His grace and mercy. Although this is too long, I will add a few personal notes. Our family is doing well. JR has had some kind of allergic type cold, but the doctor closes before he gets out of school. We’ll figure something out. Maggy probably overdid it today, she’s already in bed. Nicole and Claire seem to be coping well. Nicole has a new Camry to replace her flooded Mazda. I’m okie dokie. Thank you for your notes of encouragement both on the blog, the e-mails, and the ones that arrive in the mail. The gifts that have arrived in the mail have just humbled us and at the same time caused us tears of happiness. I have more to say, but I need to go get some supper, rest a bit, and get some sleep. God has some surprises set aside for us tomorrow. Isn’t He Awesome?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Our Weekend

Yesterday I spent the day on our church bus with Nathan Segars, Clif Mims, and Joe Briggance. Bruce was with us also for a while. All day long we drove the city, giving out food, and supplies of all kinds. We were able to give some toys to some kids along the way. One kid was having his fourth birthday, so we were able to give him some toys. Another young child had lost all of her books in the flood, so we gave her a stack of children’s books. Still other little girls received Barbies. All of these were sent from everywhere to our town for relief. The smile of a child is a great motivator to keep going. New toys are great items ... especially ones that can be handled easily (small, still in box, for all ages). I would also say that Children's Bible story books would be great items to send. (New or in new condition, please!) We see lots of kids on the streets in the afternoons and on Saturdays. One man we met asked us if we had anything to cook with. Funny question. We have been giving out canned food for weeks, but I haven’t thought much about how to cook it. Most people’s stoves are ruined and haven’t been replaced yet. Someone had put a hotplate in the bus, and I happened to notice it earlier. So we gave the man a hotplate. (Note to readers: this would be a good item to send!). He told us that he had been cooking on his mother’s piano. On the piece of wood that covers the keys he had placed a sterno burner. He took two wrenches and taped them to the next level of wood on the piano. Then he lit the sterno and placed the can on the wrenches. We nicknamed him ‘McGyver’. At the end of the day my family went to Mobile to have an evening meal out of town. It was nice to get away for a few hours. That seems like a normal thing to do. One normal thing to do is play my guitar. I took it with me to Ruleville when we evacuated. There was no room to bring it back home with me. I miss it! Today we had right at 100 in attendance (that’s a preacher’s expression for when you have 98). We had some community visitors, which is great! Nathan did a good job leading singing and Clif blessed us with a communion meditation. I spoke about why we are never defeated in our Christian journey, no matter how discouraged we can become. We can pray to a Father who knows our every heartbeat. We can believe in a God who can do anything. We can serve those around us, thus becoming like our Master. This afternoon we had a ‘church meeting’, a ‘business meeting’ of sorts. It was a fairly positive meeting and I hope we will have many more. We have some people here working this afternoon in distributing items through the community, assembling food bags, and working with the clothing. It’s a happy sound as they chatter while they work. We have lots of people here helping at the moment, which is a source of great joy to me. The days when the workers are few are very difficult, but not difficult enough to cause us to quit. If my last blog sounded a bit alarming, I’m glad. Everyone who comes here notes that the pictures do not do justice to the situation. A friend brought me a bag of Starbucks Gazebo Blend coffee this morning. He is a good man with a tender heart. He is experiencing some big problems right now. If you would, say a prayer for him and his family. They are precious people. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 15, 2005


I am learning to lean on other people, more so than I have in the past. Today I have some old friends here with me helping out. Dr. Nathan Segars teaches at Heritage Christian University. Dr. Cliff Mims teaches at the University of Memphis. Both of these I have known since they were little kids running around at Sards Lake Christian Camp. I know and respect their parents and siblings. It is wonderful to have their support and love here at this time. The Lord holds them all in His hand. Dr. Regan Ford is here from Starkville, along with several helpers. His parents are Henry and Virginia Ford, old friends from the Delta. Perry Jinkerson is long-time Campus Minister at MSU, and he is here. All of the new friends are awesome, but the old familiar faces bring comfort. We have lots of helpers this weekend. But they will be going home tomorrow and we will be left with a skeleton crew. Thus I want to appeal to my preaching brothers, and at the same time anyone who is retired who has a heart for ministering to people. Ministers and compassionate hearts are needed to come and stay at Pascagoula for a week at a time. Most Preachers have 'gospel meeting' weeks as a benefit. I have two per year, but seldom use them. Would some of you ask your elders if you can use a 'gospel meeting' week to come down and work at Central? If you want to preach every night we'll be happy to let you do that! We need people to walk the streets and pray with people, listen to people, help bring supplies through the neighborhoods. We have fair accomodations ... classrooms used as bedrooms ... showers on the premises ... we will feed you. Men and women are welcome to come. Surely there are some ministers who have elders that would allow them to come spend five days down here helping the hurting people of our community! I will be happy to reciprocate at some point down the line when we get settled down ... at no charge of course. I will pay for your gas to come down, if your church is not willing to pay for it. Any elders on this list that can commission your minister or retired members to come down? Money sent to organizations is OK, but we need some on-site help. Help is also needed with anyone who can give a day or two. Pass this around, please, to those who are not in hurricane-damaged areas. Pass the info around at church, in church bulletins, Bible classes. There is a brother here from Memphis today who got my blog address off of a handout passed out at church. If you have any questions, please get in touch with me. We have a number of supplies on hand currently. But we have people that are still needing help cleaning out their houses, yards, and just needing hugs and prayers. I'd love to get some PRAYER TEAM t-shirts made up and have people go down the street just praying with people. Those who are outside of our area are simply not aware of the damage and continued suffering of people in our area (and others, also). Those who are in our area are flooded with more than they can do. We are headed for an understaffed week this week, but the hurting and suffering goes on. This is what you might call an Urgent Appeal. Web: www.123Jesus.com Pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/jedobber Phone: 228-342-0576

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Frustrations and Discipleship

There are many blessings and frustrations that come with helping people. Frustrations occur in many different ways. One way is the observation of those who abuse the help offered. Abuse happens when people appear to be stockpiling supplies. Perhaps they are not … but it certainly appears that they do. Frustration happens when one feels helpless to be able to meet the needs who look you in the eye and ask for some kind of help. Each one has a heartbreaking story. As much as you want to help them, you can’t help them all. Frustration happens as you try to meet the needs of those around you, but helpers are tied up in some other direction and you can’t get it done by yourself. It is frustrating when you are talking to one person, the cell phone rings and you start talking to them, then another person beeps in on you. I guess the disciples were a bit frustrated at times. I recall a bunch of children getting in the way of some really “important” stuff, so the disciples shooed them away. One time Jesus was on his way to heal one person, but another person stopped him when she touched the hem of his garment. Another time Jesus rang the dinner bell for thousands when there were only a few loaves and fishes. While the disciples got all ‘flusterated’ (a word I’ve come to use a lot!), Jesus held the children, blessed the infirm, and fed the hungry. And so we walk in His shoes, learning from Him, but dealing with ourselves at the same time. TODAY has been a pretty hectic day (meaning lots of people are at the church building being served). We have had a few truckloads of supplies in, and two or three trucks today. So, we are brimming with needed supplies. That’s a good thing. It’s also a fact that drives up the intensity factor around here. I went out on the bus this afternoon delivering food, pillows and blankets, clothes washing detergent, bleach, and pine sol. We also had beanie babies to give all the kids. After pretty much emptying the bus, we are back re-loading for the next drive. I feel better about this kind of outreach than the drive-in ministry. We have a good crew of workers coming in this weekend. Starkville (MS), Memphis (TN), and other places will be represented. A group from Kentucky will be headed home in the next day or so. They have been marvelous. In my weary mind the groups all kind of mesh together and I really do not know where they are all from. We are in good shape with supplies, and this weekend we should have a great supply of helpers. I hope we can get a lot of work done for people When we have a big crew in, I tend to fade back some and let them carry the burden of it all. MINISTRY. I need some preachers (or some men and women with spiritual compassionate hearts) to come in and help me with some ministry stuff. We need people to pray with those who come in and those we visit in the neighborhoods. I need help with this because it is so difficult to hear these stories over and over again. I believe if we could get some kind of evangelistic movement going, we could see a big harvest. I have even considered having preaching each night for the community to come and hear. Who knows if that will work or not? But I do know that there is much spiritual interest. I know everyone is very busy in their own ministry, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime mission effort. People are open. Hearts are tender. I have put the call out for some ministers to come and HELP (not debate religions), but haven’t heard much back. I was able to update our church website today. I also will be putting new pictures up as I can on my webshots page. Church temporary address is my house: 1715 Williams Street Pascagoula, MS 39567 Church shipping address: 1316 Ingalls Avenue Pascagoula, MS 39567 My cell phone: 228-324-0576 Thanks for reading and responding. Those little notes sure do encourage me! Grace and Peace!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

One of One Thousand

Katrina Pictures HERE. Well, it's late today and I'm pretty tired. So, I'm going to bypass the urgent needs lists and the pleas for help and just share with you a letter that arrived today from Maine. It arrived in multiple copies in small plastic bags. Each bag contained a baby blanket. I will present to you the letter as it is written ... and not reflect on it for you. I think it speaks for itself. 9-12-05 These afgans were made by my wife, Barbara M******, who died August 1, 2004, after 17 years with cancer. During her years of treatment she kept her mind and hands busy by doing various crafts. Knitting was a favorite, and she would knit until she could no longer hold the needles. Her favorite pattern was these infant afgans. Because some of the chemo she was on made her hands very sensitive, she found the softest yarn for these blankets. I have been saving these for a special occasion, and I think this is it. May God bless those who receive these afgans, those who are helping, and all the victims of Katrina. Robert M***** Bangor, ME

Monday, October 10, 2005

Monday Mania

Well, a new week has started here in our hurricane relief effort. I'll probably post again at the end of the day when I have more to say. Yesterday while removing some stuff from my back bathroom they discovered a leak inside the wall that had been there for some time. Needless to say, there was significant damage there that will have to be repaired. And that's the thing with these home repairs. We cannot just rip out sheetrock, spray with bleach, then hang new sheetrock. One always finds the unexpected and unknown damage. I'm also finding some plumbing problems that I'm going to have to deal with. These really deflate my baloon, but we will just fight one battle at a time. Today there is a crew taping and mudding my walls and ceilings. That's exciting. Another step forward. We try to take our totalled church bus through the neighborhoods in the evenings with food / bleach / ice and whatever supplies we can get together. Right now we have no food to give away, but we do expect to have some later when some trucks arrive. We had two Kentucky teenagers with us last night as we drove through the various neighborhoods. We saw all kinds of people, as you might guess. One young African American boy was working out in front of his house. It was almost dark and he looked tired, dragging some branches. We had some small stuffed animals that someone had donated, so one of the Kentucky girls offered it to him. His face was simply glowing as he grabbed it and ran excitedly into the house to show his parents or whoever was in there. It was just a little special moment but there are so many of them when you have much to give. As cooler weather settles in, concern grows for blankets and other means to stay warm. Although our Fall / Winter is mild on the Coast, people generally start wearing hats and coats when it hits 60 degrees. (That's perfect for me!) Many people in our neighborhoods are still living in tents / without power. We hope to have some blankets to give away to families as the days progress through Autumn. If anyone knows of a Christian buisness person who sells washers / dryers / beds please let me know. We are looking for someone to partner with to purchase these at cost if possible - they are to give away. Have them call me at 228-three two four - 0576. I haven't seen a cell phone bill since the storm, but I'm sure I am going to faint! I set up a semi-office upstairs in the teen room. It's the only corner I could find to set up a table or two. It's good to have a place to set my stuff. Well, this is longer than I thought it might be ... We always have a need for workers to come and staff our various rooms (baby, personal hygiene, home items, clothing, food) and out under the tent (bleach, water, other supplies). We will need both skilled and unskilled labor from now as far as we can see. A couple of links: If you'd like to know what's happening at the Ocean Springs Church of Christ, join Al Sturgeon's daily yahoo e-mail group by sending an empty e-mail to: OceanSpringsChurchofChristHurricane-subscribe@yahoogroups.com I will be updating my picture page daily. Today when I upload new pictures, I will begin labeling them by day of the week, so you can easily find the newest pictures. That link is: http://community.webshots.com/user/jedobber Thanks for your interest!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sunday on the Coast

We had good services today with guest songleaders. Same ole preacher, though. I preached from Matthew 26 about the woman who poured the perfume on Jesus' head and how he thought it was a beautiful gesture. Then I talked about Matthew 25, the great judgment scene. The people who received no condemnation were the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked and visited the sick. Then I reminded the church that the people we are helping should be viewed as Jesus himself. Of course I was all verklempt within three minutes of the beginning of my sermon ... these days the tears flow easily. I think we had about 120 present, including relief workers and community visitors. Many teams are out today working. There is a group of 9 college age students from KANAKUK KAMPS ... we believe they will be supplying workers for some time to come down and help. We are regularly receiving help from non-Church-of-Christ believers. This makes me rejoice as we all go out into the community to serve in the name of Christ. Of course many restoration Christians continue to come and serve. We had a couple of sisters from a Christian church in North Carolina who worked very hard this weekend. One of them decided to stay an extra week. Her husband will come down and stay a few days at the end of the week. I'm happy that we have the kind of work going on here that endears itself to people and causes us to join together to be a healing source of love for the hurting around us. On a personal note, more work was done in my house today. Some brothers from Nashville cleaned it out this morning, removing some sheetrock debris. Also a man named Carlos who has been here helping us for the past month ripped out my cabinets. I have enjoyed getting to know Carlos and growing in friendship with him. He has a good heart. There are many others, of course, that have become engrafted into our hearts as we serve side by side. this is a testimony that even a storm the magnitude of Katrina cannot dominate the human spirit, and nor can it diminish the Creation of God in each of us. As a reminder, I continue to update pictures HERE. I have been unable to update our church website. I cannot locate the Frontpage software. But when I find it in the pile of stuff upstairs, I'll get that updated as well. I appreciate all of your prayers and thoughts ... they lift me up. I don't know if blogger Tommy has gone home or is still here ... I enjoyed getting to meet him face to face, though. Until next time... Love and Grace to each of you.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Today things around here are like an anthill.. so much going on all at once it's hard to keep up with. We have groups here from David Lipscomb University (the tennis team is here), North Carolina, Kentucky, and Starkville. Fellow blogger Tommy is here and is across the street as I type this ripping out a house that is full of mold and mildew. You can only imagine what it is like at this point, five weeks after the storm. Even with all of the helpers there is more work than we can do. People are coming here asking for help, as most of the churches have shut down their relief efforts. I will appeal to all of my readers to remind your church leaders that there are still hurting homeless people down on the Coast, even if the news has moved on to newer stories. Please don't forget us! We are soooo thankful for every bit of help that arrives, big or small. A man in a wheelchair is taking a bus from West Virginia to here to be of help. He wants to help so badly. He said that if he was in the way, he would go home, but he had to try. That's a great heart. Our baptistry is drained and the pool pump is ruined at this moment, but we can find water! I have put up some new pictures at my picture page, located HERE. I will update as I can... sometimes twice a day...sometimes every other day ... who knows! Prayers are always appreciated, and that's something all of you can do ... keep on praying. God is moving in so many lives here. I want to do something on an evangelistic note ... but I have too many ideas to settle on just one. If you run out of inspiration for prayer, just think what must be happening in the live of the people who lived in the house below. Blessings to you all.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Almost a Month

It has been almost a month now since my last post. Those of you who are blog-addicted out there can identify with my blogless pain! Much has evolved since my last post. I have only a few minutes now, but should be able to update more regularly now. Is anyone still reading? We have spent the past week in our camper. It is small quarters for us, but we are very grateful. We are so thankful to those who let us stay with them during the past month. The Dodds, Wetheringtons, and Boswells were true friends during this trial. We are one of only a few churches (of any brand) who are continuing hurricane relief efforts from our facility. There is a mountain of clothes out in a parking lot near the highway ... it has been rained on and driven over ... and still people are picking through it for clothes to wear. As long as this is the case, we will feel that we are meeting our communities needs via clothing, food, and cleaning supplies. We have had many come in to get the things we are offering (via the generous donations of others). As we suspected, the farther away from the storm we are, the less we are receiving supplies and helpers. Just a note: we are far from through. This will be an ongoing effort for some time to come. I have some pictures to share with you, but no time at the moment to upload them. I'll let you know. Our needs as a church remain the same: *Money is always needed to buy supplies. Through the efforts of many people (If I start naming them, I'll leave some out) ... contractors ... workers ... skilled labor of all types ... plain ole people, we are helping people get back into their homes. Sheetrock is increasing in value, as well as other materials. We are trying to help both members and community people. *Manpower is always needed. We continue to offer our building as a clothing store, personal hygienne shop, baby supply depot, and home wares (sheets, towels, cookware, blankets, etc.) clearance area. We need at least one worker in each of those areas at all times. This gets hectic! We need workers out under the supply tent out back. Every pair of hands is a blessing to us. *Supplies are always needed: bleach, mops, brooms, buckets, pine cleaner, glass cleaner, laundry detergent, soap, deodorant, shampoo, feminine supplies, food, power-ade, water, diapers, formula, baby wipes, paper towels, toilet tissue, towels, sheets, blankets, and probably lots of things I'm not thinking of right now. Yes, we still have people living in tents down our street. Yes, most people live either in a FEMA trailer or with someone else. There has been progress. Stores are opening back up, restaurants are starting to reopen, and gasoline is available. Yet, most people cannot live in their homes. Many have lost their jobs. The holiday season is about to be upon us ... it's going to be a tough one. We have had community visitors at our church services, for which we are grateful. We hope that there will be a spiritual harvest from the hard work of many volunteers who have come to offer help. By the way, these volunteers are special people, to be sure. Personally, as I said, we are living in a camper (thank you, Lord!). We are working mostly at the church, and a little at home. Our home has had most of the sheetrock put back into place. It's starting to look like a home again ... a little. John Robert and Claire started school yesterday. Thanks to those who have sent letters, money, and prayers. Your love for me is really beyond me. Tears and joy have been created as I have opened your letters. I will respond personally one day. Well, as I said, come back by for more thoughts, updates, and stuff as time goes by. I should be able to do something daily now again ... blessings and love ... peace and mercy ... to each of you.