Out Here Hope Remains

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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Skip & Stack

Well, it looks like I skipped a day on the blog. I know a lot of people noticed, but only my mother wrote to let me know! You can always count on Mom! We still do not have a way to get the chairs from Greenwood, MS to the Coast! Also, if one of those who have been down to the Coast to work have lost a digital camera, please let me know ASAP. Tell me about the camera and if it's yours I'll send it back to you! We had two great nights with Ben Overby. He wrote the nicest article about being down here, which is currently posted on his blog. Go read it! What an encourager. I wish I could see Ben more often. His work with Fort Benning is just astounding! Today we met Chris Lockhart in Mobile and shopped for some furniture. We didn't quite get through and hope to do so in the morning. The Port City Church of Christ has been collecting frozen lasagnas for our relief workers, and we'll pick some up tomorrow and bring them back to Pascagoula. One saleslady I was talking to in the furniture store said she didn't know Pascagoula was flooded in Katrina. She's 30 miles away and didn't know? No wonder the rest of the country hasn't a clue! My new Christian Chronicle arrived today, full of interesting articles as always. Editor Bobby Ross reads this blog occasionally, and he does a great job with the Chronicle. Yet, I wonder what we have to do to get a Mississippi news note about hurricane relief? An oversight for sure. I am convicted that without the help of the press, we will never be able to get where we need to be on the Coast. The secular press is only interested if one lives in New Orleans and want to whine about the Federal Government. We have had almost 500 relief workers in Pascagoula in March alone. I know that the Chronicle is doing a hurricane relief update for next issue, but forgive me if I harp on the notion that we should not let an opportunity go by to remind our great brotherhood of the awesome task still undone on the Coast. Our state Christian paper, The Magnolia Messenger, didn't seem to even know that there was any hurricane relief going on in the last issue! The bottom third of Mississippi is still trying to peddle their way to the top of the water! I hope their next issue makes up for lost time! Ok, that's my soapbox for the day! Tonight we concluded 31 Nights of Good News at Central. I was the speaker. I taught from Luke 10, the limited commission. There's a beatitude at the end that I used and asked those present to consider what they saw this week that was kingdom power in action. I was going to record it and put it on my website, but I couldn't get the recorder to work. Also tonight, David Kilbern held up a large stack of papers. These are homes in which we have done all we can do for them. They still have some work that needs to be done, but we have gotten them way ahead of where they were, and many of them can now live in their home. Dwayne Curry and the group from Raleigh, NC will head home in the morning. As with all of the groups that come our way, we will miss them. Tomorrow evening we will have about 80 or so roll in for another week's worth of work. The Calhoun Church of Christ in Louisiana is sponsoring a Prayer Workshop sometime in the near future. The deadline for signing up is April 15th. Hugh Gower is one of the people instrumental in putting it together - and he is a friend of hurricane relief in Pascagoula! I hope your weekend is a great one. If there's anything to share with you, I'll make sure to pass it on tomorrow! God bless!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immediate Need

We have been given 75 chairs from the West President Church of Christ in Greenwood, MS. They are of mixed types. I am unsure of the best way to transport them ... probably in a covered trailer or truck. If someone can help get these chairs to Pascagoula, I would be so grateful. Call me or e-me!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Thursday on the Coast

It's already tomorrow and I can't remember much about today. I did spend a good bit of today on the phone. I did eat lunch at La Fiesta Brava. I did help my friend Danny Dodd establish his own space on the blosphere. I did do a power point presentation for tonight. And I did hear a sweeeeet lesson from Ben Overby. He did an outstanding job this evening. I look forward to tomorrow night. In the morning Lance Temarius and crew will head back to Missouri. He is such a great guy, and I know I have missed a wonderful opportunity to get to know a wonderful brother. He is interested in informing the alumni of his campus organization about the work here and inquiring about who would like to come to the Coast to work. Carla, Danny, Ben, and Gary - thanks for your encouragement today in the discussion of a potential project. I haven't been talking about the people we meet lately, so I should let you know that the people who need the Lord the most keep walking through our doors. *A lady who was drugged and awakened to find herself beaten black and blue. *A man who cannot speak, but can hear. He has been homeless since August 29th, living on the streets. *A man with a big smile, who loves coming to church, but who smells really really bad. *A man who was living in a FEMA camper that caught fire, and also his house burned down. They never stop coming through our doors. I praise God that they seek help and refuge among His people. I hope it never stops. *********** A concern I have is that the contributions from the congregations have stopped coming in. I understand why, but another reality stops me in my tracks: they are forgetting about us. Please do not let your leaders forget about the great work going on down on the Coast. We have continual cash output. Most of our funding is coming from organizations at this point. If your congregation would like a hurricane recovery update live and in person with me, please let me know via e-mail (john.dobbs@yahoo.com). Sunday night I will be speaking at the Johnson Grove Church of Christ in Brookhaven, MS. Come on out and see us! I'm thinking of getting an IPOD. Any advice for a newby?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

And Just Before I Go To Sleep...

I really am humbled by the lovely response to my last post. To tell you the truth, I posted it and then stewed about it for a few hours and almost took it down. But I decided that since it was true, I would just let it be. In addition to the very encouraging comments, I received several private e-mails that were a blessing to my heart as well. The group from University Church of Christ in Conway, AR will head back home in the morning. They came over today and worked in my yard. They cleaned out my storage room (first time since the storm), pruned my crepe myrtles and gardenia bushes, raked the leaves from my yard, fixed my fallen wooden fence, and trimmed the bushes in front of the house. What a joy that was! Tonight we were blessed with a good message from Lance Timerius of Columbia, MO. He had some great observations about the ministry of Jesus and our need to follow in His footsteps. Tomorrow night my friend Ben Overby will speak at Central. I'm so looking forward to this! Ben will speak two nights for us, and then I will end the 31 nights of Good News this Friday night. If this Friday is like most, there won't be many people there. So come on out! Tomorrow is the funeral for Lillian Lawrence. I interviewed her for the paperwork on rebuilding her house, some time back. I didn't know that we had finished our work on her house and she had moved back into her home. I'm glad she was able to live back in her home for a time before she passed away. I feel sure that there are many elderly people who are now living in campers and will never live in their homes again. I'm too sleepy to continue. God bless all of you for reading!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tightropes and Fences

I'm still recovering from the long journey to Tulsa and back, but was able to function today for the most part. I went with a group from the Capital City Christian Church (Raleigh, NC) this morning to help an elderly widow remove some flooded appliances from her home. She was delightful to visit with and we prayed together as well. She told me that she will be visiting Central soon. We are coming close to the end of 31 Nights of Good News, with just a few nights left. One thing I didn't really think about ahead of time was that this means 31 Nights of Preparing Power Point Presentations. But it's been fun. Tonight some of the members of the University Church of Christ in Conway, AR helped lead singing. Brother Dwayne from Raleigh brought tonight's lesson. It was on the subject of being humble, attempting to meet the needs of others before our own, and being tolerant and accepting of those who differ. This is a very needed message for today, all over the brotherhood. I want to share a few things from my heart tonight that may be uncomfortable for some of my readers. I've also re-written and re-read, attempting to be kind in all of my remarks towards all people. I have tried to be open about most everything happening here on the Coast, and especially at Central. I write about each day's events. I have a work crew list on the links panel (to the right) with a listing of the many people who are coming to help us in our relief effort. When I know a link to their church / ministry, I try to include the hyperlink for your convenience. The people who have filled our halls for the past seven months come from many different walks of life, many different faiths, many different age groups, and many different talents. And the truth is that we are happy to see them all. It brings us great joy and causes us to praise our Father when we realize the sheer amount of talent and energy that He has gathered here. We have had more than two dozen different religious groups attend our worship services. No one group would be enough to get the work accomplished here on the Coast. We need every church, every organization (COC Disaster Relief, COC Disaster Response Team, IDES, Hope Missions, Teen Missions, Open Churches.com, etc.), and every pair of hands possible to get the job done. If we depended only on Churches of Christ, we would be blessed to get to meet lots of marvelous people, but there wouldn't be enough to do what needs to be done. The churches associated with the Restoration Movement (Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, and even a couple of Disciples of Christ churches) have by and large provided the greatest percentage of the workforce. And this is how it should be. Recognizing Christian Church people as brothers and sisters is difficult for some. I recognize this, but I do not know how to fix it. Our overall goal is to bring glory to the Father by serving others and giving to those who cannot help themselves. When we gather to worship, we call upon people to pray. I do not interview them nor give them a questionaire to fill out. We just pray. Some of our Christian Church brothers have preached for us, and done a very effective job of proclaiming the good news about Jesus - the same gospel I have been preaching for nearly twenty-five years! Now here is where we get to tightropes and fences. Some feel that they cannot help us if we do not know the background of every person who prays, or if every speaker is not from an acappella congregation. We really have only a few choices. We can walk tightropes, hoping not to offend anyone, tiptoeing this way and that, so that the help will continue to come. In so doing, we build fences that God has not built, and keep at arms length those who were born into His family exactly as we were. How can God bless us when we shut out our own spiritual family? I choose to think that we should do what is right, recognize those born again by water and Spirit, and simply love and pray for those who feel that their service is contingent upon doctrinal agreement. In the past few weeks I have had some discussions with brothers who feel that they cannot offer help to our effort if we embrace our brothers in the Christian church. I love the brothers who raise these concerns. I only know them through their dedicated service since Katrina hit our shores. I know them to be honest men of great conviction. I would defend them as men who love God and His church. But shall I walk a tightrope and build fences so that they will continue to help? I can not do so, in good conscience. And, apparently, they can not participate in good conscience. I wonder when service in the Kingdom grew strings? Most of the people we are serving are not Christians of any type. Is it OK to feed and help those outside the Lord, but not permissible to listen to someone who is born again bring a message from Scripture? I recognize that by writing about this, we may lose some other helpers along the way. When you wake up one morning and everything you own is in the mud, walking tightropes and building fences is just not a priority any more. Then again, if we have only received help because we walked tightropes and built fences, what have we really accomplished? Our community is wide open to the Gospel today because we did not shut the Kingdom's door in their face. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, and others come and sit in our worship services each week. They express their joy at hearing about Jesus. They are treated with kindness and respect, as God's creatures deserve. They are taught about following the Lord and the need of every accountable person to be immersed to receive forgiveness. Several have yielded to the Gospel. I believe that as long as we are an open door come-as-you-are kind of church, many more will yield to the Good News. In the adventure of recovering from the greatest natural disaster to ever hit the Unites States of America, I've also been on an adventure of faith. I've learned a lot about my brothers and sisters in the Christian Church. Not a one of them has asked me to start using an instrument. Not a single one has offered a speck of criticism about our acappella worship. They are not evil, nor are they our enemies. My brothers and sisters came to town to help us out. I feel blessed. This is not an attack on anyone, simply a recognition that in all of our feeble attempts to be God's people there are going to be times when we fail, and times when we succeed. It is very possible that different groups of people will regard us differently in those terms. Thank God for His mercy and grace! May we all escape the tightropes and tear down the fences in the name of Christ!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Home Sweet Home

It seems like a long time ago that I preached at University Church of Christ in Conway, Arkansas, but it was just this morning. They have an absolutely beautiful facility. Although about 25 workers were down on the Coast, and it was Spring Break, and there were some who were still at Tulsa Workshop, they still had a decent crowd! It was great to see many friends who had been down on the Coast on previous trips. This precious church has gone above and beyond in terms of helping us in our mission to rebuild the lives and homes of Pascagoula citizens. I could tell you about funds, t-shirts, various work groups, an ice machine, an elder who met with me just to pray with me, a minister who has stayed in continuous touch with me (Thanks, Dusty!), but that would only begin to tell the tale! I was very tired this morning, but they were all nice to me and acted like I had a great sermon! One of the neat brothers I met is Larry Davis (I hope it is "Larry" ... I called Matthew "Patrick"!). Larry's dad is an elder in Springdale, AR. Twice after groups from Conway were here and went home, I'd get an e-mail from Larry's dad (Wiley Davis) asking if I had met his son or some other family member. Today I finally got to meet him! I love Larry's dad. He is a great encourager, but one I have only met on e-mail through the Berean Spirit discussion group. Wiley has written a really neat book that I enjoyed as well. In addition, I think Larry is a new grandfather (I could have that detail mixed up with someone else ... I really shouldn't mention these things when I'm not sure they are accurate!). After worship and visiting, we followed Seth Simmons over to Old Acapella ... I mean Old Acapulco for a great Mexican feast. Some of the college students that will be coming down to work in May were there. Seth has organized several campus ministries to participate in the KICKOFF TO SUMMER workcamp. This will be May 14 - 20, and he expects at least 100 college students to be involved. What a great effort! Thanks, Seth! Sitting next to Seth in the picture to the left is Patrick Carnathan. We knew the Carnathan family when they lived in Grenada, MS. Patrick is working on his post-graduate studies at the university. He sang on the praise team this morning, in keeping with his talented family!

We arrived back at home about midnight. I'm tanked up on caffeine, so hopefully I'll get a few hours sleep before it's over with! We had an uneventful trip back home, for which we were thankful. When we got back I picked up my van at the church building. Charlie had vacuumed it out (first time since the storm!) and cleaned it up real nice. What a great guy! He left his digital camera in the van, though. Now was that a gift ... or a mistake??? I think he'll let me know where to send it! When I got back I did get to see Jason Turner tonight and chat with him for a minute. I'm looking forward to visiting with him some in between work assignments. I hear we had a packed house both this morning and tonight at Central. University Church of Christ (Conway) Elder, Bob Wallis preached this morning. In fact, the entire services were conducted by UCOC people. The report is that everything was great. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone over the next few days. There are only a few more nights of our March Good News Nights. Monday night, Dwayne Curry will speak. He is a Youth Minister from Capitol City Christian Church in Raleigh, NC. Tuesday night will be Lance Temarius, a Campus Minister with Campus Christian House in Columbia, MO. Wednesday and Thursday nights we will enjoy hearing from Ben Overby, who does an outstanding work with the soldiers at Fort Benning and is on staff at the Broad Street Church of Christ in LaGrange, GA. I will close out the 31 nights of preaching on Friday night. Come join us if you are in the area! Below: The Tulsa Crew with Carla Calhoun in the middle at Metro Diner Saturday for lunch.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday Night in Arkansas

As a testimony to my dedication to keep all of my faithful readers up to date with Dobbs, I am in the hotel lobby blogging tonight. The connection in the room wouldn't work. This morning at Workshop was, as Saturday always is, a frantic rush to pick up those items we thought about buying most of the week. There were last minute goodbyes and even a class with Zoe worship team and Mike Cope. There is the obligatory rush to the table where you order / purchase CDs and DVDs of the messages so that you can relive some of the important moments of the workshop. My friend Carla Calhoun showed up today. I invited her to eat lunch with us at the Metro Diner, which she did. Carla is a fascinating lady who has a heart for the hurricane victims along the Coast. I could write a book about Carla's qualifications to help out with hurricane relief, but suffice it to say that she knows what she is talking about. We all enjoyed talking to Carla. Perhaps I will see her at the Pepperdine Lectures? She is doing her best to talk me into coming out there and talking about hurricane relief with those who attend that gathering. If you are going to Pepperdine lectures, look for her booth in the hall where the main lectures take place. Carla has encouraged me to continue in hurricane relief even after our city is back in place. There will be other disasters, other people who need help, and other crises. I think the typical preacher feels unable to leave his town to help others for several days. I know it's been difficult to get many preachers to give up a week to help minister here where the fields are so ready for harvest. I want to encourage ministers to engage their elders in a discussion about allowing some time for disaster relief in their schedule - in such a way that it does not detract from their vacation time. I am on the verge of deciding to keep my camper and use it for this purpose. I don't have a vehicle that can tow it, however, and I'll have to work on that project. Tonight we arrived safely at the hotel and promptly went to eat at Village Inn. We are looking forward to worshiping with the University Church of Christ here in Conway, Arkansas in the morning. They have been very good to us in our work on the Coast. Even now there is a work crew there getting ready for several days of volunteering. After worship tomorrow we will head back to the Coast. I have some pictures to share with you, but cannot upload them tonight. I'll try to do so tomorrow night if I'm able.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Breaking the Rules

Those friends of mine who have accompanied me to Tulsa Workshop can attest that I have some rules to live by while at workshop. (Many of these have been formed by my friends and I have adopted them!) I have developed these over 21 years of attending ISWW! *You ALWAYS go hear hear Marvin and Terry - even if there is another message you want to hear at the same time. That's why they make tapes/cds. *You NEVER eat at a place that you can eat at when you are at home. *You ALWAYS look at every booth before you buy anything. *You MUST KNOW that all singing groups sound much better live than they do on their CD. *You MAY experience guilt at skipping classes to chat with friends you haven't seen in a long time, but do it anyway. *You ALWAYS stay until Sunday morning, when the workshop is really over. Anyhow, that's the Dobber's guide to Tulsa Workshop. I broke some of those rules this weekend, but it's OK. It's been a great time. I will leave tomorrow at noon and head for Conway, AR. I will be speaking at University Church of Christ Sunday morning. If you're in the area, come join us! Today I was able to visit with several friends I haven't seen in a while. I hope John Alan Turner will post his analysis of the booth space for us all to enjoy. It was classic. I visited a little with Craig Hicks, but he was with his real best friend. I saw my friend Bud Meyer once, but that was it. I was surprised to see my old college friend James "high head" Evans from Canton, MS. To the left is Gerry Parker (Wyoming), Ray Downen (Missouri) and Bill Denton (Mississippi). Great to see these brothers in person. We usually only get to visit via e-mail. Mark and Laura Cremeans from Church of Christ Disaster Response Team have a booth here, and I enjoyed visiting with these precious saints. Hugh Gower and wife were at the Crossview booth. He is one of our relief partners! I also met a brother from University church of Christ in Monroe, who remembered my visit back a month or so ago.

I met several people today who read my blog - they recognized my picture (that's scary!). The blogger community is so cool. We ate lunch at the Rib Crib, and it was very good. I did get to hear John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine's class today. It was great to see them, and to meet some of their friends.

There was a lot of excitement in the air about tonight's session. We were led in some praise and worship by Watershed Worship and Acappella. Then the Zoe Worship Team came on stage with Brandon Scott Thomas and led us for about 40 minutes of praise. It was an awesome time. The first speaker of the night was Max Lucado. This was followed by Bob Russell. Bob is the preaching minister for the 24,000 member Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky. Both messages were good. Bob's message was delightful. He was complimentary of our singing, and even requested 728B! Both messages seemed to be received well by the nearly capacity crowd. Bob invited us all to the North American Christian Convention, which takes places in June and will feature some of our Church of Christ speakers. Sounds like a great event!

Back on the Coast... let me just thank Chris Lockhart for going the extra mile for me. He will be speaking tomorrow night (Saturday) at 7:00 if anyone in the area would like to come and visit and encourage him in his message!

I did pick up some books here, but maybe I'll share those with you tomorrow. Below: It's not a great picture, but it is Brandon Scott Thomas leading the Zoe Worship Team in a fantastic set of worship songs tonight.

Below: An Out Here Hope Remains reader from Little Rock, Arkansas!

Thursday on Friday

It's Friday morning, but I was too tired to do a blog post last night. So, I'm bypassing breakfast to serve you up with a fresh blog post this morning! Yesterday was such a neat day ... I saw so many people that I knew. One thing I did not expect was a large number of people who stopped me throughout the day to tell me that they enjoyed what I said at Memorial Wednesday night. That was really nice. One older brother even shared some of his story with me, some of his heartache, and I was glad he felt he could do this. A note of great sadness - Casa Bonita is not open. This is a source of great anguish for us, but we will try to survive. One way I thought I would cope would be to go to Village Inn after services last night for pie, but it had caught on fire and was not open. I'm scared to try to eat at Metro Diner today, but I'll give it a try. In Jim Ingram's honor (one of our men from Central who is here with us) we ate at the big Chinese food place yesterday right down from Garnett. He loves the hot and sour soup. He has one bowl to start off with, and one bowl for dessert. Back to the workshop stuff ... after lunch I listened to Lynn Anderson, Marvin Phillips, and Terry Rush. They all did great, but I will say that Terry hit a home run, and I wish every Christian in America would buy that CD and listen to it. Last night was Jeff Walling and Chuck Booher. Keith Lancaster and Rod Brady led worship, along with Durant. It was a super night. Chuck and Jeff have known each other for many years, both of them overcoming doubts and fears about each other, even though they share a restoration heritage. I have a lot of thoughts about all of this, but I will share them another day as time is short. After the night session we ended up at Cracker Barrel with Craig Hicks coming to dine and chat with us. Amy, Craig's wife, is sick, so she couldn't come and be with us. Craig is as delightful as ever. I haven't seen him for a few years, but I feel like we have been old friends for a very long time and haven't missed a beat. He still has a ready smile and he still loves Elvis....but he loves Jesus more. Well, the bus leaves in 15 minutes to go to the Fairgrounds. I'm the bus driver, so I guess I should be on it. Tonight is a big night with Max Lucado and Bob Russell speaking. Zoe Worship is leading the praise time tonight. It's going to be a great night. They are expecting the community to come out to hear Max, so we have evangelistic opportunity there. An overflow area with digital feed has been set up in the exchange center. Of course, everyone wants to be where it is live. Should be fun! Back home in Pascagoula the work continues. I talk to David Kilbern every day. He is such a dependable and tireless worker for the Lord. He truly loves people and has great compassion for the helpless. His wife, Elaine and son David, Jr. are right there by his side. Someday someone should write a book about their lives. It would be a best seller. David says there have been two baptisms this week. They were supposed to take place Tuesday night, but because of uncontrollable circumstances, they happened later. We praise God for those born again into His family! I do not have time to post pictures this morning. All of the pictures I've taken so far are on my picture page, which is linked to the right. Thanks for reading. Your comments mean a lot to me. God bless!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Living on Tulsa Time

We had a safe and uneventful trip to Tulsa today. Jim Ingram and I did the driving. After four hours sleep last night, I was pretty sleepy. And here it is almost 1:00 a.m. There was a packed house at Memorial Drive Church of Christ tonight. Marvin Phillips and Terry Rush introduced me, prayed with me. Then John Robert led a song, and I preached about what it means to belong to God's Big Family. Many people had so many nice things to say to me afterward. It was a blessing. If you would like to hear the message, it is already posted on the Memorial Drive Church of Christ website. Aside from Marv and Terry, I was able to visit with my friends Craig Hicks, Bud Myer, Dusty Rush, Dale Brezee, Eddie Cassety, and probably a lot more than I can name. I also visited a lot with the lady that MBC classmate Jim Smith married. Jim and Tracy are no longer married. I'm glad she sought me out, or I would have never recognized her! I also met Brooke and Twila, who will be coming to Pascagoula for a good long time. I will tell you more about them at another time. They made a three hour trip just to meet us. I appreciated that! After an extended time of visiting, several of us went to IHOP for a late supper. I have some pictures but blogger isn't cooperating tonight. Hope everyone is well. I'll have pictures and news tomorrow! ************ Addendum Well, Blogger is being bad and not letting me upload any pictures. I have a new TULSA WORKSHOP folder on my picture page. The pics from last night are kinda blurry. There is also a picture from this morning - a SNOWY Thursday morning in Tulsa. The picture is from our 7th floor hotel window. There was a 20 car pile-up somewhere here this morning. To get to my picture page, click HERE.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Goodbye and a Road Trip

Today was, as always, a hectic pace. In addition to whatever was given to me to do, we are also preparing for a trip. Maggy, JR, and I will head to the International Soul Winning Workshop early tomorrow morning. Jim, Jackie, and Jaime Ingram will also go with us, as well as Robbie Woods. Our goal is to leave at 5:00 a.m. It is 10:30 p.m. and I am not packed, so I have to make this a short post! I presented a message on how Jesus gives us new life tonight at church. We had two visitors from the community, which I was able to pray with. It began to hit me that I was saying 'goodbye' tonight. When we return from Tulsa, Charlie and Linda will be in Texas, before they head back to Canada. Our goodbye hugs tonight seemed much too informal for the friendship we have developed. I don't know how to say goodbye to them. So many people come and go here, and I very seldom get the chance to evolve in a relationship past the 'how are you' stage. There are actually people here leading teams that I have never even met. (Hello Brian Key ... did I ever meet you?) With Charlie and Linda, it is different. I feel so blessed to know my new friends ... and hope he will keep his blog going so I will be able to keep up with him! Ryan McAdams came by to say goodbye this afternoon. His group will head out in the morning. He had a great group of kids with him. They were from a Presbyterian church in Springfield. I appreciated Ryan's spirit so much. Tim Allison called tonight to say goodbye ... he will be leaving Friday. Tim Allison is a first class brother who is very dependable, conscientious, and dedicated to his Lord. He has several qualities I'd like to have in greater degree. He will be preaching tomorrow night. I wish I could hear it. I will be in Tim's town Sunday, but at a different church. Usually it is someone saying 'goodbye' and driving off. This time the goodbyes seem different, and I'm the one driving away. When I get back there will be a new crew here. I am excited, though, about going to Tulsa. I've been attending the workshop the past 20 or 21 years. Wednesday night, Lord willing, I will be speaking at the Memorial Drive Church of Christ. I am so appreciative of Terry Rush for the invitation. Memorial Drive blessed us at Christmas time with a new dishwasher, lawnmower, and leaf blower. I'm looking forward to connecting with old friends at the workshop and hearing some great messages. I am grateful for this year's theme. And Hurricane Katrina has made that an even more important theme for me. I'll share that in another post. Pray for us to have a safe journey. I suppose I will have internet access and be able to keep you posted about the workshop as it happens. If I receive any news from back home I will share that as well.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Random Thoughts

I sat down to update the blog tonight, and I really do not know what to say. So I perused a few of the many blogs on my BLOG LIST. I noticed Charlie had a new post yesterday I hadn't read. I hope he keeps his blog up after he leaves. It'll be a way to keep up with him. My friend Gary has SKYPE, which allows you to call computer-to-computer free of charge and talk. You can even hook up a camera...so today I bought a little camera and hooked it up. Of course Gary wasn't on line. But no matter, I do not have a microphone. Have to work on that one. But I did get ready to use SKYPE tonight. Today I spent a good bit of time trying to find Robbie some dental care for those who can't afford to pay for it. I'm getting quite an education about these things. In short, no one really is willing to help those who are without money, without Medicaid, without insurance. So what's someone to do who is in intense pain? I took him to the emergency room, and our Singing River Hospital gave him some pain medication and penicillin. But he's really back at square one. I talked some with Chris Lockhart, and he knew of a clinic in Mobile ... but dental patients are now being scheduled for July. Who knows they will have a toothache in July? They will take walk-ins who are in pain at certain times of the day, however, so I think Robbie is trying to get in on one of those times tomorrow. I also went with Esther to visit an elderly man named Charlie. She had visited him before. He has cancer and is nothing but skin and bones. We brought him some Ensure, which he opened right up and drank a bottle. He is bent over, can barely breathe, and is in obvious pain. In addition, his cell phone hasn't worked in a while. So I went to the T-Mobile place in the mall today and used some money from Keith to pay up on his bill. He's good to go now, but I don't know who he will call, aside from hospice or an ambulance. Esther has such compassion for people like Charlie. I feel it in my heart, she puts it into action. I enjoyed the visit with her. While I was at the mall I upgraded my cell phone plan. I am going broke with the amount of time I spend on the phone. It took a long time, and while I was at the counter there was a little girl across the way getting her ears pierced. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it was obvious to me that the girl did not want to get her ears pierced. Her mother (I presume) and two employees of Claire's store did their best to convince her. Of course I didn't blame her. Who wants to volunteer to be hurt? I felt bad for her, especially when they pointed out another little girl who had pierced ears. What was so important about having her ears pierced? Isn't there plenty of time for her to decide on her own? I ate at Chick-Fil-A and talked on the phone, then wandered down the mall. I saw the mother and the girl buying cookies. The girl had her ears pierced. Maybe I read too much into it, but I thought it was cruel. I thought about suggesting to the mother that she pierce her own nostrils, if she was so intent on piercing something. But I didn't. I was nice. Tonight Les Ferguson, Jr preached at Central. I was glad that Karen and Casey were along. Casey is their new son who was adopted just a few weeks ago. He is precious. Les had a good message about reaching out to all kinds of people with the Gospel. After the message tonight, John Sanders showed a storm video that is quite compelling. Afterwards groups from Missouri and Arkansas had devotionals ... and it could be that some groups were combined. I don't know everyone yet! (Imagine that!) Well there was more to my day ... such as Maggy waiting in the doctor's office for almost seven hours and still not seeing the doctor ... and getting another laptop for the church so that when I travel the church will not be without power point ... and talking with a lady who wanted help, and she wanted it NOW, she had been waiting almost seven months (haven't we all?). It was Monday ... and the work crews worked hard and many people were blessed. God was at work. It's almost midnight.Guess I figured out a few things to say. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

On The Lord's Day I Was In The Spirit

We had a whopping 219 in worship this morning ... a full house for sure... and a great time of worship! Rod Tate had an excellent lesson and Tim Silvers did a great job leading singing. Tim told me that they were going to come back and do some more work on the Coast! Amen! Charlie Whitfield offered a beautiful communion meditation this morning, but he was somewhat nervous. His wife, Linda, said she didn't know why he was so nervous. But nerves aside, I loved what he said and thought it was not only appropriate, but inspirational! I told you yesterday that I would relate two stories to you. One involves Keith from Pennsylvania. He has a boss that is an atheist, and of course he has sought ways to witness to him about Jesus Christ. His boss knew that he came down earlier this year to do work on the Coast. When he was taking some time off to come down again, the boss handed him $500 to be used for someone needy on the Coast. Keith gave it to me, and I have used it to help some people I knew who were in need. I wonder if we ever consider how our lights shine into places we never thought they were reaching? Esther is from Israel. She is one of the most engaging people you will ever meet. She is a true student of human nature, and loves to care for people. She has lived in Virginia since 1995. She was watching Cooper Anderson and Joe Scarborough (I need to tell her about Shepherd Smith!) and their reports from the Coast. Her heart was breaking over the devastation because she knew how we felt. Her home was destroyed in the Gulf War. Calling a volunteer agency in Jackson, Mississippi, she ended up working with CORE in Ocean Springs. One of the leaders there told her about our operation and she has now come over to help us. Her heart is with elderly people. She loves to serve, bring lunch, transport to the doctor, listen, love, and encourage. She is a non-religious Jewish lady who learned to speak English by attending lectures at the Edgar Cayce Foundation. So, maybe we can share some things with her about Jesus Christ over time. She was in attendance in church this morning, and loved meeting everyone! In the picture with Esther is Jon from Texas. He is going to be a huge assett to David's work by organizing and working the front desk. He is here for a long term mission, and we are so thankful for him. Groups are here now from Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Kansas ... and other places! About 150 workers again this week will spread out into the community and begin to bring the message of hope and joy to Pascagoula. I am so excited about the prospects of this. One of the brothers from Kansas already has a Bible study set up with a lady! One of our logistical challenges has always been to keep everyone fed three times a day. Our little annex was not big enough for our church, much less a crowd like we are serving these days! So one of our Jeffs secured a pizza parlor nearby, we had to gut it, repair it, and tonight we ate in it for the first time. We have it for free rental for several months, then we will have to pay rent if we decide to stay in it. To the right is Jeff, David, and myself in a ribbon cutting ceremony. I know you want to know what our first meal was. Lasagna (donated by Port City Church of Christ in Mobile - thanks!!!), bread, green beans, Chicken Tetrazini (Thanks to Loree Boswell), salad, banana pudding (Loree again), chocolate pies (Does David Kilbern Jr make these? They show up when he's in town!), and drinks. It was a great success and we thank the Lord for everyone who worked so hard to make it possible. That list includes: Jeff, Robbie, James, Josh, Nathan, John, Summer, the crew from Conway who gutted the place, and many others I'm sure! One of the cool features of the new dining hall is Jeff's idea of allowing groups to decorate their own ceiling tile. To the right is the one made by Charlie and Linda, obviously from Canada. Other tiles already up include one from Mississippi State University students and a very artistic one from Hope Missions. Others can be found among the pictures for this week that are on my picture page located HERE. I'll share more pictures of them as they are placed in the dining hall. I am so thankful that you read the blog and the website and respond so beautifully to the needs that we have. Today I have talked with three churches / individuals who are going to help meet our need for cooks in the coming weeks. James Simmons called and told me that the East Main Church of Christ in Tupelo, MS (Birthplace of The King) is sending someone next Monday. Elba, Alabama church is going to send someone late next week (Thanks, Tim, for your help with this). Then in April a brother who runs the kitchen at a country club in Frankfurt, Kentucky will be coming down for a week to help out. Thanks to all who are sending frozen food and helpers to keep these workers fed! A fed worker is a happy worker! I have a trip to make this week, but I'll tell you about that later. This post is long enough!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

My Day with Robbie

Today was my day with Robbie. It wasn't what either of us planned, it just happened! One reason is that Robbie has an intense toothache and is unable to really concentrate on what he's doing. So, he was unable to do his normal job for today. We started off our day together hanging a sheet of drywall. Yes, I helped hang sheetrock! Not that I did anything special. We were using nails because we were just tacking it up to close off a garage wall. I managed to bend three or four nails, which did not surprise me a bit. After that, we went to a house and measured it for sheet rock to be delivered. Seventy sheets are needed in this house. It didn't get delivered today, though. Maybe soon! I know it will make someone very happy! Next we decided to visit Cheryl. (Robbie and Cheryl are posing with their Coca Colas on the left.) I have written about Cheryl in a previous blog post. She has lung cancer and throat cancer. Most of the time when I visit with her, she cannot speak for long without vomiting. The chemotherapy leaves her weak and nauseated. Robbie had visited her a few weeks ago, having made her one of his famous crosses wound with wire. We stopped by Dollar Tree where Robbie bought Cheryl some Coca-Cola glasses. Cheryl is a big collector of Coca-Cola memorabilia. She was happy to see us, and actually looked better than I have seen her look in a long time. We had lunch together at La Fiesta Brava, a favorite place of mine to eat. One of our teenagers, AJ, works there. He was not working there today, though. Unfortunately, Robbie bit down on a tortilla chip on his hurting tooth, and that sort of ended his enthusiasm for lunch. Thankfully, he was pretty much through by then! We went back by the building and picked up James and headed to Lowes. I had a turbine on top of my house that was damaged in the last batch of storms that came through. Robbie assured me that he could replace it. Going to a store with James and Robbie is an adventure - a fun one. James walks around singing to the top of his lungs about how great God is. He makes a lot of people smile. Well, Robbie did get that turbine replaced, and we headed back up to the church building. Tonight about 75 workers arrived into town, and about 75 more will arrive tomorrow. We are excited to embark on another week of getting a lot of stuff done for others. We have workers from Missouri (two groups) and Kansas right now. Rod Tate spoke again tonight, and did a great job. He brought his friend Tim Silvers to lead singing as well. Tonight he talked about roadblocks that God has set into place to keep us from losing our souls. If we do lose our souls, it will be in spite of those roadblocks that He has set into place. It was presented in such a kind and beautiful way. The kids from Missouri listened with interest, and so did I. After services I stayed behind to get tomorrow morning's power point and Sunday bulletin ready. Robbie came in and we visited a bit more. I hope he will be able to stand the toothache until Monday morning. Robbie has now achieved 90 days of sobriety, and I am so proud of his success. He has a super heart and I know that God is using him each day in ways that he could never imagine. Robbie also told me that his step mother reads the blog often. I really did spend the day with Robbie, but I also wanted her to know how much he means to all of us. Tomorrow I hope to tell you about Esther, and Keith's gift from a atheist! But for now, I pray for you a good night and a great Sunday!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sadness and Expectation

I spent the morning updating the website, calling some of those who are about to make their way to the Coast, and lining up things for night services while I am gone. I had a long chat with my friend Dusty Rush. He reminded me that we are less than a week away from my speaking at Memorial Drive Church of Christ on the night before the workshop begins. I'm shaking in my shoes! My friend Chris Lockhart spent the day with me today. I always appreciate his visits. Maggy and I ate lunch with Chris at Monica's (great food). Dean Owens called me on the phone to tell me about a visit he had made, someone I needed to meet. So Chris and I headed over and met Jerry. Jerry was in a car accident a few years ago and spent a long time in a coma. He has lost the use of one arm and most of one leg. For all of his struggles, he has a great sense of humor. He had a lot of visitors this week as teams from OK and NC and MA worked on his yard. Dale Bresee brought him a Bible. We will continue to visit with Jerry. Keep him in your prayers. Chris and I also visited a lady named Lorene. Lorene and her mother have been to church several times, even though Lorene is chronically ill. She wasn't having a good day today, so we visited with the mother. Their situation is not unlike a lot of people. The storm ruined her house - the one she has lived in for almost 40 years. Because of rising medical costs, Lorene had to cancel her home insurance a few years ago. The home is off of its foundation and it will take an astronomical amount of money to repair. In the mean time, Lorene's health is not good. Keep her and her mother in your prayers. Dianne Griffin, her sister, and a nephew are here doing some work. They are from Nashville. Dianne's husband, Lynn, is the tennis coach for Lipscomb University. I have a very clear memory of riding to Lowes with Lynn and his words of encouragement and grace. I'm thankful to this trio of servants who this afternoon cleaned up a house that Charlie and Linda gutted this morning. Where are Charlie and Linda? I hope they haven't gone yet! Hey Charlie, we got the internet connection fixed! (Thanks to David Kilbern, Jr.) Chris an I brought an ice cooler with ice to Dianne and they took a nice water break! Hard workers! Then Chris received news that his sweet wife, Susan, was not well ... so he went home to take care of her. This evening Rod Tate and Tim Silvers and their wives arrived from the Central Church of Christ in Chatsworth, Georgia. Rod will be preaching for three days while Tim leads singing. They both did a great job tonight. Following the message on Luke 15, four representatives of the team from North Carolina spoke about what the week meant to them. After that, L. T. Sheddy got up to conclude the program. All 42 Hope Mission team members (or at least all who were present) stood before the group and shared what the week meant to them. Lots of tears were shed and some great stories were shared. L. T. is an awesome and godly leader who has been such a blessing to me. His quiet demeanor, his noteworthy work ethic, and his love for God shine through so brightly. This is his third mission trip down. David and I had an opportunity to share our hearts as well. Of course this means tears for both of us. We are so grateful for all the help we receive from so many different places. Congratulations to Robbie Woods, who is due his 75 day chip from AA. Clean and sober for 75 days - what an awesome achievement! Finally for tonight .... remember the guy (BO) who made the wooden pulpit for us? Well, he also has a stock car. He sent us a picture, but I'm having difficulty getting it to upload. Anyhoo, if you look closely at the car you will find our web address now painted neatly on part of it. Isn't that the coolest thing ever? Tomorrow is Saturday ... so we'll say goodbye to the Hope Missions teams and the Chapel Hill (North Carolina) ... and hello to some new people. Each day is a new adventure!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Reason To Carry On

I was at home most of today helping with work that was going on all around me. Tammy and Ramona Matthews came over about 7:30 and started painting baseboards (see picture to left). I apprecaited this help so much, as we were trying to get them done before the guys arrived to put them down! Tammy and Ramona are people of confidence and faith, and Maggy and I enjoyed being around them so much today. Ramona organized the ladies of her home church (University Church of Christ, Monroe, LA) and they made/froze 14 casseroles. They were delicious at supper tonight. The Matthews will leave tomorrow for New Orleans, in some relief efforts over that way at the congregation my parents attend, Hickory Knoll Church of Christ. About mid-morning, Dennis Dauphey (right) and Danny Dodd arrived from Pensacola. These two men were with us when we first walked into our house after the storm. They have both been here to help at various times. This time, it was Dennis' idea to come and put down the baseboards in my house. This is no easy task ... my house is not level nor square ... but he made it work! I regard Dennis as a hero ... coming to our rescue more than once. Dennis is a deacon at the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola, FL. I appreciate both Dennis and Danny giving up their day to help us out. Danny Dodd spoke at tonights' Good News Nights. He will speak again next Thursday. He had a great lesson that was very fitgting for our circumstances. Afterward, we had four representatives from the Oklahoma Christian University group speak about their experiences during the week. There were not many dry eyes as we listened to them tell about how their lives had changed. Then we watched a slide show with some pictures of their work. Unfortunately, I haven't been around to take as many pictures as I would have liked. The OC group will leave in the morning. A group will leave early in the morning heading home to Vernon, Texas, and a group left early this morning for Osh Kosh, Wiconsin. Every week we fall in love with those who come to help, and every week we have to say goodbye to them. It surely brings sadness to our hearts. Margo and Mary will leave us tomorrow and head back to Bloomington. What a sweet blessing they have been to us. When people leave they often tell us that this has been THEIR blessing, not ours. They shed tears and talk about the people of this community who have touched their hearts. All of the groups have their own unique character. Each one has blessed us beyond belief. Now I know my life has given me More than memories Day by day we can see In every moment there's a reason to carry on --- Kenny Loggins & Stevie Nicks, Whenever I Call You Friend Below: Danny Dodd, Dennis Dauphey, Ramona Matthews, Tammy Matthews. And NO, they are not standing in a clothing store - that's our auditorium with clothing for any who care to come and get what they need.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wednesday Night

This morning Maggy and I painted the baseboards we already had, and then waited most of the day for help in getting some more from Lowes to our house. I really miss my truck at times like this. David Jordan helped us out and we were able to paint a few more before church tonight. Tomorrow Danny Dodd and Dennis Daughty will come over and place the baseboards in my house ... hopefully finishing me up on that matter. While I was at Lowes, Charlie called for me to come by and pick he and Linda up from the house. I couldn't come right that minute, but they gave me a 30 minute time cushion. Well, that was the last time I even thought of it. And I didn't even think of it until he was teasing me about forgetting them. As it turns out, he got to meet a few more family members of the man they are helping ... and make a deeper contact. So, I'm glad the Lord can work some good out of my goofups. It was great to see Tammy and Ramona Matthews at worship tonight. They are friends from Monroe (University Church of Christ). I was happy when Tammy volunteered to come help paint baseboards in the morning. They brought 14 frozen casseroles, each one will feed 10 people. They also brought some other supplies for the workers. They are truly awesome people. Tonight's message was presented by Shelley Lee and Keith Rodrigues (picture to left). Shelley presented a concept about praying for people using the Scriptures. Keith presented a testimony about finding the Lord from a prison cell. I issued an invitation. The worship tonight was wonderful, and we had a packed house. Gary Boswell led most of the singing tonight. Tomorrow night Danny Dodd will speak. As is our new tradition, if a crew of relief workers is leaving the next day, we let a few of them get up and give their impressions of the week. Four from Wisconsin got up tonight and shared their hearts with us. One of them was Ed (who is pictured in the previous post with Mildred). Ed said something I thought was profound. He said he looked at our website before coming, looking at all the pictures. But it's like looking at pictures of the Grand Canyon or someplace like that. It's one thing to read about it and see it in a picture, and totally another thing to walk up to it and experience it. That's the way it is down here for most folks. You just have to see it and walk through it to believe it. It was a super night together. Tomorrow night Danny Dodd will speak to us. Then Rod Tate will be here for three days. David Williams is a new 'David' to add to our list of folks named David here. He is here from Kentucky and simply plans to do evangelistic Bible studies. I was naming some people he should meet. He agreed to do so, but informed me that that was not necessary. He would be happy to just step on down the street and start meeting people. Isn't that awesome? I look forward to getting to know him. I'm sad to see the group from Wisconsin head back home. They are a super group of kids. I regret not getting to spend any time with Jeremy Rush. His family was here and they were such encouragers. I wish him well in his work on campus and know that he will bless many people. We do not accept money for our work as volunteers. However someone gave money so that the team from Wisconsin could buy some ice cream cones for the group. They did not spend it all because one part of the group didn't go. One of the members of the team came to me tonight and donated the money to the church. I was very touched by that. He could have claimed his ice cream money for later ... or they could have kept it and no one would have known. He could have done any number of things with it ... but he said the group talked about it and decided to donate it to the church. In the scope of things it wasn't a big amount, but to me (and I think to the Lord, it was HUGE). To the Right: Gary Boswell leads worship tonight.

Wednesday Morning

Yesterday Maggy and I spent the morning in Lowes, assembling a list of materials that will be needed at our house for some further work. Of course they do not have much of what we need. We hope to paint some baseboards today. Tomorrow Danny Dodd and Dennis Daughty will come over and place them for us. I'll go back to Lowes today to see if they have what we need. I enjoyed a conversation with Chris Robey yesterday. He is the leader of the team from Vernon, Texas. He has his youth group and three or four youth ministry friends with him. They are hard workers and a good hearted bunch. I drove around in the afternoon looking for some of the work teams. I saw big piles of debris by the side of the road, letting me know that our teams had been present. I did find one small team working at Mildred's house. This is a second Mildred that we have helped. Both of them widow ladies. This Mildred's husband died four years ago. Can you imagine living in a house for forty years, having your husband pass away, and then being faced with the worst natural disaster in US history? Mildred is so thankful to have someone to come and help her and she bragged on the young people who were there in her yard. I am sorry not to know the name of the man in the picture, he is one of the wonderful relief workers here helping us. I asked Mildred if I could take her picture with him, and she said, "I'd love to have my picture taken with this handsome man!" Mildred lives in a FEMA camper. Even in her circumstances she maintains a sweet and gentle spirit. Before I left she kissed me on the cheek and thanked me for what we were doing. I was just sorry that it took us six months to find her. To the right is one of the girls working in Mildred's back yard, which is full of debris that is not even hers. It just washed up in her yard. Last night we continued our series of Good News Nights with a message from Rick Whittle. Rick has been the preaching minister for the Spanish Fort, Alabama Church of Christ for three years. Before that he spent many years as a football coach at Mobile Christian School. Rick has also worked with us at Gulf Coast Bible Camp. I was so glad that he made the drive over to speak to us last night. It was a very inspirational message that was at the core a GOOD NEWS message, centered around the Gospel of Christ. Rick brought good news about the Spanish Fort church and their growth. They hope to build a new church building sometime soon. I have many friends from Spanish Fort from across the years and I pray the Lord's great blessings upon them. Last night I was thankful to have my friend Bill Collins in attendance. Bill's excellence in leading worship always has him up front, but last night he was able to simply participate, and he enjoyed that. After services a lady who attends another church here locally asked to say a few words. She had met some of our young people and they invited her to church. She was so thankful for their energy and love for Christ to come to the Coast and work for others during their Spring Break. She wanted the teenagers to know that what they were doing was truly making a difference. Amen! Although there continues to be much work to do, the signs of Spring and renewal are evident all around us. In the picture to the right a relief worker adds to a pile of debris, while in the background there is a blazing beauty of an azalea bush. To me, this picture illustrates two kinds of true beauty. One, the azalea flowers, are stunningly beautiful - but only for a short time. On the other hand, the beauty of the spirit of Christ shown through service makes an impression on the heart that lasts forever. With which kind of beauty are we most often concerned?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday on the Coast

This morning started off with an orientation session with the crew that just got here the night before. They worked in a neighborhood, issuing invitations to church and praying with people. I enjoyed running some errands for people for most of the morning and early afternoon. I did meet with a young couple this afternoon who have quite a story to tell ... but I'm not sure I have it all right. But however the story goes, at the end of it they have a FEMA camper just two blocks down the street. We loaded them up with diapers for their little boy and I filled their tank up with gas. A brother from Pennsylvania gave me some cash to use as I saw needs. So I shared some of it with the young couple. Tomorrow we'll take some supplies to their camper and help them get settled in. I hope to see them in church very soon! This afternoon I went to Dough Joe's (who finally have a website up), and bought three hazelnut latte's and headed over to the house where Charlie and Linda Whitfield are painting. I think Charlie and I have each mentioned each other's blogs for the past several posts ... but when you write about what you do each day and you both do the same thing, that's what happens! We enjoyed some time together sharing our hearts and minds. Charlie is an elder in the church where they serve. Our churches have a similar history and his preacher sounds like someone I would enjoy meeting. Although I have only known Charlie and Linda for a few weeks, I feel comfortable with them ... like I have known them for a long time. As I get to know them better, I am not surprised at all that they are here to work and serve others. That's the kind of people they are. I have a few friends that when we talk the conversation never seems to end ... it just floats along from one thing to another. The hours fly by with joyful communication. And that is the way it is with Charlie and Linda. This evening our services were not as well attended as I had hoped, but we still had a good crowd. John Robert and Brad (From OC) led singing. Or Brad may not be his name ... I have called him everything in the book ... Brett, Bradley, Bread ... I don't know. He and the Lord know so that's all that counts. Mike Price, minister of the Picayune Church of Christ, was our speaker for the night. Mike passionately described the way that God loves us so intensely that he is always chasing us down. He vividly showed us from Scripture how that this love of God changes our lives. I appreciate Mike for making the long drive over. I am glad he is my friend. I enjoyed some late night chats before coming home, eating a late supper, responding to some e-mails, posting a blog ... the usual these days. Tomorrow I need to buy some baseboards and get them painted so that a friend can get them put down for us Thursday. I think a few guys from North Carolina are going to help me. I am a book-a-holic, as everyone who knows me knows. My big surprise for the day was receiving in the mail two books from my Amazon Wish List. My friend Mike Kjergaaard from Cedar Creek Church of Christ in Indiana sent them to me with his regards. Mike and I are 'on line friends', and although we have never met we have a kindred spirit and enjoy communicating so much. I keep in regular contact with him via e-mails and phone calls. Maybe one day I'll get to meet my encouraging brother. What did he send? Glad you asked! He sent MORE READY THAN YOU REALIZE by Brian D. McLaren and JESUS DRIVES ME CRAZY by Leonard Sweet (who seems to publish a new book every 3 weeks). I just finished Rob Bell's VELVET ELVIS. (Sorry Chris, but Rob should stick to video, where he excels.) I am also reading a theological book that I will tell you about another day - when I'm finished with it ... I already know I'm going to recommend it highly. Thanks, as always, for reading. Below: Mike Price makes a point.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

And the Lord Met Us There

Today was a whirlwind. I thought I allowed myself enough time this morning to do the final preparations before the day's events, but I found myself running from the word GO! Morning services were great with 180+ in attendance. A brother from Pennsylvania offered a beautiful (but much longer than we are accustomed to) communion meditation. When I got up to preach, there was only five minutes left. I disregarded the clock and presented my lesson anyway! I felt good about it, and received lots of positive feedback. I preached from Jeremiah 18, going to the Potter's House. Following class we had a wedding. I wish Vivian and Jeff a lifetime of happiness, along with Eric, Vivian's grandson who lives with them. As a surprise, Vivian's daughter, granddaughter, and great grand daughter came down from Oklahoma. Jeff and Vivian's theme song is "Broken Road", and they identify with the heartaches and life struggles they have overcome to be together. Vivian was our church secretary for many years, but since the storm we likely will not have a secretary for a long time. After lunch we were blessed to help James Maxwell to be baptized into Jesus Christ. James has an incredible story. He was raised by atheist parents, but he loves the Lord so much. In 1986 he was working as a surveyor and a truck came over a hill going too fast. James was able to make two steps before the truck hit him. At 44 years of age, he has been fighting pain, legal battles, alcohol, and other demons ever since. I will say that since I have known James, I have seldom seen him without a smile on his face. Today, however, his joy became nearly childlike as he was so happy in the Lord. When James was putting on the baptism garment, he asked me, "what is this, a body bag?" I told everyone what he said and we laughed. Then I pointed out that it really is ... dead man going down, live man coming up! This afternoon we had an orientation and the college kids headed out to do some yard work down the street. They did an incredible amount of work in a very short time. We have people here from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Massachusets, Texas, and other places. It's going to be an incredible week. To the left is a group of students from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Also in the picture is Campus Minister Dean Owens. I enjoyed spending some time with Dean last night. There is no restoration church at Chapel Hill. An acappella church and an instrumental church are talking about getting this church planted. Amen to cooperation and unity between brothers! These students wanted to be on the blog. How could I say no? Thanks for reading, guys! Now you owe me comments! Tonight Jeremy Rush spoke. He and his wife Laurie are the Campus Ministers at the University of Wisconsin, Osh Kosh. They began this work four years ago. The students they brought are enthusiastic and from a variety of religious backgrounds. Jeremy brought a rich lesson from Colossians on who Jesus really is. I appreciated his thoughts and hope that we all had our hearts open ... he was preaching the truth! Tonight was also the first Area Wide Teen Devotional since the storm. We used to have these monthly across the Coast. We had teenagers from Orange Grove (Gulfport), Ocean Springs, Picayune, and Mobile (Port City). We missed some of the other teens who usually come, but we had a great time. Bill Collins (Orange Grove, left) led singing, along with his praise team 'Power of Praise'. They are all good friends of mine and I appreciate them so much. Power of Praise really hasn't done anything since camp last Summer ... so Bill pulled some strings and begged a bit to get Rhonda Stohldrier, Ryan Stohldrier, and Steve Martin to sing with him. Of course Sabrina, Bill's wife, is the backbone of the group and is always with them. Bill and Sabrina are an awesome couple who do most everything together. Steve didn't make it, so Chris Lockhart was on hand to fill his shoes. And Chris did an excellent job. The praise team helps a lot when we are singing unfamiliar songs. Another group from Texas arrived late tonight and we will meet them tomorrow. It's going to be a good day full of great things. I look forward to the adventure of it all. I have about 50 pictures from the past few days on my WEBSHOTS PAGE. Check out the folders and enjoy the pictures. I just saw this link on Tommy Stewart's blog: KATRINA COTTAGES I already have some neat stories to tell for this week, but I'll save them for later. This is a pretty full post! I appreciate the interest you have to come back day by day and read what's happening on the Coast. We know we can make it because God and His Big Family are holding us up the entire way. Worship, a wedding, a baptism, a teen gathering, a telling of the truth, and the Lord met us there. Awesome.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fresh Faith, Fresh Faces

This morning I slept an hour later than usual, fixed a cup of coffee and was busy writing up the church bulletin for tomorrow when the phone rang. Thankfully David and Elaine remembered we had to pick up the Hope Missions crew at the airport in Mobile. I threw on some clothes, picked up the bus and headed for Mobile. I had a long talk with my mom during that trip, which I enjoyed. I haven't seen her since Thanksgiving. I have to take a day and go see her soon. She's only two hours away. I picked up LT and the gang at the airport. I mentioned to him that he could buy me the Subaru SUV on display there. It's only 40,000 bucks. He declined. Ah well, you have not because you ask not. And sometimes you still have not when you ask! We got back to Pascagoula in time for a bite to eat, then we took them to where they are staying so they could rest. I took off for Mobile airport again to pick up the crew from Hillside Christian Church. This is their third trip down and it was great to see some familiar faces. This was just the beginning ... as groups arrived from Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and tomorrow Texas. I am not good at organizing all of the housing and I had a few anxious moments, but I think everyone's settled for tonight. We can re-arrange tomorrow if we need to. I enjoyed tonight's service. We had a song leader from Oklahoma, and prayer leaders from Wisconsin and North Carolina. Dave Skidmore preached for us tonight. I appreciated this Bible Major from Oklahoma Christian and his message very much. There's a few pictures of him preaching below. Notice the podium in the picture. The guys who drove down yesterday from Pennsylvania brought it. One of the workers a few months ago (Bo) went home and made it for us. (Or maybe for me ... can I keep it!). Bo did a beautiful job. It has two colors of stains, and has a lovely elaborate decorative element on the bottom. There is a dark diamond shape inlaid in the flat part where your notes rest. This brother spent some quality time on this project ... and that truly touches me.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday on the Coast

Maggy and I started our day sharing a breakfast time with Gary Kirkendall before he headed back to LaGrange. Gary blessed me much this week, more than he probably knows. He wrote a few things about his trip on his blog tonight. One of Gary's gifts that I have always appreciated is that he has such clarity about the basics of any dilemma. While I'm pulling my hair out, he makes a statement or two and suddenly it all becomes simple. After Gary departed to Georgia, Maggy and I drove to the hospital. One of our members was having a heart catherization (I never know how to spell that) this morning. She received a great report and we enjoyed a visit with the other folks who came to sit with the family. In the afternoon I attended the funeral of one of our members, an elderly lady who has not been able to attend for a long time. In the late afternoon I spent most of my time preparing for tonight's Good News Night. We had a minimal number attend tonight, as we are between work crews. I did a lesson on The Four Facts of Temptation. Even though attendance was small, we did have two community visitors. Some of our friends from Pennsylvania have already arrived, and several more are due tomorrow. Other workers will be coming in from across the country ... Wisconnsin, Oklahoma, and parts unknown! This will be the largest crew of workers we have had yet. We will see how it goes! Charlie mentioned on his blog that Meredith (from North Carolina) set down her purse in the auditorium. Someone picked it up and left with it. This is the second time this has happened. Our auditorium is full of things for people to pick up and have. Last time, the purse never showed back up. This time, a sweet lady got home with it and realized her mistake. She brought it back this afternoon. It had everything in it, cash and all. UPS shipped it back to her, free of charge. Out here, hope remains. Enrique (Henry) was baptized about a month ago at Central. We have come to love our hispanic brother deeply. He is a true servant. At least once he mopped the entire church building. He was always ready to jump into a project. We met Enrique because he was working for a shady contractor who let him work a few weeks, gave him a check no one would cash, and then let him go. Enrique's mother is very ill and has been calling and asking him to come home. So, we have arranged for him to get back to Mexico to be with his family. He has not seen his children in three years. This faith-filled brother says he will be back. To tell you the truth, I believe him. As he has for a long time now, my friend Chris Lockhart came over to Pascagoula to stand beside me and work with me. Chris' faithfulness in this highlights my thoughtlessness. Because of the hospital visit and following funeral, I completely forgot about him coming. He drove over from Mobile, looked for me, called me ... and decided to go back home. I'm sorry, Chris. Thank you for your diligence and care. I enjoyed talking to you on the phone for a long time, but I'm sorry I didn't get to see you. I'm especially sorry that you gave up so much of your day for nought. Tomorrow will be a day of arrivals. Pray for the safe journeys of all of our workers.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Midnight Blogger

Charlie said he was going to start calling me the 'Midnight Blogger'. I think it fits. We had a super day today with lots of activity and hard work. We were under the threat of severe weather, but it never did materialize. Maggy cooked taco soup for the workers today. Gary and I helped her get the ingredients together, then helped her get it up to the church building after it was prepared. Gary's message tonight was very rich and thoughtful. I was so encouraged by it. After the message we had a sharing time where four of the college students with us got up and shared their hearts with the assembly. It was very tearful but beautiful. After that I showed a slide show of pictures I had taken during the week. This group will head out at about 5:30 in the morning. I won't be there! I'll be speaking the next two nights and Sunday morning at Central. Sunday night one of the ministers with the incoming groups will speak. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do ... it might not be like a 'sermon' ... I'll keep you posted. Today Mary and Margo arrived from Bloomington, IN. They came down with their church, Vineyard Community Church. Their church, however, was working in an area where they couldn't bring their children. So they got on the internet looking for some place to serve. They noticed our cooks were worn out ... so God bless 'em they are here to relieve our cooks for a week. And it is going to be quite a week. I told them I was going to call them the M&Ms! They are very happy and I look forward to getting to know them. Tomorrow there are some people in the hospital I want to visit and a funeral I want to attend. Below: One of the college students shares his testimony about the week of service.

Below: The M&Ms - Margo and Mary!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And Once More...

Here I am just after midnight blogging again. This is getting to be a habit! I had a great day today with my friend Gary Kirkendall by my side. We started off the day going to find some of the workers and take some pictures. Gary had never seen the destruction along the coastline in Pascagoula, so we took a ride down beach boulevard. David called to tell me about a lady that we were delivering some sheetrock to so that some work could be done in her house. She attends a large congregation in town, but had received very little attention. She also was diagnosed with cancer and give five years to live. That was twelve years ago. This bright and beautiful woman was so thankful to be receiving some help. We prayed with her and said goodbye. Next we drove over to Cheryl's house. I have told you about Cheryl. She has lung and throat cancer and has only been given six months to live. She will spend the rest of her life in a FEMA camper located in the parking lot of a dilapidated stripmall. Thankfully she has Dana, a longtime friend who is living with her and helping her. Cheryl was in fairly good spirits for her sufferings. She did shed some tears, however, when talking about her desire to see her father. He lives in Arizona and is also a cancer patient. It is, of course, our hope to bring some joy, peace, and care into the lives of the people we are able to visit. After lunch, we met some other workers from Georgia Southwestern University at Albany (Gary's hometown) at a warehouse and began unloading twin size mattresses and box springs. These were from Churches of Christ Disaster Relief. I do not know how many there were ... we thought we heard 295 sets ... and that wouldn't be far off! It took a long time but we got it done. At the church building Gary finished some preparation for his message tonight and I worked on the power point. I led the singing tonight, and we focused on the old hymns. We've been singing all new songs the past few nights because of the great crowd of college kids from North Carolina that are here. They had their own bonfire devotional tonight and did not join us for worship. Gary had an awesome message on the concept of our home in heaven pictured in the New Testament as a Marriage and Marriage feast. Following the message the college kids from North Carolina came in so that they could witness a new birth. I'll tell you more about Jeff another time, but he was baptized tonight. David Kilbern baptized him. For Jeff it was a major life-changing decision. For David, it was a first time to birth a new child of God into the Family. There were lots of cheers, hugs, and tears. Tex Nolan from Monroe is here in town and we got to visit with him a bit tonight, which is always a joy. Those are the highlights of my day. I'll leave you with a few images. Below: Gary Kirkendall preaches tonight at Central.

Below: Carrying mattresses off of the truck. Below: David and Jeff after Jeff's baptism.

Below: A line of hugs for Jeff.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Midnight Ponderings

'Tis Midnight and on John's mind ... Thanks for the prayers for my tests today. Everything is okie dokie with me as far as they can tell and I'm thankful. At the beginning of the year I had three things I needed to check out ... and two of the three were good news. The other one is this carpal tunnel syndrome which will require surgery in both wrists at some point. As of yet, an undetermined point in time. Thanks for allowing me to share these personal things among the other things going on. Bill Ford is a brother from Senatobia, MS who has been here several times. His wife fell and broke her arm and will have surgery Friday. Remember Linda in your prayers. She has served us also, by allowing Bill to make so many trips to the Coast. I was able to be at services tonight, and I am so glad I was. We had a great time of worship led by my son John Robert and Gary Boswell. Al Sturgeon was our speaker for the night, and what a powerful message he brought! As a hurricane victim and hurricane relief worker, his testimony touched us all. He challenged us to live each day with the compassion of Christ and the willingness to serve others. Al has been my friend for many years and I am thankful for his generous heart. Tonight my friend Gary Kirkendall arrived. He spoke on the Faulkner University Lectures this afternoon and drove down to the Coast after that. He will speak at Central for the next two nights. Gary is one of the finest preachers I have ever heard, and I do not say that just because he is my friend. We both graduated from Magnolia Bible College at the same time. He is the preaching minister for the Broad Street Church of Christ in LaGrange, GA. I feel like I have known Gary, Donna, Kara and Daniel forever. On our Church WEBSITE I have placed some newer needs, and a link to a hurricane information archive. Whitfield's Journey is a new blog by a couple from Ontario who are here for a few weeks helping us out, Charlie and Linda Whitfield. Keep up with the relief work from the eyes of some wonderful workers. They are such a blessing to us. Since it is late, and I need to get to bed, I'll let that be my report for the night. God bless each of you for your continuous care for what is happening here in Pascagoula. Below: Al Sturgeon begins his message at Central Tuesday night.

Below: Some Smiling Faces from Campus Christian Fellowship!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Outreach Continues

I didn't go up to the church building today, but I am assured that the activity level was high. A group of great hard working college students came over and mowed and cleaned up my yard. I have not paid much attention to it since August 29th. They also helped out my neighbor who had some debris in their yard. They were very thankful for the help. Outreach through service continues on the Coast! Right now we have the biggest group of workers we have had since the beginning. Next week will be even more. We are beginning to face some new challenges. Showers, food, logistics ... but we will just do the best we can. I have some new needs placed on our WEBSITE. Check them out and see if you can be of help. Did anyone see me quoted in the latest The Christian Chronicle? Bobby Ross does a great job getting the Chronicle together each month. Plus he is a regular reader of this blog (Hi Bobby!). I liked the picture of me they used in the paper edition. I almost look postmodern, cool, and hip. But not quite. hahaha. Neal Alligood brought another great message tonight at Central. He has brought a lot of energy and joy to the work site. I have enjoyed getting to know this brother from North Carolina. He works with Campus Christian Fellowship, and is a member of the Capital City Christian Church (who has sent workers to the Coast, and is coming back again!). Tomorrow night Al Sturgeon will speak. Al and the Ocean Springs church launched a massive herculean effort to bring relief to the 29 families in their church who had total losses. They also helped many others in the community. When I visited the Ocean Springs site, Al's wife Jody and daughters Erica and Hillary were serving right alongside him. They hosted (and continue to host) workers from across the country as the effort is ongoing. Al's leadership was invaluable as God led him to help those who were left with nothing. This was a natural extention of Al's interest as founder of Habitat for Humanity in West Jackson County. The work with Habitat continues as they set a goal of building 1,000 homes in Jackson County. We look forward to Al's message with great anticipation! Tuesday morning I will have a common medical procedure that will leave me pretty much out of it for the day. I do not expect anything significant to result, but let's keep that in prayer anyway. I am comforted to know that my Creator who knows all of my inward parts is in control of my life. I hope to blog tomorrow night. In the mean time, what do you do with almost 100 college students? Some incredible ministry! Keep us in prayer! Below: Gary Boswell (member at Central) chats with John Sanders (from Rhode Island).