Out Here Hope Remains

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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hope Remains Goes To Podcast....Sort Of

I think someone was praying. I know they were. We had 78 in worship this morning, including several visitors. After worship we had a church meeting. These always have the potential to break down, but I am thankful that things went smoothly. I had to be nudged into doing this meeting ... just because I basically was not paying attention to the need to communicate. We had good input, with the potential to have more input as the next few weeks go by. I hope we will do this about every 6 weeks or so. Thanks to all you locals who attended and participated. This afternoon we had wonderful cleansing healing rain along the Coast. We had a blustery few days as a front moved through. Last night's winds had shelters opened up in some Coastal counties and some tornado reports. The rain was much needed and appreciated....thank you, Lord! I did manage to sit in my chair by the window and fall asleep watching the rain fall...just for a little while. Several of us gathered tonight to say goodbye to Jon Hensen. Jon will head back to Texas tomorrow. I hope we stay in touch. He is a wonderful brother that has come to mean a lot to us. Thanks to David, Elaine, and David Kilbern Jr. for frying up some fish and shrimp for us. Also thanks to Jeff Campbell for his great coconut shrimp and special orange marmalade sauce he makes. He also made a raspberry sauce, but I didn't try it. Jeff, maybe you ought to be a chef. After the dinner, Gary and Loree Boswell came by the house for a little while. Gary brought his guitar. Now Gary is a real ace on the guitar, but he's nice enough to let me strum along with him sometimes and we have a ball. Gary's an old rock-n-roller, but he is getting older and the country songs appeal to him now too. Loree still hasn't gone country, but we're trying. Anyway, it was just a lot of fun. Gary plays in a band with Rochelle Harper. They performed at the Gateway Church of Christ benefit fundraiser for missions last night and had a great time. I suppose I will spend some time this week getting ready for my trip to Pepperdine on Thursday. I hate to miss part of the lectures, but this was just a bad week to be gone. I'll go to the building in the morning to say my last goodbyes to John Henson and do a few things. I have some things I need to do around my house, and maybe I can round up a helper if I'm lucky. I had hoped to speak at a church or two while I was in Malibu this Sunday, but that has not happened yet. If you have a connection, get in touch with me! I'm available...and cheap! OUT HERE HOPE REMAINS has now gone to podcast ... sort of. I don't think I'm going to read my blog to you! But, you can find a podcast of my morning sermon this morning HERE. If you have an IPOD you can subscribe to this and it will download automatically into your IPOD. If you have a MY GOOGLE or MY YAHOO account, you can also subscribe to it ... or you can listen directly on the website. Nice integration of opportunities there. I will try to keep my weekly sermons there ... and occasionally some other stuff that I have in mind to try out. Maybe my new radio program ... and occasionally just some things that are on my mind. You should check it out often! If I have lots of people visit that page often, I can be listed in the top 100 and that will give the site more exposure. Also, if you are on my mailing list and you got three or more notices about this, that was my fault. I apologize for being impatient and hitting a button several times. Anyhow, that's my news for the day. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cat Got Your Blog?

No blogs for a few days ... what's wrong with me! I have just been in a blog slump. I sit down to blog, but nothing comes to mind. Occasionally that happens in the pulpit, but that's another story. I've been very busy doing this and that, but it's been a few days of potpourri ... nothing really great, nothing really grand. So does a faithful blog writer write about these mundane things? Yes, of course they do. Jon Henson has been here for six weeks. If you have called the Central Church of Christ during that time, it is likely that you talked to John. This tall Texan with a ready smile worked diligently during his time here. He made phone calls to update work requests, answered the phone, kept up with keys, talked with people who needed help, organized files, and a lot more. His manner and willingness to serve relieved the pressure on all of us who take turns at the reception table. Jon does have a wife and a home in Texas, so he must return home. He is taking one of the young men who is staying at the building with him. When we first met Jeff we saw a young man who had been beaten by a string of circumstances that just couldn't be overcome. In the few weeks he has been around, he has proven himself to be an outstanding worker and a source of joy and laughter. Jon and Jeff will head out Monday morning. We will miss them both. Margaret and I enjoyed spending some time with all three Kilberns tonight, as well as Jon Henson. David tells me that all of the appliances we now have in our possession have been promised. We are out of sheetrock. And we need some funding to continue on with the relief effort. There will still be plenty for workers to do ...and I believe that the needed supplies will come through for us. God has not let us down yet! Of course there is much talk about the approaching Hurricane Season here on the Coast. What can you do at this point but think and talk and pray? Only eight months and a few days ago we were watching this monster hurricane swing into the Gulf and move slowly enough to gain an incredible amount of power. The weather commentators did what they always do - take an item like the weather ... doesn't everyone talk about the weather ... and try to sensationalize it. But this time was different. It is 11:15 on April 29th as I type this. I just went back in time on the blog and read the comments left for me on August 30. What a wonderful circle of friends God has placed in my life. Many of you who said you wanted to come did indeed come. I know the prayers were flowing. Do not let them stop. Eight months of carrying this heavy burden has left most of us burned out, stressed out, not stopping to pay attention to ourselves ... I can see it. I can feel it as I talk with people. They act in ways that are not consistent with their character. Three famlies came in this week who had not done anything to their house yet. The psychological defenses we have built in that allow us to avoid reality are powerful. And we deal with these kinds of things in the church. Pray for our church. So many people have worn themselves to a frazzle. It is so easy for us to say things that hurt, when we didn't want to do that. Who can anticipate what happens next? I can't. We know we ought to help others, but there's always so much to do for ourselves. Tomorrow we will have a meeting of the church members to try to answer questions, address unmet needs, give reassurances, and work very hard to let God's will work in us and through us. We get much encouragement from those who come to see us ... and we are thankful for that, really. Behind closed doors, though, we are a church comprised of human beings who have suffered an astounding disaster. We have our good days and bad days. And they've got this preacher ... who just doesn't always have it together. So pray for us as we limp along doing all we can....that we will practice grace with one another through our individual storms. For the first time since the storm, we are taking a week off. We are accepting no workers, our kitchen will be providing no meals, and there will be no work orders accepted. Just what the doctor ordered! The next week we will get back to it. Thanks for reading, and for your prayers, and your calls, and your concern. You are a blessing to me.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Happy Anniversary

I spent most of yesterday in a training seminar called DISASTER RECOVERY TRAINING AND TOOLS. I believe FEMA paid for this event, Chevron Refinery provided lunch, and it was presented by Church World Service. The day began with a presentation by local counselor Marian Wingo (who now works for FEMA) on the subject of Taking Care of the Caregiver. As I listened, I was reminded about how inadequately we spend time taking care of ourselves. We are hearing about opportunities to have counselors come and speak about the kinds of coping mechanisms that will help us deal with the long term effects of the storm and recovery. I hope that happens before long. There were several good presentations on case management and how important it is to interact with other disaster relief agencies. There are 206 disaster relief agencies operating on the Gulf Coast (as reported at the seminar - there are probably some they do not know about). Even with all of that help, the task is monumental. Several groups that we have come to recognize and cooperate with were present, including AmeriCorps and Project Recovery. Convoy of Hope was represented. The man who heads that relief effort up is a wonderful man with a big smile and lots of joy. It was an interesting day with a good bit of relevant information - and the understanding that this recovery effort is truly long term. We had a good service last night, with the focus on 2 Corinthians 4 and God's unbreakable gospel inside fragile messengers. Our power is not our own, but full trust belongs in Christ alone. I remember driving down the interstate ... I believe it was a Thanksgiving time of year ... when the phone rang. It was my good friend Gary telling me that his very young grandson, Jimmy, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Thus began a nightmare journey for the Gammills and Boswells into the world of treatments, hospitals, doctors, and (thank God), remission. The Gammills (Jimmy's parents) have faced so many personal battles along the way, even losing their home totally in Katrina's surge. Yet, they have persevered. Jimmy is a happy boy, and copes well with all of the medical attention he receieves. Gary's wife, Loree, has been a tireless supporter, grandmother, mother, and prayer warrior on Jimmy's behalf. Loree is one of those ladies that adopt a task and exhaust themselves tending to every detail. For several years now she has spearheaded a blood drive in honor of Jimmy. He has had to have a lot of blood over the years. Today I will head up to Moss Point and give blood in honor of Jimmy, and because I love these families. American Red Cross can never believe how many people Loree can motivate to come and give blood - it's a big civic event around here. Besides organizing the blood donations, Loree fixes lots of food for everyone to eat. Sometimes Gary and Rochelle Harper wander around singing and playing their guitars for those who are giving blood. I always love to hear their rendtion of Dreams ... and their original "I Will Lead You". David and Elaine have an anniversary today, so they have taken a few days off from the relief effort. If anyone ever deserved some time off, they do. Both of them have been sick in the past few weeks ... probably their immune system is weak from their unending labors. They have a great relationship and are a super example to all of us. There really is no way to communicate how much these two Christians have given up in order to serve the community. I sometimes say that David is tireless. That's not true - he just keeps going when he is tired. Click on their names and send them a note of encouragement ... I think it would be great if they got several! Do it now before you forget! I hope you have a good Thursday and that it leads into a good weekend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Testimony

One of the neat things that happened after Katrina was Al Sturgeon's daily e-mail hurricane update from Ocean Springs (subscribe here). I always felt that I was right here with them in their journey. It was great to keep up with what was happening there. Al requested that his readers write their hurricane story for his list. They have all been special, but the one I want to share with you really resonated with me. I hope it is a blessing to you. Thanks to Robin Hayes for permission to share. ************************* Hello. My name is Robin Hayes. My husband, Todd, and our four children make up one of the three remaining displaced families in the Ocean Springs congregation. I have been reading the testimonies Al has been sending out, and I have been so touched by them that Icouldn't even delete them from my inbox. I'm saving them all, though I haven't yet decided the reason. Alia Martin sent a very nice testimonial that pretty well sums up the sentiments of the affected families in Ocean Springs. However, I thought I'd give you our story too. Growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, my husband and I rode out every major hurricane since Hurricane Frederick in 1979. Though the damage was great with those previous storms, Katrina was something we never dreamed could happen. I have always been fascinated by hurricanes and even came very close to majoring in Meteorology. Given my husband's mirrored fascination, it had never even been a consideration to evacuate from an approaching storm...until this one. I had been following the progress of Katrina all week. On Saturday, August 27th, I checked the news update just before I went to bed (around midnight) and noticed that the winds had increased considerably. Ididn't sleep well and something told me to get up early and check the news again Sunday morning. To my shock, Katrina's winds were over 170 mph and still heading directly towards the Mississippi Gulf Coast. As images of Camille went through my head, I realized that we really needed to evacuate. Easier said than done. Part of me wanted to stay at the church building, because I knew we could check on our home immediately after the storm. The "mother" part of me didn't want to make a decision I would regret. After much "yo-yo-ing", we finally made the decision tostay. That in itself helped to ease the knots in my stomach that I had all day. We got the remainder of our things together and went to the church around10:00 pm. Since I brought nearly every photograph I own plus clothing and necessities for six people, our family took up about four pews at the church. I recall telling Al that the silliest thing I brought with me was flotational devices for my children. We laughed -only we didn't know it wasn't funny. Just a couple of miles from the building, people needed those flotational devices. Through nine hours of howling hurricane force winds, I never really knew any real fear. The building lost some of the roof, so there were many leaks, but still my only fear was of my pictures getting wet. You must understand that our church building is made of cinder block with brick over it and steel beams in between. We felt very safe inside and simply had no idea of what was going on all around us. Around 5:00 pm, the winds let up and some people began to disburse from the church. Todd and I, my niece, and my 3-year-old daughter, Brynlee, left to inspect the damage to our home. We live only a block from the Gulf of Mexico, but our property is between 20 and 25 feet above sea level, and we were not in a flood zone. Neighbors had told us that the Camille surge only came up a good way down the street from our home, so we never thought we would flood. As we drove down Highway 90, we saw typical hurricane destruction that we had seen in previous storms. We saw that part of our 8-year-old's elementary school was destroyed (by a tornado, we later found out). It wasn't until we got closer to our home and the beach that was saw the storm surge's debris line. It was much further inland than our house, and we immediately knew that our home would be flooded. The outside of our home appeared somewhat undamaged. Things we just knew would be destroyed somehow stood strong. Upon closer inspection, we realized that the East wall of our home had blown in from the bottom into one of our living areas. The water had already receded, but we could see the water line on the house- about three feet up from the ground. Before we entered our home, some neighbors walked by and told us that the homes of many of our neighbors directly on the beach were no longer there. Upon entering our home, my three-year-old daughter's first words were,"Why would someone do this?" From that point on, she has referred to our home as "the nasty house". I guess I was in a state of shock, because there were no tears shed at that point, just wide-eyed disbelief. The entire contents of the house had been shifted around. Things that were in the back of the house were in the front of the house. Things were turned over, and there was mud and filth everywhere. When we returned to the church, we found that Al & Jody Sturgeon and Samantha & Herman Bosarge had sustained significant flooding to their homes as well. There were some tears shed, but the main thing on our minds was insurance. None of us had flood insurance. Were we covered? Todd and I decided to spend that night at the church. There was a dusk till dawn curfew in effect, and we knew we couldn't get all our things together in time to make the move to my parents' house. Besides, misery loves company, as the saying goes. No one in my family could quite relate to us like the Sturgeons and the Bosarges. We all stayed atthe church that night, with Al & Jody on pews and airmattresses, and our family on a huge pallette behind the pulpit. It was difficult to sleep, as one of us would constantly think of something to say. Al and Itried to create some much-needed humor. I told him if they were interested in moving near us, I thought there was some "vacant property". Poor taste, but we all needed a laugh. Shortly after we woke up Tuesday morning, there was a knock on the Fellowship Room door. A team from St. Petersburg, Florida, had driven all night to bring supplies. We were the first church they came upon. We rounded up some able bodies and all helped unload the truck. Little did we know that this would be the scene for many months to come. Later that day, we returned to our house where it was already beginning to smell badly. We went through every drawer and squeezed water out of all our clothing then laid it in my mother's driveway to dry. Using a generator, we were able to wash a little at a time, and this act salvaged much of our clothing. By the next day, mold had begun appearing on the walls and in the cabinets. Todd and some family members managed to remove the carpet, which helped with the smell. Our first experience with volunteers came about two weeks after the hurricane. Many of the members had been going through the gutting process, and it was our turn. We had a team of about 15 or so from the Meridian Street Church of Christ, in Okalahoma City, come to our aid. We were amazed by Valerie, a petite woman who could use a saw as well as a man. She and the others, young and old, worked tirelessly all day.I remember Valerie making the comment that she was so impressed with my attitude, that they were tearing everything out of our house, and I was still so positive. That compliment will always stick out in my mind, as I have tried to keep that attitude, though it hasnt been easy. Many volunteers came in during the next several weeks, but we had a major electrical problem that had to be taken care of before any other work could be done.Thus, we were set behind from the others and little was done in the house for many weeks. Then, two angels came to us by the names of Roy and Larry fromPrescott, Arizona. These two, in their early and mid-seventies, were absolutely incredible. There was no task they could not do, and they worked harder than most men half their age. Over the next month, they had help from others in Arizona as well as from other states, and they managed to completely rewire our house, replace some ceilings, and hang (and partly float) most of the sheet rock in the house. They also took a wall down here, studded in a wall there, and did many other tasks. Larry and Roy were accompanied by their wives, who worked all day at the church building, cooking and organizing. They slept in their travel trailers outside the church building every night. Time ran out, and Larrys hand injury kept them from finishing what they started, but they still accomplished so much. I cried when I told them goodbye at church, because I just didnt feel like I could ever adequately thank them. How do you thank someone who has given so selflessly and been such a true model of Christianity? Once Roy and Larry left just before Thanksgiving, we had no work done in our home for many weeks. We were somewhat despondent, as other members were moving back into their homes, while the six of us were still living with my parents. However, our spirits were lifted by the overwhelming generosity of several congregations who made it their mission to give our children a memorable Christmas. I'm positive my children have never seen so many Christmas gifts in their lives! Whats more we were even donated a vehicle all the way from Tennessee! With all the chaos in our lives, I haven't yet sent out thank you notes, but if you are reading this, please know that we will be eternally grateful! We were blessed with other volunteers, some I didn't even get to meet. But in January, a group of guys from Grace Chapel Church of Christ in Atlanta showed up,and they really helped us to get back on track. They did things that no one else had really thought to do (including us), such has renting a POD for us to store the items that we had salvaged in the house. Their timing was great, because what they accomplished set us up perfectly for the next group from East Sunshine Church of Christ in Missouri. About 13 guys worked in our house for 4-1/2 days, and it is unbelievable what they accomplished! In that short time, they had finished floating sheetrock, hung all the doors and trim, hung some windows, and completely painted the entire house inside. Our spirits soared the week they were here, and we consider them true Christian heros! The following week, we checked into roofing quotes. Literally within minutes of the roofing guys leaving, I received a message from Al saying not to do anything yet about a roof, because some guys were coming from Illinois to do just that! All we had to do was have the supplies at our house, and they would do the labor! This, of course, was invaluable to us. Our thanks to the members of the Philo Road Church of Christ, the Northwest Church of Christ, and the Clear Lake Church of Christ. We are currently living in a good-sized FEMA mobile home, and we have some remaining work on the house;but we wouldn't be half this far if not for our wonderful brothers and sisters around the country coming to our aid. We are so humbled by the generosity you have all extended and we could never be able to properly thank you. Just know that you are in our thoughts and we wish you all the best! God bless all of you, Robin Hayes

Monday, April 24, 2006

Home Sweet Home

We left Enterprise about 10:00 this morning and made our way through the towns of Opp, Andalusia, and Evergreen. In Evergreen we stopped at a locally owned restaurant called The Beacon. These ladies know how to cook! We enjoyed a great country lunch and then made our way back to Pascagoula. You know how it is when you arrive home from a trip ... getting re-adjusted to the chaos is the name of the game! When I arrived I discovered that some new tables had arrived. Healing Hands International donated tables, chairs, and a Bunn coffee machine for the church. We will put those to good use - a place for people to gather and share and talk (and drink coffee)! Thanks to David White and Joseph Smith for their help in this matter. This evening six of us went over to the Meridian Street Church of Christ for their gospel meeting. Robbie, Allen, James, Becky, Pam, and I enjoyed the preaching of Darryl BBowdre of Tyler, Texas. There was also a group there from the Eastern Shore Church of Christ in Daphne, Alabama. Their preacher, Bryant Evans, led the opening prayer. Great singing, great fellowship, and great preaching made it a great night. The gang wants to go back tomorrow night, so I suspect we'll do that! The meeting runs through Thursday night. If you are in the area, come on out at 7:30 nightly. One of the men from the Elba Church of Christ who came and helped us early in the effort was Tom Maddox. We were concerned when brother Maddox was diagnosed last week with colon cancer. His surgery was today, and we are just so thankful to God. The area that had to be removed was less than expected, and they believe that they removed all of the cancer. It did not appear to have penetrated the colon, which is also good news. This is really the best news that could be expected, and we praise God for his mercy. Tim Gunnells recently resigned as minister for the Elba church. I erroneously reported earlier that he was moving to Alamo, TN. The preacher there must not read my blog! It is actually Athens, Tennessee to which the Gunnells are moving. Our best wishes follow them into Tennessee, where we know they will proclaim the gospel beautifully through Tim's messages and Kristin's encouraging works. This afternoon I met Dick and Judy Ruselink, who are here from Indiana. Wednesday we will have some more workers coming in. Eric and Connie from Tennessee will be here. Also Erin Martin and nine ladies from Raleigh, NC will be arriving. In addition, Brooke and Twila michael arrive for an extended stay - perhaps up to a year. May 7 - 10 we will have some Good News preaching by Eddie Lewis of Germantown, TN. Please be in prayer along with us that many will obey the gospel during this effort. I'll have more to say about Eddie in another post. Tonight while getting a few supplies in Wal-Mart I found a DVD LEAP OF FAITH with a great cast including Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Lolita Davidovich, Liam Neeson and everyone's favorite Meatloaf. Have any of you seen it before? Steve Martin plays a fake 'faith healer' who has an encounter with God through the faith of a crippled boy. On one level it speaks to the showbiz approach to religion and how empty it is, and on another level it addresses God's work through our very faulty faith. Plus it has a great soundtrack. I love Patti LaBelle and choir singing "Are You Ready For A Miracle?" it's enough to bring the house down. Gospel queen Albertina Walker sings Blessed Assurance. Wynonna and Meatloaf make an appearance. And in an unexpected performance that really moved me, Lyle Lovett singing a bluesy rendition of "Pass Me Not". Well, so much for John's reviews of movies no one saw, and probably for good reason!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday In Alabama

We began our day by driving a short distance to the Elba Church of Christ. It was good to see several faces of those who have been down to help us in Pascagoula. Among those faces was Tom Maddox, one of the elders. Keep Tom in your prayers, as he has just been diagnosed with colon cancer. His surgery is Monday morning. I presented a slideshow and update on our work in Pascagoula during the Bible Class hour. During the worship hour I preached on the potter's house from the book of Jeremiah. After worship an elder and deacon and their wives took us to a Mexican restaurant in Enterprise to eat. The afternoon was spent with some phone calls, updating the Christian Crisis Resources website, and a wonderful nap! We made our way to the College Avenue Church of Christ in Enterprise for evening worship. Keith Ellis is the minister for the congregation, and has been for almost 14 years. This church was involved in Katrina relief by cooperating with the Red Cross and caring for storm refugees. Brother Ellis is a liscensed counselor and helped out after Andrew and in New York after 9-11. Even tonight there was an announcement about signing up to be trained to be a Red Cross volunteer. This church with a big heart sent Central a big contribution at just the right time. Keith has already added a podcast of tonight's message HERE - and you can also hear some of his lessons as well. Both Alabama congregations were filled with wonderfully friendly people who were very interested in the recovery work going on along the Coast. We are looking forward to being back home tomorrow. My biggest regret of the whole trip is that I inadvertently left my camera behind, so I can't share any images with you. Sorry 'bout that!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday Morning on the Coast

Thanks for all the comments on the last post. You never know when a topic will strike up with so many readers. I appreciate the fact that so many people stop by and check in on what's happening on the Coast and in John Dobbs' world. Yesterday I helped out at the reception table at Central. I haven't done this particular job in a while because reliable Texan Jon Hensen has been doing a fantastic job with this. I enjoy this job, even though I do not always know the answers to the questions people ask. One benefit of working the table is the realization of how many people have yet to make any progress on their homes. One couple we met have been married 67 years. She is 83, and he is 92, and they are still so in love it just glows around them. They never had children, so there's no family to come and help them. They heard from someone that we were offering help to the community. Their income is very low, but instead of being rejected by SBA (which would have been a blessing in this case, opening the door for grants), they were offered a loan. Look at their ages, and tell me why SBA offers them a 30 year loan? Their capability to make the payments is very low. Not only that, but the adoption of FEMA guidelines is forcing them to raise their house - less than a foot. Yes, that's right. Thousands of dollars must be spent to raise their house less than a foot in order to comply with new flood zone regulations. They do not have the money to do this, and repairs cannot begin until it happens. They live just 8 or 9 blocks away from our building. As they left, David and I were both speechless. Realizing that eight months after Katrina's storm surge there are still people who have made no progress on their home is heartbreaking. That is why it is vital that we continue on with the work, and why service minded people must keep coming to the Coast. This afternoon, Lord willing, Maggy and I will drive over to Enterprise, Alabama. In the morning I will be making a relief presentation and preaching at the Elba Church of Christ. Elba helped us early on. The Disaster Response Team set up grills for a few days to feed people - back before we had power. After they left, people from the Elba church came several times and cooked hamburgers, unloaded trucks, and did all kinds of service projects. Their minister, Tim Gunnels, recently resigned and is moving to Alamo, TN. Tim committed early on to raise $10,000 for our congregation. He also was one of the few people who called me and prayed with me on the phone. Needless to say, Tim and the Elba church have both meant very much to us in these past eight months. Sunday night we will be with the College Avenue Church of Christ in Enterprise. Enterprise played an important part in the hurricane relief effort when they sent a contribution for $25,000. On their website they advertise that "John Dodd" is coming, but that's me. My good friend is Danny Dodd, and our names have merged together in various configurations over the years! We are so grateful for everyone who has partnered with us as we try to do our best to restore and repair the broken lives of people. Chris Lockhart came over from Mobile yesterday to work alongside with me. We took Robbie to the emergency room - he has an ongoing painful problem with a tooth that needs a root canal and cap. He is back on anti-biotics again. We also took a lady to City Hall so that she could get her permit to get started on her house. She lives in a camper park. Park is too nice a word ... it's row after row of campers in an abandoned grocery store / strip mall parking lot. Chris and I stopped at Monica's for a good lunch, where we unexpectedly ran into Meridian Street Church of Christ minister Cornell Johnson. Cornell ate lunch with us and we enjoyed the fellowship. Afterwards Chris helped me get my washer and dryer hooked back up (had been disconnected because of laying flooring down in the laundry room). I always appreciate the way Chris visits and helps out ... mostly through encouragement. We had a wonderful rain shower yesterday afternoon, which was very needed. Thank you, Lord! I would like to thank volunteer Chris Robey from Vernon, Texas, for his blog post HERE. Chris, and some of the guys he mentions are coming back to help again soon. He will speak for us one Wednesday night while he is here. Preaching at Central tomorrow will be Martel Pace. My thanks to Sam Long at Faulkner University for his help in securing brother Pace for the day. Martel's lesson will be on "The Consequences of Sin", and I know everyone will be blessed by this veteran Gospel preacher's message. Currently we have no work crews here. If you are interested in helping, give us a call. We do have some groups coming in later in the week. Thanks again for reading and commenting when you can.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dangerous Blogging

The overall work continues at a bit of a slower pace at the moment, due to a shortage of skilled workers. But the ones who are working do not feel like it is a slower pace! Michael and Kathleen King are here from West Virginia. They seem to have enjoyed the week doing all kinds of work in the kitchen, appliance deliveries, and warehouse organization. Kathleen said it was very humbling to go into the homes and see the damage. We all know how she feels. Floyd has been helping out in a big way in these areas as well. I will get some pictures of them all today if possible. I haven't been carrying my camera around as much as I should. The group from San Diego worked half a day for us doing yard work, and half a day for Church on the Rock. They are here with Operation Love Thy Neighbor, so their work will extend beyond Central's focus. They are, though, helping out with what we are doing. Daved Baker is doing a great job with Operation Love Thy Neighbor, which is about to premiere a brand new website soon! I'll tell you about it when they do. My friend James Guy has now started a blog, located HERE. James' first post is like most first posts on new blogs. It is a bit self-concerned about what will appear on the blog. BLOG is a slang term for Web Log, or Web Journal. Journals are personal reflections. Personal reflections of a day or a thought or an experience are just that - reflections. New bloggers always worry that what they write will somehow be used against them. Well, that is what happens sometimes, unfortunately. I think most bloggers blog for themselves. It is therapeutic. I think a big reason why blogs are so popular is that they are so personal. Why should we be afraid to think about something, write it down, and receive input? Thinking demands that we explore other ideas. If we only want to think what we always thought, it doesn't take much thinking to think that way. A blog is a great place to think out loud, share those thoughts with volunteer readers, no one is forced to read a blog, and receive some input via comments. Blogging can be dangerous. Challenging our traditions, comparing them to the truth of Scripture, and writing things that others can read can be scary. We never know if we are expressing ourselves clearly enough. We also could be wrong ... and that happens at times as well! The truth is that every boring book I ever read simply parroted what I've already heard from someone or what I already believed. If we are students of the Bible, we will always be challenged in our thinking - because we are always learning and growing. So, James, blog away my friend. If you find a critical reader, join the club. If you get fired for thinking, then God has given you a gift. We always need thinkers. Some of our best thinkers have never been in the pulpit. That's why blogs are awesome ... they give birth to the opportunity for expression. And they are free. The big challenge for new bloggers is getting into the habit of daily blogging. Well, there's a blog about blogging ... whodathunk that sharing our thoughts could be such a dangerous thing? Even if it is not, in reality, it feels like it. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tuesday Morning on the Coast

Last night a group of about 45 arrived from San Diego, California. Many of them are teenagers. We should be able to help a lot of people for the rest of the week with this crew. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. Also last night I had a great Bible discussion with a friend and someone who was recently baptized. I can tell that he is a real 'thinker'. He is willing to ask tough questions, which is awesome. I was trying to remember the last time someone asked me questions like his, and it has been a while. Thanks, Jeff, for making me stir up some stuff in my mind I haven't had to look at in a while. Good Bible discussions keep us fresh and digging in the Word! I appreciated the following e-mail from one of our members: "Let's just hope if we are changing more into His likeness that it never ends! I used to mention being a member of the Church of Christ to fellow work mates only to hear them say...."I don't think I ever heard of them!" Now when I mention Church of Christ they will say...." I think I would like to know more about them! They are really doing a great effort to help people from what I hear!" In a conversation Margaret and I had yesterday, we talked about the depression that most people are undergoing, including us. She said to me, "I'm glad you said that." We discussed how that we, the church, have not really talked about that a lot. Last night I received an e-mail from a friend who said the same thing - that we are not acknowledging the depression that so many are going through. In my opinion, the best way to deal with it is by serving others. That's a coping mechanism that has helped me - although it does not make the depression go away. We have faced a severe event that has a greater impact than we know. I appreciate the reminders that we need to talk about these things more, and try to understand how various people cope with them. In a recent e-mail someone asked about church finances and the donations that have been received. All hurricane relief donations are earmarked for hurricane relief - they do not go into our regular church funds. The offering that is collected each week is still the means by which Central church of Christ functions. The hurricane relief activities are paid for separately. When I visit churches and talk to them about what we are doing, they sometimes send me home with a check made out to the church. That check goes into hurricane relief - generally buying building materials and supplies. As a church wrecked by a hurricane, there would be nothing wrong with us using some of those funds to help us get back on our feet, but that is not what we are doing now. Area churches are using hurricane relief funds to build storage facilities to prepare for future disasters, and also to fund church programming. Each church has to decide the best use of the funds they have recieved. In our case, two churches sent a grant for ministerial support. One church sent a contribution to our general church fund for five months. Any other funds that come in are earmarked for hurricane relief. I understand the concerns on these matters, and I try to be open with the details as much as possible. I hope your Tuesday is a great one.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Left Hanging

Yesterday and today we have very few volunteers present to do work. This will change somewhat as 30 people arrive from California sometime this afternoon. I'm not sure where they are from at this point, but I'll let you know about them later. We have several weeks in the summer when there is room for volunteers. If you want to bring a group down, take a look at the WORK CREW REPORT to find weeks when volunteers are slim and come on down to the Coast. I am convinced that every day is crucial to the effort we have ongoing. All of us are very aware that at some point the money will stop coming, the volunteers will stop coming, and the work will come to a standstill. At that point there will be many people left hanging. That is going to be a sad time for these people. Maybe some of them got a late start. Some of them 'fell through the cracks' of the system and did not receive the help they deserved. FEMA has never been to our house even after nearly eight months! Hurricane Season 2006 is just weeks away. In the face of a similar hurricane season to last year, there is the fear that money and volunteers will be unable to keep up with the needs. Preparation is very important in this stage, but it is hard to get prepared for a new season when you are still reeling from the previous season. 99,000 people in Mississippi live in FEMA campers. An approaching hurricane will be cause for pandemonium. Most of the country is unaware that there are ongoing relief efforts here in Mississippi. We are getting good traffic at www.christiancrisisresources.com . I hope you will bookmark it and visit often. Even now there are appeals for help on that site. The sister blog, http://crisisresource.blogspot.com also will have disaster related information posted. Carla Calhoun and I will be on the program at the Pepperdine Lectures coming up the first week of May. If you are at the lectures or in the area, please come out and meet us. I will share more about that as the time draws nearer. If you know of an individual that would like to get financially involved in a stateside mission effort to help churches prepare for disaster relief and to have hands-on help immediately after disasters, let me know! Hope your Tuesday is a great one. Let's all work together to make sure that there are as few people as possible left hanging when this relief work comes to a stop.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Resurrection Sunday

Today we had 101 in worship. It was a great morning of praise and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I had my handy dandy recorder in my pocket, but forgot to turn it on, so I can't post today's sermon. We were able to welcome a couple from West Virginia who arrived last night, and also Floyd from Florence, AL who has been here all week. We said goobye to Esther, who has been such a beautiful blessing to us all. We are also saying goobye to Jim and Sandy from California. They have been here six weeks and have such a beautiful spirit of service. They are a part of the Sierra Pines Church of God just south of Fresno. This church has been a big blessing to our work here, and they continue to send servants and be involved in our work. They will be heading home tomorrow (Monday) morning and we pray for their safe journey. Both of them spoke for a few moments this morning and encouraged the church to keep up the great work. I would tell you the name of their dog, but all I can remember right now is that it starts with the letter "G". Sorry, pup! Just a little more about Esther, shown here with Texan Jon Henson. Esther is from Israel. It is possible I've already told you all of this before, but here goes again! Eshter came here to help serve elderly people who were storm victims. Her home in Israel was destroyed during the Gulf War, so she knows what it's like to lose your possessions. She is quite a special spirit, and I have grown used to seeing her each day and talking with her. Esther learned to speak English attending lectures at the Edgar Cayce Institute in Virginia, where her home is now that she has come to America. Esther is Jewish by nationality, not religion. I think she is pretty open to most any religion, if I understand her correctly. She is a true servant, though, and only wants to help. God has gathered the most interesting people in this place. I feel so blessed to have met them. I call them 'characters', because that is what they are. (That's not a negative characterization, by the way!) Speaking of characters, my mother called me about the comment in the last post. She was going to leave a comment, but couldn't figure out how. We laughed about it. Little did she know that I would report on this event. Anyhow, I'm glad she is not just my mother but my friend. We have many readers from many different fellowships and places. If you are reading on this Resurrection Sunday afternoon, why not share with us a bit about your worship time this morning and how your church recognized the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? We sang songs about the Gospel message. Songs like He Lives, Above All, The Old Rugged Cross, Ten Thousand Angels, Up From The Grave He Arose, And Can It Be, and Why Did My Savior Come To Earth? were ringing in our place of worship. I spoke about the empty tomb (and quoted John Alan Turner's thought for today), then I talked about the empty lives that we lead when we are not following Christ and how Jesus wants to give us a full life. I quoted four passages from Ephesians that use the term "Filled" or "Full" to show that we have a full life in connection with the church, the love of God, the unity of all believers, and the strength that comes from God to be this kind of person. I'd like to hear about your Resurrection Sunday services.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Saturday Night on the Coast

I hope your Saturday has been a great one. We had wonderful weather on the Gulf Coast and bright beautiful skies. Today we received a shipment of the furniture we bought a few weeks ago. It feels so good to have a real bed, dressers where you can place clothes, and a curio display unit to replace one lost in the storm. It feels great to have a recliner again. Yes, I did manage to take a snooze in my recliner. I even let David Kilbern sit in it. I'm so thankful to those who sent money our way so that we did not have to buy any furniture on credit. God bless you for that. I suspect that some of tomorrow afternoon will be re-arranging, getting piles of clothes off of the floor and into dressers, etc. This was Spring Break for John Robert and Claire. JR spent most of his week assisting with home repairs, which was good for him. He wanted to go out to eat and see a movie, so we did that this evening. I'd like to take him somewhere special this summer. This has been a tough year on the kids, too. Maybe that opportunity will present itself. Tonight I spent a good bit of time on the phone with Carla Calhoun, my disaster relief mentor and partner in ministry (www.christiancrisisresources.com) and sister in Christ. She reminded me that there was no permanent link from this blog to that website. We are now scheduled to present information on disaster relief at the Pepperdine Lectures (thanks to Carla's hard work). Some church ought to adopt Carla. She is a wealth of information and experience, having worked for both FEMA and the American Red Cross. So many churches are interested in disaster relief ministries. More and more churches are adding "Disaster Relief Minister" to their staff. Excellent idea - and Carla would be perfect to head that up for some congregation. Late tonight are preparations for tomorrow's service. I hope that there are many people all over the world who will attend worship tomorrow. I hope that they hear a message about Christ. I hope that their hearts are open and that many will be saved. I pray that God's Spirit will bless us at Central and give us energy and hope for the days ahead.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Night on the Coast

I started out my day by finishing painting a table that will go in our living room. I got it many years ago when Paul Franks and I would load up in an old yellow bread truck and make trips across the state collecting items for the Magnolia Bible College auction. This used to be one of the big fund raisers for MBC. Although they made us students work, and we grumbled about it, it really was fun. On one of those trips we picked up this table. It's nothing, as tables go. It is simple, the top has gaps between the boards so there's always some lint or something in there. It was white and had mud-dobber nests on it. And somehow it didn't make it to the auction. I had nothing to do with that, I promise. At the end of the auctions, we are so glad to see things GONE, that there is no desire at all to deal with the leftover items. So I asked someone, and was told I could have the table. Now Paul doesn't seem to remember that I asked anyone for the table. One of us is wrong. I'm not sure who ... it was, after all, almost 20 years ago. I painted that table a nice medium blue color, and that's the only coat it's had for all these years. So today I painted it the color of the wall with the fireplace. It will sit by that fireplace with our television on it. Now why did I tell you all about that table? I don't know. Nostalgia? Boredom? Maybe I thought Garrison Keillor would re-tell it in some imaginative way on The Prairie Home Companion? A bright spot in my day was when one of our deacons, Gary Boswell, called me to meet him at Dough Joe's, our local coffee house. Fortunately for me, Margaret and I were only a block away. She had some errands, so she just dropped me off. I'm sure she would rather have had me go with her, but she didn't say anything. I should surprise her one day and do the opposite of what she expects, but after all these years she knows me too well. Anyway, Joel Jordan and friend Jeff were there, too. So it was a great time talking and drinking coffee and having a moment of fellowship. There are very few relief workers here at this time, and not many scheduled for a while. This always concerns me. We really do need all of the skilled labor that can make it down here to help people. We have materials, and tools, and piles of paperwork relating to homes that need wiring, sheet rock work, plumbing, carpentry, painting, and cleaning up. If you have been considering a mission to the Coast, now is the time you are needed. The church here was blessed by a couple of checks that arrived from churches this week. This kind of support has almost totally disappeared. With Hurricane Season 2006 six weeks away, and so many people yet to get back into their homes, this kind of support continues to be vital. Overall, our needs have not changed much since August 29th. We need manpower and money. There are some work groups coming down in the next few weeks that have not been in touch with us in quite a while. That always makes me think they are not going to come. If you are one of those groups listed HERE that have question marks by your name, let me hear from you please! Dee commented about the geotracker in the sidebar. It is very easy to get and install. Click on the GEOTRACKER link on the bottom of the list, and it should explain everything to you! I love seeing all the places from which people are reading. One night I had about five countries represented there. Someone from Crawford, Texas reads the blog, and also someone from Washington D.C. (Hello, George - why don't you leave a comment?) I'm fascinated by that list ... and for each reader I'm very thankful. I know someone is interested in what is happening on the Coast. And of course there's my mother, who has only recently become an avid reader of the blog. Yes, I told her about it a long time ago ... but you know how old people are, they just don't adjust to change very easily. (I'm going to hear about that one!) I don't think my brother reads the blog. I don't talk about hunting, fishing, taxedermy, or wilderness trips, so he's out. Some of Maggy's family read every day. I'm rambling a lot tonight. I enjoy the comments when you leave them. Of course, there's no charge for reading and not commenting. I hope you have a great weekend. I'll do my best to post again tomorrow. For now, I have a container of Blue Bunny Peanut Butter Panic ice cream that is calling out to me. Does my Weight Watcher leader read this blog? Shiver.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thursday Night on the Coast

Today was quite a contrast to the past few days. I started painting an old table we were able to save from the flood. I'll finish it tomorrow. We mostly worked on getting everything out of the den so that the crew could start work on the tile floor in there today - which they did. How exciting to make so much progress so quickly. At the same time I overheard a man at the post office say that he was moving out of his camper. His friend asked him if his house was finished. He replied that it was not, but one bedroom was, and that was enough. Marvin and the Tulsa Crew met a waitress at Waffle House that had her house gutted, but nothing else done to it yet. So we rejoice and are thankful for all help we receive, and at the same time we recognize that there is much yet to do. The California crew will head home in the morning, and we will have only a few here for the next week or so. I did find the owner of that digital camera. I'm glad to get it back to him - when I can get around to it! Tonight we watched The Chronicles of Narnia (first time for me and Maggy). What a beautiful epic. I am so glad I watched it. We also watched Mark Lowery Goes to Hollywood. Great gospel music and some good laughs made that a great choice. I can't remember when I spent an evening just watching television. It really has been a long time. I'm preparing for Resurrection Sunday. Growing up I only recall sermons about how we do not recognize holidays. I am glad that many churches have abandoned that opinion and have used these special days to draw attention to Jesus in a powerful way. Why should the fictional easter bunny get all the attention? Let the reigning Savior and Sovereign Lord be glorified in His church forevermore!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Baptism At The Beach

Today, repairs continued at my house until Larry and Cecil just couldn't go any farther. How can I say thanks to these two precious brothers? They have brought us along so far, and made our list of things left to do a very short one. This afternoon one of the girls that is here with the Sierra Pines group from California requested to be baptized in the gulf. So we traveled down to the beach and helped this young lady find a place for Christ in her life. It was a beautiful moment! Marvin's message tonight was so heart-touching. He talked about "Going Home" to heaven. I hope you will listen to his messages, now posted on our church website (www.123Jesus.com). Tonight's was very special. I will be sad to see them go, but I do understand! They are coming back in June to help someone else! This coming Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, and I look forward to being with our Central Family. The following Sunday I will be speaking in the morning at the Elba, AL church of Christ. In the PM I will be speaking at the Enterprise, AL church of Christ. Come on out if you are in the area!

Wednesday Morning on the Coast

I haven't been sharing any news from the hurricane relief front, because I haven't been around the church building much these past few days. The Tulsa Crew is doing an awesome job getting some work done at our house. I doubt I can list everything, but here are a few things they have done this week: placed the quarter-round in the dining and living rooms, worked on door trim, hung four doors and replaced knobs, ran the wiring for a new microhood and placed it in place, put up some wood and trimmed it out in a place that the sheetrock folks missed, replaced the shutters on the house, cut out a dead bush and extended the front brick garden, replaced the outside porch lights, cut our shrub bushes way back, trimmed some trees in the yard, and probably some other stuff. Pretty good, huh! Today they will replace the back bathroom commode and maybe do a few other things. I will be sad to see them go tomorrow! In the picture above, Marvin directs Cecil and Larry. Now Cecil and Larry do not need direction, but we all have our gifts. It has been fun having Craig Hicks around also. He has such a great humor and a big heart for everyone. He and JR hung the shutters and replaced the outside lights. They are going to do some more work in the yard today. The boys wanted to play Monopoly last night, so Craig, myself, JR, AJ, and Joel Jordan played for quite a while. Craig and I were the only ones paying much attention to the game. At one point we each took about four turns while the other ones were so distracted they didn't even know it. So not long after that we decided it was a draw and put it all up. Also during the day yesterday Marvin had the opportunity to use his chainsaw, which is one of his favorite things to do. We don't have many trees left to cut up. Rod Tate, Al Sanders, and Bill from Kentucky and their crews came in right after the storm and took care of most of that. I'm sure that the farther West you go, the more of this kind of work there is to do. Marvin's lesson last night was simply good old fashioned gospel preaching. It really did my soul well! His topic was "What's the Hurry?", and he talked about the urgency of obeying the gospel. I have Marvin and Craig's lessons available for a list on our website at www.123Jesus.com. I did manage to get away for an hour yesterday and enjoy some coffee and conversation with Daved Baker, which is always a joy. Tomorrow the Tulsa Crew will make that long trek back to Oklahoma and our house will be so much closer to completion. We are so thankful for these brothers who wanted to come and help us. They will be back in June with even more people, and for that I am so grateful. One of the groups scheduled for this week did not show up. Just a note to the groups: It always helps us for you to remind us of your current numbers, expected arrival and departure dates, and skills. If you have to cancel, just let us know! I would say that 95% of the groups show up when they say they are, with the number they projected, and are ready to work! I read a statistic yesterday that 99,000 people in Mississippi live in 36,000 FEMA campers. I want to encourage churches everywhere to begin to prepare for hurricane season 2006. On the Coast we are in the most vulnerable position we have ever been in. We have learned a lot of lessons. We are still learning. Even a small hurricane will do double damage and set us back even further. I think (hope) that Christians across the U.S. are more conscious than ever of the need to do relief work. Check out www.christiancrisisresources.com for disaster updates, requests for help, and opportunities to serve. There is information there about people in Tennessee who need help right now. Service is not a summer project but a lifestyle for Christians. We are learning as we go. God bless all of you for reading!

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Rebirth of Robert

Today was a day of working around the house, running to Lowes with Craig, and making some visits with Marvin. Marvin is such a natural with people, and I wish I could be more like him. It was a good day, that ended with a wonderful blessing! Tonight Marvin preached the beautiful and simple gospel of Christ. His message was "It's Life or Death". I will try to post it in the next day or so! As a result of the sermon there were some requests for prayer and our friend Robert was baptized into Jesus. Robert is a big fellow (and so am I), and he towers over me. I took Robert home after worship. He lives in a camper that is not much bigger than he is. His home is destroyed in a flood, as was much of his clothing. Pray for Robert as he begins this new part of his journey. Pray also that our church will reach out to him and offer him the love and Family that he needs. We look forward to getting to know Robert better. Afterwards I went to the Boswells where Craig, Gary, and I stayed up MUCH too late for people our age. Tomorrow we will need lots of coffee - again! But we do not do this often. It's quite a joy. Fellowship really is sweet.

One Fine Day

Yesterday was a great day on the Coast! Marvin Phillips of Tulsa, Oklahoma did his usual outstanding job Sunday morning for the message. We were so blessed to hear this veteral gospel preacher share his heart with us and encourage us in the work God has given us with Hurricane Katrina. This was followed by another outstanding presentation by Craig Hicks, also of Tulsa. We had a great crowd, although there were no large groups of hurricane relief workers in town. That felt good. Gary and Loree Boswell hosted the Tulsa crew at their house, along with my family, for a wonderful lunch. Loree is an excellent cook, and a gracious hostess. Gary and Rochelle Harper played some songs for us. Gary has written a song about the hurricane relief workers that tugs at your heart strings. I know if it was ever released it would be a major hit. All of us were being crybabies as they finished that song. They played a few more originals for us, then we sat down to a feast! The afternoon was spent talking until it was time to go to Orange Grove church of Christ for the Area Wide Teen Devotional. Craig was the speaker, Bill Collins led singing. Another super night! Afterwards Gary, Craig, and I sat up until after midnight talking ... so I'm going to need extra coffee today! Larry and Cecil from Tulsa will be back at work at my house today. We had a crew of 18 or so from California arrive last night. In addition, a youth group from a Baptist church in Calgary, Alberta Canada should arrive tonight sometime. There are a few other individuals, but that's the groups we have here now. We have a large stack of papers that are completed work orders. This wonderful evidence of the beautiful work of volunteers over the past several months is a testimony to the love of God's people for those who are hurting! It is also a rich resource of contacts that we need to revisit and encourage. Are there some ministers ... or people with compassionate and evangelistic hearts ... that would help us revisit these contacts? This is a truly rich missionary opportunity. Anybody want to work with the harvest? (Can you believe I have to ask?!?!) I have a few pictures, but blogger is being bad today. Maybe I can upload them later. They are all on my picture page (see link to the right) already. Watch for Marvin and Craig's sermons on our website at www.123Jesus.com! That is a way that you can share in our fine day we had yesterday with God's Family!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Fellowship and Service

Today started off with a country breakfast at Cracker Barrell along with Marvin Phillips, Craig Hicks, Cecil & Larry, and Gary Boswell. Gary had some things to do, so after breakfast all of us travelled over to my house to begin looking at what was left to be done. Cecil and Larry are both housebuilders and they know what they're looking at. They made a long list and we headed to Lowes for a shopping adventure. Anytime you have Craig and Marvin set loose in a store, it is an adventure. One of the jokes of the day was to do something that would be mentioned on the blog. The time in Lowes left us hungry, so we stopped by Dough Joe's for Kolaches and Coffee and Smoothies. It was a great relaxing and talking time. Then it was to the house! Everyone got to work. Marvin and Craig, me, JR, Maggy, and even Claire were doing yard work while Robbie, Cecil, and Larry started putting up doors. They got two doors installed, and started work on a third one. Craig tried to wear a branch for a hat. I don't know why. We met up with the Boswells at Big R's and had a great seafood dinner before heading to our homes. I spent some time visiting with some of our volunteers tonight and here I am blogging! We are so looking forward to tomorrow! Marvin Phillips and Craig Hicks will speak at Central. Craig will also speak at Orange Grove Church of Christ in Gulfport Sunday night. Marvin will also speak Monday - Wednesday nights at 7:00 - everyone come and visit! On the one hand, it is so neat to see Craig and Marvin and spend time with them. They have been friends for a long time and I love them dearly. On the other hand, they are here to work. They especially want to help me. I have expressed many times that this is a humbling thing, and a joyful thing for me. I'm so grateful to have friends who would travel 13 hours just to do some home repairs at my home. This makes me want to travel elsewhere and do something for someone else. A new project I've been working on has to do with serving others in crisis. I have built a website HERE that I hope can become a portal used by churches and individuals alike to find information and help in times of need. Thanks to Carla Calhoun, my disaster relief mentor, for all of her help in assembling an excellent library of links. Because of all of the help we have received, I am wanting to go to places that are having a crisis (such as Tennessee with the tornadoes) and offer some help. Perhaps one way to help is to make others aware of the needs and help to connect them. In the mean time, Marv and friends are here until Thursday morning. We have a group of 18 coming tomorrow from Calfornia, and a group of 25 from Alberta Canada Monday. The rest of April and the first half of May are pretty slow in terms of volunteers. The last part of June and the first part of July are also pretty light. Those might be some good times to plan trips, if you are thinking about it! I hope your Sunday is a wonderful one, and that God helps you to know His love and presence in your life.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

They Would Rather Work

Today I only went to the church building for about an hour, and that was to carry Claire to the Spring Bible School. I spent the day doing some things I needed to catch up on, and of course there are never enough hours in the day to do all we would like to do. Margaret spent much of the day helping out at the dining hall. I did go to Ocean Springs and enjoy a lunch with Al Sturgeon, Cornel Johnson, and Trent Bryant. Our 'preachers meetings' are mostly fellowship times where we talk and eat. Several of our Coastal preachers have developed a rich friendship. We enjoy being together, and that's a blessing. Someone was missing today. Actually several someones (but I won't name names!), but a special someone to me. Roger Mills is ending his second term as preaching minister for the Rodenberg Church of Christ in Biloxi. It hurts me to see Roger move, because I've wasted so many opportunities to learn from this wonderful Christian gentleman. I really cannot ennumerate all the ways that Roger has blessed my life. He is a true lover of the Church and Christ and all people. Roger was a hurricane victim twice. He was in Homestead, Florida when Hurricane Andrew decimated that town. He was in Biloxi when the now infamous Katrina came ashore. In his mid-70's, Roger is still a soul winner. He has slowed a bit, his diabetes and other health problems are taking their toll on his body. But his smile has never faded, and his youthful humor has not diminished. His beautiful Thelma has her own health problems. I'm very happy that Roger was the speaker for our last Coastwide Worship Service last year. It was a shining moment for him. And now they are moving to Florence, Alabama. No one can blame them, but we will all miss them. Roger has called me more than once to inquire about how I am doing and to pray with me. We have cried over the phone together, and in prayer, more than once. If I live thirty more years, I hope I will be a lot like Roger Mills. He would rather work for Jesus than anything else in the world. And now the Rodenberg Church of Christ in Biloxi is in need of your earnest prayers. Shaken by Katrina, left without a minister, and the leaders are tired. Looking at the images of Biloxi, I'm wondering what courageous soul will be willing to move into the area. The small struggling church needs a strong, loving, supportive, and patient family to come and work with them. It will have to be someone who would rather work than find peace and quiet sequestered away in an office. The teens from Southern Acres Christian Church will eat breakfast in the morning, make one last visit to an invalid man they have been helping, then head over to Gulf Shores, Alabama for some recreation. After that, they are scheduled to begin the long journey home. I promise I heard some of them say that they would rather stay and work than go to the beach. These are teenagers, some of whom did not want to go on a "mission trip" to begin with. Their hearts have been broken by the Spirit, who has created within them a love for others that now drives their thoughts. Several of them mentioned wanting to come back again to work. I've heard that before. I've seen it happen. This group is so expressive of their love, and I am thankful for their manner. They gave our congregation $2900.00 tonight, and we were just in awe at their gift. Jeff Campbell is one of our 'regulars' ... for lack of a better term. He is from Michigan. He was instrumental in acquiring the dining hall for us. He was recently immersed into Jesus Christ and has been a super helpful man around the building. He oversees our tools distribution and keeps up with supplies. Since we feed and house Jeff, his needs are few, but he does have needs. He is currently needing a sponsor to help him with $50 a week (or a few sponsors). This is so that he can continue to do volunteer work for the Central Church. In the picture is Jeff with David Kilbern, the night that David baptized Jeff. Let me know if this is something you would like to do. He would rather do volunteer work for us, than to get a job outside the church. For now, that is a very useful thing for the progress of the effort. Thanks to Chris Lockhart for bringing over a deep freeze for us today, paid for by someone somewhere. We continue to be humbled and suprised at the details God continues to work out in our lives. A few jumping off spots here: Danny Dodd's blog post today about connecting is very good - with wonderful remarks about our work here. Jim Martin doesn't mention our work here ... in so many words ... but his thoughts on the Messy Church fit us like an old familiar glove.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Caution: God Working

I find myself falling short of communicating just what a powerful experience we are having on the Coast. In so many ways the work of God is evident on a daily basis. The lives that are being touched, the progress that is being made in our community, and the hearts that are being healed just push the limits of my incredulity at times. I meant to get a picture of Allen today, but I'll try tomorrow. Allen was discovered living behind a dumpster by Project Recovery (outstanding workers in our community). Allen cannot speak, but he can hear very well. He has found friends, shelter, love, and hopefully Jesus Christ while here. He was very alert in worship tonight. David Kilbern and I talked tonight about the families that are being affected positively through service here in the community. It is also true that there are a number of our members who choose not to be involved in the outreach. It really is hard to believe, when we have been given so much. I would like to report that our church has experienced a revival and all of the members are just on fire for God! However, it is still those faithful few that we have always counted on who are making things happen. I'm so thankful for these servant hearts. They are heroes who deserve to be honored and recognized, but they never search for that kind of acknowledgment. Yet the impact of the mission here on the hearts of young and old alike is unmistakable. I wonder if a revolution of service isn't being spread throughout the country as people come from far away to work here, then head home with a renewed spirit. It very well could be that God is using the Central Church of Christ as a theatre of service, discipleship, and community so that people who work here can go out into the nation and spread what they learned here. If that sounds overly dramatic to you, all you have to do is watch the kids who come in as they are transformed from their comfort zones to the recovery zone, and later cry because they do not want to go home. I wish we had a database of those who have been here multiple times from far away. Why do they keep coming back? Lest it sound like I'm bragging, I'm as baffled about this as anyone. How is it happening? It has to be a God-thing. I was able to spend some time with David Kibler today. David is a youth minister from the Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. David's journey to the Kingdom is truly an inspiration. His group is almost 60 in number, and they are doing a lot of great work. He walked through fire to get his group here, and now they are so thankful for what he has done. David preached tonight at Central, and let me say that it was one powerful message from a heart devoted to God. I have placed the audio on OUR WEBSITE because I want more people to hear it. It was very touching and challenging. Through his tears David broke open his heart and stood before us as a man healed by God's grace. Other groups will be coming from Southern Acres later in the summer. And I have to mention that at the end of David's prolific message, the youth group from Southern Acres got up and sang a song for us. This might not seem like such a big deal, but you have to realize that these brothers and sisters are used to having musical backup. They worked hard to prepare an acappella selection for us. What a beautiful sacrifice of time and energy, and love for God's people, was on display. This is not a great picture, but maybe it conveys the love that was expressed tonight. Joann is overseeing the work of the teens on the Spring Bible School. The teens wanted to do this VBS themselves, and they have done it all. Joann told me tonight that this was the first time she had been a part of an acappella worship service. She was very complimentary of the singing, as were others. Unfortunately, one of the team members has had a sister-in-law to pass away in Kentucky. He is feverishly trying to find round trip airline tickets to get there for the funeral, and back. He is being depended upon to drive one of the vans back to Kentucky Saturday morning. Two groups headed back home today ... to Fayetteville and Cumming Georgia. I didn't get to say goodbye or thanks to them, but I hope they know how much we appreciate all that they did for us. Two of my favorite people will arrive in town Friday evening from Tulsa: Marvin Phillips and Craig Hicks. Craig called tonight while my phone was off and left a message. Craig, the answer to your question is 2.5 hours, if you're reading this. It's too late to call I guess. I'll leave you with a laugh that was sent to me by a friend who may not want to be identified! He can own up in the comments if he wants to. Just go HERE and have a laugh. Don't forget to watch the commercial!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tuesday Night

Today has been off-center for me most of the day. I think I'm just a little tired. I'm going to bed early tonight. But since so many of you check so faithfully, I thought I'd fill you in on my day a bit. I spent much of the day on the phone. I talked to Craig Hicks and got him lined up to speak at Central Sunday morning during class time, and at Orange Grove (Gulfport) Sunday night for the area wide youth meeting. I talked with Karen Potter, who is coming to work here on the Coast for the entire summer. I talked to Roger Mills, my dear friend and fellow preacher who is moving soon to Florence, Alabama. I talked to Danny Dodd, who is the best person to call when you just want to talk, because he is a redneck and I can identify with him. I talked to Paul Franks, who is always a lively conversationalist, even while he is sitting in his easy chair. (My easy chair is on order!) I probably talked to 40 other people, but can't remember. I didn't call Carla back. I did think about calling Chris, but never had time. And I can't remember if I talked to my mom today, but I try to do so daily. Cingular loves me. I tried to catch Gary K. on Skype tonight, but didn't see him. Hope his seminar went well. Maybe he'll update HIS BLOG soon. I had a coffee conclave with Daved Baker again today at Dough Joe's Coffee House. He is guiding me along in a little project that I will talk about here on the blog one day soon. We continued with a VBS type program - Spring Bible School tonight. I saw Rocky, youth minister from Cumming, Georgia who is here working hard with his group. I always regret not having time to spend with these wonderful youth leaders. When I walked out of the house this morning, I saw some of our crew down the street working. So I went down and timed everything perfectly so that I only had to offer to tote the last piece of sheetrock into the house. I got lots of credit and did little work. There's something to be said for that, when it comes to sheetrock. One of my neighbors told me he was depressed, but he didn't know it. His doctor told him. I know, some doctors are just out to create a problem ... but I think this is common. We're probably all depressed about what has happened to us, how long it's taking to get life back on track, how many people are not going to make it out of their FEMA campers alive, and the impending hurricane season. We all deal with our emotions in different ways. I stay busy. It's not really denial (I guess), I just talk a lot and help people all I can, and pray, and know that God is with me no matter what. I try to laugh a lot, and share laughter with others. Not everyone does so well, and we're reminded of that from time to time. Today I talked with a brother that I love who has a problem with alcohol. He's not from here and I haven't known him a long time, but he was stoned out of his mind. He served in Iraq and came home to find everything gone... house, possessions, girlfriend. He's had periods of sobriety, but this isn't one of them. I hugged him and I said, "Don't you ever forget, God is near." He looked at me with bloodshot tear-filled eyes and said, "But where? Where is He?" I said, "He's right here and He has never left you, never. And He never will. I believe it with all my heart, and you believe it too." Sometimes you just have to hear it from someone who really knows it to be true. We took him to the VA hospital and I hope they can get him some counseling along with medical treatment. How many people in our community are just like him, though ... sequestered behind their walls ... drinking their days away? How many are just like him on the inside, but on the outside are smiling and pretending to be OK? Most of us are between those extremes. We probably all need some counseling down here on the Coast. What do you think? Can someone be depressed and not even know it? Ok, just a cultural note here before I go to bed. Has anyone seen the trailer for the United Flight 93 movie? This was hard for me to watch. I think when I am old I will look back on my life and note that two of the existential shifts in my heart were brought about by tragedy: 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. Maybe there are more to come, I'm only 42! I noticed after 9-11 that I cried a lot more than I used to. I thought maybe I was just getting older and more sentimental. But I do not think so. I couldn't watch horror movies and the graphic news shows turned my stomach. After Hurricane Katrina, I feel that my life has been changed forever. I will detail some of those ways soon, as I work through them. But watching a graphic movie about Flight 93 ... I don't know. I think I will just end up weeping out of sadness for these people and their families, and feeling in awe of their heroism. What do you think? Is this movie a good idea or not? I look forward to God's suprises tomorrow!

Tuesday Morning on the Coast

I'll be a morning blogger today, I guess! Last night we had our first event for children following Katrina. Spring Bible School runs through Thursday night. (Picture Above: Craft Time at Bible School. Joann is in blue shirt at the end of the table.)The teens from the Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky are doing all the work. They decorated our auditorium, did puppets, songs, crafts, and Bible stories. Seven kids were present. Perhaps there will be more tonight. Joann is a sister who is overseeing the Bible School, and she was so excited to see seven in attendance. SACC is a thousand members, with three worship services each Sunday morning ... so I was touched that she was not disappointed with the seven students. Last night Danny R. Jones brought in the chairs from Greenwood, MS. (Not to be confused with friend Danny Jones who oversees Sardis Lake Christian Camp! That's why this Danny uses the "R"!) We appreciate his interest and his willingness to be such a helper. Danny is from the Hernando, MS church of Christ. He has been to Gulfport several times to help out with their relief effort. We can now put away some of the student desks we had for people to sit in and replace them with nice padded chairs. I think we have some more chairs coming from somewhere else, but I am uncertain when they will get here. I digitally recorded Sunday morning's sermon called, "Does Jesus Think It Was Worth It?". If you wish, you can download and listen to that sermon on our church website at www.123Jesus.com . My friend Mike Kjergaard, who preaches at Cedar Creek Church of Christ in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was attending a church's second anniversary. It was a church that Cedar Creek helped to support, and he wanted to be there to celebrate with them. The preacher, during his message, talked about being at this church on the Coast that had 31 nights of preaching. He went up to the preacher afterwards and said, "are you talking about Central Church of Christ in Pascagoula?" The preacher couldn't believe that Mike knew that. The Saltsman family was down here last week for a few days helping out. I didn't even know he was a preacher! Anyway ... it's a small world ... but it's neat to see those connections being made! Today we have a shortage of ladies to work in the kitchen. Two ladies that usually help have gone to Tennessee to a funeral. One of our ladies has been sick all night. One lady who might usually help fill in is also sick. These are the kinds of things we learn to deal with as we go! I've volunteered to help in the kitchen as needed. I'll do one last call ... if anyone has left a super nice digital camera in Pascagoula, you need to e-me or call me soon! Transfer of ownership is about to take place.! It was actually left in my van at some point. A friend found it under the seat! I still encourage ministers to come down and spend a week doing mission work. Very few will take me up on the offer. There are literally hundreds of visits that need to be made. These are visits to people that we have helped in significant ways, who would welcome a visit from us. So I again make my appeal! If you are not a "minister" on staff with a church, but perhaps a retired brother or sister who loves to talk to people, come on down! I guarantee you'll meet some of the most awesome people in the whole world!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Prayers and Friends

I guess it is just a matter of being a storm victim, but my heart is going out to the families in Arkansas and Tennessee who lost their loved ones and homes in storms last night. To tell you the truth, I have a big desire to be right there with them and to offer a helping hand. Are any of us ready for these kinds of crises? As we approach hurricane season 2006, I wonder if any of us are ready for the inevitable. I noticed in the picture below that there is a damaged church of Christ building. I believe this is in Arkansas somewhere.

Unrelated to the above, I did have some pictures from yesterday in Brookhaven that I want to share with you. The first one is of Otis and Sandra Bowman and their boys, Matthew and Zachary. Last time I saw them they were little kids ... growing up so fast. Otis does a great job as the preaching minister for the Johnson Grove Church of Christ in Brookhaven. Sandra is a nurse, mother, preacher's wife, and excellent conversationalist!

I met Otis and Sandra years ago. Once during an ice storm when we all lived in Kosciusko, MS we went over and stayed with them, because for some reason they had heat and no one else did. I know Sandra's family and have considered them my friends for many years. In fact, Sandra has a brother that attends Johnson Grove....

His name is Doug Kimble, and is pictured to the right with his wife Kathy and their son Matthew. (I hope I'm getting all the kid's names right!). Doug has been a preacher, youth minister, and handyman in his life. For many years he preached for the Mt. Zion Church of Christ, also a country church outside of Brookhaven. I once held a meeting there and enjoyed it so much. He currently works at the Nissan plant north of Jackson. Kathy is a school teacher. I remember their wedding in Senatobia, MS ...I think it was in August. Because the air conditioner kept blowing the candles out, they decided to cut it off. (No one asked me, but I would have suggested blowing the candles out!). I also think Doug and Kathy sang a song to each other in the ceremony, and I think it was "Only God Could Love You More." Amazing the things I have filed away in my mind. Now where did I put my wallet?

Johnson Grove is an interesting church. They have a heritage in the non-Sunday School segment of our brotherhood. But interestingly, they always had a softball field, used NIV pew Bibles, and built a gym. I think they now have Bible classes and a vibrant and lovely building in the country. I think the inside is about as pretty an auditorium as I have ever seen. I know several members at this church, including R. J. and Dorothy Redd. Sister Dorothy passed away a few years ago. R. J. looks good. They are so kind and gentle. Their granddaughter, Melissa, is married to David Taylor. David and Melissa have been friends for decades. They now live in Grenada, MS. David's father is Don Taylor, who teaches at Freed-Hardeman University. Melissa's mom and dad are backbones of the Johnson Grove church. Melissa's sister, Tara, has a beautiful new baby. Faulkner University instructor Don Myers is from this church, and he is a wonderful teacher and preacher. For many years Wendell Davis was the minister of this church and at the same time he served as minister of the Mount Olive Church of Christ just a few miles away. He also served as an elder in both churches - at the same time - another unusual fact about this interesting congregation.

Most churches of Christ do not have stained glass, but Johnson Grove has beautiful stained glass along it's auditorium sides and in front of the auditorium. They have about 150 in attendance on Sunday Mornings. I took an upclose picture of the glass in the front of the auditorium, so I'll share that with you.

Last but not least, I want to mention that Margaret's brother, Dickey, and his wife Jan came up to visit with us during this short appointment. Several of us went out to eat together at Broma's in Brookhaven (owned by a member of one of the churches of Christ in the area). Dickey and Jan live in McComb, and have for many years. They attend the McComb Church of Christ, along with Jan's mother (and many others). Jan is from the McComb area and has many kinfolks around Central Mississippi. It was a joy to see them. She prepared a hanging basket with some petunias for us to bring home. I dont' know if Dickey and Jan read my blog, but I know Margaret's other sister and husband (Carol and Johnny) and her other sister (Kathy) read regularly, so I'll include a picture of Dickey and Jan also!

Well, I'm getting tired here! Someone in the last post asked for pictures of Craig Hicks. Since this is an anonymous request, I'm wondering if that wasn't Craig Hicks himself requesting that! There will be plenty of him next week as he and Marvin Phillips and others head down to do preaching and relief work!

I may still blog tonight ... this is just a bonus post. Remember to pray for the tornado victims from last night ... that has to be an incredible experience.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

From McComb, Mississippi

This morning at Central we had a great assembly - a packed house. Lots of new hurricane relief workers are in and getting geared up for a big week. I am so excited by the energy of these young people. I wish they could know how truly meaningful it is for them to come and help us. After worship this morning, Maggy and I went to the house to prepare to drive up to McComb, Mississippi, where we are staying tonight. I set all of my clothes for tomorrow out, and then promptly left them on the bed! I preached for the Johnson Grove Church of Christ tonight. It is located just out of Brookhaven. The minister and wife are Otis and Sandra Bowman. Another friend of mine, Doug Kimble and his wife Kathy are members of this church. I have pictures, but didn't bring my mechanism that lets me download them. I'll post them tomorrow, Lord willing. I can't believe how grown the Bowman and Kimble children are! Thanks to Otis and Sandra for buying supper for us tonight. It was great to see them and Kathy. I saw lots of old friends tonight. Also in attendance were Maggy's brother Dickie and his wife, Jan. It was great to see so many people and share our story with them. At Johnson Grove I met a lady who was crying big tears after worship. A kindred soul because she is also a Katrina survivor. She is from Venice, LA, a place where there is still no power and no access. We hugged each other, knowing that we had a common experience, and a common Lord. I did record both this morning's message and tonight's message, and hope to have them up on the net at some point soon. I'm too tired to do that tonight, though. It's been a long day, and a good day. We'll head back home tomorrow after breakfast. Hope your Sunday was a great one. Let's have an awesome week!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saturday Night on the Coast

This morning got off to a slow start. While everyone slept a little later than usual, I caught up on some e-mails. We finally headed to Mobile and finished a good bit of our furniture shopping. GULP! Thanks to those of you who have sent some financial support to my family, we were able to pay for it without running up any credit. Thanks also to Chris Lockhart for his consultation in these matters. It should be delivered in three or four weeks. Thanks also to all of you for your input on the IPOD world, I sure didn't know much about it. I haven't gotten one yet, but I hope to sometime down the road. About eighty young people entered our world today. They are looking forward to serving the helpless along the Coast. I appreciate so much their love for God and for strangers to do this. We are so blessed to have such a spirit coming in to be a part of the work. We should have a good crowd at Central tomorrow and I'm looking forward to preaching. After church, Maggy and I will head to Brookhaven, Mississippi. The Johnson Grove Church of Christ has for many years been a friend to our family. This church provided a heating / cooling unit for our flooded home. We were so thankful for their love and interest in helping us get back into our home. Otis and Sandra Bowman are the minister and wife there. We're looking forward to seeing many old friends at Johnson Grove tomorrow night. If you are in the area, come on out at 7:00! Monday - Wednesday nights we will have a Spring Bible School for k-6th graders. This will be our first time to try something like this, so I'll let you know how it goes. Several other churches have offered to do a VBS type program here ... but we have several limitations which require us to make it a kind of youth rally for kids. I'm thankful that the group from Lexington, KY wants to do this, and I hope it is a great success! Next Sunday will be special as Marvin Phillips and Craig Hicks will speak at Central. Marvin will speak during the worship hour and Craig will speak during the Bible class hour. Marvin will also speak Monday - Wednesday nights. If you're in the area, it's worth the trip to see these brothers preach! So, even though the 31 nights of preaching is over, there's plenty of work still going on. We are not giving up! "... the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world..." (1 John 4:4)