Sunday, July 30, 2006
Today was a great day for Central, as four men were appointed to serve as elders. In front of a auditorium full of members, visitors, and relief workers, Jim Ingram, David Kilbern, Jim Wetherington, and Gary Boswell were entrusted with the leadership of the Central Church of Christ. Jim Ingram was serving as an elder before the storm, and has now resumed those duties. His leadership, however, continued to remain strong in the intervening months. Jim's father was an elder in the Memphis area many years ago. Jim is an excellent Bible Class teacher and has been in charge of our Correspondence Course Ministry for several years. Jim recently retired from Northrup-Grumman Ship Yard. David Kilbern has established himself as a man among men, a brother with strong leadership skills, a compassionate heart, and a willingness to serve. No doubt tales of David Kilbern's work with hurricane relief have spread across the land with each group that returns home. David and Elaine have, for many years been known as people of service, bringing food to the ill and visiting the elderly. David retired from over thirty years of work at Cable One. He now owns a charter boat business that he hopes to return to one day, when Pascagoula has recovered from Katrina. Jim Wetherington is the youngest appointee. He has served as a deacon for several years. Jim was converted to Christ here in Pascagoula and has been a faithful member for many years. He is a martial arts teacher on occasion. Jim and his wife Julia have served as Sunday School teachers. Though his work schedule keeps him busy, he is involved in many facets of church life. Jim works at Northrup-Grumman Ship Yard. Gary Boswell has also served as one of our deacons for many years. Gary has distinguished himself as our worship leader, a Bible class teacher (as well as his wife, Loree), and someone who works with young people in an exceptional manner. Gary and Loree are excellent hosts, often housing relief workers and others in need of lodging. Gary has been guitar player for the Band of Faith / The Rochelle Harper Band for the past several years. He composed a song honoring the relief workers called, "They Came". Marvin Phillips heard that song, took it to Tulsa, and someone up there put pictures with it and we now have a DVD that we share with those who come to work with us. Gary is employed at Seemann Composites in Gulfport. This morning we read several scriptures that relate to elders and their work, as well as our responsibility to the elders. Then the elders and their families came to the front of the church and we prayed for each of their families by name. The church expressed their apprecation with 'amens' and applause. It was a wonderful time of affirmation. I'll try to get a picture of the new elders asap. This afternoon I spent some time catching up on some lost sleep, reading, and watching TV. It was a nice change of pace! It was also very cool that CMT was running a Hee Haw marathon, and I was able to catch several country music superstars performing in earlier times. The corny humor did make me laugh a few times, which I hate to admit! One of the groups was unable to come down to the coast, so we have about 80 workers here now, with 20 going home Tuesday morning. Our last relief workers on schedule will head home on August 18th. That's not too far away. It's a funny feeling to look down on the work crew report and see that there are times with no workers. This is the first time that I recall since workers started arriving on our Coast after Katrina. I know God will provide, and so many tell us that they are coming back. This is not a hand-wringing session at all ... just noticing and thinking. Mary will go home Wednesday. She has been here cooking for about two months. What a great attitude she has. Such a hard working woman. We will miss her - especially the ladies who work so hard to feed our work crews. Margo, her partner, was here at different times during the summer as well, and she is also a great lady. We call them the "M & Ms", and we feel blessed to have them partner with us in this ministry. Please keep us in your prayers as we face new challenges, and each new day brings new surprises. I personally feel so blessed to have shepherds once again leading the congregation. This operation has evolved every step of the way since day one, and this is a great and significant step for us. God bless you, and thanks for your comments ... they mean a lot to me!
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Riches From the Dumpster
It's been a long time since 4:00 a.m.! But here I am at almost 9:30 p.m. and haven't taken a nap - unless you count that stretch of interstate on the way back from Gulfport. Ok, I'm kidding. Mostly. We got all of the workers to their flights on time and it was great to have that last few minutes with them. John Sanders and Gary Boswell helped me drive, since our church bus was at Six Flags in Atlanta this weekend. John Sanders has recently gotten an excellent job and will be staying here in Pascagoula, Praise the Lord! He is a very genuine young man with deep faith. Gary Boswell has been one of our deacons for a long time. His band played last night on the riverfront at Moss Point and he didn't get to sleep until after midnight, but he still got up and helped me drive the folks to the airport. We enjoyed steak and cheese omelets at Waffle House afterwards and as always, our conversation lasted long past our meal. Please say a prayer for tomorrow, as we appoint four new elders for Central Church of Christ. I hope to tell you all about that tomorrow ... but for today ... your prayers are coveted. The group from Brentwood Hills Church of Christ are doing several things this weekend, and with a great spirit. There was a big thunder boomer this morning, and we saw lots of lightning, and finally a downpour. That held us up a bit, but it did cool things off. We need the rain, as does the rest of the country. How valuable is your Bible to you? Did you read today's news story about a man who retrieved a Bible out of a dumpster - in three pieces. He took it home and put it together. It had obviously been near a fire, and had some water damage. But it was printed in 1818, and there are only six known copies of this particular printing left. So far he's been offered up to $900 for the find, but he feels that is not enough for his trash that became treasure. Almost a thousand dollars for a Bible in three pieces, burned and waterlogged? So, when's the last time you picked up your Bible? Have you actually read what it says, or simply relied on what others have said? Are you soaking in His word daily? Today I walked around Lifeway bookstore. I always enjoy looking around in there, although the 'Christian' merchandising is really silly and lame. There's a new book out about Swashbucklers...trying to gain off of the Pirates of the Carribean franchise. I saw "christian" books that used Superman and other movies as takeoffs on Christian thought. I can see doing that on a blog, but do we really need to print that? People might see it. Shiver. Anyway, I'm losing my point here ... all of these books flood the bookstore and we gobble them up. I'm guilty as anyone! Are we reading more McLaren than Matthew? Are we turning the pages of Elderidge more than Ephesians? And yes, N. T. Wright is brilliant, but much less important than THE N. T. That's a silly way to say to all of us, let's keep THE BOOK open at all times. Please remember our need for at least one more fifteen passenger van. I know that not everyone can do this, but I believe in asking. Sometimes, as Scriptures say, 'ye have not because ye ask not.' I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that tomorrow's time of worship will touch your heart and move you to become more like Him than you already are.
Friday, July 28, 2006
It's Later Than I Think
Charlie asks in a comment if I got the paperwork done on that grant, and the answer is YES. I actually felt like I had kicked a field goal. It was a real accomplishment! One of the challenges was getting a letter from the Secretary of State that says that we really are a church. A wonderful lady let me fax in the information. She then got to the legal department in doubletime, and in just an hour or so my information was e-mailed to me in an attachment (and mailed in hard copy). Hopefully our paperwork will arrive on time in the office in Pennsylvania where it belongs on Monday morning - the deadline. Really, this is the product of procrastination, but kindly let's not point that out. After the storm one of our first partners in outreach was the Prattville Church of Christ in Alabama. They have a great pictorial of the work in Pascagoula from the early days located HERE. They were with us in big ways in our neediest hours. One of the ways they offered a great assistance to us was by donating a 15 passenger van. I think that van has seen more action in the past eleven months than most of it's life. Unfortunately, what is commonly known as "the Prattville van" has bitten the dust. We ran the poor thing ragged. We did have a mechanic work on it a few weeks ago and we thought we had it all worked out, but today it broke down on some workers who were returning from Gautier. First, I want to say THANKS to Richard and all the fine folks at Prattville. Then I'm wondering if there are any other churches out there that would like to follow in their footsteps? With the number of workers we have in town at any given time, we are truly strapped for transportation. We do not need anything new, just reliable people movers. The weekend is always a bittersweet time for me. Tomorrow three of the groups that have been here for a week will head back to their homes. They have grown to love us, and we have grown to love them. The homes that they served are occupied by people who stand amazed at the heroes who came to their rescue and did it in the name of King Jesus. Homes are closer to being fully restored. And tomorrow there will be tearful goodbyes. We may never see one another again, even if there are plans for future trips. We all hope to see one another in that beautiful resurrection morning, but we would like to see one another sooner. In the morning about 4:30 a.m. I will be picking up the crew from Tri-County Church of God in Pennsylvania and delivering them to the airport in Mobile. This group had a terrible two-day trip down facing lost luggage, cancelled flights and tickets, and other obstacles. I pray they have a safe journey home. This is a second trip down for some of them. Later in the morning we will take the crew from Hillside Christian Church, also in Pennsylvania, to the airport in Gulfport. The Church of Christ at South Yukon, Oklahoma will begin their long journey home in the morning. The group from Edgemere Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas should be home now. The folks from Robinson Avenue Church of Christ in Springdale, Arkansas are also now home, safe and sound we hope. In all of these sad goodbyes we realize that all of this work, the many providential meetings, the factors that fell into place were all the work of God. Nothing but divine providence could explain the way impossibilities became possibilities. The two greatest impressions I have from the time Katrina came ashore until now are: God Has a Big Family That Cares and God Has Orchestrated His Will Magnificently Through Tragedy. And even as people head home, a new group is here from Brentwood Hills church of Christ in Nashville. Also a couple is here from the Starkville, Mississippi Church of Christ. More are on the way for next week's outreach. One of the couples that came from Pennsylvania spent their entire week visiting people we have served. I think I have 50+ reports of the visits made - in one week! They have some stories to tell, I'm sure. George and Gloria touched some lives in special ways, I know. Perhaps some of you retired couples would like to come down and just talk to people and pray with them? This is as vital a ministry at this point as carpentry and electrical. At this time I'm having some initial e-mails with a brother from Hillsboro church of Christ in Nashville about doing some of this kind of work in November. This coming week will be a fairly heavy one with 120 + workers here to help out. After that, the volunteer group size is much smaller for the rest of the year. This is a good time to begin planning trips to the Coast, if you've been thinking about it. Well, I have to get up about 4:00 a.m. ... and it's after 11:00 p.m. ... it's later than I think! I better get some shuteye. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comments.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Thursday Night on the Coast
Today was a day of unplanned, but welcomed, interruptions. Jim Ingram and I have a standing appointment to visit on Thursdays, but we are doing our best to get the paperwork in for the Bush-Clinton Foundation Grant. So, I made it a goal to do this today, instead of visiting. I called and left a message for Jim and went to my office. There were many interruptions - and I do try not to worry about them. God has a way of putting his nose in my business, which I need and appreciate! Mike came into my office today, nervous about a visit to a governmental office to check on some benefits to which he may be entitled. We prayed together about his anxiety ... and a serious health problem he is experiencing. He then told me he would like me to accompany him on this appointmen, which I agreed to do. I learned a lot about Mike on this trip ... more than I feel comfortable sharing here ... but he is quite an interesting man. One of the brothers from Hillside Christian Church (Pennsylvania) had spent some time explaining the gospel to him yesterday, and as a result he is considering being immersed. At first you might think he is taking it too lightly, but I think Mike is on to something. He said, first, that he would like to be baptized in a river, even though he knows there is no special significance to it. He also would like the whole church to come, and for us to celebrate with hot dogs and chips and cokes. I really do think Mike is ready to celebrate his new life, don't you? Sounds like a scene from Luke 15. On my way to deliver Mike back to the church, David Kilbern called. It seems one of the teenagers who had left the night before left some very important prescription medicine in the refrigerator at Pascagoula. They had made it as far as Baton Rouge, LA. So I agreed to meet them in Slidell, Lousiana. Maggy and I took a road trip over and delivered the medicine. Of course we had to stop at Schaeffer's in Slidell for some seafood and bread pudding. I do not promote it a lot, but I do own a Yahoo Group called "John's Journal". It is an e-mail list that is made up of positive, encouraging materials, prayer requests, and sharing of our burdens. There are no debates and we do not allow anyone to put down another. If you would like to be a part of a list like this, you can check it out HERE. Not all disasters are on the Gulf Coast. Consider what the Modesto church is doing in response to the Heat Wave in California. Buddy Davis is doing an awesome job in coordination. Check it out HERE. I hope you won't be too critical of Danny Dodd's newest post, found HERE.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
We'll Be Back
Tonight we had a good crowd for Central Family Devotional. Will and John Robert did an excellent job of leading singing. We had four different prayer leaders lead us before the Father. I spoke about how offering service to others brings them life, light, and praise (from Matthew 5). Then we had a sharing time, and two relief workers shared what the week here in Pascagoula meant to them. We closed out by viewing Gary Boswell and Rochelle Harpers' DVD called "They Came". "We'll be back." That's what I keep hearing from relief workers from all over the country. I think it's awesome that they come in the first place! They work hard, but never complain. They serve with no strings attached. They give up life at home ... probably time at work ... vacation time ... summer break ... and then they say, "We'll be back." That is so encouraging. One of the older couples from Pennsylvania has spent the week visiting those we have served. They are a true blessing, having a heart of compassion to visit, pray, and love the people of our community. Today I updated my blog page, taking off some dead links, re-linking some blogs that had moved, and adding a few new ones. My mother must be looking over this list and reading some blogs occasionally. She keeps bringing up things from one blog or another. She's been reading John Mark Hicks, Bobby Valentine, and L. V. Mouser....and who knows who else! Of course she reads this blog as well. If she ever figures out how to leave comments, look out! I've noticed lots of people moving their blog over to Word Press. I have noticed that the blogs there look mighty nice. But if a blog isn't on blogger, is it still a blog? Wouldn't it be a faux blog? I'll have to think about that one.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Through The Fire
Both Donna and Ken have asked about some signs in my most recent posts. No, those are not real places. I made a mention a few blogs back about the Generator Blog. In the column to the right you can find all kinds of customizable stuff ... not all pictures. But anyways, I'm just having some fun with some generated graphics. Blur The Lines tour had been cancelled. I had just bought tickets yesterday. I almost never go to concerts, but this one looked like a lot of fun. The Crabb Family has a great song called Through The Fire that really encourages me. I'll share the lyrics with you and say goodnight. Through The Fire So many times I've questioned certain circumstances Things I could not understand Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision Then my frustration gets so out of hand It's then I am reminded I've never been forsaken I've never had to stand the test alone As I look at all the victories the spirit rises up in me And it's through the fire my weakness is made strong (chorus) He never promised that the cross would not get heavy And the hill would not be hard to climb He never offered our victories without fighting But he said help would always come in time Just remember when you're standing in the valley of decision And the adversary says give inJust hold on, our Lord will show up And he will take you through the fire again I know within myself that I would surely perish But if I trust the hand of God, He'll shield the flames again Featuring Jason Crabb and Angie Hoskins Gerald Crabb. © 1999 Lehsem Songs/BMI (admin. by Music & Media International, Inc.)
Monday, July 24, 2006
Rainy Days and Mondays
Today was a catch-up kind of day, after being gone most of last week. One of the people we have gotten to know better since the storm is Mr. Free. I met Mr. Free several times over the years as he would come by the church building for a bag of groceries from our pantry. I always enjoyed talking to him, but never really got to know him. He is at nearly every service at Central since the storm, and in the limited way he is able, has helped as he could. Having suffered some strokes over the past months, his doctor is suggesting that he take up residence in a nursing facility. As an objective outsider, I can see the benefits of this arrangement. Three nutricious meals a day will be healthy. Medical care nearby. There can be further observation for what are almost certain to be complications from his strokes. Physical therapy could restore some of his movement. It's a practical - but heartless - view. Because in spite of all of those things, the loss of dignity, independence, and his current lifestyle will all be lost. And his FEMA camper will be lost. If he is assigned to a home for a certain period of time, they will move someone else into his camper. This is a terrible decision to have to make. Of course Mr. Free does not want to live in a nursing facility. But would that be a better choice? It's tough to think about. David Kilbern told me today that we have given away almost 40,o00 sheets of sheetrock. Isn't that awesome? That's a lot of homes being made new. We have a large crowd here this week, and they are staying busy. My friends in Yukon, OK are Richard and Jeanna Lynn May. Their son Brad is here, and I talked to him today. This high school student spent the morning hanging drywall, and in the afternoon helped wire a house and place recepticles. This will be a great experience for Brad and for the 150 other high school kids here this week. My granddaughter sat in my lap this evening and kissed me on the cheek and said, "Poppy, would you go to Block Buster and rent a movie for me?" Well, we have rented that movie enough to have bought it four times. So smart Poppy said, "Why don't I just go down to Wal-Mart and buy it for you?" She was very happy. Maggy got in on the conversation and started writing a grocery list. So I head out to Wal-Mart. Oh Boy, my favorite place! (Thanks, Charlie!) There was a big rack of those movies right inside the door last week. Now, of course, they are gone. I looked in every bin of DVDs in the place. No sign of the movie, or the second-best movie request she made either. So I picked up Maggy's items and got in line. The 20 items or less line. Now I have to tell you that I NEVER get in that line with 21 items or more ... I am a stickler for this 20 item law ... but no one else is!!! A lady who clearly had 40 or more items was at the front of the line being checked out. Now directly in front of me was a little old lady, nervously glancing around me. She finally told me she was awaiting her daughter and figured she'd be back by the time she got to the register. But she didn't make it. (She was looking for a DVD, I bet!) So the nice little old lady, who had some things in her hands, said, "I'll just let you go ahead of me, and I'll take your buggy to put my items in." OK, sounds reasonable ... but as I'm checking out I'm thinking ... yes, I have less than 20 items, but some of my items are heavy and I no longer have a basket! Snookered by a little old lady. It's happened before...it'll happen again. So I carried my bags out into the parking lot where there was a new rainshower blessing the earth. Well, the asphalt where I was. It was one of those drenching rains ... not a deluge, but big drops that make you soaking wet in the first ten steps. So I laughed in the rain about the woman with 42 items, the lady who thoughtfully took my basket, the movies that couldn't be found, and Big Poppa soaking wet walking fast to his van in the rain at Wal-Mart. All for the love of a beautiful eight year old. Hope your Monday was a good one, and that your Tuesday will be beautiful.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
We had a full house for worship this morning, and it was a great assembly. We had at least three different relief groups with us, which always adds lots of energy and excitement to the time we enjoy together. Today's message can be heard or downloaded HERE. After lunch I went to the church building to wait to hear from Bobby Ross. Carla Calhoun had driven Bobby to Ocean Springs this morning where they worshipped and and enjoyed lunch with the Logan family. By the time I heard from Bobby, the plans that I had set in place had been changed and I realized that I was not going to have the opportunity to show him around the Pascagoula relief effort and introduce him to David Kilbern. Do I hear the Rolling Stones singing, 'You can't always get what you want?' Ah well, it was out of my hands. I did enjoy spending a lot of time with Bobby yesterday.... very much. Tonight we enjoyed a great fellowship time at the Wetherington home. We have been organizing some fellowship times to get our local family back in touch with one another. It has been rewarding to see so many people gather together and share in each other's lives. The last crew from Pennsylvania arrived at the Mobile airport at almost 11:00 p.m. tonight. Doug accompanied me on the journey over, and he was so enjoyable. You wouldn't believe the story of how it took two days for them to get here ... cancelled flights ... cancelled tickets... re-routed destinations ...lost luggage .... awful. But they are here now and we look forward to a great week. We have people here from several states ... and I look forward to the week of service and mission. We also have another crew or two coming in this week. Well, I'm so sleepy...I'm going to end this now ... and look for you tomorrow!
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Across the Coast and Back and then Back Again!
This late night blogging has evolved into an early morning blogging now! I've got to reverse the trend. It's been a long day - but a great day. The first really important thing I did was drive to Gulfport to pick up a crew of workers from Hillside Christian Church in Pennsylvania. This little church has done big things for us over the past months. One of the sisters in the church told me today that we have met most of their church. Incredible! When I got home, I jumped in my van and drove to Bay St. Louis. There I visited with Carla Calhoun, Charlie Buckley, and Bobby Ross. Johnny Hayes, who runs Picayune's relief effort, had just left. He had given Carla and Bobby a view of their work in Poplarville. It is always good to see Charlie. He has the heart of an evangelist, he is dedicated to the bone, and he is full of the love of God. Charlie would never hesitate to tell me if he disagreed with me on some matter we were discussing...but he would never cease to love me as we searched the Scriptures together. After a drive through some Bay St. Louis neighborhoods, Carla went her own way, and Bobby and I went to Biloxi. There were severe storms in the area today. We saw four cars that had hydroplaned off of the road. When we got to Biloxi I called a member of the Division Street church of Christ to come and meet us, and he was willing. He brought their disaster relief coordinator with him, brother Tony. I am so terrible with names...I will tell you more about this church and get the names right at that time. This church is in need of significant help with skilled workers to get them moved ahead. Tony reported that there are still Biloxi residents living in tents. The church members and the church building are still in disrepair. They mostly need funding for warehousing. They cannot receive supplies because they have no where to place them. It was an encouraging visit, as these brothers were loving their community through service, just as Christians should. Bobby had an offer to stay in Ocean Springs, where he will worship tomorrow, but it got very late and the weather deteriorated. He decided to stay at Central. So he accompanied me on the next leg of my trip! Another group was flying in from Pennsylvania, but this group was coming into Mobile, Alabama. So Bobby Ross and I drove over to the airport. It seems the group never got out of Pittsburgh due to a problem with the plane. So they will arrive tomorrow (Sunday). One of their crew, however, flew through Atlanta, and he arrived tonight. His flight was delayed for an hour and Bobby had not eaten all day, so we went to Chili's and enjoyed a meal together. Doug arrived on time, and we brought him back to Pascagoula with us. I enjoyed every minute of today, and look forward to a busy day tomorrow.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Well, here I am up late again. Oh well, it does give me a chance to check out today's WOOT! first thing, in case I want to order it. I have never ordered anything from WOOT, but anytime I have wanted to, I was checking it at 8:00 a.m. and it was already sold out. The item of the day changes at midnight, CST! But I didn't want today's offering. Today I enjoyed long conversations with several people. Having been gone all week there was lots to catch up on. David Kilbern and helpers cooked catfish, boiled shrimp and crabs tonight. I enjoyed seeing some of the groups before they head for home this weekend. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day as two groups arrive from Pennsylvania, one in Mobile, one in Gulfport. Also Bobby Ross from the Christian Chronicle is coming in to do a survey of the situation here on the Coast. It's great to have so much activity and interested individuals showing concern. A few new blogs were added to my blog page today. A few of them are ... David Crowder - Christian Rocker's Daily Blog. Most recently, a movie of someone stealing his mailbox. Generator Blog - for those who want to generate mindless little graphics for their blogs and websites. Not a Christian site, and not everything on there is what I think it ought to be. Think MySpace. Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed - why am I the last one to know about this? I also plan to do a blog-like entry once a week on our church website HERE. Thanks for reading...even at times like these when there isn't much there. I maintain, though, that a lite post is better than no post! Good night my friends!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Late Thursday Night on the Coast
I've got some catching up to do, now that we've arrived safely back on the Coast. Thank you, Lord. Wednesday morning we picked up the kids at the campsite and headed to Nashville. While traveling through the mountains ... Monteagle, I think ... my phone rang. In typical fashion I answered, "This is John." "Hi John, John Turner here. Where are you?" "I'm in Tennessee." "I know, I'm in the van right in front of you!" We had a good laugh at running into each other (not literally) on the road and arranged to meet later that night. Our teens stayed at the Antioch Church of Christ. This church sponsored an event Wednesday night called 'UNITED' on the Lipscomb University campus. It was a devotional / singing time followed by an excellent message from Landmark Church of Christ Campus Minister Nathan Capps. Following a break, there were three musical presentations. The first one was our summer youth intern, Will Collins. The other two were good, but we enjoyed Will the most, of course! Nashville Friend who used to live on the Coast, David White, was present with his wife and son. They are expecting another son in the coming months! It was a fun night. They sold concessions and accepted donations. Proceeds were to go to Katrina recovery missions. During the last few musical presentations, I had a great conversation with my friend John Alan Turner. John Alan and I firt met at Bear Valley School of Biblical Studies, taking a few classes together in the graduate program. His dad, J. J. Turner, was President of the school and I enjoyed getting to know him as well. They are now both in the Atlanta area, although involved in different churches. One of the things I like about John Alan is that we do not have to warm up our relationship after being apart for a long time. We just start talking and time starts flying. John is brilliant, but doesn't let that keep him from being real, funny, and keenly observant. He spoke for our Coast Teen Revival a few years ago and that was a lot of fun for me. I've been trying to get him and his dad on the same Sunday for a while...maybe that'll happen one day. He and Kenneth Boa wrote a book on The DaVinci Code that has done very well. He was in Nashville to teach a class for John Mark Hicks at Woodmont Hills Church of Christ. It was a joy and a blessing to talk him last night. He also brought me and Margaret a Krispy Kreme donut. I think my brother in law and blog reader Johnny Moore just got a craving for one of those! Sorry, Johnny, I already ate it! We had a safe journey home, although it sure did take us a long time. We ran into some severe weather south of Montgomery that slowed us down significantly for a long time. Well, I'm glad to be home. I was looking through some newspapers that came while I was out of town. Because of a conversation with a friend, I decided to look at the houses for rent. Get this: a 3 bedroom 2 bath house, 1300 square feet, $1500 per month. Our next biggest crisis is low income housing ... there won't be any....and there will be thousands of people who cannot afford to live here anymore. By the way, thanks, Charlie, for the comments and pictures of Charlene's house before it was repaired...or as it was being demolished. Well, it's midnight and I'm beat. I'll write again tomorrow, Lord willing.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Wednesday Morning from Tennessee
Yesterday's excursion to Sevierville was a lot of fun for us. We ate at the Applebarn restaurant and visited the shops there. We also visited an Antique store while in that area. We didn't buy anything but sure enjoyed looking at all the items available. I talked with my son late last night and he said that everyone had enjoyed a great day. I think they are ready to sleep in some air-conditioned space! In a few hours we will pick them up and head over to Nashville. Will Collins is playing and singing tonight in a concert on the Lipscomb campus tonight called UNITED (at that link click on EVENTS, and UNITED). A collection will be taken up for Hurricane Katrina victims. We will head home Thursday morning! Alan Way and a large group from Burnt Hickory Church of Christ in Marietta, Georgia recently came to Pascagoula to help with the relief effort. Below is his report, slightly edited, from their weekend on the Coast. ********************************** Extreme Home Makeover God Style Our trip to Pascagoula was grrrrreat! I just wish that everyone had the opportunity to go with us and be God’s hands for a few days. Their were seven of us that went to help, Jan Sessions, Maria Tallbridge, Debra Stephens David Reed, Jeff Randol, Lamar, Cyndi & Kevin Burnham, Andrew Way, and myself. We had the opportunity to help serve God’s people and those around us that need God’s light and Love. Jeff, Andrew & I were the first to arrive on Sunday evening. We staked out a good spot to sleep and got ready for the next day. Our first project was to make bunks for the overflow crowd that was going to be there that week. All totaled there were about 170 people descending on Pascagoula. People came from Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and the great state of Georgia. It was a full house. David Kilburn had his work cut out for him that morning getting all of those people moving in a positive direction. He did a great job. There were people hauling sheetrock to homes, delivering furniture and cabinets, painting, cooking meals, making home visits and doing yard work. Along with all of this activity he was meeting with local, state, and federal leaders trying to plan how the clean up will continue in Pascagoula. He has even been requested to go to Delaware as a consultant to help start similar projects after the floods up there. That afternoon we got our house project. This was a little four room house with a bathroom attached to the back. This poor little house somehow survived a horrific storm but it was left desolate. The owner’s name was Charlotte and she was very discouraged. She is 30ish and single with no kids. She is staying with her grandmother and has been passed over by many programs. In fact she was thinking about bulldozing the house and selling the lot. This is where we came in. With the help of David, Andrew, Jeff, Lamar, Cyndi, Kevin, Maria, Jan, and Debra, we went to work on the little house in Pascagoula. We replaced rotted siding, caulked windows, ran new electrical wiring, put down flooring and sub-flooring, hung sheetrock and insulation. But I think the greatest thing happened on Thursday. That was the day some of our kids from Burnt Hickory got to help us with the little house. Somebody came up with the idea of writing scripture on the studs before the sheet rock went up. This is what I think will lift Charlotte spirits for years after we are gone. Charlotte said “My house has been blessed!” I wasn’t there but some say that there were tears of joy in her eyes when she saw all the progress we had made this week. We didn’t leave with a brand new house in our wake, like they do on TV, but we left a house with God’s word in the walls and God’s love in the heart of a lady that needed a little light in her life. God tells us in the parable of the sower to plant God’s word. I feel that is just what we did. I ask that everyone who reads this article prays for Charlotte. Pray that God’s love will germinate in her heart, and that she will become one of God’s servants with the deep roots nourished by God’s love producing those fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, goodness, meekness, gentleness, and self control. Finally, I want to encourage anyone who wants the opportunity to be God’s hands for a day or a week to GO to Pascagoula. All you have to do is get there. They will feed you, give you a place to sleep, and provide you with the opportunity to ask God someday “Lord, when did we see you homeless and build you a home, when did we see you hurting and give you encouragement? God will answer “When ever you helped the least of these my children (like in Pascagoula), you have done it unto me.” Just let David know your coming, 228-217-8530, and he will leave the light on for you, so you can shine a little of God’s light into someone’s life. God bless, Alan Way Marietta, GA
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Tuesday in Tennessee
Yesterday was a relaxing day and we enjoyed it. We slept late, tired from our trip up the previous day. Then we ate ate lunch at one of my favorite places, Applebees. This, by the way, breaks a cardinal rule of the road for me. I have a rule that you do not eat at a restaurant that you can eat at back home. I think Paul Franks or Danny Dodd introduced this road rule to me, but I'm not sure. Anyway, Paul's in Lithuania and can't defend himself at the moment if I'm wrong! (Prayers for Paul, please, as he leads a week of Bible camp with Lithuanian children.) We enjoyed lunch, followed by a walk around a big nice clean K-Mart. Our Pascagoula K-Mart closed a good while back before the storm, and I miss it so much! That other well-known Mart is so crowded and all the aisles are so jam-packed with merchandise that you can barely get around in there. Maggy and I decided to rent a car and on our anniversary (today) drive over to Sevierville for a visit. We rented a Dodge Stratus which is perfect for short people. I keep banging my head when I get in. Maybe it's better for skinny people. Or short skinny people. Anyway, I won't be purchasing one anytime soon. My Chrysler minivan is much more suitable to me. Am I being grumpy this morning? I'm blogging before coffee...that's the reason! There are 17 people in our group at the camp - 2 more than will fit in the Ocean Springs van safely. So we drove out yesterday evening and picked up three of our kids and followed them to the place Trent picked out for us to eat. He chose Outback. Evidently he doesn't know that road rule! Nonetheless, we enjoyed a meal at our table with Trent, Will, Brittany, and John Robert. Trent then needed to stop at that other Mart (the crowded one that is Charlie Whitfield's favorite place - you'll have to search HIS BLOG of April 3, 2006 for that reference). Afterwards, we followed them back to the camp and enjoyed our trip back to the hotel. Especially the part where we got lost. This morning we are going to get some breakfast and drive over to Sevierville. I'll report on our trip either tonight or tomorrow. The kids had a blast on the white water rapids rafting yesterday. They were all very excited. They all managed to stay in the raft except for one, and she was perfectly safe with helmet and life jacket. In fact, she'll have a better story to tell than the rest of them! They later swam in a lake, and they enjoyed that also. The heat index here for today is 111, so I hope everyone stays hydrated and takes breaks along the way. We certainly will!
Monday, July 17, 2006
Monday Morning From Tennessee
We had a good Sunday at Central with some new community visitors. Shane Ellett and his group from Springfield, Ohio were able to be with us. We presented the names of four men to the congregation to serve as potential elders. Please be in prayer along with us as we re-establish our eldership at Central. I will update you on that in a few weeks. After lunch we joined up with the Ocean Springs Church of Christ youth group for a big trip to Tennessee. Trent Bryant is the youth minister at Ocean Springs. He has mapped out a great trip for the teenagers. We arrived at Big Frog Expeditions around midnight last night. After helping get all the gear out of the bus and making sure all the kids were accounted for, Margaret and I headed back to Cleveland, TN, where we will be staying for a few days. Outside of our hotel window this morning I enjoyed a misty mountain view. We are to meet the kids for supper tonight, and then pick them up Wednesday morning for then next leg of our trip. Keep us all in your prayers - these teens are not used to white water rafting, mountain biking, hiking and such! We are surrounded by friends in this area. Ross Jordan is in Dalton, Georgia. Rod Tate is in Chatsworth, Georgia. My old friend David Mellor is in Chatanooga, and I haven't talked to him in ages. Tim Gunnells recently moved to Athens, Tennessee. I do not think I know anyone in Cleveland, but my friend Richard May used to preach here. We had an uneventful and safe journey here. As we traveled through Alabama up Interstate 65, I was continually reminded of the grace we are receiving from people all over the country. Vans, busses, trucks towing trailers ... all emblazoned with the names of various faith groups that are heading south. Only God knows how many believers have come to help the Coast, and how much they have sacrificed to do so. Amazing! Ninteen years ago my life was in a confusing flurry. The old Highway 8 church building in Cleveland, Mississippi was being decorated. Food was being prepared by friends Donna Meadows and Carolyn Harrison for a dinner that night. Friends Gary Kirkendall, Danny Dodd, and my brother Gary Dobbs were making their way to town to stand by my side. Minister Eddie Lewis had his part all prepared. My soon to be nephew, Chad Givens, was plotting how he would get live crickets into my car the next day while I was distracted. And a thousand other details were being attended to in order to prepare for a wedding. Tomorrow Maggy and I will be reflecting on that time nineteen years ago when the doors to the sanctuary opened up and she walked down the aisle with her father at her side. Back home on the Coast Shane Ellett's group continues to work. David Kibler arrived last night with his group from Lexington, Kentucky. David will speak in my place Wednesday night. I wish I could be there to hear that, he does such an excellent job. Trevor Cox from Altus, Oklahoma should arrive today with his group. Tomorrow Jeff Shocklee and crew from Southaven will arrive. I pray for all of these groups safe journeys and great ministry opportunities as they come to the Coast. I did not know until this morning, but the Hillsboro Church of Christ has a portion of my message there up on their website. You can read it HERE. Thanks for reading and I hope each of you has a wonderful week.
Friday, July 14, 2006
The Landscape of Destruction
Today we spent the day at my parent's home. They live just upriver from New Orleans. The shortest route to their home leads you through New Orleans. The complete devastation of this city is still as aparent as it was on day one. It is a chilling experience to drive through and see the miles of abandoned homes, cars, and businesses. I thank God for the work done through the Carrolton Avenue Church of Christ with Operation Nehemiah. Hilltop Rescue & Relief are also doing an outstanding job of bringing relief to the area. Others who are working include Tamany Oaks Church of Christ and Mandeville Christian Church. IDES is working through the Slidell Christian Church in Slidell and Pearlington, and elsewhere. I'm sure there are hundreds of others as well. And yet there is so far to go, and so much to do. We took the time to drive down Highway 90 from Gulfport to Biloxi - it was our first time to see this area in person. The pictures are stunning, but in person it is more meaningful. I realize that there have been 10 months of debris removal, but so much evidence of Katrina's power is still visible. On our way back I noted with interest the sign to Bay St. Louis, where my friend Charlie Buckley has preached for three decades. He has such dedication and strength in his faith. In a recent e-mail he requested prayer for his wife Olive. I do not know the details, but it looked as if a member of her family had passed away. The Picayune church continues to do outstanding work in Pearlington and other places. I appreciate the efforts of Johnny Hayes and others there as they continue a long-term recovery effort. Recovery efforts continue at the Long Beach church of Christ where Mark Hodges is minister. He was hired just three months before the storm. I thank God that his home was not damaged heavily, and he has been able to minister continuously in this situation. David Austin is minister for the Gulfport Church of Christ. He and a brother who has been converted since the storm have been helping people non-stop. The Orange Grove recovery effort is continuing under the leadership of Rick Rogers. Having sold their building before the storm, they are enduring some special circumstances that are making this a difficult effort. Pray for the leaders and minister Les Ferguson, Jr - who has been a lifelong friend of mine. Ocean Springs church of Christ has been a major player in the recovery of the Coast in their area. Katrina robbed 29 families of their homes, but now they have helped 27 return. Many of the members have been instrumental in the effort, under the leadership of minister Al Sturgeon. Al is a good friend who I know will take no credit - but it belongs with him. They are blessed with a house on their property which can house 15 or so volunteers. The Eastside Church of Christ, also in Ocean Springs, has also been a benefit to their community. Though small, they have a big-hearted minister named Quarderick Brumfield. I know that they have been steadily involved in helping people repair their homes and housing volunteers. The Vancleave Church of Christ is farther north in Jackson County, but they have taken hold of the opportunity to bless others in crisis. Minister for the congregation is veteran gospel preacher Buck Hall. Vancleave has steadily delivered supplies, housed volunteers, and sought to help everyone they could. They have constructed a storage facility to prepare for future storm recovery. They are also working with a church of Christ in Grand Bay, AL to help restore their facilities. The Creekwood Church of Christ in Mobile has steadily been involved in helping, in association with the Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team. I believe that the Regency church of Christ has also been involved in disaster response. Communication with the Mobile churches needs improving so that the greatest benefit can be gained from all of the work done. Still, I praise God for every person helped, and for every volunteer. The Port City Church of Christ, also in Mobile, has been so helpful to us in many ways. Our neighbors have certainly come to our rescue ... including the Pleasure Island Church of Christ in Gulf Shores, Prattville church of Christ and Hunter Hills Church of Christ, both in Prattville, AL and the Gateway Church of Christ in Pensacola. There are so many more...but these are the ones along the Coast that come to mind. I know I have probably left some churches out, not knowing their particpation in the effort. But driving across the Coast today, I was mindful of the work of faithful Christians throughout the Coast who have often put their own needs aside in order to help show the love of God to the communities in which they reside. And of course I cannot leave out the Central Church of Christ and the work going on here. We had a great week here with almost 175 workers from several states. Many will head home in the morning, and others will come in their place. I can tell you that they do not go home and forget us ... they go home and plan to come back and bring more help. That is not only rewarding to our community, but it stirs within my heart the truth of the power of service. It is more blessed to give than to receive. That truth needs to be lived out now more than ever, across this landscape of destruction.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Most often, I do not go to the dining hall during meal time. We usually have so many mouths to feed, that I feel the cooks shouldn't have to feed me also. But I do recognize that by not going up there I am missing out on some great fellowship time with those who have come to help us out. I talked with David Kilbern some today about the struggle to do both my ministry work and to be available to serve in the hurricane relief effort as well. So today I went to the dining hall at lunch time and offered to help serve lunch. I wasn't needed for that, so I got a cup of coffee and visited with John Loper and Tex Nolan, and ended up having some discussion with Shane Ellett - who had just arrived. I'm glad I went, and I'll try to get up there more often. One of the things that David and I have observed is that we never know where God is working in all of this effort. He shows up in the oddest ways ... connections are made when there seem to be no connections. Things happen that we could never have predicted! The story I'm about to tell you is one of those. The names have been changed because this story isn't over, and there are parts of it I really cannot divulge here. And the truth is there is much more to this story that I do not even know. A week ago I was hearing about a lady in really bad shape, and her son was with her. We had allowed them to spend a few nights at our church building. Because of various circumstances, it was a couple of days before I set my eyes on her. I've known Sharon for a long time. She has come to our building for years to pick up a bag of groceries. I have enjoyed talking to her and consider her a friend. But I didn't know she had a son. Sam is 19 but he looks 14. Sharon was really in bad shape. She has always had a respiratory problem, but now it was much worse. She had been evicted, she wasn't taking the medicine she needed, and she wasn't herself. I spent some time talking to her and praying with her, but it became obvious that she needed more help than we could offer. Sam had been labeled as mentally disabled when he was just a child. He was not raised by Sharon, but by his grandparents and an aunt. Not too long ago his grandparents passed away and he was sent to a school in North Mississippi. Sharon was recently hospitalized and he came to the Coast to care for her. As it became more obvious that Sharon would have to be placed in the care of a facility, there was much concern for Sam. In discussions with him we did not find a mentally disabled young man at all. He is even conversant in calculus. I never had a class in calculus! He is a hard worker, and has worked shoulder to shoulder with the teenagers who came in to do work this week. He started off very quiet and sober, but now has a big smile on his face. And Sam caught the attention of one of the famlies here from Ohio. The heart of a Christian is a wondrous thing. This family began to inquire what would happen to Sam. If his mother is in a care facility, what would happen to him? A man stood before me today and asked, "what if Sam could come live with us?" This is not just wishful thinking, it was the heart of a servant wide open to the will of God. After some discussion we recognized that his school situation was a good one, and would last the next seven months. The Christian man said, "On breaks you can come stay with us, when school is over you can come live with us. We'll help you get going in a Christian college if that is what you want. As long as we live, you will never be homeless." Never be homeless... I can only guess that these words were powerfully beautiful in Sam's ears. An Ohio family comes to the Coast to rebuild a home and in addition offers a home to someone they just met. Again I have to assert that we have met the grandest people the Family of God has to offer - those who would give up their time and money and energy to help people they've never met. In case you didn't know, God has whispered the same message in your ears. As long as I live, you will never be homeless.
When you are working with the public and trying to do all the good you can, you inevitably run across those who are less than honest. Yesterday I mentioned a lady who was living in a tent - a situation which really touched my heart. When we contacted local officials about this situation, they knew all about it. Turns out there is absolutely no record of these people being in Pascagoula before the storm. They are drifters attempting to take advantage of the situation. There is also a drug issue with this situation as well. I'm very gullible when it comes to these kinds of situations! By the way, did you know that the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary? The phone call of the year might have come yesterday when someone called to ask if in our relief effort we gave people "spending money". I guess someone had a hankering to hang out at Dollar Tree. My friends Danny Dodd and Gary Kirkendall are back from their respective mission trips. Gary has a report on his blog, and I'm sure Danny will also as soon as his jetlag gets some relief! Both report a great trip, and I'm thankful for what God does through these two brothers. Last night was a special treat at Central as Brittany and Will shared with us some of their experiences on their mission trips to Africa. Will also talked about his trip to Scotland. I think it is great when young people travel across the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I also appreciated during the question and answer time that Jim Ingram was focused on what kinds of food they ate in the various locations! Will ended up with a devotional thought from Matthew 19 and how we sometimes forget that we are the rich people of the world. Even in our hurricane-torn Coast, we are living far above many people in the world. We ended our night by viewing the DVD presentation of Gary Boswell's song, "They Came". It was great to have Will's parents, Bill and Sabrina Collins, with us last night. They came over to hear the reports on the mission trips and to visit. After our Wednesday night services, several of us went to the Boswell's home for tacos and talk. As I type this I'm drinking my morning coffee and watching the news. There are disturbing reports as fighting between Israel and Lebanon escalates with the threat of war. I'm not a big "sighns of the times" kind of guy, so I do not regard these events as signaling the end of the world. Nor would I say that they are not a part of the end of the world. But to me, they are reminders of the promise of the regeneration of all things. One day Christians of all nationalities will walk streets of peace, greeting neighbors who have had tears wiped away by our Father. We will reign over His creation without the deception and destruction of our enemy. Praise and worship will erupt from our hearts unhindered by our own inhibitions. We will enjoy these blessings without a second thought, knowing that they will never end. Thank you, Jesus for your precious and sweet promises! Maranatha!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Out of Africa
I hope you've had a good day in your part of the world. I was able to talk to my friend Dusty Rush for a while today. I always enjoy hearing his thoughts - and he's a good listener also. It was great to see my friend Tex Nolan, who is in town for the week. Also it's always a pleasure to get to visit with David Jordan, when you can get him to sit down and rest for a minute. Jim Ingram and I made a visit together this afternoon, and spending time with Jim is never a dull moment. I did see David Kilbern a time or two today, but only for a moment!
David Kilbern's birthday was yesterday and I should have mentioned it then. Not that he has time to keep up with this blog ... but I let it escape me. I'll catch up. Anyway, you can wish him a happy birthday by sending him a belated wish HERE.
Today I met a lady who brought her son with her. She will lose her electricity in a few days. We simply cannot pay electric bills. She has a new job, but the first paycheck won't come in time. I feel really bad to turn her down, but how can we begin paying electric bills? We have tons of requests each day for these kinds of funds. We did bring her some food later in the afternoon. She said she may come Sunday. She visited before the storm and did not see any other African Americans in the crowd and she felt uncomfortable and left. I praise God that we are now worshiping in technicolor! We are a church with a wide open door that welcomes everyone. We do not meet anyone at the door with a litmus test or a checklist, we just choose to love all.
As the day was winding down I sat down and talked to a tired looking lady in our foyer. She had not heard of us helping storm victims until yesterday. During Katrina she stayed in her trailer. She has a paralyzed son, and it was his floating hospital bed mattress that kept them from drowning in the trailer. After the storm she rented a P. O. Box and had her mail delivered there. It turns out that this is a bad move ... FEMA can't seem to find her physical location. She hasn't received a camper yet. Where's she living? In a tent in some woods off of a road here in Pascagoula. For over ten months. Her son received a camper, but she can't live there. There are restrictions on who can live in the FEMA campers so that someone can't get a camper and then load up 20 other people in there. I don't know all the circumstances, you understand. But this poor woman is living in a tent. This is happening in other areas as well but it should not be happening in Pascagoula, as far as we have come.
We have a lot of people here at this time. I know that many of the teens are doing yard work. Several of our teens worked on my street today, cutting several yards. I saw a lady I know at the post office, and she told me that some wonderful teens from Georgia cut her grass today. She was so happy. I saw some of those teens tonight in Walgreens. They didn't know me ... and I have to say that they were very polite and well behaved. Good thing!
I mentioned our youth intern yesterday. Will Collins spent part of the month of May in Africa doing mission work. His girlfriend, Brittany, just returned from Malawi, Africa this week.
Tomorrow night we will enjoy a presentation of their work on the "Dark Continent" - a place where the light of Christ is growing more and more bright with each passing day. I hope that the message they bring will encourage all of our young people to be involved in missions in one form or another. I believe that out of Africa the message of Christ will come loud and clear in the coming decades.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Monday Night on the Coast
I always hate it when I miss a day on the blog, because I'm sure there was something I wanted to tell you about - but it's buried deep in my memory bank now. Our daughter and grand daughter, Claire, came for the weekend, so that changed some other plans we had. It was a joy. Claire is staying with us this week and it sure is good to have her here with us. Sunday was a day filled with good things. We had about 25 community visitors with us Sunday morning for worship. Will and John Robert did a great job leading worship. My lesson was from Acts 2 and has been posted on my podcast located HERE. You do not have to have an IPOD to listen, you can hear it right from that site or download it to your computer. Following worship I taught the first part of a class on the qualities of an elder. I will finish that, Lord willing, next week. Then we had a church meeting where I shared with the church the details of my trip to Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Sunday night we had a get-together of just the Central folks. I didn't want to offend our hurricane relief workers, but we need some time together just as a church family. We met at the Boswell's and had some fingerfoods and lots of conversation. Later we gathered in their living room and shared with each other what was going on in our families. There were tears and laughter. Jim Ingram's bird story is awesome...he could go on the road with that one. There were many shared hearts that night. We will do this again next Sunday night. This morning was typical Monday morning chaos at the church building with everyone getting work assignments and starting to their duties. We have a lot of people here this week. It's awesome! My friend Daved Baker came in and was needing to talk, so we headed over to Dough Joe's. There's something great about that place that makes it the perfect place to talk and share. Then I had lunch with Will at Scranton's. Will is very mature for his age, and his faith is also very mature. Being friends with his mom and dad, I just sat there so impressed with him as he shared some of his thoughts and ideas. Tomorrow some of our teens will join the work crews and work alongside the volunteers. I appreciate Will heading this up and particpating himself. I have already learned some things from Will that have helped me. I look forward to the next six or seven weeks with him. This afternoon I worked in my yard, cleaned off my carport (most of it), went to Lowe's, and in general tried to catch up with some of the things I've been neglecting. I let all the flowers in my planters die while I was out of town, so I bought some more. I'll plant those in the morning early before going into the office. Tonight a group of eight of us went to the Port City Church of Christ in Mobile to see New Reign sing. They are from Oklahoma Christian University. We enjoyed their performance. I enjoyed seeing friends such as Kenny (a faithful blog reader), his daughter Kristin, and Josh Moore and his wife. I also enjoyed a very positive conversation with one of the elders, Gene Barrett and it was good to see his wife Robin. I learned that his father recently passed away after an extended illness. I also had a short visit with Bruce Stewart, minister of Port City church. He is an old friend. Pray for his wife, Tammy, who has multiple health problems. So it was a busy couple of days, but we are blessed with so many good things happening. I even managed to call my mother today, which I try to make sure I do each day. Thanks for reading!
Friday, July 07, 2006
Friday Night on the Coast
Our week 'off' is coming to an end quickly. Sunday we expect a crew of 22 to come in, and then more in the next day or two. So the relief effort will take off again, and we look forward to offering a blessing to our community. Margo and Mary are back and ready to run the kitchen for us. The many people who have come to Central to offer service to the community have made a huge difference. Thank you for your prayers, your trips down, and your love for strangers. It was a serious surgery, but a full recovery was more than expected. Assurances had been given by the surgeon and doctors. A two hour operation became an eight hour operation. Now several days later it looks as if she is not going to make it. They are talking about putting her in a nursing home. Her prospects seem dim. She is in her mid-40s. Her husband is going out of his mind trying to understand ... figure out what to do ... comprehend how his world has been turned upside down. Living in a FEMA trailer park in a camper, there are very few reminders of life before the storm. But there are enough reminders of the wife he loves who now lies in a hospital bed that he can barely stand to stay in his camper. This is not someone to whom we can offer sheetrock or hang up some doors and help them make progress. This requires that hearts meet and that encouragements and prayers are offered. Pray for Johnny in his struggle, and for the comfort of his beautiful wife. As we head into the weekend I am mindful that in the past two weeks we have had two young people to perish in our community. One, a young lady in a horrific automobile accident. The other, a young man I met a few years ago. Joe was one of those kids who was street savvy, even though there was no street. He lived out in the county. He had a swagger and a confident presence that made all the teenage girls like him. I liked him because we had talks about keeping life on the right track and making good decisions. Joe was baptized and had a bright flame ...for a time. But the same old friends and the same old habits caught up to him. We would see Joe occasionally at church ... coming a few weeks here and there .... then disappearing for long periods of time. Some of those times he was in jail. Some of those times he was in a program for troubled teens. But every time I saw him he affirmed to me that he was going to turn his life around. In today's paper I read Joe's obituary. The word is that he died from a drug overdose. I don't know if that's true. I do wish Joe had one more chance to get his life turned over to Jesus. He was 17. Every day we are surrounded by the Joes and the Johnnys of our community. The hurting and the helpless ... the addicted and the left behind. They are often overlooked either because their pain is so great or because they seem not to care. Lord open our hearts to the people around us who need you so desperately. Remind us that our need for you is a desperate need.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Rainy Days on the Coast
We've had two rainy days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but we're not complaining. This rain is much needed, as we have had quite a drought for the past few months. With no volunteers in town, we have enjoyed some quieter days, but that doesn't mean that the ministry has ceased. Carla has been working to help a couple of people make some connections to get the help they need. David helped a man today who is facing some major decisions in life. Will helped me get my office in better order and visited a young man who has expressed great interest in the church. I had several things on my plate today as well. According to Dr. Jeff Master's Weather Blog, one reason we have had a calm hurricane season thus far is a large cloud of African Dust in the Atlantic. I'll take dust over a hurricane any day. Just a pet peeve here, but a certain cellular phone company is claiming to have the fewest dropped calls of all of the providers. As a customer of that phone company, I have been wondering ... how can anyone have more dropped calls than I have? So should I feel sorry for you guys who do not subscribe to that cell phone company's service, or should I disbelieve this audacious claim? I'm slowly making my way through Thomas L. Friedman's The World Is Flat. It really is fascinating. Friedman has a section on the new phenomenon of blogging and it's effects on the worlds of journalism and news reporting. In describing what a blog actually is, he wrote: "A blog is your own personal virtual soapbox, where you can get up every morning and, in the form of a column or a newsletter or just a screed, tell the world what you think about any subject, upload that content onto your own Web site, and then wait for the world to come check it out.... A new blog is created every seven seconds." I consider Out Here Hope Remains an opportunity to share what is on my heart for the day. The function of the blog has expanded, as it has become a source of information about the hurricane relief effort here on the Coast. Still, it is mostly a reflection of what's on my mind on any given day. I know, some days it isn't much! I appreciate you reading and checking it out. Your comments are encouraging and your prayers are keeping us afloat here on the Coast.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
We slept a little later than usual today, and enjoyed the rest. I was greeted with a surprise large cup of coffee left at my doorstep. The coffee was from Dough Joes, but it was my friend Carla Calhoun who made the welcome delivery! The rest of the day was spent cleaning, getting groceries, and catching up on mail. I am thankful for the freedom we enjoy in America. It is the freedom to learn, and practice, our faith as we understand it. The same freedom that we enjoy allows others to practice their faith as well. That doesn't make everyone right in what they do, but it is the protection under which we all worship freely. Freedom in Christ is a wonderful thing, and it is tempered by our slavery to Christ. Independence in living for the Lord is a blessing; dependence upon Him is our power. Identity as individual children of God is glorious; comprehending the joy of relating together as His family is our strength. The freedom with which we have been privileged in America has given birth to any number of movements that are stretching forth to bring the Word of God to the world. Yet under the tyranny of oppression, the Kingdom is as strong as ever throughout the nations that attempt to control faith. A great price was paid to give us the kind of country we have today. While we can find many things wrong with our country, we owe a great debt to those who have gone before. And to those who defend our freedom even today. We have much to be thankful for... so let us never forget to say thank you to the One who rules the universe with His sovereign will.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Just a note to let you know that Maggy is feeling much better. We are now home. On our way we decided to stop in Mobile and eat at Cracker Barrel. While there, my old friend Garrett Irby called and left a message saying he was in Mobile and would like to come see us. So, I called him up and he came and ate with us. Then we all decided to go see a movie. The movie I WANT to see wasn't even playing, but X Men III was, and it was an awesome flick! That is my kind of movie. As I arrived home, the crepe myrtle in front of the house has blazing white flowers. The hibiscus, rose, and other assorted plants are dead. A forgotten detail I should have tended to. It's been so dry here, as throughout the South. Yesterday was my friend Chris Lockhart's first day at Calvary Christian Church near Atlanta. I will miss my dear friend so much, but I know we'll be in touch. I wish him well as he presents the Gospel of Christ in a different context. His first Sunday went well, by the way. Below: John Robert, Maggy, Lynda and Robert Lingle at Fourth Avenue Sunday Morning.
Below: Garrett Irby and John Dobbs
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Our visit to Franklin, TN was exciting and full of great experiences. The Robert Lingle family has been a part of our lives since 1992. It was then that Robert, serving as one of the elders, called me to ask me to come to Pascaogula to be the preacher for the Central Church of Christ. It broke my heart when they moved to Franklin, but I am so glad they could move to such a beautiful place. And I'm thankful for their hospitality this weekend. They attend the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin. Fourth Avenue is among the more progressive churches in Nashville. They were hosting worship leader Ken Young's annual event called STREAM. JR and I attended the Saturday afternoon session, hearing great praise and worship with Hallal and Chris Seidman speaking. Saturday night we all went back to the church building for a wonderful night of instrumental praise and worship with some of the best known Contemporary Christian songwriters and musicians in Nashville. The building was packed and the songs were awesome. I heard some new songs that I'm sure will be popularized as acappella selections in the near future. Joe Beck put together the ensemble of writers and musicians associated with Spring Hill Music. Spring Hill Worship is a new series of great new worship songs that are being written. Very fresh and exciting. Joe is a multiple award winner and was recently Contemporary Christian Song Writer of the Year. He is a member at Fourth Avenue. One especially touching moment was when Joe presented Ken Young's fantastic song FAITHFUL LOVE, and as a surprise to Ken he had written music to it. It was so beautiful. I love that song any way we can sing it! Anyway, it was a great night and I bought a couple of CDs. Sunday morning worship was led by Ken Young and Hallal. A most touching moment was a soloist singing the story of the sufferings of Christ in the song The Via Dolorosa, while we watched scenes from The Passion of the Christ. Chris Seidman had a great message, there were multiple responses and a baptism. This growing church practices some things that make some uncomfortable, but at the same time they are reaching a large number of people who are hungry for a contemporary worship experience. I praise God for the traditional churches and the contemporary churches ... every church has it's own flavor. Every church will reach someone that another church could not reach. May we all do everything we can to lift up the name of Christ in a way that is authentic to us, and be thankful for others who reach out in different ways. After worship, we ate at Carabbas in Franklin ... delicious. We were very late getting away from the Lingle's, but we just enjoyed it so much. Unfortunately, Maggy was sick on our trip ... I'll spare you the details ... but we had to stop about ten times between Nashville and Montgomery. TL, we did pass by Cullman, but Maggy was so sick, we were just trying to get home. We made it to Greenville, AL, where we finally gave up and checked into a hotel. She is sleeping now and hopefully that will help her to feel better. We will try to finish our journey home tomororow, after our unexpected stop. Home. I like the shound of that. Thanks for all the comments and those who read every day.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Back To Tennessee and Then to Mississippi
Yesterday we spent some time just relaxing. Driving around Louisville is not for the faint of heart! For example, yesterday we wanted to see some movies. So I located a theater, did a mapquest, got directions, and we headed out. In about 45 minutes we were back downtown, never saw the theater, and went back to the room to regroup and start over! The lady at the front desk told us about a new theater across the river in Illinois. So I guess if you live in Louisville you have to go to Illinois to watch a movie! We found that place easily and thankfully! The first movie we watched was SUPERMAN RETURNS. It runs long, at 2 hrs and 40 minutes. I thought it was good. Not great, but good. I did nod off during a very quiet slow scene. We also say THE LAKE HOUSE which my wife loved and I did not like at all. It was very postmodern, metaphysical, and impossible. Of course so was Superman, but I didn't mind those things in that movie. The next movie I want to see is THE PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. I'll let you know how that one is if I ever get to it. This week I finished reading CHANGING THE WORLD THROUGH KINDNESS by Steve Sjogren. Although there are some things (as in every book) that I would toss out, most of it is excellent. So much so that I bought his first book, CONSPIRACY OF KINDNESS from the College Press booth here at the NACC. I have now started George Barna's REVOLUTION. I recently finished Ben Brewster's little book called TORN ASUNDER. I was happy to meet him here this week at the NACC. Ben has done a great job with describing the circumstances leading to division in our brotherhood during the Civil War. College Press has picked up this book and I'm sure they will be advertising it soon. Last night in the hotel lobby we ran into Fred Franke of Operation Nehemiah, New Orleans. We had a long talk and I really enjoyed that. Fred is an elder of the Carrolton Avenue Church of Christ in New Orleans. They have put together an exceptional DVD of their work that I really enjoyed. Our next move is to get everything packed up and head to Nashville to stay with our friends Robert and Lynda Lingle. Robert was one of the elders that hired me when I came to Pascagoula over 14 years ago. They both offered friendship and leadership, advice and love when it was most needed. I think of Robert as a father in the faith, and I look forward to spending an evening with them. We will attend a concert at their church tonight, and then attend worship tomorrow morning with them at the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ in Franklin, TN. The Lingles are not too big on technology, so I will not have internet access again until late Sunday night or Monday. Pray for our safe journey home. God has led us in so many wonderful ways on this extended trip. We have met some outstanding people, made some excellent contacts, and been able to find some additional resources for the work back home. In the meantime at Central, Will Collins will speak in my place Sunday morning. He will do an excellent job, I'm sure. This week is a rest week, as we have no volunteers from out of town for the week. This will be a needed time of refreshment and rest for our folks who need to take a breather. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and being back in Pascagoula. Even though our city has its struggles, Pascagoula is home. God bless you and help you with the things going on in your world. Thank you for being interested enough in my world to stop by and say hello. I appreciate the kind comments made by many of you!