Friday, September 30, 2005

Pastors need help

In the afternoon we had an opportunity to bless a pastor. I shared after my last trip to the gulf about the small church that fed so many from their small community of believers. We talked with the pastor and they have now fed over 30,000 people.
He has not had time to spend on his own home so we went and did work for him. We cut down trees that were spilled around his yard and piled the lumber for him. We cleaned up his yard and tried to serve the one who has served so many.
Judy and Bill standing on the slab where their home was!!!

Later in the afternoon we were asked to assist a family in Eastern Alabama, over 200 miles from the eye of Katrina. Judy and Bill lost everything. Their home. Their business. Their possessions were all gone. In fact they are now living in a small trailer that leaks everytime it rains. They were a family who had so much and lost it all. It was nice to assist them by cleaning up their yard as best we could and more importantly to pray with them. They were special people whose story ripped our hearts out.

Beginning to serve

Many of you have probably been wondering if we are ever going to keep up this blog. I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to also as where we are staying does not have internet access. Tonight I found a Starbucks that has a wi-fi zone so things are improving.
We arrived safely in Mobile on Wednesday morning and began to visit work sites right away. One thing really saddened me and that was how little change appeared to have happened since my last visit three weeks earlier. I know many people are helping but the needs are still so overwhelming.
Our first mission team arrived at 5:00 am on Thursday morning and by 8:30 we were out making a difference. Our first assignment was to load a truck with clothes and shoes to be delivered to those in need. It was great to serve in a capacity where you do not meet the recipient, but the Lord does know the ones who will receive these items by name.

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Midwives help people out" (Bumper Sticker)

Bumper stickers are fun to look at especially when you are on a 12 hour drive (we have arrived in southern Virginia as I write). Some of them make me laugh, like this one. Others make me think.
One that stuck in my mind was "I Go Where I Am Towed." This was on the car which was being towed by a motorhome. I got thinking about that statement. I wondered how many times do we do things or not do things because we are being pulled somewhere by others. In this case the car had to go where the motorhome went. It could not choose its own destination.
I personally want to go where I am told. I want to follow the Lord's direction and His voice. I do want to be where He chooses for me to be. I can choose to let other voices direct me: "that's too hard, what will people think, I am too afraid to do that" and on and on it can go, if we let it.
Let me know some fun bumperstickers you have seen, and I will keep my eye out to see some new and fun ones I can share with you.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

First step complete

Today was the day for departure to Alabama. Our goal was to drive from home to Massachusetts and we were successful. It seems like we hit a toll every ten minutes once we got south of Bangor.
Our trip was made more exciting for me, as we had the thrill of listening to the New England Patriots game on the radio. It was funny because after the game they have a call in show. One guy called in and said that the referee made a terrible call on a play. The radio host asked him if he watched the game and the caller said no that he had only listened to it on the radio. How could he possibly know if the ref "blew" the call?
I thought it was interesting that someone was critical of what they had heard without really seeing the issue he was complaining about. Do we ever do that? Make an opinion about something without knowing the actual facts.
I want to be someone who understands the facts before forming an opinion. Otherwise I can make myself look a little foolish, just like the radio caller. have you ever done that?
Tomorrow we are heading further south. We hope to get to southern Virginia tomorrow. Please continue to pray for us as we travel. Please pray for Ruth and the kids as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fear can act like a shipwreck

Have you ever met people that live their lives in fear? Fear of failure, fear of flying, fear of their needs not being met, fear to go places that may be challenging?

As I look around I see people operating in fear.
I am living in Canada and I see people in chaos acting on rumors. They hear the price of gas might go up so they form long lines and act like we will never be able to get gas again. You can see the panic in their eyes.
Another person stops following God's calling because he fears whether or not God can provide for his need. They are tossed about like a ship in the hurricane.
Still another person won't get involved in missions because they have a fear of flying. In fact they discourage others from missions based on their fear.
I am not saying we should be careless, not at all. I believe we need to put our faith in God and trust Him that He truly is sovereign.

Leaving on Monday

We will be leaving for the gulf coast on Monday and it looks like a new wave of destruction is going to hit the area. My heart truly goes out to the people who are facing very unsettling times.
I must say that I am feeling glued to Fox News as I watch "Rita". I cannot imagine, or maybe a better way to say it would be that I do not want to think about the devastation that will be added on to that area.
Over the last few weeks I have talked to a number of people in the gulf area. One particular church in Beaumont, Texas has been doing hurricane relief in to New Orleans and surrounding areas on a daily basis. Now they are right in the target area and they could lose everything. Now it is time for others to help them.
One of my concerns is that with Rita now arriving their will be less people who will be able to help the other areas already hit. There is and will continue to be a tremendous need in these areas.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Unrelenting pain

It is amazing to me that I can go away and do ministry, hold babies, lift boxes and be on the go for 18 hours a day and feel less pain than I do when I am doing office work or teaching.
How does this happen? I have no answer. Maybe it is adrenaline. Maybe I am operating on supernatural strength.
Despite the pain we have had a great week of MTP training. I am blessed to be able to impart my passion for missions and the lost to our students. I enjoy the prep and digging into the word.
Soon we will be on our way to the gulf. What a great place to teach. I can talk about compassion for people and meeting peoples needs but now we get to do it hands on. We get to feel peoples pain.
I know my unrelenting pain is physical but I am reminded daily of the emotional and mental pain so many are in. People are also in spiritual pain that is relentless. I try to "cover" my pain by taking prescribed medication. Others "cover" their pain with drugs, alcohol, shopping, abusive behaviors, food and other types of "medication".
Is this a fair statement to make? Feedback?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Marching orders

Pastors office in Alabama

Please pray for the local church in the gulf region as they are carrying a large burden at this point. They are being Christ's hands and feet.

It looks like we will I will be heading back to the gulf area next week. I am looking forward to going and making an impact and being a blessing to others. I know that their will be days of joy in helping others as well as sadness in seeing the hurt and needs once again.
I hope to see less people in shelters and more people in their own homes but I am not sure if this will be a reality. I know that the greatest way for us to make an impact will be to be available to be used in whatever capacity needed.
My greatest ability I feel at this point is to listen and share with those in need. I am willing to be a shoulder to cry on or an encourager. I may not be able to do much physically but I want to be used in other capacities.
I pray that God will continue to strengthen me as well as my family during these upcoming days. I will trust that God will bless them as well as me as we plan our departure, and then depart.

If you would like to know how you can be involved to make a difference please let me know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Peter as a leader?

I discover the more I search the Bible the more I learn about myself and God's love. This morning I was looking at Acts Chapter 1:15 and saw that Peter was the one to stand in front of the people to give them direction on what they should do next. They had to choose someone to replace Judas, and Peter gave leadership to the 120 gathered there.
Peter? Was he the most likely candidate to lead the people? Isn't he the same Peter that denied Christ three times (John 13:38)? Isn't he the one that jumped in the water and swam to shore to see Jesus in John 21 when the others rowed in the boat?
Remember those who he was leading knew about his past and the errors of his way.
What made Peter the leader when others were probably more qualified? I think it was because he was a man after God's heart and he understood that God can use imperfect people.
All of us have our imperfections and yet God chooses to use us to reach out to people. I am glad for a God that can look beyond our faults and see something in us that we cannot see in ourselves.
He can use you too!!!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hurricane or Tornado

As we continued northward after Laurel we saw this strange sight. It looked like a buzz saw had gone right through these trees. I am not sure what hit it but my guess is a tornado. Hopefully someone can help me determine what it is.

Hurricane force winds over 100 miles away

Can you find the house here?

The city of Laurel, MS is about 100 miles from the coast. As you can see the winds here were powerful. At one point they had 120 mph sustained winds for 2 minutes straight and gusts of 135 mph.
There are very few trees standing and we were there 12 days after the hurricane. Roads are still impassable, power is still not on. Homes are crushed, vehicles demolished. It was a disaster. It was hard to believe that the winds could be that high and yet be so far from the coast. Destruction was everywhere as we drove north to Laurel on Highway 15.
In the midst of the chaos we saw a church serving the community and serving as a distribution center to care for its citizens and neighboring communities.

The churches finest moment

I met many pastors and churches during our trip. Many of these folks have stepped up and met the need in communities where no one else is helping. We met the above church on the coast which had suffered tremendous damage inside from flooding and storm surge. In fact the pastors home was equalled damaged.
When the pastor and his family returned home and found the condition of their home, they did not complain. Instead they turned their church into a distribution center and put their own needs on the back burner. They took out the pews and the other amenities and got to work. We were informed that this small damaged church with a congregation of almost all retired folks, had served 17,000 meals to their community during the past nine days.
This is the case with a number of churches we saw, though most not to that level. I heard many comments that the people were so thankful for the local church and the work they were doing. The reality is that unless the church community had risen up, many many people would be in desperate condition. Remeber to pray for those who sacrificially are serving their community at the expense of their own personal needs.
A FEMA representative came to one local church and thanked them, with tears streaming down his face, for the work they were doing and apologized for the fact that they had not been there to help.
The Christian community has risen to the challenge and shown the heart of Christ.

Katrina has no regard for race or income

The hurricane hit people of all income and race. People drove up to receive help in all kinds of vehicles, from run down clunkers to SUV's. It was a very humbling experience for people, to have to come and receive help, as they now had nothing. Earthly possesions were all gone and all that is left is life itself. Many were blessed to have life and they were thankful for it.
At times like this people will have one of two reactions. They will either run to God or away from God. It is a natural response to do one or the other. People that have not prayed for a long time were seeking Him.

Family in need

I have arrived back home and have internet again. I want to share a few more pictures and stories.
These children represent hundreds of families who are in need of assistance. We had opportunity to help many people. I had the privilege of praying with many people and held babies and had a number of people just lay there heads on my shoulder and cry as I prayed with them. It is amazing how many people just needed someone they could share there pain with.
I had the wonderful experience of introducing many folks to the local pastor of the church we helped and also led two people to Christ in the parking lot.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Getting dirty

As we traveled around Bayou La Batre we found one church that was making a huge impact. They had their entire parking lot was filled with clothes, water, food toiletries, diapers, etc... We stopped in and asked if we could help and went to work. At noon hundreds of families came in and sorted through clothes, and picked up their basis needs. We prayed with people, counseled people, cried with people and ministered to people. We invested four hours there and met some wonderful folks. We were so thankful to be used in that capacity.

Total destruction...houses gone

This is a typical gulf coast picture. I could take hundreds more.

Destroyed boats

The wind and storm surge tossed these large shrimp boats around at will. Many people have lost their ability to make an income.

Important meeting

First thing Friday morning we were invited to be a part of a meeting where disaster planning was happeneing. In our meeting was a state trooper of influence, a state senator, and many other people who are actively making a difference in the relief effort.
One of the things we heard was that there was tremendous damage in the small gulf community of Bayou La Batre, AL. As soon as the meeting ended we headed there. They were so correct. The damage was hard to put into words. I took a number of pictures but there was one I could not take. It was too difficult.
In the middle of the devastation, sat a number of slabs where homes used to be( the pictures are about to be posted). On the concrete slab where her home used to be was a lady sitting in her lawn chair, knitting. It was all she had left from what we could tell. She looked to be trying to find some sort of normalcy in the middle of her chaos.

Family reunion

One of the reasons we went to the coast was to go and visit storm survivors who had taken refuge in shelters. Specifically we were invited to the Biloxi High School to counsel and pray with very traumatized people. In order to go to the school you had to be a pastor or counselor so we were admitted to the area.
While I was inside the shelter I gave out a number of Bibles and prayed and counseled many people. One lady I talked with, Janice, was 26 years old. She had a wonderful attitude and yet was distraught at what she had been through. After talkiing for about 20 minutes I asked her if she had talked with her family and she said she had been unable to get through to them and that she had no phone or way to communicate. I knew that my cell phone was not working so I said to her "please give me your parents phone number and I will call them for you as soon as I can get a call out and let them know you are alive and where you are."
Later that day I was able to make that phone call for her. I shared with her mother that Janice was alive and that she was at the Biloxi shelter. I hope by now that her parents have made the trip down from northern Mississippi to pick her up. I cannot tell you how wonderful it felt to bring that precious family back in contact with one another.
I gave Janice my COI business card and asked her to call me or email me when she is safe at home. I am looking forward to hearing from her and hearing what is happening in her life.

The miracle church

Just one block from the coast, on the same street as the crushed cars, maybe 500 feet from them is a church. The Abundant Life church. This church received little or no visible damage. There was not water in the church or had there been, the trees had not fallen on the church, the roof was not damaged, the driveway was clear and they were operating as a distribution center for the area. Remember that they had just had a storm surge of close to 30 feet and everything around them was damaged or completely destroyed. The pastors wife shared that they are referred to as the "Miracle church".

Friday, September 09, 2005

Need to go to bed

I am tired but I still have much to tell. The next story is unbelievable. This is a miracle of God. I will show pictures and tell the story in the morning. Good night and thanks for praying. We have felt your prayers.

Crushed cars

On the street where we walked, unbelievable. Just 500 feet or so from the gulf.

More devastation looking west

This what is left, sad.

Looking west on the gulf coast, Biloxi

Looking east on the gulf coast, Biloxi

Fox news

Notice Fox News as they broadcast in the background, right on the coast. In the foreground are cars piled on top of each other. This used to be homes andbusinesses.

Ground zero...

We headed for the coast and saw the devastation face to face. This picture and the next few are all taken within one block and closer to the gulf coast in Biloxi.

The trailer recipient

This young man owned the property where the trailer came to rest. He shared his story and when he discovered we were in the ministry he asked us to pray for him and his father who was diagnosed with cancer. We were privileged to do so.

On to Biloxi, MS

As missionaries and pastors we were allowed into certain areas that others were not permitted, but we were not allowed to enter the coastline of Gulfport. It was too bad. We then headed to Biloxi to try and be of some help.
In Biloxi we had an opportunity to go right to the coast and see things firsthand. I will try and describe some of these pictures in short descriptions.
The trailer you see was about ten blocks from the coast. We were told that the storm surge was over 25 feet and it was easy to see. This trailer was actually parked in the back yard of a neighbour over two blocks from its final destination. It was tossed here to be dealt with by someone else.

A typical home in Gulfport

This is what every sidewalk looks like. That is if your home is still intact. Remember we are still 4-5 miles from the coast.

More damage in Gulfport

Entering Gulfport, MS

I had heard so much of the devastion of the city of Gulfport. After our three hour drive to the coast I had no idea how bad it would be. It was bad, damage was unbelievable. 100% of the building were damaged. 100% of the power poles were down. This picture reveals the power poles and the two trucks reflect the number of people coming to help.

Hattiesburg, MS

About 120 miles from the coast we saw devastation. It was hard to believe that a 2 hour drive from the coast buildings were damaged and thousands of trees were down. This picture shows a typical church still miles from the coast. It was a sign of things to come.

Newspaper headlines

As we left for the coast the paper said it all: Hurricane Katrina is one BIG problem. Of course it is the talk of everyone. My first question was how long before we would see real destruction and it happened just a few miles into our journey. Let me share some of the pictures and try and share a brief description. I want to warn you that some pictures are hard to believe.

Sorry for the delay

I am so sorry for the delay in getting pictures and thoughts/information to you. Unfortunately as we got closer to the coast and finally on it, internet and power, as well as cell phones were not an option.
So here are some pictures and comments.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Meeting my first displaced person

Tonight I had the opportunity to share at a church in Jackson,MS and then meet with a director of the Salvation Army for this region. He shared with me a number of ways our teams can be involved. The church is so willing to work with us.
We then headed to the Mississippi Department of Health (MDH)to get passes so we can go to Biloxi in the morning. We are planning to go to the local high school (it is one of a few buildings still standing in that area), where we will have the chance to meet and counsel with a number of very traumatized people. We will be involved in some crisis counselling. I am uncerttain of what I will experience but I hope to post pictures tomorrow night.
We had the opportunity to go and meet with the Red Cross as well at the Jackson coliseum where a number (approximately 300) of displaced people are staying. There are so many needs. I talked with one gentleman from New Orleans and he shared how he missed his city and thought it would be at least ten years before he could return.
There are very real needs there including a need for socks and underwear as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have run out. My heart goes out to some people who are still waiting to be processed before they can enter the coliseum.
Please pray for wisdom tomorrow as we will be in very challenging situations.

Iraq soldiers

We arrived at the Bangor International Airport, checked in and went upstairs. As I sat upstairs and looked around I realized I was in the presence of about 200 young men dressed in fatigues, they were soldiers on their way to Iraq. What I really took notice of was how young they looked. Many looked like they had just finished high school, others did not look old enough to have graduated.
What a sacrifice these young men are making. They have given their lives to a cause. Some will possibly lose their lives. To me they still looked amazingly happy. People walked up to them and told them how much they appreciated them and wished them well.

I am sure that over the next few days I will see many soldiers as they try to help rebuild their own country after the hurricanes and flood waters. I am looking forward to being a help as well.
I too feel like a soldier, this one for Christ. I want to go and serve people who are in tremendous need. I want to pray with them and talk with them and show them that Christ cares. I have given my life to a cause as well. I want to see people live both physically and spiritually.
Please pray for me as I determine how we as a ministry can best send our short term mission troops into battle over the next few weeks and months.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Our itinerary

September 7
Northwest 2967 departs Bangor 1157am arrives Detroit 220pm
Northwest 4716 departs Detroit 302pm arrives Jackson 426pm

September 11
Northwest 4719 departs Jackson 900am arrives Detroit 1220pm
Northwest 3506 departs Detroit 125pm arrives Bangor 330pm

Myself and pastor Tom Ward are flying out. Pastor Tom is a local pastor who is from Louisiana and he has pastored in Jackson, MS

Life changing experience

As I consider where I will be traveling tomorrow, I have mixed emotions. I am glad to be able to go and see how we as a ministry can go and make a difference in the ravaged gulf area. I am looking forward to helping people who have lost so much and meeting others who have a heart to minister to people.
At the same time I am feeling overwhelmed with the devastation I may see and more importantly feel. I want to be changed and I have a feeling I will never see things again like I do now. I want to be changed and have a new appreciation for my family and for my friends and my church. I want to get the big picture of what God is able to do both through trials and victories.
I look forward to keeping in touch with you and sharing some of my thoughts and experiences. I hope to be a vessel used by God.
Please pray for my family as I am away from them. I pray that God will raise up people to minister to them as well. Pray for me that God would protect and guide our footsteps and that we would be used by Him. I ask as well for prayer for my pain as once again I step out and trust the Lord for His strength.