Monday, October 31, 2005

Another perspective: I agree

I was surfing the net when I came accross this story. It helps to say what I have been hoping to help others understand. The article was written on Friday so you can have a time frame.
"When Hurricane Katrina hit nearly two months ago, most of the media attention was focused on New Orleans. However, there were many other areas that were hit hard and deserve our attention. For example, Biloxi, Mississippi is a city with a population of just over 50,000. It experienced a 30 foot storm surge that wiped out 90% of buildings. 90 people were killed and 50 are still missing. Hardest hit was East Biloxi, which was home to the city's poorest residents. Like New Orleans, many residents were not evacuated and were trapped in their homes.
Many residents are still living in the rubble of their homes. As bulldozers come through neighborhoods and flatten what remains of their homes, they are left completely homeless. Another 1,000 to 1,500 are living in tents and others are sleeping off-shore in shrimp boats. Meanwhile night-time temperatures drop into the 40's.
Last week Associated Press reported "In the poorest of neighborhoods here, people sleep outside with no running water or power. They live among starving cats, rotting heaps of garbage and constant, buzzing flies. The bathroom is anywhere and everywhere. The filth is inescapable. Weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes and jobs, many people in east Biloxi are living amid the rubble of their own houses, waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver the trailers they have applied for or for other federal assistance.

I completely understand the scope of the disaster is unprecedented and we can't expect to see this cleaned up overnight. However, it has been almost two months and thousands of people are still living without basic sanitation or shelter. The people of Biloxi, Mississippi, as well as all areas hit by Katrina, Rita and Wilma deserve our best efforts to help them survive and move forward."

Church we need to rise up and help those effected by these hurricanes.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Future of the gulf coast

"A reminder of what I left behind"
As I have returned home and have had time to process what I have experienced over the last month or so, I have come to some conclusions:
1. There are many desperate and hopeless people facing the holiday seasons.
2. The days are getting colder, yes colder, in the south.
3. People living in vans and tents are going to be very cold overnight.
4. Too many peoeple are living in dangerous homes, full of toxic mold as they have no where else to live.
5. There are not nearly enough people in the region to help.
6. The church (the body of Christ) has a responsibility to go and help, not just send money.
7. People are blessed by the COI teams.
8. The needs change on a weekly basis, if not day to day.
9. People in the south are very friendly and welcoming.
10. I cannot walk away from there and will return there shortly.
11. God is in control, is concerned and has compassion for the situation.
12. My pain is diminished when I can focus on the needs of others.
13. I love blessing other people and showing them the love of Christ in what I do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Home at last

I just completed my 29 hour trek back home and it is so good to see my family after one month of being away. I had hoped to make it home in two days but it took me three because of the NorEaster that was in New England and the Maritimes. It felt like I was driving in a hurricane yesterday and at times I felt like I was inside a car wash as the rain was so heavy.
I apprecaite your prayers as I saw God's hand in my trip. I checked my tires today before heading out from the Boston area. All was good. I arrived in Bangor, Maine to put gas in the car and a gentleman informed me that my tire was nearly flat. In fact I would say it was 95% flat. After I pumped my gas I discovered that the convenience store was attached to a bridgestone tire repair station. How convenient!!!
I am looking forward to taking a couple of days off and hanging with my family and keeping up with this blog.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Deck completed

We came accross a family who had much damage in their home and they also required a deck to be built for their son who has MS. Our team of two built this deck and blessed this family.
Our teams and staff have been willing to get involved and bless people in many different areas. No two days are ever the same.

Before and after pictures


One more home completed.

New look Vietnamese Church

"Cement slab 99% Cleared"
"Vietnamese Church our first day there"
"Working on the Vietnamese Church"
It has been excting to return to Biloxi week after week and see the progress on this one church property. Thanks to the hard work of many people Pastor Tran is truly blessed.
I wish I could say the rest of Biloxi looks this good but it is so far from that. There is such a need for more people to come and help.
Just a quick note on Marty, the lady we first helped in Biloxi. She just received a notice last week that the city plans to bulldoze her home within the next few days. She of course is one of many people who have received this bad news.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

One home at a time

"One of our mission teams. Making an impact"
We have just completed anm amazing week of ministry where we were able to help a number of people. We had three mission teams in and they made a great impact.
We had people in the local communities we served come and thank us for our service to their towns, and cities.
One place where we served was a local church in a coastal community. Our group of seniors went in and sorted food and toiletries for distribution the next day. At the end of our time there the pastor showed us a short video he had put together. It was done to a song called "The Anchor Holds", and told the story of people who are holding on to Christ as their anchor.
It was a very emotional time for me. Many of the pictures in the video were of places I had been and people I also had met. I tried to talk with the team of seniors but it was so difficult. I am truly changed by my experiences here in the gulf coast.
The story is more than the sights of miles and miles of destruction. It is the smells, the sounds. It is what you don't see...people, relief teams, animals. It is what you do see...mold, desperation and hopelessness, piles and piles of debris and garbage, houses in streets. It is the stories of survival, the horrorific stories of death. The turning to God, the running from God. The thankful people. The disillusioned people. It is all these things and so much more.
Today I begin my journey back home. I am so looking forward to being with my family. They have sacrificed to allow me to be a part of this life changing month of ministry.
Please pray for me as I travel the 31 hours home. Over the next few days I will share some more of the stories of people I met.
Pray also for the state of Florida, I cannot imagine the gulf coast region being hit again. Our headquarters is in Vero Beach, FL and is in a pretty direct line for "Wilma".
I am so blessed!!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Entertainment for us

Clockwise from me Eden, Felicia, Tai, Shane, Marley, Reesa
Sunday afternoon the kids next door came over to hang out with us. This is the family we have become close to that adopted the Vietnamese kids. They had just purchased a miniature rabbit. They were so much fun.
Today we were back to gutting out homes and building relationships in the community. Our team arrived from Canada and we got to work with them right away.
It is nice to see some faces from back home. We are all tired though as we labored hard in the warm southern sun.
More teams come in later this week and we will be able to make a huge impact in the communites we serve in. Today we were able to form a solid relationship with a few new people in one of the communities we serve. They have a long list of work related projects for us to do. Some are pretty dirty and some are a bit easier. We will tackle them all as people need the help.

New week...rested up and ready to IMPACT

I am ready to press forward for another week of ministry and impacting lives. It was a refreshing weekend which was nice. I had to go to Hattiesburg on Saturday to meet a pastor in that area, and there was also a Division 1 college football game at Univ of Southern Mississippi. We decided to try and get some tickets and do something that was not just ministry. We got the tickets and had a great time.
I am convinced in ministry, and especially right now as we daily are involved in ruined lives, that to have a break from all the destruction is helpful.
Yesterday the juvenile detention center, church and an afternoon of relaxing was very beneficial.
We have three teams coming in this week which is going to be so encouraging. We have a number of work projects lined up as well as people to minister to. Please pray that we have a unified group of people willing to serve in whatever capacity is needed. I know from talking on the phone with people that we are going to have a blessed week.
Blessings to all those that read this blog. I hope it is an encouragement to you.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Youth detention center

I was up at 6:15 this morning to go to a youth detention center in Mobile. I was asked to share a message with the young men aged 13-18 who were incarcerated. It was very sad to see boys this young walk in with shackles on their ankles.
I "preached" from John 21 where Peter has his encounter with Jesus. He has denied Christ three times earlier in the book of John and has never really gotten things cleared up between himself and the Lord. He is out fishing and catches nothing, Jesus tells him to fish on the other side of the boat and he catches many fish. Once Peter recognizes that it is Jesus who instructs him about where to fish Peter jumps in the water and swims to shore. Why? I believe he wanted to make things right with Christ right away. He couldn't wait any longer. The story goes on to share that Jesus met him on the shore and had a "fish BBQ" which revealed Christ's heart of forgiveness.
My message was simple, "Jesus knows all about you, both good and bad; Jesus wants you to make things right with Him; and Jesus is waiting to show you His forgiveness".
Another gentleman who works with the boys on a regular basis then shared something personal with them and gave the teens an opportunity to receive Christs forgiveness. Four teens came forward in front of their mocking peers to accept Christ. One boy was 15 years old and walked forward in shackles. His physical chains may not have fallen off, but praise God his spiritual shackles came off.
One of the other teens who came forward was Chris. He was 17. When I shared with him he began to cry and he asked me to pray for his brother Josh who is autistic. I could see the pain in his eyes and face. Please pray for Chris. He will be in the detention center until after Christmas. I am planning to keep in contact with Chris via mail.
Thanks to all who continue to pray. You are such a blessing to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Recovery and accident

"Typical home we are helping to fix up"
Praise the Lord for the new blessings we have received. One is that I have a new cell phone sent from our hq, two I now have an air conditioned vehicle, also sent from hq. Third we now have a couple of tv stations to watch as we were given an antenna to use and we can follow what is happening in the world.
The timing of the vehicle was great because yesterday Tallie, a girl that is a missionary with us had her vehicle damaged in an accident. One of our other missionaries was driving her truck and ran into another vehicle. No one was injured but the damage was pretty bad.
Of course I do enjoy watching sports and news so I am persoanlly enjoying these new "blessings".
Yesterday we did drive back to Biloxi. There we met a family who had come back to work on their home. It was pretty nasty. The water mark in their home was about nine feet. The walls were covered with black mold and the floor was caked with mud. They had an upstairs as well. When we went upstairs we noticed a table that had been broken. Apparently many people in the area had crowded into the highest spot in the area which was their home to ride out the storm. I would guess someone stepped on the table to get higher in the air and it broke under them.
We heard more gruesome stories of survival and sadly death as we talked with those folks and their neighbours. It was great to be able to talk with them and allow them to share some of the things on their hearts.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Free day...not really

House in the middle of a street in Biloxi
Yesterday was beautiful here in Southern Alabama. It was mid eighties and the ideal day to spend away from the hurricane releif and the destruction we see every day like the one above. We were invited over to a new friends home, a family we have met in this area. They took us out for lunch after church (they also are helping to raise 12 children, mostly vietnamese kids) and we headed to their home for an afternoon of watching football, fishing, playing pool and relaxing.
I had just begun to relax when the 12 year old boy who lives in their home started to talk with me. He began to pour out his heart and the deep hurt he has been experiencing the past few years. He has such a tender heart and yet carries so many burdens. Please pray for Damon as he tries to release some of his burdens to the Lord.
We have been blessed this past weekend to stay with a man named Dean. Dean was a gracious host to us on our earlier trip to the gulf about a month ago. He is such a great man. When we were leaving he said that we could come back and stay with him any time. Dean lost his wife about one year ago and has been lonely. We were able to bless him by being around and providing someone to talk with. He blessed us by providing fellowship, good food and a comfortable place to sleep.
As I have looked back this past week I clearly can see Gods provision. We have been invited out many times for lunch or supper and were even given a number of new CD's and DVD of some of the most popular and godly gospel artists. We have been invited into homes and made to feel so welcome.
Thanks to all of you for your faithful prayers. They are felt.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Vietnamese church help...Story of survival

Pastor Thuan, his wife and I standing on church "property"

What is left of their church
What a privilege for us to go to Biloxi and help a Vietnamese pastor and his wife try and rebuild after Katrina. I had a great opportunity to talk with pastor Thuan who shared that he lost his church and home. Many of those in his congregation have moved from the community and he could be months before thay can have church services again.
He has such a passion for his people and desires to be ministering soon.
We were able to work alongside of a local youth group of 30. All day long we labored and it seemed like we made just a small dent in the destruction.
We then toured the local area and it revealed more devastation than we realized. One story touched my heart. One of survival.

Boat that saved five lives
We came accross this boat just two blocks from the Vietnamese church. The story is written on the side of the boat of a mom and her four children who were able to climb into this boat and ride out the storm. Without this boat this family surely would have perished. I plan to contact the lady who survived in this manner and tell her story in an upcoming update.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to a much needed day off. We have been going pretty hard and we need to have a day of rest. Thanks for your prayers!!!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Biloxi, Bibles and Bernadine

Tallie, Bernadine and I
This week myself and our three other missionaries in the gulf region headed back to Biloxi to help where we could. We had packed our truck with all kinds of things: diapers, paper towel, toilet paper, socks, clothes, canned goods, granola bars, cloths and towels, water, Bibles and...
As we drove through the "war zone" called Biloxi we would stop and ask people if they needed anything as we had brought things to give to them. People came out of their back yards and were so needy. We gave away almost everything we had brought in and the people were so grateful.
One lady we met was Bernadine. She had also lost her home and all of its contents. She was staying at her daughters house in an area that the local government has now deemed to be condemned. Bernadine noticed the Bible and she was thrilled when we told her she could have one. She lost her Bible in the flood waters.
We then had the opportunity to pray with Bernadine. She was blessed and so were we. Her words to me were "I am so blessed, God is so good!!!" I thought to myself, here is a lady who has lost all of her worldly possessions except for her family and she is so blessed. I really have nothing to complain about.
Tomorrow we are going back to Biloxi. Pray for us as we enter into this very challenging city. We are looking forward to being a blessing as we head back to deliver another truckload of goods and help to clean out more houses.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Loss of home, occupation and life...Sophies bike

Marty's sons home
Marty and I talking about her situation
Marty is a lady in her late forties who has worked so hard over the last twenty years to pay off her home. She had just a few thousand dollars remaining on her home and it would be paid off. Her son lived in another home on the back of her property and she had almost paid that home off as well. Her business was located on a small piece of property beside her home. All was destroyed.
As I began to talk with Marty, she shared with me her greatest loss was that of her uncle. He had ridden out all of the previous hurricanes and this one could be ridden out as well. Sadly, he was wrong. He perished as well, just up the street from where we worked on her home.
In the crushed home of her son we found a bicycle. It obviously belonged to a little girl. Her name was Sophie. I asked Marty if we could take the bike with us and fix it up. Yesterday we took it back and presented it to Marty. She was so pleased. She said that Sophie would be so happy to have her bike as she lost everything else.

It is often the small things we do that make a difference in the lives of others. If I could do something to put a smaile on a little girls face, it was worth coming to the south.
As we were leaving, Marty invited us to come back another time and have a barbeque with her and her family and we can meet Sophie and her parents. I hope we can do this very soon.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Total destruction

The family had three very large trees crushing their home and two vehicles. Our team came in and cut the trees down and hauled all the brush to the curb. We also were able to put a tarp on her roof where the trees had destroyed her roof.
I did have the privilege of praying for the family by name and prayed for continuing miracles and blessing. The owner which is the older lady shared that she was blessed by God as he protected her family during the hurricane and that was the most important.
William the gentleman is the brother of the owner and he had his home destroyed. He is living in a tent on her front lawn where the trees were. He actually chased us down the road as he needed water and that is how he caught our attention. He has nothing left just the clothes on his back. We are presently putting together clothing, food, a coleman stove and a bicycle for him.

Cutting and roofing

Our team kept busy for their time here cutting down trees that had landed on houses, vehicles, driveways, backyards and in many other places. People were so thankful to hear the sound of the chainsaws as they knew there was hope.
Many have suffered unfathomable roof damage. Many of the houses that were near Katrina suffered roof damage of some sort. Many of the homes still leak water whenever it rains because they are still waiting for someone to come and assist them. We were blessed to put tarps on four different homes in a short time. It is only four but people are helped one family at a time.
If you can find tarps to send us we will be sure to get them on top of homes that need them. Other needs are tents, air mattresses, bicycles,goggles, face masks and a wide assortment of tools.
People need help now as every day that passes is another day of hopelessness for so many.

Helping hand for Edna

Edna is a very sweet southern Alabama lady that suffered some pretty bad roof damage and lots of downed trees. We came by her home and blessed her. We fixed her roof and cut down trees and stacked the lumber as it was cut. Edna came out of her home with tears in her eyes as she realized what we had done for her in the name of the Lord. I had the opportunity to pray with Edna and tell her how blessed we were to come and serve her.
Leter that day we went door to door and asked people if we could help them. We served four others in that community.
The problem in the aftermath of Katrina is huge. We are doing what we can to help one home at a time.