Saturday, June 30, 2007

God moment at Motel 6

There was a problem with the lock on our group room door, which meant that after the housekeepers would come through and clean, our card keys would need to be reset. It became a routine for me to check in with the night clerk, Melissa at least once, maybe even twice each night, depending on whether or not I needed to purchase and internet card as well. Throughout the week Melissa would ask about our day and we would chat a little about the work. It became a routine that I looked forward to.

On Wednesday night I went as usual to reset our cards. Melissa again smiled, and asked about our day to which I replied that it was our last day. Her voice took on a little bit of a sad note as she said "Are y'all leaving us tomorrow?" I said that we were headed out to New Orleans in the morning and then on the plane for home. Melissa stated that she too was leaving the next day to go home to Memphis. When I said that it sounded like fun, she gave me a funny little smile and said "Well, the reason I'm going home isn't for fun." As we talked a little more Melissa revealed that she was going home because she has breast cancer. Her surgery is on Monday. My immediate reaction was to tell Melissa that our whole group would be praying for her. Little was I to know that God have something even more powerful in mind.

Yo Momma and other ladies in the church have been knitting prayer shawls for people for the last couple of years. They start knitting the shawls, not knowing who they may be given too. Yo Momma had brought a prayer shawl along with her to work on, with the intentions of giving it to one of our team members, but she wasn't quite sure that it was the right shawl for this team member. But Thursday morning, as our team gathered for the last group meeting, Yo Momma brought the shawl intending for the team to pray over it before we left. As we were sharing prayer requests for the day I told the group about Melissa's coming operation. From across the room Yo Momma caught my eye and mouthed the words "This shawl is for Melissa". We immediately gathered around the shawl, each holding a part of the shawl and prayed for Melissa.

Soon after our group meeting broke up Melissa walked past our room. We quickly called her in. I looked her in the eye and started to cry. I shared that we had prayed for her that morning and about the prayer shawl ministry. We all started crying as we pulled out the shawl, telling her that we had prayed over it and hoped that it would bring her comfort and hope as she went through surgery and recovery. Melissa kept saying over and over "Thank you so much, thank you so much." It was at that moment that I knew that God had planned this from the beginning. That we were supposed to be a witness of God's love, compassion and peace to this one person. Melissa's hugs spoke of the relief of knowing she was not alone in her journey. Her watery smile was a testimony God's timing, not our own.

On Monday, Melissa will be undergoing surgery. Would you pray for her? Pray for the surgeons and for her family as they support her in this scary time. Also pray that Melissa will feel the love of God every time she wraps up in her prayer shawl, that she will remember that a group of Californians are praying for her and hope to meet up with her again someday, whether that be in Mississippi or someplace even more spectacular.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Reflections & Contemplations

Someone asked me today if I was glad to be home. I had to stop and think about it for a minute. While it's nice to be in my own space again, I can't honestly say that I'm glad to be home. While I appreciate my home, my thoughts are with those who have been living in FEMA trailers (think a medium size fifth wheel trailer) for almost two years, cramming their families into this small space. I think of the families who haven't sat down around a dinner table since Katrina simply because there isn't room. We did good work but there is still so much to do. The last thing Miss E said to us as we left her home was "Come visit us in December, we should be in our home by then." I pray that they are.

Someone else asked me today what God had taught me on this trip. I think that the biggest reminder I had was that no matter what their exterior looks like, people are all the same on the inside. They desire to be loved, honored, respected and heard. While we did a lot of work, the most important work came when we stopped work and started listening to the homeowners. Really listening. I may not have accomplished all that I wanted to on the house but God accomplished a lot through the time I took to listen, laugh, ask questions and really hear the heart of Miss E, the homeowner I worked with. She said at one time, "Most volunteer groups don't want me to come around while they are working, I think I make them nervous, but you all are different, you don't mind that I come around, I don't make you nervous." I quickly corrected saying, "Oh, I don't mind you coming around and talking but you do make me nervous, but only because I want to do a good job for you." By the end of the week I could tell that we had renewed her faith in volunteers. That they care not only for the job they are doing but for her as a person as well. I pray for the volunteers that come after us, that they would take the time to do their jobs well, that they too would sit and listen to the stories and share in the lives of the people of Pearlington, no matter how nervous they may get.

One of the biggest lessons that I was taught, though, was that we weren't just there for the people of Pearlington. God worked through us everywhere we went. From the people we met in restaurants to people we sat next to in church to the people we met at the Motel 6. God had a plan and a purpose for every interaction we had. Tomorrow or I will post about my interaction with one of those people. It was probably the most heart piercing moment for me and the best God moment of the trip.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A job well done

It's 10pm on Wednesday night. We've had a long, hard day and the energy level of the group is just about gone. There are so many thoughts running through my head, stories that could be told, observations that could be made. But it's hard to get any of these thoughts out with Norm in the room making everyone laugh.

Our jobs were done and done well. Ben, our general foreman, wants us to stay around another two weeks. The home owners would appreciate us sticking around another couple of weeks as well. There have been points when we have felt like there was so much to do, other times when we've felt like we weren't making any progress at all. All in all, the projects that we accomplished were done with love, care and the utmost perfection. I, personally, have spent the last two days on my knees laying vinyl tiles, matching up corners. I have a whole new appreciation for Uncle R and his hardwood floor laying job. Even with knee pads, my knees hurt!

It's hard to think about leaving, not knowing when we will return. As tired as I am, I feel a little guilty about getting on the plane and heading for my home when there are people still living in FEMA trailers, with their homes only partially done. But to home we will return tomorrow.

There will be more posts to come in the next few days, probably not tomorrow :) There are stories that need to be told, factoids that need to be heard and feelings that need to be shared. Thank you for your prayers this week, for your encouraging comments and support. God is good, all the time.

We have a big day in New Orleans planned tomorrow before we fly home. We'd appreciate, one more time, your prayers for safety in travel. Dallas/Ft. Worth is having some weather issues, so our flights have the potential of being delayed. It's always something!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The end is near...

We've had a very productive day on our sites. Our breakdown of things accomplished by site are as follows:

At Miss E's house crew prepped the floors and began laying down laminate tiles for the house. Our goal is to get the bedrooms and bathrooms done tomorrow. Pray for us.

Miss P's house crew grouted two bathrooms, put in the master bath vanity, put up ceiling fans and installed light bulbs, prepared to install a toilet, is thisclose to finishing the siding and started to put up the front porch light. They also took the time to clean-up throughout the house.

At D's the crew completed painting the exterior of the house, installed interior doors, caulked everything, completed putting trim work up throughout this house, continued painting interior stuff, put up light fixtures and baseboard. The fun news is that there are two bedrooms complete! YES!

And the crew at H's house finished mudding and sanding sheet rock, finished installing insulation on the bathroom vent and screwed the sub-floor down. Our job is complete at this house, which means that this crew joined up with a couple other crews half-way through the day.
Overall it's been a productive day. I'm amazed sitting back and listening to the team talk, laugh and joke with each other. We're doing great work together, which is such a blessing!

Please pray for us on our last day on the job sites. We all are feeling the push to complete as much as possible. The heat and humidity are pretty intense at times but despite that we keep pressing on. Pray for peace to know that we have done a good job and for safety!

Random moments at Motel 6

We are drawing a lot of attention at the Motel 6. Possibly because we have our group meetings in one room, all 17 of us crammed into a pretty small room.

The second night one guy yelled from the pool (which is right across from our room) "What I want to know is how y'all are going to sleep in that room tonight!?" There are a lot of workers staying here, though I think we are the only volunteer group. So every night the balconies are filled with workers watching the coming and goings. I'm sure they are a little confused about what we're doing here, but no one has asked yet.

The general manager and night clerk are always asking about our days, calling us "baby" and "darlin'". It's a southern thang. Tonight, as we are meeting, a guy walked by the window and stopped, counting all of us in the room. Then wrote "I love you" in exhaled breath on the window (in between drags on his cigarette). Random.

We're in the middle of a meeting but I thought that was fun enough to post for now. We'll post about our day later! :)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday, Monday

It was humid, hot and stormy today. Luckily the rain held off until after we finished work for the day but when it rained, it poured. Big time. And there was thunder and lightening, which impressed these California people. It only cooled off for a few minutes but still, nice to see the rain.

We've accomplished a lot today. We're almost done with our projects at one house, yippee!! There is another house to take it's place, which is so great. Floors have been finished in one house and floors will start going in another tomorrow. Walls, doors, trim and exterior of homes have all been painted. Toilets will be installed at another place and a stove and refrigerator have been installed at the last house. It's so great to see things happening. We're all a little bummed that there are only two days left.

Here's a few things that made today funny. You'll have to ask us when we get home for explanations.
  • Bill's re-enactment of his car's reaction to lightening.
  • Kanda's "stomping" on Zach's head.
  • The gigantic grasshopper.
  • Gail's sweat sheet rock (yuck)
  • Zach losing his earphones in a gallon of paint.
  • Brittany coming out of the water closet
  • Just working with Norm.

Sorry, no new pictures tonight, our internet minutes are about to run out. But we do ask for these prayers:

For strength to finish out the week, help with frustration, to finish the most needed work and energy in the midst of heat and humidity.

We are also thinking of and praying for all the people in South Lake Tahoe who have lost their homes in the fire. Please pray as well. It's kind of personal for me, Lil' Bro lives there and The Dad is there right now too.

Thanks for your comments! It is so nice to hear from our family and friends. Keep them coming!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Waffle House, Gulf of Mexico, Gulfport and a train

Today was our day off, which meant sleeping in, church and exploring a little bit more of the Gulf Coast. We joined the congregation at Lutheran of the Pines Church or something like that. It was a good start to our day.

Here's some observations about the Gulf Coast...

There are Waffle Houses everywhere. Sammy counted at least 6, with two of those being within a mile of each other.
The I-90 bridge between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian is open again, one lane in each direction. There were people working on the bridge all day long, which is a positive sign. Made for a slow journey across the bridge though.

The water in the Gulf of Mexico is refreshingly warm. We were able to wade out on a sand bar and enjoy the water a little. Douglas was very careful to make sure he was covered from head to toe, with sunscreen, clothes, towel and hat. His sunburn is peeling very nicely. Debbie was taking this picture, so she wasn't in it. Bill had a good time herding fish.

Lunch was in Gulfport at Applebee's. As we drove through it was very interesting to see that the Casino's are all rebuilt, big and beautiful while the homes and businesses around them are still in pieces or completely missing. Shows you what money can do.

All in all it was a good day. We go back to work tomorrow. Painting, sheetrock, tiling, door hanging and baseboard are on our lists. Please continue to pray for the safety and health of the team. Our day off was really good for our exhaustion level. Other requests are for patience (though Kanda and Yo Momma request that you don't pray for their patience level, thank you very much)and for willingness to do what we are being asked to do, by the home owners, team, and God.

Additionally, while we've been here a friend of several of the youth was in a vehicle accident. He's in critical, but not super serious, condition with a broken leg and collapsed lung. We'd appreciate your prayers for him, his family and for his friends at home and here.

This last picture is for our littlest blog reader. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time and the train came rolling across the bay. Train Guy, this one's for you!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day two and three

I'm back!!!! Sorry for the day of no blog. The wireless connection tends to cut in and out a lot so I wasn't able to post yesterday. So this is two days of updates. Please bear with us!
Friday was a busy, hot day. We came up with a Top 10 list for you to enjoy, so here goes...
Top 10 interesting things that happened on Friday:
10. Catfish Friday lunch with inmate workers at First Missionary Baptist Church
9. Rapid adaptation of the southern accent
8. Distraction Disaster--the dog
7. Lizards, frogs, massive spiders and flies the size of Rhode Island.
6. 6 inch wide, 1 foot deep archaeological dig
5. Surviving heatstroke--ice water never tasted so good
4. Egg on a hot tin roof
3. Box 'o' shrimp with eyes for dinner--fresh off the boat
2. CSI: Motel 6
1. Ladders, unexpected haircuts and superglue

It was a good day. We're noticing that things look cleaner this time around. There isn't as much debris around, which is a great sign of renewal. There are 230 people staying at Pearlington Recovery Center this week. That doesn't count all the people who are at the Presbyterian Camp and us! Every street seems to have at least one work crew on it. Things are bustling in Pearlington!
Today got off to an early start for a couple of our crew who left at 6am to go put in insulation at Ms. P's home. Did I mention that it's hot? Yeah, it's hot. Really, really, really hot. And muggy. Oh. my. goodness. Today has been the day of bathroom adventures. One crew had the blue sauna, another had a close encounter with ants and the last crew had a duck pond in their bathroom. Most of the other people in town took the day off, so we didn't see as many work crews. The folks we worked for were very happy to see us, surprised even. But not one turned us away.

Many of us spent the day painting. Some learned how to lay tile, others finished sheet rock and electrical work. Some of the work is tedious, like filling nail holes with caulk so that we can repaint the exterior of a house, but the smiles of the homeowners are worth every single minute on a ladder. There's a feeling in the air of accomplishment. Each team is reporting that their lists keep getting checked off, but there's always more to do. Every step means that the people we are working for are getting a little closer to having a home again. We are doing good work.

The story of the day came from one of our home owners Ms. E. We started talking about the local wildlife and she recounted driving home one night with her husband and seeing what looked like a shredded tire on the road. Her husband was sure that it was an alligator so they turned around to investigate. Sure enough, there was an alligator that had been hit by a car. It's jaw was broken and it looked dead, so they decided to take it home (because "we eat gator"). Ms. E opened the trunk of her car and grabbed the upper body of the gator and loaded it into the car. As she and her husband tried to figure out how to get the tail of the alligator into the trunk they came to the realization that the gator was still alive. They managed to get it shoved in the trunk. Ms. E's husband and stepson managed to get the gator out of the car where they proceeded to "humanely euthanize" it...but it was an angry gator and it didn't go easily. 8 rounds later from a shotgun the angry alligator finally died...and wound up as dinner. Life is different here in the south.

We would appreciate your prayers as we continue our week for rest and health. A couple of our team members have been ill today, though we have been injury free! (Yo Momma was our casualty). We're headed to the beach, for a ride around Mississippi and free time tomorrow. We'll blog more about our adventures, or just maybe show more pictures. In the meantime, thanks for your support and prayers! We can tell that we are being blanketed in prayer this week. God is good, all the time, God is good.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Day one is done!

It's 9:49pm our time and I'm sitting in our group room or as we call it "The Green Room". It's just Yo Momma and I (okay, now it's 11:05pm, we had to go to Wal-Mart). Everyone else has gone to their rooms, to bed. Yep, I said to bed. Each trip before this I have been chasing youth to bed at lights out (typically 11pm) but not this trip. They are tired tonight. I could read it in their faces as we sat together and talked about our day. They've worked hard today, in hot weather.

As we drove into and around Pearlington, I was struck with the sudden realization that things are starting to look better. Homes are going up. There seems to be less debris along the roads. And while these are good signs, I got a little sad. Pearlington has come to mean a great deal to me. I will be sad, although joyful, when the work here is finished.

On to the day's work. We met up with Ben T. who's helping co-ordinate us this week. We split into teams of three today. One group went to Ms. P's house and spent the day putting up siding and beginning to put down ceramic tile floor. After being scammed out of money Ms. P has been waiting for a year for someone to come and help her with her shell of a house. The boys below were all-too willing to climb scaffolding in the hot sun to put up siding! Another group worked at D's house digging trenches, laying floors, fixing pipes. The third group went to Miss E's house to paint. Debbie was our sprayer and she wore the fruits of her labor. Check out her picture below. It feels good to be doing things to help people get into their homes.

Tonight as we shared about our day several things came up that it would be great for you to be praying for. I'll list them and be done for the night. My pillow is calling my name and 6am comes mighty early! Thanks for praying, for commenting and for being our support system. We couldn't do this with out you.

Prayers for Today:

  • For confidence as we tackle jobs that we don't necessarily have the skills for and patience for our skilled teachers.

  • For rest, hydration and continued camaraderie amongst the team.

  • That we will be continually in communion with God as we seek to follow God's plans, not our own.

  • For joy in our journey, when the day gets long, bodies get weary and frustration looms.

Safe and sound

The team has arrived in Slidell, Lousiana, our home away from home for this week. It was a pretty easy trip, except for the two hour delay leaving the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Even renting the cars was relatively painless this time around. That was a treat! The Motel 6 has great air conditioning, which we are going to appreciate. It's hot and muggy out there and it's 7:00 in the morning!

We're getting ready to head out on our first day of work. Haven't heard from our work co-ordinator yet, but I know where to find our contact person here! Hopefully everything goes according to plan...which seeing as how I don't really have a plan that will be interesting. :)

Please pray today for the team as we begin our first day. Pray that we will acclimate to the weather quickly, that we stay hydrated and cheerful! And pray for the people that we will be meeting up with, that God would be speaking to their hearts through our work.

We'd love to hear from you while we're away, so feel free to leave a comment on the blog. You don't have to sign-up or anything! Just helps to know that y'all are thinking about us!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

10 1/2 Hours

In 10 1/2 hours our group will be getting on the plane for Pearlington. I should be sleeping, since I have to be up in 7 hours and I didn't sleep well last night thanks to a program that tried to suck the life out of my computer. Ugh. I have successfully figured out the problem though! Woo-Hoo! Just not sure if we are going to be able to post pictures while in Pearlington. Gonna have to wait and see.

There are a couple of things that we would appreciate prayer for in the coming days so I'm just going to list some things and call it a night.
  • Please pray for a safe journey for the 15 of us flying tomorrow and for our safe arrival at the Motel in Slidell.
  • It seems small, but I would also appreciate prayer for the process of renting the vehicles. We've always had some kind of issue with that and it gets annoying after awhile.
  • Pray for Lynn, who is under doctors orders to not come to Pearlington with us. Pray that she will have time to rest and heal. We'll miss her a lot!
  • And finally, pray for team unity. That's going to be a big one all week. We can do great things as individuals or fabulously amazing things as a team.

That's all! I'm off to sleep...well after I pack one last bag.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Good stuff

I'm always busy. It's rare to find a day when there is just nothing on my calendar to do. The last two months have been filled with activities, responsibilities and just plain busyness. Sometimes I dread the activities but then there are days like the last 4 that are filled with good stuff.

Friday was concert night. I love going to concerts especially with Fun Aunt and Cutie Cousin and especially country concerts. Friday it was The Wreckers and Keith Urban. Good stuff.

Saturday my parents and I drove 7+ hours round trip to celebrate with a long time family friend as she got married for the first time (she's in the over 50 crowd). It was such a special ceremony and pretty fun to sit with my mom, dad and brother shedding tears of joy as our friend married the man of her dreams. Good, good stuff.

Sunday's worship service was jam packed but it was so fulfilling. I assisted the Pastor in an infant dedication for Little Boy and then had the honor of being commissioned with our Pearlington Team for our upcoming trip (1 day away!). It was an extra special service as old friends from out of town were there, college students were home and people I love were sitting in the pews. Very cool worship service and pretty darn good stuff.

Sunday night it was dinner by the beach with Yo Momma and The Dad celebrating Fathers Day. More good stuff.

Today spending the day with youth at the beach, though super cold, was super fun. No bad attitudes and lots of laughter. That's good stuff.

And tonight opening the mail and receiving the grade from my class, an A thank you very much, that is good stuff. Sometimes being busy pays off.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

5 days left

18 people from the church and community will arrive in Mississippi in 5 days. FIVE DAYS! I'm feeling overwhelmed. Where did the time go? Seriously. I have no idea what happened to May. I think we skipped it this year, 'cuz last time I looked it was April. No joke.

It hasn't helped that I've been feeling "pretty, kinda, yucky" as my friend the Train Guy would say. I spent yesterday at home, in bed, in-between sprints to the bathroom. It was not a great day. I feel much better today but not 100 percent. I hope whatever is in my system gets out fast. I cannot be sick in Mississippi.

The good news is that my team keeps bringing in the money. Our goal for the trip was to raise $11,000.00. As of Monday we hit that goal and now we're $1,000.00 over! YES! That means we get to buy stuff for peoples homes. And money keeps coming in, which is a huge bonus! I'm very proud of this team of people. Very, very proud.

Five days til Mississippi. Time to start packing my bags.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

12 days and counting

Our team leaves for Pearlington, MS in 12 days. That's less than two weeks away. Stunning, simply stunning.

I'm not sure what I'm expecting out of this trip. I'm praying for a team that works together, for projects that keep us busy, for projects to get done! It would be personally satisfying to see someone move into a completed home. But it's not about me or what I want. This is about the people who live in Pearlington, who lost their homes, their belongings and maybe their livelihoods, in a horrific storm. This trip isn't me, it isn't about our team, it's about us being used by God to help people, to bring hope and to love people. One nail at a time, one family at a time, one moment at a time.

Another part of the trip is to remind people our community that New Orleans wasn't the only area effected by Hurricane Katrina. Having lived through the Loma Prieta Earthquake, I know the frustration that goes along with having your town destroyed and yet not getting the recognition or understanding it deserves because a big city also suffered damages. Every time I hear someone refer to the Loma Prieta Quake as the "San Francisco Quake" I want to scream. The same thing happens when I hear the damage Hurricane Katrina caused to the Gulf Coast centralized to New Orleans. I've driven along the coast of Mississippi, I've seen a part of the destruction, this wasn't just New Orleans Hurricane. It's really important that we remember that.

12 days and counting. I'm starting to get anxious.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


How do you define success? What makes you "successful"? For the last eight years my definition of success has been changing. When I first started in Youth Ministry I thought that success meant that there were 30+ kids coming to youth group on Wednesday nights, two houseboats full of kids during the summer and houses bursting at the seams for winter camp. At the time it was great. I felt successful. But as anyone in ministry knows, things change.

The 30+ kids aren't coming all at one time anymore. I've struggled through a couple of years of single digits with one of the groups. We haven't been able to fill two houseboats and the winter camps have been sparser. If I limited my definition of success to numbers, I would probably say that I was failing in ministry. Thank goodness God has been working on my definitions.

For me today success looks like three amazing students standing before a congregation sharing their hearts. Success comes through the sounds of a student writing, recording, producing and distributing his third CD (which I got to be a back-up singer on...dreams DO come true!). Success comes when students are excited to hang out at a church picnic, playing silly games and laughing alongside the young and older. Success comes with current and former students wanting you to come and play baseball in the park, no matter how slow you run or bad you throw or that you can't catch. Success is measured by the notes that cover my office door saying "Thanks". Success comes in the quiet moments when a student shares their story. Success comes in the form of hugs, smiles and laughter as well as pain, sorrow and grief.

It's easy in Youth Ministry to think that success comes with numbers, but really it's so much more and oh, so simple. Really, success comes when you hear a student say "I love Jesus and Jesus loves me". It doesn't get much better than that.