Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21 – “Hats”

I had a chance to wear my pastor hat briefly yesterday morning.  I worked on Sunday’s teaching from the time I woke up, about 5:30 or so, to around ten.  Then I had to kind of slap the Dad hat on top of the pastor one when Nathan and April stopped by to talk with us. 

When they left I switched over to the disaster relief hat, and we headed to Alvin to check on our Seaside team that has been working there every Wednesday since the storm.  I finally heard the “Why Alvin?” story.  Seems our team leader Stephanie was driving up Highway Six, praying for just the right place God wanted the, to focus ministry on.  In Alvin, they stopped at a red light and prayed again.  Then they saw a police officer, and in a flash if insight decided to follow him.  He apparently went inside a bank, so they followed him right in and asked him where he thought the most help was needed in Alvin.  He directed them to this particular neighborhood.  Sounds like a God thing, doesn’t it?  Yep.

I finally met the pastor of the local church there in the Alvin community.  I have spoken to Pastor Domingo on the phone several times, and we have texted information back and forth, so it was good to put a face with the voice.  I let him know that we now had access to some work teams through the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief organization that could help folks in the neighborhood much out their homes.  He invited me to join him in a drive through the community to look for people working.  He showed me the church and the issues it had.  Contractors he has talked to have told him it needs some more structural posts in the center of the building.  Perhaps the biggest concern is that the sub-floor on one side of the room appears to have begun a collapse.  The entire side of the room slants downward from the center.  Not sure what it will take to get that fixed.  Next door to the church was a family hard at work on their house.  Here was a home that needs serious help with being cleared out and gutted.  However, they also need a loving hand. 

On the one hand, here at around four weeks after the storm they have still not been able to remove everything from their home, much less get the moldy walls down.  Why?  The husband and provider works in Afghanistan and had to get special permission from his company to come home for a few days to help.  He is only there for a few more days before he has to fly back.  Any heavy lifting that has been done began a day or so ago when he finally got home and a family member was able to come help.  It will stop when he leaves, because like him, everyone else in the family has to return to work.  He asked me if I wanted to see the inside of the house, so I joined him on a personalized tour.

The house itself is in really bad shape.  There are even holes in the floor that they had nailed pieces of wood over because they had nearly fallen through.  Lots of furniture was still inside the house, with belongings piled high on top to try to keep them out of the flood waters as they rose.  All evidence of the need for some serious, strong help.  As we entered one particular room I could sense a change in my host’s demeanor.  A large piece of plywood separated the room from the rest of the house.  A hospital bed piled with belongings was the focal point, and the other bedroom furniture appeared intact, carefully protected in place.  Sports memorabilia from the Rockets and Astros still hung on the walls.  With a tear in his eye my guide told his story.  Their son had been in an accident and was confined to bed.  This bed.  They had cared for him for ten years here in their home, and about a month ago the son died.  They are reluctant to let anyone else touch the room’s contents until they have a chance to go through everything, piece by piece.  Hence the need for a loving hand as well.

The family does have a very large yard, so they would like for a team to help carry out the precious belongings and place it in the yard so they will have a chance to go through it as they can.  I understand that desire.  I recall the days we spent after Hurricane Ike, in the front yard of our house and in the garage of the homes we stayed in, painstakingly sorting through “new discoveries” of our own precious memories.  I am praying that the team to be sent over will be gentle and caring as well as burly and strong.  And I’m praying that Pastor Domingo will be able to find some more specific homes that are willing to accept the help that is being offered to them. 

I have to say that I am very proud of our Seaside Team.  They fed 150+ people.  In some pretty extreme heat.  Some they gave out plates to while parked on a street corner.  Where it was pretty hot.  Then they moved to the parking lot of the local washateria and gave out some more.  Oh and did I mention that it was hot?  And then they hand-delivered meals to three different apartment complexes. They also gave out cleaning supplies and personal toiletries like soap and toothpaste and deodorant.  Oh and hugs.  They handed out hugs freely, too.  Sweaty hugs full of love, because, you see, it was hot.  96 degrees hot.  On their way to the site Stephanie told me it was threatening rain, so she prayed that God would send his sun to shine down all day.  It would be enough to ask for a nice cloud cover and a cool breeze with no actual rain.  He often does get specific when he answers prayer.

Next Wednesday the plan is to continue with food and supply distribution, but they will also bring an extra trailer with clothes and a few more volunteers to man it.  The people are beginning now to ask about clothing, so it is time to initiate that portion of the relief effort. 

On our way home we stopped by the Boyer’s house in Dickinson to check on them.  As we drove up a wrecker was loading up Rita’s car.  The insurance company had just officially totaled it.  Don is already driving a rental, and she is now fourth in line for a rental, but until then she is figuring out “alternative means” of transportation.  She has a great attitude, though.  One would think she just might know Jesus …

Different hat.  While at Rita’s I got a call from the fire department.  Two of our crews had just been on a pretty horrific accident call.  Trish was just letting me know so I could check in on them when I can to make sure they are effectively processing it.  I’ll have to keep my ear to the ground on that one.

Switch hats.  We stopped by Sam’s and WalMart on the way home to pick up some specific supplies uncovered by the Alvin team. 

Switch hats.  After a shower and some supper I settled in next to my wife to try to stay awake long enough to watch some of the Astros game.  That was … a full day.

2 Peter 3:8-9 says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Father, be with the relief team sent to the Alvin home today.  Endow them with supernatural strength laced with supernatural compassion as they deal with that family.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20 – “A surprise resource”

I made a trip to downtown Galveston yesterday.  I wanted to introduce myself to the on-site coordinator of the North American Mission Board (NAMB).  That’s one of the national hurricane relief agencies operating with Galveston as a base.  I wanted to ask about where they were sending volunteers, what supplies they had available, and how far they were going in their assistance.  The last question was answered rather quickly.  They are here for phase one operations only.  They primarily help empty out and muck out homes, then spray them for mold.  There is apparently an entirely different division that helps with rebuilding homes.  He didn’t know if that division was going to be deployed in this area or not.  He did ask me to send him any addresses I might encounter of homes that still need to be mucked out.  He has a glut of volunteers scheduled, and he wants to use them in this South of Houston area as much as possible.  As I was leaving he gave me a tour of their two shower trailers, a freezer trailer, and an ice machine that have all been set up to provide for the volunteers.

They are not at all set up as a distribution center for supplies or food or clothing.  Well, except for Shockwave, the mold killing product they are using.  He said they will give water bottles full of the stuff with strict instructions on usage (one fourth of a bottle to a gallon of water).  Oh, and on the shower trailer tour he remarked that they had received an entire pallet of dehumidifiers and rolled roofing. 

I went from there over to fire station one to check in with the guys on duty since I was so close.  And that’s when I found out a fairly well-kept secret.  Come to find out there are several fire fighters who live here on the Island who have water damage in their homes.  Now, understand, these are the guys who spent the first few days after the storm on duty or volunteering to help with rescues.  Then they transitioned into creating work crews to tear out the moldy sheetrock and flooring in other fire fighter homes.  All the while, they never bothered to let on that their own homes had received some damage as well.  See, parts of the Island did receive heavy rainfall, and depending on the drainage capacity of individual neighborhoods, some parts did experience flooding.  But these fire fighters never told anyone about their damage because they considered it minor in comparison to what the folks on the mainland were undergoing.  Minor?  OK.  But still a significant drain on their personal time and resources.  Two of the guys were apparently still trying to get their homes to dry out enough to continue with repairs.  They needed a … dehumidifier.  Ding.  Ding.  Ding.  My old brain may be deteriorating, but even I could make that connection.

I put in a call to the NAMB guy I had just spent an hour or so with.  When he heard that a request was coming in for a dehumidifier that two first responders could share, he would have none of it.  He insisted that they each be given one, with no strings attached.  He was even willing to deliver them to the station himself.  I offered to do it for him, since I could take them directly to the guys’ homes that needed them, and he was appreciative.  I think deep down he really just wanted to go visit a fire station.  What little boy doesn’t love a fire truck?  I assured him he would be more than welcome, but in the end his tight schedule forced him to comply with my offer. 

I made contact with each of the fire fighters, and dropped off the dehumidifiers.  They were both humbled and excited.  The plan is to make the machines available to whoever might need them now, them to store them at the fire fighters’ union hall for when the next “event” occurs.  And it will occur.  Leave it to our fire fighters to be prepared for the future.

2 Peter 1:10-11 says, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Father, once again you amaze me with the way you meet needs before we even know what they will be.  Thank you for that.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19 – “A very Freddy day”

Yesterday was a very Freddy kind of day.  For those of you who don’t know, Freddy is one of our three dogs.  Heidi, Fritz, and Freiderecke.  See why we call her Freddy?  There’s actually more to the story of her name, but you’ll have to check my blog posts from about a year ago to get the full impact.  "Impact."  Yep, that’s the right word.  We have had Freddy since the Day of the Impact … the day Chris hit her with the car. 

So Freddy had the kind of day that most dogs can only dream of.  Oh, it began harmlessly enough.  Cavorting in the back yard with Fritz and the German Shepherd that lives behind us.  Heidi generally avoids such meaningless encounters, preferring instead to remain in the air conditioned comfort of her bed.  Later in the morning, though, Freddy was lounging on a pillow in one of the recliners when she suddenly leapt from her perch and raced to the front door.  And the barking began.  Well, she is a small dog, so it would probably be more accurate to say the yipping began.  Fritz followed within seconds, and a few seconds after that we realized that the problem was making his way up the driveway … the postman cometh.

Now here’s the thing about the postman.  Early that morning … I mean, really early.  It was exactly 7:48 a.m. in fact … I was startled to glance out the front window to see a mail lady delivering something to out mailbox.  I thought surely I was dreaming, but no.  She had sure enough made a mail delivery before 8 a.m.  Amazing.  Of course, we had had no mail delivered at all on Saturday, and it was obvious she was making up for that, but it was still an all-time record.  But back to the Freddy encounter.  She was doing her job, rather admirably, I must say, when this second postman made his appearance.  But something happened that served to not only disconcert her, but in fact threaten her entire sense of canine protocol.  The mailman … came inside.  That’s right, he didn’t just rattle the little box by the door and turn quickly to make his escape.  He opened the door and came inside.  And we seemed to be perfectly all right with it.  The yipping stopped and the sniffing began.  And the wiggling.  And the tail wagging.  And the licking.  Within seconds Freddy transitioned from protection mode to full on consorting with the mailman.

OK, I know you all know by now that the mailman was my son Kel.  He had been given a route near here, so he came over to have lunch in air conditioned comfort instead of sitting in the sauna box of a mail truck.  But did Freddy’s friends and neighbors know?  And would they be forgiving and accepting when next she sounds the postman alarm?  Or would there be only choruses of “Hah.  That’s the mailman-lover over at the Vaughan house.  Can’t trust her.  I’m not barking until I see the blue of his shirt for myself.”  Sigh.  Poor Freddy. 

2 Peter 1:5-9 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Father, help me to be like Freddy, ready to accept into friendship even her sworn enemy.  And thank you for a bit of a respite in our day yesterday.  I had no idea how much rest I really did need.  Could you grease some wheels in the doctor department so I can get an appointment and get this neck checked out?  Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18 – “Playing flood”

Our Lake Jackson connections have finally begun to kick in as our friends across the San Luis Pass begin to return to their homes.  Yesterday after church we helped one of our Seasiders load up a truck with bleach and other supplies.  They were heading to help out two specific families, but they were also redistributing some of the supplies we had into a church over in Lake Jackson.  It’s always best to get the resources as close as possible to the people who actually need then.

Chris showed me a photo the other day.  Christina had just sent a text with a picture of Noa playing with her doll house toys.  Not such a big deal, right?  That’s what little girls do.  But in this case, it was the accompanying commentary that made the image come alive.  She had the toy furniture all lined up in a row.  Why, you may ask?  “My kitchen flooded,” she responded.  Her older brothers had spent some time doing some mucking out, and they had seen some of the devastation in their trips to relief stations to deliver and pick up supplies for neighbors.  Do three year olds pay attention?  Oh, yes. 

Guess I’m cutting things short today.  I have to prepare for a funeral this morning.  A very sweet lady who often came to our home group years ago died.  Her daughter Kathy played an important role in Josh’s life as she gave him one of his first jobs in a coffee shop they ran.  Please pray for that family as you recall them this morning.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Father, would you walk with Kathy and Trish and all of their family as they make their way through their grieving process.  Amen.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17 – “Man Down Two”

Well, after Lauren’s announcement the other day that she was Seaside’s fire “man down” as a result of the storm relief efforts (she was sick from the mold exposure), I have to announce that it looks like I am Man Down Two.  I have officially reached my lift limit for my back and neck and knee.  The pain got to be bad enough that I finally agreed to call for a neurosurgeon appointment.  That would be for my neck.  Tingling, itchy streaks shooting from my neck up into my ear.  Very weird feeling.  Problem is, I wake up at night and realize I have scratched at my ear enough to make it bleed.  Last time I saw him for my lower back he basically said I should try to live with it and avoid surgery unless it got too difficult to walk.  But he added that if I ever had issues arise with my neck that I was to give him a call.  The knee?  I don’t know.  Maybe if I just rest it …

We did manage a little bit of an adventure yesterday.  We drove to League City to see Jachin play a baseball game.   Well, two games.  It was a doubleheader.  Now, if anyone tried to leave the Island yesterday via the causeway, you know that traffic was backed up onto the bridge.  Construction had everyone funneling into one lane.  But hark.  The voice of Google Siri came to our rescue.  She suggested an alternate route through.  With some difficulty (we made a wrong turn or two) we finally located a little known road that led us right to Highway 3.  It enabled us to avoid the treacherous roadwork that has already put a crack in our windshield and apparently hundreds of others.  It was an adventure to us, though.  Especially the part where we laughed at the many other vehicles who couldn’t understand Siri’s route suggestions. 

We did make it to the games.  And was it ever hot.  The field had no shade, either.  And we were far enough away from the Island that there was not much of a breeze.  The boys were absolutely dragging all through the second game.  Even Chris almost threw up.  The guys did pretty well, though.  Jachin’s team won one and lost one, but in their loss they came back from a 9 run deficit and made the score a bit closer.

Oh, and I did something I have never done before.  I dropped my cell phone.  Well, I have dropped my phone before, but this time when it hit … the screen cracked.  Not shattered like some I have seen, though.  It is just a crack across the top.  So now I have to poll my friends and family who have preceded me in cracked-screen-dom to see what I’m supposed to do next. 

I almost made it through a whole post here without a comment on the relief efforts taking place.  But I do have one thing.  We were going to stop by some folks’ houses in Dickinson to check on them, but we were both feeling woozy from the heat, so we headed home.  As we drove down the freeway through Dickinson, however, we glanced to our right and saw the massive appliance graveyard.  Stoves, refrigerators, washers, dryers completely filling the parking lot of a former furniture store.  Absolutely sobering as to its sheer magnitude.  I wasn’t able to get a photo since we were on the freeway, but if you want to see a representation of the destruction from the flood, drive I45 through Dickinson and look to the west.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Father, thank you for protecting those boys as they played in the heat yesterday.  Speaking of protecting, be with the folks who have the responsibility of gathering and disposing of all those appliances.  That is an unsung and absolutely necessary job.  Amen.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September 16 – “And then what?”

We don’t always get to hear back from the people we help.  Here is one case in which we did.  A bit of background first.  One of our Seasiders, Sharon, often takes her granddaughter Elena to the Palm Beach water play area at Moody Gardens.  As five-years-olds often do, Elena made friends with another youngster and the two became regular water park playmates.  And that meant Sharon and the youngster’s mother became water park friends, talking together as the kids splashed in the water. 

After Hurricane Harvey hit, Sharon made a call and checked on her water park friend.  She arranged to take them some supplies.  And while on that supply delivery visit she also met the mom’s sister.  Her house was also flooded, and she needed some help as well.  Sharon made a phone call to make the request. 

About that I was fielding a series of messages from Servant of Nations Church in Houston, a group that has stayed in Seaside’s retreat center.  Seems they had a group of folks from out of town who were wanting to do some work helping a family.  They were wondering if I knew of any place.  Doesn’t take long for the need to meet headlong with the provision when the Holy Spirit is involved in the process.  The group was sent out and the work was done. 

Now that’s usually as far as the story goes in cases like this.  We don’t often get - or need – feedback from the folks we are able to help.  But in this case, Sharon was involved.  In her gift of hospitality mode, she followed up on the situation and spoke with the recipient on the phone.  Here are some of Sharon’s words: “She was sobbing with gratitude towards the group that came and helped her today.  She was overwhelmed by their love, their praying for her, and generosity to her.”  Later she added, “Her sister also called me to thank us for sending help.  She said she hardly knew us but felt that we were family sent to her.  I expect to have opportunities to get to know the family better and share our faith more as I do.  Very sweet ladies.  I will be going to check on them.”  And then, “So thankful we made the connection for her help.  Thank you.” 

No, Sharon.  Thank you.  It was your heart for ministry and openness to the Holy Spirit long before the need arose that allowed this whole event to happen.  God was making connections long before we knew they would be needed.  And in Sharon’s final words to me in that text: “Yes, our God is like that!”  Yes, He is.

1 Peter 5:14 says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

Father, thank you for Sharon and Elena and most of all for your Holy Spirit, working to make connections with people “just because.”  Let more “just because” connections cause your work to spread in this crisis and beyond.  Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15 – “Closer to home”

We did something rather unusual yesterday.  We decided to deal with some storm damage a little closer to home.  Well, a lot closer to home.  We finally got around to cleaning up the storm damage around our house.  Fortunately it was minor and confined to our yard.  The trees on one side of the house were stripped bare of leaves and several branches were down.  The biggest tree itself is in our neighbor’s yard.  The bulk of the branches and leaves and hackberries, however, managed to find their way into ours.  That’s what Chris attacked after she did her weekly Thursday housecleaning in preparation for Home Group Bible Study.  Meanwhile I cranked up the lawn mower.  Now we did mow one other time after the storm, but we never did edge or use the weed eater.  No time then.  It was overdue now.  Once I finished that task I trimmed off a few of the broken branches still barely attached to the sycamore trees.  And I confess that I also trimmed the oleander bush in the front yard.  We have to do that periodically when it hinders our line of vision as we back the car out of the driveway.  Mrs. Betty of the Oleander Society watches me like a hawk, so I have to a little sneaky.  I can’t keep track of the “proper time” to trim.  I was headed to the back yard to lop off a few more offending branches when Chris insisted that I was finished.  Guess I looked a bit spent. 

Now, I did field a phone call from Seaside’s windstorm insurance agent about the ceiling leaks that showed up after the storm.  Their adjuster will be contacting us in the next five or six days about coming out to assess the damage.  He apologized for his tardiness in calling.  Something about their being swamped with claims lately.  Get it?  “Swamped”?  Still too soon?  I also got a call informing me that the remaining two air conditioning units in the retreat center are just about done.  Out.  Kaput.  Fortunately, we have a fund we have been trying to build up to deal with just such eventualities.  Lynn, our resident AC guy is going to get the units ordered and installed for a pretty good price. 

Another issue of repair around the church has come up.  With all of the loaded to the hilt dolly and gruntingly laden foot traffic bringing supplies into the building, our ramp into the worship center has developed a problem.  We now have a speed dip on the way up.  A few of the boards have slipped out of place and need to be repaired or replaced.  Or the whole ramp needs to be replaced.  I don’t know which.  We’ll get a few of our carpenter-type handymen to take a look at it on Sunday. 

OK, so much for the minor stuff “at home.”  I think the plan for today is for Chris and I to head back to the church and get it set up for worship on Sunday.  There will still be supplies everywhere when you come, so find a seat next to that case of bleach.  Get to know it.  Invite it to join you on a visit you are about to make to Dickinson, or League City, or Santa Fe, or Hitchcock, or LaMarque, or Alvin, or Lake Jackson.  You’ll be surprised at the ability of a case of bleach to be a wingman.  Opens all kinds of doors among a very large segment of our county population about now. 

1 Peter 5:10-11 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Father, help us stay on top of our issues “at home” so we can better spend our time matching supplies to the right homes.  Amen.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14 – “A Hurricane Relief Joke”

I have to start with a Hurricane Relief Joke told to us this morning by Cailyn.  You might want to sit down for this one … it’s a true classic.  Ready? 
Question: What did the insulation say to the flamingo? 
Answer: Have a very insulation day.
Why thank you.  I believe I will.

I found out last night that Seaside is kinda famous.  Well, at least we were mentioned in the media, not once, but twice.  The first was a local furniture company’s FaceBook post. Starfine Furniture provided a bunch of mattresses for the neighborhood in Alvin that a Seaside Team has been working with.  It was certainly a welcome relief for the folks to sleep on something other than their floor.  Thank you Hurricane Harvey relief partner … Starfine Furniture.

The second mention was not something you saw on FaceBook.  It wasn’t Jim Cantore on the Weather Channel (thank goodness).  No, it wasn’t even the Galveston Daily News.  Seaside received mention – a whole article, in fact – in none other than (insert drumroll here) … the Atoka County Times.  That’s right, folks.  We have been immortalized in print.  A reporter from the Times wrote up a very nice article highlighting the third grade youngsters who sent the moving encouragement cards with the trailer load of supplies.  The class even got their picture in the paper, always an exciting development when you are 8 years old.  Seaside is proud of you kids at the Atushka School (Did I get it right?).  And we love you.

I finally got to meet (over the phone) Pastor Domingo from the Alvin community a Seaside Team has been working hard with.  He and the whole community look forward to the days the Seaside Team comes to provide a hot meal.  He told me a team from Manvel (a neighboring small community) came up to Alvin the other day and helped with mucking out his church.  His concern, however, sounded a bit more significant that just restoration.  He said the building “seems to be leaning.  You can tell it when you walk inside.”  He wanted to have that issue addressed before he started using the building even for storage.  Sounds like they might need a structural engineer to take a look at it.

We received another donation that I helped the guy unload.  Around fifteen cases of bleach (Any mucking teams out there need bleach?).  Mucking masks – the good kind.  Paper towels.  Gloves.  Water.  This load was from Servant of Nations Church in Houston.  They have stayed in our retreat center several times, and they are doing a lot of relief work in Houston, so they wanted to share some of their resources with us.  The guy who made the delivery was actually from New Hampshire.  He is friends with the youth pastor at Servant of Nations, and was in the area scoping things out for an effort that will bring 800 college students from the Northeast to the area.  But not until Spring of next year.  He checked out the retreat center as a possible place to stay.

When he left I replaced the broken ceiling tile in one of the Retreat Center bathrooms.  It had some water damage on it, causing it to collapse onto one of the toilets (Glad there was no one in there at the time.  That would have been frightening).  We took pictures for the insurance guy, but I’m pretty sure it is just like the problems downstairs … wind driven rain, which is not covered.  I have no idea when an insurance guy will be able to get to us, anyway, so at least now we can use the bathroom.  Oh, and I also replaced a broom.  Yep, a broom.  The one up there was bent … in half.  Oh, I used it to sweep up the debris.  Felt like a Smurf.  Or a Hobbit. 

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Father, thank you for Cailyn’s joke this morning.  As goofy as it is … I needed that.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13 – “A job for Dottie”

Chris and I started the day once again at the church, sorting and rearranging.  Between us we managed to wade through all of the shoes (me) and several boxes of children’s clothing (Chris).  Oh, and the bags of donations that showed up the day before.  In between shoes and clothes and fielding phone calls requesting assistance of one kind or another, we managed to clear enough space in the fellowship room to move the bulk of the cases of water in there.  It freed up space in the worship center for, well, for worship.  We do still need to whittle down all those clothes, though.  Right now they come across as overwhelming instead of inviting to the people who come in. 

And speaking of the people who come in, we stopped our work long enough to spend some time talking with a family who came for some help.  That’s one of the unheralded factors of being in a position to be the helper after a crisis like this one.  You get to listen a lot.  People’s need to tell their story is just as pressing as their need for a blanket or a gallon of bleach or a hot meal.  The husband was an ex-Mexican cartel soldier who became a Christian and just walked away.  He said they respected him for it.  He told me, “The only thing the cartels truly fear is God.  I guess they could tell God was suddenly with me.  When I told them I was leaving I told them they could kill me or do whatever they wanted to me, but I was leaving to follow God.  And they just let me go.”  Not long after, he reconnected with his high school sweetheart, they got married and have been together ever since.  He has undergone a liver transplant and they are both disabled.  Now they have lost everything is Hurricane Harvey.  But they are joyful and at peace.  That’s one tough guy who surrendered to Jesus and no other. 

As they were leaving a sweet Seasider couple arrived with an interesting donation.  A brand new microwave, crockpot, toaster, and coffeepot.  Instant kitchen anywhere you have access to electricity.  I would place that one as one of the most thought-through donations in a flood relief situation that I have ever seen.  Thanks so much, guys.

Last night we went to visit a couple who was at church on Sunday.  They have a home in Sea Isle, but their primary residence in Houston was flooded, so her Mom and Dad are living with them in the evacuation home.  They were going after church to see the flooded houses for the first time.  Chris spent some time talking with them.  Several factors kicked in beyond a flooded house and being in a different city and facing mucking out and cleaning and rebuilding a house that they had just completed renovating.  The husband has been dealing with Alzheimer’s.  Their dog is currently staying with a relative.  The elderly parents are staying with them here as well, and their home was also flooded, and they are experiencing some depression.  The parents’ dog is very old and seems to be on its last leg.  The dog isn’t handling the stress very well, either.  So they all are experiencing the frustration of having a place to stay that is more than an hour away from the place they need to be working on every day.  Whew.  Well, here’s the thing … We have two canine regulars here at Seaside.  Bella and Dottie are therapy dogs who work with one of our members who is a Christian counselor.  They come to church every Sunday as part of their training in getting used to being around people.  Well, Dottie was working Sunday morning.  Through Dottie’s calming presence I saw that husband, noticeably relax as he continued to stroke her fur throughout the service.  Nice work, Dottie.  We all do what we can do.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Father, thank you for Dottie and Bella and unexpected opportunities to minister.  Amen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12 – “Kind of sobering”

I listened to a message on the church answering machine yesterday.  Kind of sobering.  After an unintelligible beginning that I assume might have been a name, it went like this, “we just needed some help with clothes or anything really.  We lost it all in the storm.”  <Long pause>  “But really, no, more than anything, we just need your prayers.  Will you keep us in your prayers?  Thank you, and have a blessed day.”  That was it.  No return phone number.  Just “pray for us.”  Yep.  Kind of sobering.

We headed up to the church to meet with the pastor at First Baptist Church over in Bolivar.  Bolivar has been under a boil water notice, and their school children are even being ferried over to Galveston schools until the notice is lifted.  We loaded his car up with cases of water and some food.    

While we were at the church Chris and I worked on doing some more sorting.  Amber joined us.  We finally gathered together a large batch of clothes and diapers and baby wipes and baby food.  We stuffed it into our car and headed to the Texas City Crisis Pregnancy Center.  They were quite pleased to receive the donation, so thank you to all who pitched in, whether from Atoka or Tushka or Burleson or Galveston. 

Next we made a stop at Sam’s for some supplies the church needed.  Gotta complete the Texas list while off the Island, of course.  We went straight back to the church to unload, and sitting outside the church were ten or twelve bags of donations that someone had dropped off.  We really appreciate the thought and the heart behind the donations.  However, much of it was not really appropriate for people who have been displaced from their homes.  A quick glance as we carried them inside showed that there were some Christmas decorations, kitchen things like a blender and a salad shooter, and several glass jars.  All nice thing, mind you, but just not yet appropriate, and not really what we are set up to receive right now.  We didn’t take the time to go through everything, though.  We’ll head back up later this morning.  I also want to figure out a better way to arrange things so we can move the rest of the cases of water out of the sanctuary.  The ladies Bible study begins tonight, and they need access to the area. 

I received a phone call while we were there.  A friend of Dennis, that pastor in Bolivar, had flooded out and he and his wife needed some pillows and blankets, or anything we could help with.  We’ll get with him later today and try to help them out.

As I said in earlier posts, this thing is not over yet.  I understand Florida really dodged a much worse bullet than things could have been with Hurricane Irma.  I also understand that Hurricane Jose might make a twirly-que turn-around and head back for the Atlantic coast.  It’s not over yet.  Yep, also kind of sobering.

Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Father, in the midst of all this “sobering,” could you also bring joy and peace?  Thank you.  Amen.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11 - “No strings attached”

My Sunday started out very exciting.  Before our worship service even began, a man approached me wanting to share about an encounter he had had with Jesus.  It was having a profound effect on his life, and he wanted to solidify it by sharing it.  We talked about his salvation biblically, and then about baptism.  He understood right away the difference in meaning between the christening he had as a baby in the Catholic church and this baptism as an adult to confirm his personal decision to follow Jesus.  We have a baptism at the beach scheduled now for the first Sunday in October.  Good stuff. 

Oh an on another positive note … We found a home for our old stackable pews.  The Island Alcoholics Anonymous groups knew of several places where they needed the seating.  Steve came over with a trailer and we loaded it up and strapped them in.  Very excited that they will continue to have purpose.

We received another trailer load of supplies.  And a truckload as well.  Many of the donations were used clothes, however, and we simply don’t have any place to put them.  As a result many will be taken right to Salvation Army, where they will still be available to those in need at a location that has plenty of room.  What room we do have we are trying to hold for the new clothing items that come in, particularly things like underwear and socks and t-shirts.  And we are still gathering other types of supplies.  Right now we are good on bottled water, but cleaning and mucking out supplies are still at a premium.  The product Shockwave seems to be getting good reviews for mold removal.  Baby products of all kinds, and even baby clothes are still needed by the crisis pregnancy center.  We are preparing to take a load to them perhaps today if we can make connection with the director to find out at which site she wants the supplies. Some folks are getting very close to the rebuilding phase, so we will be investigating resources for things like sheetrock and taping and bedding.  On the other hand, some folks in nearby Lake Jackson are just now able to reach their flooded homes, so the process is just about to begin for them. 

The donations of money that we have received have been a big blessing to people.  Some things you just can’t get at a resource center.  And I remember well after Hurricane Ike, that being able to occasionally stop at McAlister’s Deli for a sandwich instead of stand in a food line was an unimaginable respite.  Some of the money being donated to Seaside we have set aside to be used for no-strings-attached gifts.  Some of it is going toward purchase of specific supplies needs that have arisen that we are in a position to purchase while homeowners are working on houses.  Some has gone towards purchase of food for the community group in Alvin that our folks have fed for the last few weeks.  Here are a few other specific stories …

After church I talked for a long time with a single Dad of three teenage daughters.  Their ground floor apartment was among the few places here on the Island that flooded.  They have been staying in a hotel since the storm while he tried to locate another place to live.  His job had just started back, so he was working.  This family’s need was basically threefold: Simple foods they could prepare in a hotel room, like peanut butter and jelly or things that could warm up in a microwave.  Basic personal toiletries like shampoo and deodorant.  And finally, just enough money to complete the required deposit so they could get into the rent house he had finally located.  You know, one key thing I have learned about trying to discern real needs is how ready the person is to receive.  In this case the gentleman seemed reluctant and humbled by the experience.  He even offered to do some work for the church.  And as it turns out he may just get his wish.  He is a welder and we happen to have some welding work that we haven’t done because we were waiting for … a welder. 

Yet another family arrived after services.  They live in Dickinson and were among those rescued by boat.  Their story was a fascinating one, of what each of them saved as the waters rose.  The teenage daughter made sure she had clothes.  The teenage son got what electronics he could up into the attic, and put the rest onto his air mattress bed.  And it did float, by the way.  He didn’t have any clothes, but his electronics survived.  They were able to garner some cleaning supplies and clothes and toiletries and even some food.  I really enjoyed getting to know them.

The volunteers from afar are supposed to be boots on the ground today, so maybe the mucking out process will speed up for the folks who really need it.  We did a lot of praying for Florida as it faces the wrath of Hurricane Irma and the aftermath that could be just as devastating there as Harvey was here.  Chris just read an exerpt from a FaceBook post that listed all the disasters going on right now – fires and flooding and hurricanes and earthquakes.  And the last comment was, “If you don’t know Jesus, now might be a good time to consider it.”  Yep …

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Father, would you use this disaster to draw people to yourself?  It might be what it takes to get someone’s attention.  Amen.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10 – “Helping … one family at a time”

Yesterday morning Chris and I sat in our respective chairs with our cups of coffee chatting about our day, and Chris commented, “I was hoping to take today and not do anything related to hurricane relief.  But it appears our day is already filling up rapidly.”  “With what?” you may ask …

I had to make a connection with the new representative of the North American Mission Board over at First Baptist Church.  He had called the church about using the retreat center as a backup housing facility for volunteers as they come into the area to help.  Well, it seems we are “farther away” than they at first thought from the command center at First Baptist.  But they will give us a call if they ever need us.  Well, OK.  Well, speaking of OK, I understand we have a group from Oklahoma interested in coming down here to do some work.  I think I might know of a place for you guys to stay.

Next we located a family from Hitchcock that we knew from Kel’s boys were playing baseball there.  They had been displaced from the house they had been renting by high flood waters.  Even though it was a rental, they spent hours, and Kel and Jachin even helped some, tearing out sheetrock and in general doing all they could to get the house ready for contractors.  Now they are in a holding pattern until the repairs are all made.  Their two older kids go to school in Hitchcock.  The two-year-old twins’ day care is there.  He works up on the mainland.  They found a temporary place to stay here on the island, so we got them some supplies of food and diapers from the church stash.  We also stopped by Walmart.  I wanted to get some little token for each of the kiddos.  Their oldest, a 17 year-old daughter, got one of those adult coloring books and some colored pencils.  Their junior high son received a pack of baseball and a pack of football cards.  One twin got a fire truck and the other a police cruiser.  And in each of their gift bags was a secret envelope with $20 in it.  Mom and Dad got some of the relief and recovery money from the church as well. 

Helping … one family at a time.

We received a FedEx delivery yesterday.  It was a box addressed to “Vaughan’s Hotel and Laundry.”  Perplexed and intrigued, Cailyn helped me open it up.  Inside we found assorted candies, nuts, cheese and crackers from the far off (El Paso), appreciative relative of the Boyer’s, the family we housed for a time after the storm.  Thank you so much, Mrs. Lorita for your thank you gift.  Believe me, it was a pleasure having your brood join with ours. 

Last night, on the way to a wedding, I saw the almost immediate aftermath of a wreck on the seawall.  It involved a truck and a motorcycle.  The fire department hadn’t yet arrived, but lots of Good Samaritans were blocking traffic, and administering what appeared to me to be proper care for the lady on the street.  She seemed alert and in good hands.  A police car was arriving as I passed, so I lifted a prayer and kept my vehicle well out of the way. 

Psalms 106:1 says, “Praise the Lord!  Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Father, please bring healing to those injured in the wreck.  Thank you for the positives that the Pruden family is experiencing after the flood.  Help them to get back home.  Amen.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

September 9 – “Can you hear me now?”

Well, well, well.  Three active hurricanes at the same time, following an already devastating fourth.  Fires encompassing the entire Northwest.  And now an earthquake in Mexico.  One would think Somebody is trying to get our attention …

Chris headed to far northwest Houston yesterday.  She had to return a Bible study that the ladies last used and see about picking up another one.  What was anticipated to be about an hour and a half trip turned into two and a half hours … one way.  Not so much damage as just slow going.  And then when she arrived she found out that she didn’t have all the parts that went with the study.  She arranged to find them and get them back as soon as possible. 

Meanwhile, I went to Seaside to start work on sorting the new donations.  We had to adjust some things to work with the homeschool music co-op, since it was their day in the buildings.  They were great about everything, though.  They even encouraged us in our efforts.  One lady stopped me on her way home because she had been asked by a friend in the Northeast (Connecticut, I think she said) if she knew of a place where they could send some donations.  She asked if she could give them my contact information, so we may be hearing from them in the future.

We found out we have yet another leak at Seaside.  This one is in the retreat center over one of the bathrooms.  One of the ceiling tiles accumulated enough water to break and fall.  It also looks like there may be some early stage mold as well.  Cathy will be tracking down our insurance agent.  Oh, and we also got a report that two of the air conditioners upstairs didn’t seem to be working very well.  Our resident AC specialist has been notified, and we are on his already busy list.  Thanks, Lynn.

So back to the sorting efforts.  I mean “effort” when I say that, too.  I was exhausted when I got home, and I am still sore this morning.  Around 9:15 a.m. to about 4 p.m.  But I was not alone.  Lauren was there before me, and Dianne arrived soon after, as did Sam.  Before the end of the day we had 8 or 10 different people who had pitched in some kind of help.  And boy did we need it.  We have an awfully lot of clothes for having made an appeal not to bring clothes.  Almost an entire roomful.  It is deceptively hard work to sort clothes and supplies, especially since we had to rearrange everything, setting up more tables.  Why all the effort?  Well, we have another trailer full of supplies due to arrive on Sunday from Oklahoma.  We needed a place to put whatever comes then. 

We had a few folks stop by and ask for some help, so they had an opportunity to go shopping.  I listened to the phone messages from the week.  One was from Lighthouse Church here in Galveston.  They have found themselves to be a distribution center as well, so they wanted to know if we wanted to share resources and swap back and forth as needed.  Made me think back to trading baseball cards when I was a kid.  Absolutely we’ll get into that relationship.  Lauren took their number and will make that call.  I also got a call from the on-site guy from the North American Mission Board group staging out of First Baptist Church in Galveston.  They are supposed to get volunteer boots on the ground starting Monday.  He wants to get together and take a look at the retreat center as a possible site for overflow housing for volunteers.  Apparently his boss was the guy who looked at it last week.  I’ll have to connect with him later on today. 

Oh, and speaking of later on, when Chris got back from Houston and came out to the church, she reminded me that I had a wedding rehearsal last night.  Now I knew about it, but that was the farthest thing from my mind all day.  Good thing she got there.  I made it to the rehearsal with time to spare.  It promises to be a fun wedding, too.  The groomsmen are a bunch of clowns (Not literally, but they sure can make people laugh), so we’ll make this one interesting. 

Matthew 6:31-33 says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Father, thank you for the hope that comes with knowing help is on the way.  Keep the volunteers safe as they travel here and healthy as they begin work.  Oh, and could you watch over Florida as well?  And Mexico?  And the Northwest?  I know it’s a tall order, but you are certainly a “tall” God.  Amen.