Monday, December 12, 2011

volunteering-from the heart

I received another call out to join a feeding unit in Bastrop on Sat. Dec. 3. I was scheduled for jury duty the following week, so early Monday morning I rushed downtown to get excused, then hurriedly finished packing and began the 4 hour drive to Bastrop.

This deployment differed from the last two primarily because the weather was in the twenties at night and upper thirties during the day.

We were busy scrambling eggs over a huge propane burner by 5:30 a.m. Theheat from the convection ovens cooking sausage and bacon took off a bit of the chill. On this deployment we were only feeding between twenty and thirty clean up volunteers.

New friends included the lady in the tan jacket who has muscular distrophy and works primarily from a wheel chair. Once we had the food prepared in the tent, we stored it in cambros and trucked it inside the warehouse building for serving.

Previous blogs showed additional pictures of cooking and serving.

After meals comes clean up. All those pots, pans and cambros have to be scrubbed and disinfected with bleach. Note the steam rising from the rinse tanks.

Bob is finishing up pots after dark with a hot-water pressure washer. Look out for the hot steam!

One morning the cook team started chili cooking in the tilt skillet and took a welcome break to visit some of the work sites.

Here two members of a chainsaw team are limbing a downed dead pine tree.

We were allowed to look around and take pictures after we all donned yellow hard hats.

This once lovely large brick home home is now nothing but ash. The fierce heat evaporated the moisture from the brick mortar. The standing brick walls could be pushed over with a finger.

Only ash-out crews were allowed to work on the foundation, sifting for the families valuables, then shoveling out the ash.

The burned and dead trees will be removed.

Most home owners were able to escape with a few pets, posessions and papers. Others were not so fortunate. Mobile home exploded as flames and heat roared beneath the flooring.

Praise the Lord that no lives were lost.

Home owners were amazed that volunteers were willing to give of thier time and expertise to aid in clean up and recovery without pay.

Another form of recovery involved salvaging chared trees. John Deer Tractor company donated the use of this huge forklift to move logs around a portable saw mill.

I got to ride on this monser!

The logs were power washed to rid them of ash and burned bark, then graded.

I can't explain how this sawmill works, except that I watched it saw off the side of this log until it was a huge square beam, then it was sawed into planks. The lumber was sorted into sizes and made available in kit form for the construction of sheds. Praise the Lord for the ability to reclaim and reuse the results of the fires.

An incomplete report of the response to the Bastrop fires follows: Volunteers participated from utah/Idaho, Louisiana, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Kentucky and Kansas as well as from Texas. 4, 350 volunteer days were log. over 15,000 meals served, 445 cleanup and recovery sites were completed, with a few more sites to be completed before the first of the year. Spiritual contacts were made with more than 600 individuals, with the Gospel presented to move than 250 people. Some 80 persons accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

Ministries provided in addition to feeding, cleanup and recovery, were chaplins, operations, assessments, laundry and showers, and child care.

Thanks to all of you. As I was driving home I learned that Extreme Home Make Over is building a home in Smithville for one of the firefighters who lost his home. Don't know when it will air.

I rushed home on Friday, Dec. 9, to join Monique and Nickolas volunteeering with Feast of Sharing at Ford Arena in Beaumont. HEB grocery provided the food for several thousand people who drove or were bused to the area for fun, festivities, and a holiday meal

Nick and I are plating ham, then passing the plate to Monique and the fellow next to me for a serving of mashed potatoes, then on down the line. There were two long tables like this. We challenged each other to see who was the fastest ham plater. Notice the cambro of potatoes.

Teens and young adults were waiters to take the prepared plates to the thousands waiting in shifts to eat. Other volunteers took around apple pie and drinks. We enjoyed several children's choirs.

It warmed my heart to see all the people volunteering to serve their fellows. The festive atmosphere and loving acceptance of people from all walks of life make this a Christmas experience I'll do again.

Volunteering- What a way to go!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Caring and Sharing in prison.

Wednesday, Dec. 1, Nickloas and Monique joined me to help Rodney Barnett and others load BBQ, potato salad, sauce, bread and #10 cans of beans to feed 250 prison guards and employees at the Hightower Unit in Dayton.

Nickolas and Monique loaded down my car with non perishibles. We then loaded meat and potato salad in to 6 large coolers, iced it down and packed it in James' truck.

Add Image Thursday morning we met at 6 am on Major Dr. to caravan to Dayton.

On arival at the prison, we were discouraged to learn that neither our ID information or the contents of our coolers and boxes had been cleared through the guards.

I prefered waiting outside in the cold (35 degree), windy parking lot to the prospect of entering that razor wire compound.

Soon however the chaplin had everything straightened out and we were frisked, searched, questioned and signed in.

The food was taken to the officers' dinning room where inmates took over heating the meat and serving the officers as they came in for lunch.

I spoke with a teacher who enjoyed her job with her "captive audience" of students who had to request attending school, a therapist who had seen many of the inmates, and we spoke with several guards who shared stories that are confidential.

Hightower is a medium security prison with two men's units and one women's unit. We warmly thanked the staff for the difficult job they have in keeping order and helping the inmates prepare for the outside world.

Friday and Saturday atheletes with Champion's for Life (Bill Glass campaign) visited all the prisons in the area to present the gospel. I'm glad I was able to have a small part in showing others that Christians care.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

So Much to be Thankful For

Saturday, Nov. 19th, my mother and I pack up the RV to begin a road trip to Florida.

On the way I joined six other authors for a signing at Sonshine Books in Sulphur La. Sales were good. The owner/manager made us all feel quite welcome, and I made some new writer friends.

Mother and I spent the night with my brother and family in Lake Charles, attended church on Sunday at East Ridge Baptist where my brother is pastor, and were on I-10 East bound after a quick lunch.

Driving through Mississippi was a challenge when a thick blanket of fog obscured over 100 miles of highway. Darkness forced us into a Wal-Mart parking lot for the night. Monday morning fog clouded the highway until we were past Mobile, then the sun burned it away and the remaining trip to Apopka, north of Orlando was uneventful.

Daughter, Colleen, decorated for Christmas because my grandson, Devin, is home on a short leave from an airbase in South Korea.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner was enjoyed by all, especially Oliver the cat who was allowed to stay on the chair begging for left overs just long enough for pictures.

To work off excess eating, we visited Wikiva Springs State Park for hiking. Colleen and husband, Mark, flank Grandma, with Devin next to her. On the back row are my granddaughters, Chelsea, Hannah, and Rachel.

Colleen is a writer who has published through online sites. She led me through the process of publishing Beneath the Surface, a novel that I had to take legal action to regain my rights to the manuscript. Another publisher took my investment and did not publish the book for over two years. The result was so full of errors that I was embarassed to have it on the market.
I'm very pleased with the new results and will blog about it soon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Diaster Relief Bastrop and more

I received another call out for Diaster Relief feeding in Bastrop. On Thursday, Oct. 20, I arrived at the First Baptist Church annex on Highway 71 West of Bastrop. The huge yellow tent is our kitchen.

The cooking crew, which had been working for several weeks, was leaving. The first thing I was asked by the supervisor was if I was the new head cook. I recoiled, taken aback. I'd just come to help cook, not run the show!

This is the team that left the following morning, leaving me praying for reinforcements. We were feeding up to 100 volunteers who were assisting the owners of burned out homes to recover any valuables, clean ash and chard belonging from their devistated homes, and to cut and removed burned trees.
Volunteer units from Tennessee, Utah, California, Lousiana, Alabama as well as other regions of Texas had been assisting.

Up at 4;30 AM, we cooked in the tent and fed the volunteers inside the warehouse-like building before they started their day's work before the sun rose.

By noon my prayers had been answered and three volunteer cooks arrived, with two additional volunteers arriving before dinner.

Dish washing was done in another tent set up with huge plastic "horse troughs". We early risers had to be careful to gently shoo off a persistant skunk and his raccoon friends.

Monday morning before daylight and breakfast, I left Bastrop to drive to East Texas Baptist Encampment near Newton, Tx. Before leaving Bastrop I noted that Baptist volunteers had completed 172 cleanup jobs, had 190 job requests remaining and would be working until after the first of the new year. 392 contacts had been made to share the Love of God with 80 people giving their lives to the Lord.

More that 1,700 homes burned, but God is still in control.

As Isiah 61:3 says, God provides beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of dispair.

At the Newton encampent, within an hour of arrival, I was back in the kitchen. This time not in a tent.

I participated in several training classes including specialty feeding. Those of us wanting to learn more about feeding did all the cooking and cleanup under a master chef who donated his time and expertise.
Here, we are preparing to serve biscuits and gravy, and breakfast to about 100 volunteers who came to learn more about serving with Diaster Relief.

In addition to feeding training, I learned how to assist in mud out, the assessment and clean up done after a hurricane or flooding. "You Can Tell It" was a class on how to witness to the people we serve. In the evenings we had Bible study, singing and devotional time. How bless we all were with the teaching of Ryan Dalgliesh, a dynamic, inspriational and extremely knowledgeable speaker from San Angelo.

With all the cooking, it was a pleasure to wash dishes, pots and pans indoors with a sanitizer! And helpers.

I don't look forward to disasters, but I'm greatful to have had the opportunity to learn skills to help and serve in that event.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christian Witnesses

The Golden Triangle area is readying for the 2011 Bill Glass campaign, Champions for Life.
The latter part of November and the first of December we will experience the love of the Lord as Christian athletes, bikers and others will rally to witness in 76 elementary schools and all the local prisons.

To kick off Champions for Life, Robert Smith pastor of Pinewood Baptist Church and the Cowboy Church on Highway 105 East of Sour Lake invited families to visit the cowboy church on Saturday. Isn't this cowpoke having fun!

We were entertained and enlightened by Zach Dishman, professional bareback bronc rider, who gave his testimony to an enthusiastic crowd. He talked about his faith as he has overcome many injuries, and trials of being a Christian in a sport that is "pretty wild". He encouraged everyone to follow their dreams.

After enjoying cowboy stew, lots of beans and hotdogs, the wanna'be cowboys toasted marshmellows for s'mores and sang
choruses along with guitars.

Devin Wyman, pro football lineman, was the keynote speaker for the kick off Champions for Life banquet. Devin played in the Super Bowl as a rookie defensive lineman with the Patriots and has played for other professional teams.

6'8" tall, weighting 335 pounds, he can bench press over 500 pounds and run th 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

Devin encourages kids to be successful and trust the Lord as he speaks in schools through out the country. He tells them then can make a "U" turn in their lives as he demonstrates folding a stainless steel skillet into a taco. He will be visiting area schools in November.

Bikers serve the Lord. Last Sunday I visited Pinewood Baptist Church to experience a biker rally. Over fifty bikers congregated at the church to worship and to listen to the testmony of"Big Al" Aceves.

"Big Al" was a ganster, drug abuser and frequently in prison. He grew up in an abusive family and on the streets of Los Angeles. After two tours in the Army in Viet Nam, he returned to a life of crime and started the Mongoul Nation motorcycle gang.
Through the persistance and love of a friend, "Big Al" accepted the Lord and made a complete turn around in his life. He works with other bikers in Christian bike clubs and at rallys. He has a Christian rehab for men on parole from prison.

"Big Al" was on his knees in prayer for the bikers' rally that left the church and rode to pray at area prisons in preparation for prison ministry in December.

We may not have exciting stories or be champions, but we all have a testimony of faith to share.

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Birthdays. 5,10 and 93 years young

Saturday, Oct. 1, we joined birthday girl, Gianna, her mom, Cora, baby sister, Genay, and a passel of little girls to celebrate Gianna's fifth birthday. The "Hello, Kitty"theme was well received with reverberating loud "Meows" coming from the jumpy house.

Gianna and her friends donned ruffley net tutu's and kitty-cat ears. Keeping an eye on running, squeeling little girls was a challenge, like herding cats!

Sunday, Oct. 2nd was my mother's 93rd birthday. We spent the day with my brother, Alan and his family in Lake Charles. We enjoyed worshiping at East Ridge Baptist Church where he is pastor, and then had a lovely meal with birthday decorations at their home.

Don't you love Great Grandma's tiera and Hawaiian bola!

Not to be left out, we also celebrated my niece, Julianna's 10th birthday at Alan's. Her birthday was actually on Oct. 1.

Granddaughter, Chelsea, who lives in Orlando also celebrated a birthday in September. She is now 17!

As for me, I no longer have birthdays.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Diaster Relief in Bstrop

Friday, Sept. 15, I was called out by Diaster Relief to travel to Bastrop, TX, and assist in feeding volunteers, firefighters, the Red Cross and victums of the devestating wildfires. Although the fires were by that time mostly contained, 130,000 acres of forest and fields had been been burned as well as from 1,700 to 2,000 homes distroyed. Bastrop State Park was smoldering. The smell of ash hung heavy in the still air.

In the center of Bastrop at the fire department I stopped to pray at this sculpture of a firefighter with hand written signs asking for prayer.
Winds had shifted preventing the town center from going up in flames.

In one subdivision that I traveled through on an Emergency Responce Vehicle, 600 homes were distroyed, leaving a very few homes still standing. Thirty-eight families, members of the First Baptist Church, had lost their homes. People told of escaping within minutes of the fires engulfing their homes.

This is part of the cooking team I worked with, cooking meals for 200, twice a day, under a tent in the heat.

The second photo is of Hank emptying chili from a tilt skillet into a cambro for distribution by the Red Cross.

Two of my new friends and co-workers play patty cake with oven mits in front of the convection ovens. We had to take breaks from the hot, heavy work and long hours.

This sign on the side of the ERV (Emergency Responce Vehicle) reads:

Complimentary Food provided by American Red Cross

Southern Baptist Texas Convention.

FEMA provided the food. We cooked and prepared it for distribution, and the Red Cross delivered meals to staging areas.

Karen is helping Frank load cambros (heavy insulated chests containing food) into the ERV. We sent out complete meals in clamshell containters with utinsels, and water to anyone who arrived at the feeding sites.

Frank is preparing to hand boxed meals through a side window to people waiting in line.

Tuesday the Red Cross pulled out. We had teams trained to make assessments and plan for recovery for anyone who asked for help. Teams with chainsaws, and teams trained to clean (called ash out) and restore property arrived to help. I returned home.

Please pray for these families and others who have lost thier homes to whildfires. Continue to pray for rain.