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.