Friday, December 29, 2006

Merry CHRISTmas from Pearlington!!

back to Our Walk of Faith

Note: I tried to break of all of this info...the next 4 posts are what we've been up to over the last 2.5 weeks...

Sunday morning we went to church where we are staying. The preacher spoke from Matthew 2 about the wise men. He raised the question of whether others could see the star or not. If they could, why didn’t they follow it? Based on what he said and what I’ve read about the star, I would say that everyone could see it, but most people didn’t notice it…the just continued on like normal. How often do we walk by and not notice what God is doing? It made me think!! The Bosarges sat with us during church although that wasn’t their normal seat. At the end of the service, DuJuan asked if we wanted to borrow their spare car, the one Hutch had been using. We couldn’t believe it!! We didn’t have a car, and God gave us one. He provided for us to be able to go to the Christmas service!!!
Once that service was over, we headed over to Pastor Rawls' church…they started a little later, so we only missed a little of the service. We got their just in time for the message “This Baby—Mission Accomplished.” He shared of God’s plan to send Jesus even before time began. I never noticed it before, but in Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let US make man in OUR own image, in OUR likeness…” Jesus and the Holy Spirit were there from the beginning!! What a master plan?!!! He also used Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:15 & John 1:11 in his message. Then there was a time of sharing at the end of the service…it was so good! Lyn shared that Kim had been healed almost a year ago. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her, but God did. The church prayed over her, and she said that she could feel something snap inside of her. She’s been well ever since! After the service, we were so happy to tell Pastor Rawls that we could go with him on Monday morning! (God gave us our present early!!)
Sunday night, the Jordan family (Kenneth, Sheila, Dakota, & Hannah—and Amanda, Dakota’s girlfriend) invited us to go with them to what they thought was a singing Christmas tree program at First Baptist Biloxi. On the way there, we talked about some of the needs in the community and their desire to have a youth pastor at their church. After the storm, a lot of the people left and didn’t come back, and it’s been difficult to get people back in to work in the church. Please pray that pastors and people to work with the youth will be raised up to come to this area. Another family ended up meeting us there…Jay, Katt, Selena, Neva, & BJ. Even with the rain, there was a huge crowd. It ended up being a Candlelight Service, but we really enjoyed it!! After we took the picture of the group, Sheila said, “Y’all need to get one by yourselves.” So we got our Christmas picture…last year it was in our apartment on S. 4th St., and this year it’s in front of a huge tree in God’s house!!
Monday morning, we got the other part of God’s Christmas gift to us for 2006. We already have Jesus the best gift ever, but He gave us a little more. We went to Triumph Missionary Baptist Church with Pastor Rawls. Dr. Beck, the preacher of the church, also rode over to Poplarville, MS with us. This Christmas morning service has been going on for over 45 years. Dr. Beck shared that he had been lead by God all of his life, and that God lead him to start this service because he had been in a service where all of the preachers didn’t get to share what God had laid on their hearts. So he opened the doors and 6 preachers came in to preach to a packed church. The numbers have gone up and down over the years, but he planned to continue what God called him to do until he couldn’t physically do it anymore. The service was incredible…There was some amazing music, singing heart-felt, praises to our King! Then the preaching began…15 preachers spoke for 8-10 minutes each. We’ll be sharing with you about that later…wow…what a gift!! We were there for 3 ½ hours.
On our way back to the car, both Pastor Rawls & Dr. Beck shared words of wisdom with us and insight on our journey through life. It was wonderful…then Pastor Rawls invited us back to his house to have Christmas lunch. Sister Rawls can cook!!! We enjoyed spending time with them and their grandchildren (Jaylin & Catera) before the rest of their family arrived. Sister Rawls even sent us home with a take-out plate for later!! While we were there they told us about several stories of God’s amazing rescues and protection during “The Storm.” A tree almost came through the window of the room they were staying in…they had no idea until it was all over and they went outside to check the damage. The branches were jammed up against the window, but they never broke through. They also shared about Jack, a man who normally secures his boat to the trailer, flattens the tires, takes out the key, etc. so that nothing will happen to it during a storm. Well, with Katrina, there was no time, he just had enough time to get himself and his family to safety. When the water started rising, and the boat floated off of the trailer. Two of his neighbors were stuck in a tree, so they started calling for Jack to come. Jack wasn’t in his boat, but his boat “floated” against the current back to the tree where they were. His boat had gas in it and the keys were in the ignition. So his neighbors were rescued and they were able to rescue several others with the boat!! Isn’t God amazing?!! They also asked for prayer for the community…specifically they asked prayer for Billy Ray. He’s Sister Rawls’ brother who lives across the street from the church. There’s usually a crowd of people in his yard on Sunday morning, but they aren’t exactly worshipping the Lord. Their prayer is that the hearts of those men will be softened, and they will be in church on Sunday instead of in the yard watching from the outside.
The VA group invited us to eat lunch with them as well. So much for not having to worry about eating too much over the holidays!! Just kidding!! Then we finally got back to the church to spend some time talking to friends and family and wish them a Merry Christmas!!
Not only did God give us a gift, He also provided for us to give each other a gift…Hank & Linda offered to let us borrow their internet and TV while they were gone since their RV would be empty. So we were more than happy to look after it for them and to water the plant. Linda makes cards for the residences because many of the elderly can’t get out as much as before and there’s no where to buy cards around here. Plus if your house needs repair, cards are a luxury. They are a sweet couple as well!! She offered to let us use some of her supplies to make a card if we wanted to. Chris & I were excited because we didn’t think we’d be able to get anything for each other this year. (We’re always together, too far from a store to walk, and there’s nothing either of us would be willing to carry with us!!) Sometimes God even provides for our wants as well!! We spent hours writing and working on our cards…Chris wrote a poem called “They Walk by Faith, Not by Sight” and he made me 12 little paper presents each with something on it like a foot rub or back massage or bag of chocolate…so creative…I think it might be one of my all-time favorite gifts. I decorated my card for him and told our story with stickers and facts and figures…I guess he must love me to appreciate all the details that I point out!! He, he, he!
On Tuesday, Chris caught up on his journaling in the morning and then worked on putting up vinyl siding in the afternoon with the VA crew…there was also a group of Hondurans who live in Georgia who came over for the day to work on vinyl siding as well. We really enjoyed chatting with them!! I spent the day working on pictures…after reading these posts, I guess you can see why it took a whole day to get the pictures posted!! I was working in the Walls of Hope office, so I learned another testimony about God’s perfect timing. Before Chris & I got to Pastor Rawls’ church on Sunday morning, a man stood up and said, “I’m a plumber. Is there anyone here who needs his plumbing installed? I’m here to do it!” Mr. Calvin said, “I need for my plumbing to be taken care of.” The story isn’t over though…on Tuesday morning, another group called and said, “We’re coming to fix Mr. Calvin’s plumbing.” Gene had to tell them that someone else was already taking care of it. They replied, “Oh, that’s okay we’ll do his drywall, we just knew that the plumbing needed to be done first.” So now both of those things are going to be taken care of…right on time!! That evening, we ate supper with the folks from VA just continuing to enjoy their company! They’re just a fun group (some of them are pictured holding each other up...l to r: Sam, Amanda, Kim, John, Adrienne, Lyn, & Gene) to be around!!
On Wednesday, we worked on cleaning up the church in the morning. Then Chris went with the VA group to lay concrete block pillars for a new house that they are putting up. Unfortunately one of the 30+ pound blocks fell on Chris’s thumb, so it split open. Pray for quick healing on that!! (John from the VA group split his thumb open the day before, so pray for him too!) I spent the afternoon organizing and cleaning out the food pantry at the church where we are staying. They provide food for all of the volunteers, and the groups are beginning to come again since the holidays are almost over. I wanted to make supper for the whole crew before they left, so I decided to try out some recipes that I’ve learned on the road in Waycross, GA & Milton, FL. I think that everyone enjoyed your recipes, Carol & Sister Bonnie!!!
Wednesday night, we went to Pastor Rawls’ church again. He invited us to tell our story to his congregation. There was somewhat of a spiritual battle that day…it didn’t seem like things were flowing as they should…I can’t really explain it…but it was a struggle. As we got ready to share, a man walked in and sat near the back. I had never seen him before, but we both smiled back at him. As we spoke, we felt that God was leading us and that people were listening, but in my mind I was still wondering if the Holy Spirit was ministering. We finished and sat down, and Pastor Rawls called Gene Butterfield up to close the service. Before he could say anything, the man who came in late stood up and told Pastor Rawls he needed to say something. He explained that his name was Billy Ray (Sister Rawls’ brother) and that he used to be a minister. He drifted from the Lord after a bad accident in 1983 and hadn’t really been to church since then. He apologized and called out to the Lord and to Pastor & Sister Rawls for help in coming back to the church. He wanted to clean up his yard. Billy Ray (pictured with Sister Rawls & us) claimed that if we could walk to Pearlington from NC, then he could definitely walk across the street to go to church. We prayed over him as a church, and now our pray is that he was sincere in his repentance and that the Holy Spirit gives him “power & love & self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
On Thursday, I could barely contain myself because Megan and Mike were flying in from Maine to see us…they would be here sometime around 8 pm. I had to force myself to focus and work on posting. Chris went to help pour cement in the pillars that they laid the block for the day before. (He has a cold or something, so please pray that he gets well soon!!) He had so much fun with a family from Ohio (left to right: Ashley, Joe Willie & Mary), but he was so dirty and wet when he got home. He gave me his clothes and shoes at the door, and I started praying. I knew that only God could make those clothes clean again!! Just like Jesus’ blood can make people white as snow and clean up all their dirty sin…He made those clothes clean too. I’ve never seen cement come out of clothes before, and I’m pretty sure that the white shirt and socks he was wearing weren’t that white when he put them on in that morning!! Praise God!
Thursday night, Terri & the Butterfields that are still here came over…Terri brought supper for everyone. Gene had a huge praise to share. A 39-foot camper was donated to the ministry that day, and it was big enough for quite a few volunteers to sleep in when they come down to work on the houses!! Megan and Mike finally got here!!! I was so excited. Another lady, Juanita, came in before they did & I almost bowled her over…thankfully I paused before running and jumping on her! Ha, ha, ha! We had a good time hanging out and catching up on what all of our friends are up to and how Christmas was.
Today…Friday, Mike & Chris are working on the Bosarge’s house again. Tom got in yesterday. Megan and I are finishing up this post and then we are off to work too!! I’m pretty excited to see what God’s going to do over the next couple of days…it appears that He is already revealing some of the puzzle pieces to us!! We love you! God bless you!

Pictured below: 1) Adrienne & John showing some sibling love. 2) Ashley holding Daisy...she's going to be getting Daisy's first puppy pretty soon!! 3) McKinley and Dexter riding in the trunk!! 4) Jacqui & Jordan pulling each other around on skates 5) Ashley & Geno walked back from church with us on Wednesday night!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Week 1 in Pearlington, MS...

back to Our Walk of Faith

Mrs. Betty (Greg Thorsen’s wife) picked us up, and we went over to Mrs. Parish’s house. They were loading the little pony when we got there, & Junior wanted to show us the moving truck and all of their stuff that they were loading up! Mr. Lee told us lots of stories on our way over to Pearlington, and Mr. Greg added a little from time to time. He was pretty focused though since he was hauling the trailer. The men were planning on driving all the way through the night to drop the horse off the next morning. They told us that wherever we ended up staying, we had to find Pastor Rawls sometime before we left. We ended up finding lodging at the First Southern Baptist Church of Pearlington. We met Sheila, Dakota, John, DuJuan, Chase, & Cole, a group from Nebraska & Iowa, and Hutch. Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the names? We did too!!! Ha, ha, ha! Thankfully, we’ve been able to get to know each of the people over the course of the time that we’ve been here so it was not so bad!!
We stayed with Hutch in the fellowship hall of the church, and Sheila (who’s in charge of reservations at the church) showed us around. When she told us that others could come, we posted as soon as we could. John & DuJuan let Hutch (on the right of the guy with the "Hutch Wll" t-shirt on) borrow their car, so we went into Slidell, LA for a little supper and to get to know Hutch a little better. He was working in New York City designing scenery & props, but decided he wanted a change. He went home to Massachusetts, and he heard about the need in Pearlington and the entire Gulf Coast. So he bought an Amtrak ticket and loaded up his bike. The train brought him in to New Orleans, and biked in 40 miles to Pearlington. He’s been here 3 weeks, but he’s leaving on Friday. He’ll be back in January to work with Walls of Hope for an indefinite amount of time. Pretty neat, huh?!!
Tuesday & Wednesday we worked with Hutch on John, DuJuan, Chase & Cole Bosarge’s house. They lost almost everything in the storm, so they decided to rebuild in a different location. John has done a lot of the design work and a lot of the work on the house himself. DuJuan owned her own beauty shop, but it was destroyed by a big oak tree. She praises God for that because the insurance company would cover that. The only money they got for their house was a little bit of money for roof damage because the rest of the house was flooded, and they didn’t have flood insurance. Tom is the framer for their house, so he was our boss! He’s a great guy from Ohio…he’s done a great job on several houses in the area, but his real skill is Rummy…we played with him one night after supper…he beat all three of us by about 300 points. Apparently he’s a jack-of-all trades…ha, ha, ha! While we were working, Chris & I learned to use a nail gun. (I learned to hammer a nail in correctly as well!!) We put up hurricane clips, and several types of braces all in the attic. A group of engineer students came in from GA Tech (We thought of you Cox family!!) to help out as well. David worked with Chris & me almost the entire time, and Josh & Sam were working on the Bosarge’s house. I also spent a lot of time cleaning up the saw dust & dirt because Tom wanted everything in order when everyone came back from Christmas.
Everyday for lunch we’ve been going to Pastor Rawls’ church. He said that God appeared to him and told him that they were to serve lunch for the volunteers everyday for as long as they are in Pearlington. So he began asking the Lord who should do it, and He said Mrs. Johnnie. Well, Mrs. Johnnie wasn’t sure about that. She shared that God MADE her come back to Pearlington. She had been living in Tennessee until about a month before “The Storm” taking care of the elderly. The last person she was caring for passed away, and she couldn’t find another job. She didn’t have money to pay her rent, but her landlord told her she could stay one more month. Then she could pay it back when she found a job. Well, she never found a job, so in July of 2005, she came back to Pearlington. Then Katrina hit in August, and they lost everything. She couldn’t find a job because there was no work to be found after “The Storm.” Pastor Rawls believed that God put her in Pearlington to make lunch. When she started, she had never cooked for a large crowd before (100-200 people daily). But God has been teaching her and sometimes even providing someone to work with her. I never would have guessed that she wasn’t a professional because her food is so tasty! She VOLUNTEERS her time daily and tells everyone there’s no other place that she would rather be. Her family tells her to open a restaurant instead of cooking for church so that she can make some money. She just lets them know that God is taking care of all that she needs and she’s doing exactly what He wants her to do. She had been living with her son, but he decided to move to Texas and not to rebuild. So one of the houses that Walls of Hope is working on is for Mrs. Johnnie!!
Wednesday morning we were running a little late, but God was in that too…Tallie & Chad (father & son) are part of Christian Ministries out of Arkansas. They came to the church hoping to find someone because they were dropping off toys, t-shirts, and other Christmas gifts to all of the smaller, country churches that they could find in this area. They would have missed this church completely if we had been at “work” on time. Their timing was incredible as well…the group from Nebraska/Iowa was going to deliver toys with Santa that afternoon!! They invited us to go, so we had to leave work a little early. Sheila (from Pearlington) started out with her kids, Santa (aka Charlie) and Mike, Margaret & her kids (also from Pearlington), and us all in the back of her truck. Amber, Nick and Marissa caught up with us and Diane followed in their van. We had tons of fun hanging out with them and distributing toys with Santa!!
Wednesday night we went to prayer meeting at the church where we were staying and then we headed over to the community Christmas service at Holmes Chapel United Methodist Church. There were at least 6 churches represented, and it was a service like none other that I’ve ever been in. While we were waiting for it to start, we met Ms. Sam, Lula, & Rosalee and learned of how their house had been rebuilt. We also met Mrs. Henrietta and her daughter Ms. Kitty who needed work done on their houses. Oh my…There was singing and praying and PREACHING. Five preachers brought a message about 10 minutes each, oh but the Holy Spirit was all over that place. The community came together…black, white, young, old, residents, volunteer relief workers, Baptist, Methodist, AME, etc…to praise the Lord! That’s what church is supposed to look like!! We finally met Rev. Rawls and talked with his wife Idella. Wow!! The pastors are pictured left to right: Rev. Bobby McGill—Holmes Chapel, Rev. Frederick Fields—Mt. Zion AME Church, Pastor Willie Rawls—First Baptist Church, Rev. Tony Chapman—Ambassadors for Christ, Pastor Borzzell Langham—New Hope (who has new hope because he’s in remission from cancer that was supposed to take his life according to the doctor), and Rev. Tommy Hart—Parker’s Chapel Baptist. After the service, everyone was invited to the fellowship hall for a huge supper. We met Jaylin & Avery, Pastor Rawls’ grandsons, they were pumped up about learning a few words in Spanish and because they were going to be on the internet!! We were also able to talk with Mrs. Henrietta quite a bit. She’s going to be 82 on Dec. 29th, and she’s still working full-time as a teacher for Head Start. She’s hoping to retire at the end of this year after 40 years of service!! Oh, and she just quotes scripture when she talks!! We are really excited about the possibility of working on her house!! We left church and it had started to sprinkle, so we hustled…
Thursday it kept on raining all day and I mean rained…the roads started to flood and the Nebraska/Iowa group decided they’d be better off staying up at the fellowship hall with us that night. The church is on higher ground and closer to the main road. We ate dinner together and shared stories and played a few games before going to sleep. The whole crew is pictured around the table (clockwise from the bottom: Nick, Marissa, Mike, Amber, Diane, Charlie, Hutch, & RE)
Friday everyone left, so we thought we would be alone for Christmas…God had other plans though. Since Tom had gone home, we didn’t know where else we could help out so we went up to the Pearl-Mart to see if they needed any help since they seemed really busy on Thursday. (Pearl-Mart is a “store” where people from Hancock County can get 2 bags of groceries 3 days/week if they are still in need.) We didn’t find anyone there, but there was a group from Virginia who we met the day before at the resource center. Their church, Halesford Baptist, sent them down with tons of supplies and toys and presents to distribute to the residents of Pearlington. We found them and met the group…Melissa, Mark, & McKinley Robertson and Dexter Hurt (l to r pictured with us). They didn’t need very much help either, but they invited us over to Walls of Hope to chat and eat lunch. Walls of Hope is a non-profit organization that is helping people rebuild their homes. One day a lady was standing inside of the shell of her new house, and she said, “These walls bring such hope.” That’s how they got the name. At lunch we met Gene Butterfield (the director), Gene Tyler (his son), and Mike & Terri White. (We saw Mike & Terri at the community church service, but we didn’t get to talk to them. They moved here from Iowa and are working as FULL-TIME VOLUNTEERS for Walls of Hope. So we aren’t the only ones crazy enough to give up everything to serve the Lord!!) (pictured with Gene Tyler and their dog, Daisy) As we learned more about Walls of Hope, we’ve come to realize that it would be a great organization to partner with for regional missions trips some time in the future!! (On a side note, Gene’s parents started an orphanage in Colombia, South America that is still operating today…one more contact…are you surprised anymore?!!) Miss Mississippi and her family were coming to spend the night and to work on Saturday, and everyone was going out to dinner Friday night. Chris and I were pretty excited when they invited us to go with them. We had a great time with everyone at dinner. I ended up riding “home” with Taryn (Miss Mississippi), Kathleen, Victoria & Jim Foshee (l to r with us by the fountain), so I got to hear the story of how each of them came to know the Lord.
Saturday, we met the rest of the Virginia group, and we all went to Mrs. Henrietta’s and Ms. Kitty’s houses to tear off tar paper. Kim, Andrew, McKinley, Chris, the Forshees and I all worked on that while some of the guys worked on changing the doors out in Ms. Kitty’s house. At lunch, I met Gene’s wife, Jane, and his daughters, Ashley and Jacqui. We also met Kim’s husband, Lyn and their other son Jordan. (After spending some time with them we learned what a hilarious group that family is!!) Pastor Rawls asked if Taryn would speak to the group and play a song for us on the piano. She shared about her faith in the Lord and how He had helped her achieve her goals. She gave thanks for parents who raised her and her sister in the church and who always support them in whatever they are doing. Then she played such a beautiful rendition of “To God be the Glory” I almost cried!! So we’re asking everyone to pray for her in this coming month…she’ll be competing for Miss America on January 29th. It would be such a huge platform for her to use in sharing her faith. When she finished, Pastor Rawls asked if there was anyone else who wanted to share. Amanda (the VA crew) volunteered to sing “O Holy Night” a cappella. I was really impressed because she hit those high notes beautifully!! Then Pastor Rawls told us about a Christmas morning service that he would be going to & he invited anyone who wanted to attend to talk with him. We found out that it was a 6 am Christmas day in Poplarville, MS. We could go, but we would have to meet him at 5:15 in Picayune, MS (which is about 28 miles from Pearlington). We thanked him for the info…we really wanted to go, but we didn’t know anyone who would be willing to leave at 4:45 on Christmas morning to go to a service an hour away. We prayed about it and left it in God’s hands.
After all of our lunch break, the crew divided up…about half of us when to deliver presents to area families and the other half went back to work on the houses. I rode with Jane, Jackie, Amanda, & Andrew to make deliveries. A little girl named Haley befriended Jacqui while we were out and about. She even wanted to share her popcorn with her. It was so cute to watch them play together! (Chris went back to watch ECU in the bowl game…so sad that they didn’t win…but at least he got to watch it!!) I got to talk with Adrienne and Sam a little late in the afternoon, and John entertained us all by launching fruit and other projectiles with his potato cannon!! (Chris wants one now, but he thinks he should wait until we get home to get one! Ha, ha, ha!!) Adrienne & John’s parents gave me ride back to the church, so I finally was able to talk to Rob and Mary Beth. That evening we got to hang out with the whole VA crew because they invited us to eat supper at the house where they were staying. Dexter taught me some tricks for my Palm and “beamed” me a couple of programs, then Chris and I came home.

Pictures and their descriptions left to right 1) the house across the street from where we are staying 2)Jackie (her husband Donald isn't pictured), Donald, Danielle, and Mileah 3) Donald & Jackie's house being built by Walls of Hope 4) Damage done by Katrina 5) These are the steps to the Catholic church...the church was moved into the street and hasn't been rebuilt yet. 6) The entire Post Office was destroyed...not even a brick can be found. Now Pearlington residents have to drive about 20 miles to the nearest Post Office. The boxes in this picture are for the people who used to have mailboxes...none of them have been put back up yet!!