Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lafayette, LA to Crowley, LA (aka the Rice Capital of America)!!

back to Our Walk of Faith

Well, it's been a week...I'm still not completely better, but I'd say that I'm at least at 95%!! We did strike out last Thursday...but only after having a great time of sharing at the Days Inn (Joe, Gina, Theresa, Mrs. Shirley, & Dana) in Lafayette! (They even fed us lunch before we left.) While I was sick, Chris was still talking to everyone he came in contact with including all of the people who work at Days Inn. He met Mrs. Shirley who has worked for 27 years at Days Inn...she ministers where God shows her--with others who work with her or with guests. Then there's Theresa--she's raising her kids, going to school and working full-time to support her family! We also met Gina & Dana who explained how they have been reaching out to the community over the past 1 1/2 years. It's amazing to hear how they helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina and to hear stories of "regulars" who stop by from time to time to stay or just to chat. It was like being in a family! They even have a Wednesday night supper for those who are staying with them or even friends (aka former guests) who are just passing through. At supper we met Mrs. Lillie who drives an 18-wheeler to deliver mail from Tennessee to Louisiana twice each week. She shared with us about her daughter who had been on several missions trips. On one trip to India, her group was ministering in a community and there was a man who was deaf. "It just so happened" that Mrs. Lillie's daughter knew sign language. Isn't it amazing how God puts people at the right place at the right time!
Thursday afternoon we left Lafayette. We weren't actually sure where we were going to be able to walk to that day, but there was a town about every 5 miles. The biggest place was Crowley, but it was about 20 miles away. We weren't thinking that we would make it that far. Well, we walked about 7 miles and while we were taking a water break, Chris pointed out a car that was trying to make a U-turn in heavy traffic. It was Kevin who is from the area, and he wanted to give us a ride. (He was also driving a Sunfire similar to the car our friend Kevin from Smithfield used to drive!!) He dropped us off at a gas station in Duson because he had to go to his sister's house. He told us that if he saw us walking later that he would pick us up and carry us a little further since there was very little in the way of food or lodging between where we were and Crowley. Sure enough...about an hour later, Kevin stopped again to pick us up, and he took us into Crowley. We weren't sure where to go from there. I had started feeling pretty bad again, so we decided to eat quickly and find a place to stay for the night. We met a family (Shane, Heidi, Crystal, Alexis & Haley) at the place we were eating, but they didn't really offer us any advice. Chris was able to share a little with them, but I was so tired. We ended up staying at the Days Inn again just because we had such a good experience with them in Lafayette. I wasn't sure that it was the right place, but after checking the 3 hotels, I just couldn't go anymore. I called my parents and they prayed for me and Chris prayed for me, and I went to sleep.
I didn't feel a lot better in the morning, but we were pretty sure that we weren't supposed to stay at the Days Inn again. We packed up our stuff and started walking to Rite Aid and Winn-Dixie to ask the pharmicists what they thought I should do. It started raining, but this man named Steve almost immediately stopped and picked us up. (Again we praised God for His timing! Not only is God's timing's another crazy connection that He made!! The family that we are staying with now is related to Steve...they went crazy when they saw his picture...It's so cool working for God!) After talking to both of the pharmicists, we decided that I should start an antihistimine, but if I wasn't better by Monday, I should go to the doctor. We walked from the Winn-Dixie to the Popeye's that was in the same parking lot. As we walked by the drive-in line, this guy, Henry, called to us from his truck. He wanted to know what we were doing, so Chris shared with him. He told us that he was running a Half Ironman April 1st in Galveston, TX (please pray for him and his training!!), but he was really impressed by what we were attempting. He told us that he would be praying, so we walked on inside. After we got our food and were seated, we noticed that Henry had parked his truck, and he came inside to talk to us again. He couldn't talk very long, but he just wanted to encourage us a little more and to help us out on our journey. We were in awe of God's provision! We had been sort of worrying because we had been having to stay in hotels while I was sick, but even in that the Lord was working!!
So we headed back where the hotels were...this time to the Crowley Inn because they had the best rate. You are never going to beleive this, but the same lady,
Betty Frank, who worked the night shift was working the day shift. When we asked her about it, she told us that it was the only night that she worked. Normally she works days. Is that God or what? She gave us a really good rate, and while we were waiting for the room to get ready, she began to testify to God's goodness in her life. She shared of her Uncle Keith and Auntie who have amazing faith in the Lord. Keith is a pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist in town. Over the course of her life, God has used her Auntie and Uncle. She shared of a time just after she left her husband (He was abusive.), and she was working so hard to make ends meet. She received a notice that her water was going to be turned off, but it was 4 days late in getting to her. She didn't know what to do, so she walked over to her Auntie's house and waited until she came home for lunch. As soon as she saw her Auntie, she told her of the notice and asked if she could drive her over to the water company. Her Auntie started digging around in her purse and pulled out the first notice. Then began explaining...when their water bill came, they found Betty's bill enclosed in theirs. Keith didn't know why Betty would have told the water company to do something like that, so he told his wife to call the company. The people there had no idea what she was talking about. By some mistake, Betty Frank's bill was put in the evelope with Keith Matthew's bill. Keith realized that it was no accident...instead God was telling them to reach out and help their niece, Betty. Betty couldn't believe the story...the only people in Crowley who would care about her water being turned off had "accidentally" recieved her bill. She said that it was as if God was looking down on her and saying, "I have millions of children, but I see you, Betty, and I know your needs." Whew...I was moved to tears after hearing her story!! Not very long after her sharing, our room was ready, so she wanted to show us where it was. On her way out, she saw her Uncle Keith's car parked at the restaurant, Fezzo's, that's attached to the hotel. As she was telling us that, we looked into the window and saw her Uncle & Auntie waving at her. So we went in just to meet them. Then we went on to our room.
After we got settled in, Chris left to go to the library. I just wanted to pray and read a little before I took a nap. Right as I finished praying, the phone rang. It was Ms. Betty. She told me that when we went into the restuarant, the owner,
Pat Bordes saw us and our packs. He saw the scripture "We walk by faith & not by sight," and couldn't believe it because he was doing a talk the next day about faith. He wanted to invite us to supper that night so that he could hear our story. I was sooo excited!! When Chris got back, I told him about it, and we went over to meet Mr. Pat!! We were so impressed because he took time to sit down with us and really listen to our story! He's a Christian, and he was going to share at a confirmation retreat on Saturday. His 2-year-old son was killed in a tragic accident about 3 years ago, and he shared of how God has carried him through this time. The Catholic church has retreats called Cursillo, and God spoke to him in a mighty way at one of those retreats. It was pretty amazing to again see how the Spirit of God is moving across denominational lines! So we had an extremely tasty dinner, and a wonderful conversation about the Lord!!
Saturday was pretty low key...I rested some more, and Ms. Betty called to let us know that if we stayed another night that
the manager, Ms. Josie, would take care of our room. Isn't God good?!!!
Sunday morning, we went in to talk to Ms. Betty because she had told us about a church in the community, Northside Assembly of God, that we had to go to. She said "those people at that church love the Lord." So we went to ask her how to get there. She gave us directions, and we walked over. We saw on the sign that a revival was starting that day, so we were pretty excited to see what God was going to do!! As we walked in the door, there was a lady who greeted us. We introduced ourselves to her and gave her one of our prayer cards. Then we went into the Sunday school class that was already under way. The teacher, Barry Thompson, was giving a very clear Gospel presentation and two people (a father and daughter) came forward to accept Christ at the end of SUNDAY SCHOOL!!! We knew we were in the right place!! After Sunday school, Pastor Singley came in and introduced himself to us. We shared just a few minutes about what we were doing. The singing started, and we were just enjoying being in the service. When Pastor Singley came up, we were shocked when he asked Chris to come up and share what we were doing. In about 5 minutes, Chris quickly told our story, and we went back to sit down. Before we could be seated though, people began giving Chris "a pentecostal handshake" to help us on our journey. We couldn't believe it. When God calls you to do something, don't ever be worried about how it will happen! HE WILL PROVIDE! Then the evangelist, Rod Vincent, came up to bring God's Word. What great revival did he share about? From Nehemiah of course!! It was so good because he also shared his testimony of how he came to the Lord.
Pastor Singley (pictured with Sister Patsy & Kali) invited us to eat with his family and Preacher Rod (pictured with Chris), so we were able to meet the whole family...Mrs. Patsy (Pastor Singley's wife), Ryan & Carrie (their son-in-law & daughter), and Nick, Hannah, & Kali (their son-in-law, daughter & granddaughter). The food was so delicious...there's something about Southern Lousiana food!! We started talking about our intercessory prayer group from home and sharing about all that they taught us about prayer. Then we told them about when Mrs. Lois came to pray for us to recieve the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He immediately began to manifest Himself in Chris, but nothing appeared to be different for me. We know that in order to be able to share the Gospel with power & love, the Holy Spirit must be present. So over the course of this trip I've asked a lot of questions and prayed a lot and read a good bit as well! I explained this to the pastors. Pastor Loyd wrote a short booklet about the Holy Spirit, so I read that Sunday afternoon. Well, Sunday night at the revival Preacher Rod gave the invitation for people to come down. Many of the ladies from the church came to pray over me, and I began to sense that something was different! It was pretty awesome...I'm continuing just know God more be authentically empowered by His Holy Spirit!
Mrs. Lou Jenkins gave us a ride back to Crowley Inn...she's such an sweet lady who loves the Lord so much! When we got back to our room, we found at that Ron & Susan Naish had made it to Crowley! Susan is Chris's cousin, but Ron & Susan are also missionaries to Central America. The Lord blessed them with a new vehicle to use in Central America, so they were driving it down from Asheville! We had tons of fun swapping God stories all evening! (What a great God! He sent them just in time for Chris's 35th birthday on Monday!!)
Monday morning, Ron & Susan met George & Jenifer at breakfast. When Ron asked George how he was doing, he responded "not too good." So Susan asked if they could come by their room to pray with them. George & Jenifer agreed, so Ron & Susan went up and shared with them for an hour or two. Chris and I started looking for Ron & Susan, but we didn't find them until we went upstairs to meet George & Jenifer ourselves. We were able to share testimony of this walk, Guy & Hailie's story, & God's transforming power in Chris's life. The timing was perfect. After we finished talking and sharing that it was Chris's birthday, George all of the sudden got up and walked over to the sink. They "just so happened" to have cake left over from one of their children's birthdays. So George wanted to share it with us (Jenifer was shocked...she later explained that it was extremely out of character for him to do something like that.) They had exactly enough pieces for each of us to have some! Amazing God!!
Ron, Susan, Chris & I went to run some errands, but when we returned, George & Jenifer wanted to talk. See they have had A LOT of tragedy in their lives and a lot of pain both physical and emotional. So they came to Ron and Susan's room to tell them that they had discussed it. We were right they needed something else...they wanted to know Jesus!!! (What a birthday present for Chris when they told us about it!) We were sooooo excited when they shared that Ron & Susan lead them to the Lord! I mean how much does God love someone that He would send 4 missionaries from NC so that you can come to know Him!! We were amazed. So George & Jenifer ended up going to revival all week long (even after we left!)
Then (as if that wasn't an amazing enough birthday) Mr. Harold and Mr. Chris arrived just as we were cutting Chris's 2nd birthday cake. Mr. Harold is the director of foreign missions for the Original Free Will Baptist, and Mr. Chris is a pastor for the denomination. I worked with them for many summers, and Chris worked with them for two summers as well. They even came bearing gifts of long johns for Chris from my parents. (Just in time for the cold weather!) They were on their way to Mexico to drop off a van for David, a pastor in Piedras Negras!! Then we had a great time sharing with them and praying together!!! What an unbelieveable day?!! Chris often says, "Only God can write a story that's this amazing!"
Tuesday was only a little less incredible...ha, ha, ha! We were able to spend a little more time with Mr. Harold & Mr. Chris before they needed to hit the road. God opened the door for us to speak on KAJN Christian radio station. After we spoke,
Mr. Thompson (the station manager) gave us a tour of the station. They have a special prayer ministry called The Upper Room. At the very top of their building they have people coming in to pray for those who call in from 7 am - 5 pm. (That day we met Harriet Bias who was praying.) If someone comes to the Lord, they have a 12 part Bible study called "The First Steps" that they can send out to callers. They also have short studies and verses about common topics for pray requests from the callers. Dean & Paula St. Cyr both work for the radio station. Dean is the director of outreach ministries/The Upper Room, and has written the Bible studies that they use with the callers to The Upper Room. Ron & Susan and Chris & I had a great time talking with them and learning about their ministry!! For lunch Ron & Susan had the opportunity to eat with Pastor Singley & Preacher Rod so that they could share their ministry with them. (Pretty cool how God opened that door for them!!) Chris & I were able to fellowship with Kirt & Koye over an authentic Cajun meal!! Kirt's heart beats so strongly for the Lord! It was refreshing to hear his testimony and about his struggles. We never tire of hearing the awesome ways in which the Lord works!
All of us were able to go to another great revival service on Tuesday night! During the services we met a man,
Rev. Percy, who came to the revival from a little place called Branch, LA. His love for the Lord shone on his face and manifested itself in his every action. It was our privilege to meet him because so often now people don't travel to a town far away to support a revival unless they know someone in the church!! We also met Marilyn & Corrie Campbell after the service. Marilyn's husband, John, and Marilyn are missionaries to Africa. They are home this year on furlough and to raise support. When they go back they will be in Benin which is in West Africa. Corrie is their daughter. She's been back in the states going on 4 years. She's a junior at the University of Lousiana at Lafayette. I really enjoyed talking with her and hearing her take on being a missionaries' kid! She too has seen God do such amazing, mind-blowing things outside this country. So it was an encouragement to me as we near the Mexican border that God is in control--especially outside the borders of our country! Praise God for the peace that He gives! (I was also pretty pumped up to know that she was named after Corrie Ten Boom, another great missionary...and Corrrie told me (as did Kelly O'melia before we left home) that I really have to read The Hiding Place and Tramp for God. So if any of you have free time...go to the library and check them out...apparently they are amazing!)
Wednesday morning, we were pretty sad because we had to say "good-bye" to Ms. Josie, Ms. Betty, Mr. Pat, and George & Jenifer! We had especially been praying for someone to be in George & Jenifer's lives, so we were pleasantly surprised to see
Ms. Lou (the precious lady who brought us home on Sunday night) drive up at the hotel. She had been at the ladies' prayer meeting that morning and wanted to tell us bye if we were still around. She drove up right when we were about to pray with George and Jenifer and leave. So she joined our prayer and loved on them a little. She also wants to bring them back and forth to church (They live in the same town north of Crowley!) and study the Bible with them!! I can't even count the times anymore of how we've seen God's perfect timing! I'm so amazed at Him!!
While we were with Ron & Susan in Honduras this past summer, we learned about a people group, the Garifunas, who only recently had the Bible translated into their language. Chris & I were interested in helping buy Bibles for them, but we didn't know how God would work that out. When people ask us what we wanted for Christmas this year, we told them Garifuna Bibles. Ron & Susan told us that they were going to be able to buy about 150 Bibles. Is that a miracle or what?!! Now they want us to help give them out when we arrive in Honduras. If they aren't already there, then Ron said that they'd fly down and we could go with them to deliver Bibles! Can you imagine never reading a Bible in your own language? I don't think I really can, but I know my life would be miserable without Jesus!! After a wonderful time with Ron & Susan, it was time for them to go on to Houston, but Chris & I felt like we were supposed to stop in Lake Charles. So they stopped there to drop us off. Then we ate lunch together and said our good-byes. What would Lake Charles hold for us? Well...God was about to show us!!

Pictured below: 1) RE lighting CE's candles for his 35th out the fire trucks!! 2) The gym that they are almost ready to dedicate in memory of Seth Trahan who gave his life for his country in Iraq. He loved God and heavily supported missions even at his young age! He graduated from Northside Christian School, so they are naming the new gym in his memory. 3) Ellen LeBlanc with RE--she's the pianist at Northside Assembly of God--a senior in high school with great talent!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lafayette, LA...we broke into the triple digits...It's Day 103

back to Our Walk of Faith

I'm still trying to recover from whatever cold this is, so we ended up staying a while longer with the Wahl's!! It's been soooo much fun! We've played, watched movies, read devotions, and prayed together! Friday was John's last day at work, so we baked a cake, and Mary & the kids decorated it for him. They made a poster, and we put balloons on the reflectors by the driveway! Deciding to follow the Lord...stepping out on faith is cause for celebration in our book!!
Friday night, we went with Jennifer, Natalie, Ben, Gary, Justin, Liz & Joya to Praise Church (where Sonny is the pastor). The cousins had been working on a drama to go with "Let My Love Open the Door (To Your Heart)"--a song that Audio Adrenaline re-made. Jennifer has had it on her heart for a while, but there's never been an opportunity to present it...they did an amazing job!! While they were preparing for the drama, the youth pastor told a story of a guy who had a dream about stepping out on faith. Then he all of a sudden asked us to explain what we were doing. We were shocked until we found out after church that Jennifer had given him a heads up!! After the drama, the guys and the girls split up to talk about dating relationships and making wise choices. (This was the talk that Liz was planning when I met her last Tuesday.) Both sessions went really well! At the invitation time at the end, one of the girls asked for prayer for her mom who abandoned her when she was 10. She only sees her rarely if ever now. We prayed for healing for the girl and for salvation for her mom. It was a really sweet time of the girls praying for one another. (I even met Michelle, Jennifer & Sierra who are from North Carolina...the just moved to Louisiana.)
After the service, the Wahls told us that we had to go to Raising Cane''s this chicken place that has 4 combos and that's it. Their specialty is their sauce. We were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was! As we were getting ready to leave, Chris & I were able to talk to two of the girls who work there--Jacki (right of RE) & Kayla (left of RE). They were both pretty interested in what we are doing. Jacki told us about her church that was just up the street, and Kayla shared testimony of God's faithfulness. Kayla's mom passed away just one year after Kayla started attending church...she explained to people that the reason she could carry on was because of God. He didn't give her a choice about her mom's death, so she just had to trust Him. We were really touched to meet both girls!!On Saturday, Mary (pictured cutting the pinapple) and I shopped for groceries, which ended up being a time of prayer and testimony as well! She explained that many times in our lives when we are dealing with an issue or if God is dealing with us about an issue it's like peeling an onion. We peel off one layer, and we think we are done. And we are for what we can bare at the moment, but at the right time God peels off the next layer in what becomes a continual renewing and restoring process. It's a really good example that helps me understand what's going on a little better!

Saturday night, we went to church at Bethany again. It was really good again!! The pastor was continuing the series on faithful families--this time he was talking to the women. Part of what he explained about men is that their biggest battle comes from pride. With women, it's fear. Fear turns faithful women into carnal Christians. (He used Sarah from Genesis to make this point.) However, trusting in His promises can reverse the can go from Sarai (contentious) to Sarah (princess). The timing for his message was exceptional...just the night before, I started to have a few doubts about what would happen after we left our friends in Mexico. God so quickly reigned me back in! I just praise Him for that!! Mary recently shared this quote, "God's not going to get you in a situation where you don't have to depend fully on Him." I want full dependence on Him...I'm pretty excited to see what He's going to do now! The pastor also talked about wives being submissive--supportive of the mission of your husband! (1 Peter 3)
Sunday afternoon took us to the Blind River, the swamp and a bayou!! John wanted to show us "the camp" out in the swamp that belongs to his parents, so we borrowed his dad's boat and set out. It was so pretty...I never would have thought that I would ever describe a swamp in that way, but it really was pretty! He showed us around camp, then told Chris and I to take the canoe up the bayou that branched off just before "the camp." The water was so still...I kept waiting to see an alligator...Chris hit the canoe one time, and I probably jumped a foot! When Chris rowed us back to where John was waiting for us, we had some buttered French bread (oh so tasty) and New Orleans blend of coffee. (Chris likes it a lot.) It was dark by the time we started heading back, so John gave me the spotlight and told me to look for red eyes along the bank. (also known as alligators) I didn't really think I would see anything, so when we saw two pair of red eyes swimming along at the same speed as the boat, we got really excited!! We saw two other alligators before we got back to the boat ramp to take the boat out. That was enough to get my heart pumping and make me forget that it was a little windy. We also saw lots of glittering green eyes along the way...John explained that they were little spiders that lived in the moss and brush!! Who knew that the swamp would come so alive at night!!
Sunday night, we spent our last night (for now) with the Wahl's. We watched a movie, Beyond the Next Mountain. It's about a missionary who carried the Gospel to a tribe in Northeast India. He was forced to leave before he really began to see it flourish...but God's Word doesn't return void...Many churches began and pastors were raised up...they even began to write their own hymns. The only thing they lacked was a Bible in their language, so one of the pastor's young sons begins studying. After years and years of studying in India, then Scotland, and finally the US, the guy succeeds in translating the entire Bible into their language. He mails it off to be printed and goes to find the missionary to tell him what had become of the work that he had to abandon! Praise God that even when man abandons us, GOD DOES NOT!We prayed over each other and began to say our goodbyes. Jennifer and Natalie would be going back to school Monday morning...even though as of right now, they don't even have the money to pay for even the 1st payment of the semester. We were planning to get a ride with them back to Baton Rouge and go from there.
God's timing of bringing us into contact with the Wahls blows my mind...John & Mary are stepping out on faith in ministry, Jennifer & Natalie are going back to school on faith that God will provide, and we are headed to Peru on faith.
Bright and early Monday morning the 4 of us left Lutcher for our next step of faith. Chris & I came to Baton Rouge because we thought we were supposed to interact with Desire Street Ministries...they have a school for inner-city boys there. So we made several efforts to get in touch with them last week, but the doors just didn't seem to open. I even called as we neared Baton Rouge, but my phone had some weird message that I've never heard before & I couldn't use it! John called us when we were staying in Baton Rouge to invite us to their house last Tuesday...the phone works in that area. We had been praying for direction all week while we were in Lutcher and heard nothing. So our question was, do we stay in Baton Rouge or go a little further with the girls. Right where they were supposed to turn north, there was a large town, Lafayette. As the doors remained closed in Baton Rouge, we kept riding.

So here we are in Lafayette, the French capital of Louisiana!! There was a tourist info center very close to where they dropped us off, so we stopped in for some information. Larry (pictured with CE in the center) and Homer (pictured with CE on the left) helped us learn about the area--giving us maps and pamphlets galore! Homer didn't have very much to say, but we found that Larry lived in Fayetteville for awhile. (So he knew about that wonderful Smithfield's Chicken and BBQ!!) He also said that he would put us on the prayer list at his church! We left there to explore the city a bit...we went to the library and post office, but along the way we saw several beautiful murals, a massive cathedral, and an enormous oak tree. (I think it's the 3rd largest in the country!!) I was starting to feel really tired and sick again, so we began our quest for a place to stay the night. We saw the Acadia Motel on the map, so we decided to check it out. (Megan & Mike live in/near Acadia National Park, so I thought it was a good sign.) Too bad they were no longer in was under "new ownership," but I've never seen a motel that was still in business look that run down...I'm fairly certain that those rooms probably rented by the hour!! We walked as fast as I felt like I could move, and finally we started to come closer to some more reputable establishments.

Right outside of the St. Francis motel, we met two boys--about 20 years old--who left home 3 days ago hitchhiking towards Tampa, Florida. Ben & Jesse (also names from the Wahl family that we just left!!) couldn't believe what we were doing and that we were Christians. Apparently everyone who has come across their path so far has been Christians!! They are beginning to see a pattern, so Chris shared part of our testimony as well and continuing just to add seeds of the Gospel to those already planted in them. We continued on our search for a place to stay, and they left to find some other people their age.Finally, we walked into Days Inn. The man behind the counter John (another Wahl name!) asked if he could help us. We asked about the rooms and internet access and stepped back to discuss what we should do. As we were discussing, he offered us a different price...we couldn't believe the offer. How awesome is our God?!! I really just wanted to sleep and didn't think I could go much further!! Praise God for His favor even at motels!!!Tuesday, I feel better after some rest, and Chris got some medicine for me. It's Wednesday, but we are still here...We are praying that I will feel well enough to walk tomorrow!! Thank God that He is a healer!! We'll be in touch again soon! We love you! God bless!

Pictured below: 1) Natalie straigtening RE's hair 2) CE with John's dad and John as we were preparing to go to "the camp" out in the swamp!!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year from Baton Rouge and Lutcher, LA

back to Our Walk of Faith

This was on Mike's shirt...How appropriate?!!

Oh it's been great to have Megan and Mike with us. We worked together most of the day on Friday. While we were at lunch, we told Pastor Rawls that we would probably be leaving Saturday morning. Of course, he didn't want us to leave, but he asked us to stop by and see a member of his church, Mrs. Clara, if we went to New Orleans. Chris & I just smiled at each other...we had been praying about whether or not we should go through New Orleans on the way to Baton Rouge or if you should just go straight to Baton Rouge. That appeared to be the answer. After lunch Megan and I helped to clean up. Then she vaccuumed the sanctuary while I finished up the posts. The guys went back over to John, DuJuan, Cole, & Chase's house to finish up the days work. So we went over to check out what the guys were doing...they worked the entire day getting the posts set up for the back porch. We wanted to admire their handiwork since they had been working so hard.

Friday night, we ate supper with two families who were down from Huntsville, Alabama. We ended up playing spoons and rummy with all of the kids (clockwise: Lindy, Mike, Taylor, Syndey, RE, Ben, Megan, and Eli...Dakota & Hannah joined us too!) until really late! It was tons of fun though!!

Saturday morning, Megan & I cooked breakfast with a lot of instruction from Ms. Juanita. (She lives at the church and oversees the groups who come in and out. She's part of the Missions Corp for Mississippi. We didn't meet her until Thursday because she was at home over the holidays.) All of the food was eaten, so I guess it was a success!! After breakfast, we were able to talk to Ms. Juanita a little more, and she expressed the same concerns that we heard from Pastor Rawls & Kenneth & Sheila. There is a great need for permanent-resident, Christian leadership. She has requested missionary "encouragers" to be planted by the North American Missions Board (of the Southern Baptist) in the community. Please pray that this request will come through...there is a great need for the Gospel in Pearlington!!

About mid-morning, Jay, Pam, Danielle, Sydney, & Ben came to get us to take us to the "Yellow House." It's this cute house we kept driving by and wondering about. Danielle wrote a narrative about the house for her English class. “Canada John" posted it on the Pearlington Blog, and the owner read it. He gave Danielle & her family permission to go in and take pictures. We went with them and were just amazed at what we saw. The owner moved to Dallas after the storm...he lost his wife 2-3 years ago, so he's trying to clean it out as he has time and energy. He's afraid that he won't see the completion of the project during his lifetime. It was a beautiful house...We were sobered by all that we saw there.

Saturday afternoon, we packed up everything and headed out towards New Orleans...we were able to make contact with Margie, who is Mrs. Clara's daughter. She was on her way over to the hospice hospital...her mother was recently moved there so that they could just make Mrs. Clara comfortable until it was her time to go home. She gave us directions, and we headed in that direction. We passed a Krispy Kreme on the way, so we stopped to get donuts for Margie (and a few for us). Margie had just arrived when we got there. We spent some time talking with her, and we all prayed over her mom.

By the time we left the hospital, it was raining pretty hard, but we decided to explore downtown New Orleans in search of authentic Cajun food. We finally settled on Jimmy Buffet's restaurant where we sampled the red beans & rice, gumbo, and jambalaya...along with a few cheeseburgers. It was all very tasty!! Then we began the rest of our journey to Baton Rouge. (Just in time because the entrance and exit ramps were beginning to flood to get on to I-10) We got off on exit 163, and there were 3 huge crosses...I took that as a good sign, but we realized that we were still pretty far from the airport. So we drove around for about 2 hours looking for another hotel. Baton Rouge may be the only town that doesn't have hotels near the airport. There was only one hotel...with that kind of monopoly, I don't have to tell you why we didn't opt for that hotel. So we ended up back at exit 163.

Mike & Megan gave us two additional nights in the hotel so that we could have a little time for just the two of us. (Thanks have no idea how timely that was.) They had to leave early on Sunday morning, so Chris & I stumbled out to see them off. We fell back asleep and didn't wake up until 10:20...both of us were in a rush...we just knew that we were going to miss church. We got ready as fast as we could and hurried out the door towards the 3 huge crosses. We figured that there must be a church close to them. As we walked we saw this huge lot of cars, so we were sure that they had already started...then we realized it was a car lot. Next we saw a construction sign & thought that the crosses must just be to let people know that the church was coming because we didn't see a building at all. Finally we realized that there seemed to be a lot of people dressed in Sunday clothes driving past us. All of them were turning just before the crosses, so we hurried up the road to see if we could find the church. We had probably walked 100 yds when this red 15 passenger van slowed down. The driver asked us if we were going to church. When we told him, "yes," he told us to climb on in.

His name is John Wahl and his wife Mary was at home with their youngest daughter, Rachel, because she was sick. However, 7 of their other children were in the van with their dad headed to church. They invited us to sit with them during the service. Oh, it was amazing...It was a huge church...I've never seen a church that diverse and de-segregated. It was amazing...That's what heaven is going to be like!!! Even the music was diverse...they sang popular praise songs from Israel and the New Breed and Matt Redman. We were in awe...When the preacher started preaching, we realized why...he just preached the Word...straight to the holds barred. His message came from 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3 about the Natural Man (who is without the saving knowledge of Jesus or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit), the Spiritual Man (who seeks to be lead by the Holy Spirit and to have the mind of Christ), and the Carnal Man (who tries to be a mix of the two...this person knows about Jesus and will probably go to Heaven, but he/she is miserable in this life). The pastor gave very specific examples of what each person looks like. He then tied it in to families and the important role of a godly father seeking the Lord and leading his family. He challenged each man to step up and lead his family as God intended in this new year, 2007.

After church, the Wahls (in the pyramid...bottom to top and left to right: Mary, Jennifer, Ben, John, Timmy, Deborah, Natalie, Rachel, Rebecca, & Jesse) invited us back to their house to fellowship with them. Daniel, the oldest, is working full-time and trying to finish his schooling for his pilot's liscense. Jennifer (right) is studying music ministry & Natalie (left) is learning to teach English as a foreign language at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK. They are home for Christmas, and they are trusting that God will provide the finances for them to return for the Spring semester. They shared that they know that God has not brought them this far just to leave them, so they are just trusting for His provision. Next is Benjamin who plays the guitar in a youth praise band. Deborah loves to read. Timothy's thing is playing Donkey Kong and riding his bike. Rebecca is really creative...she just made a "draft stopper" in the shape of her Aunt Liz's dog, Honz Solo. Jesse loves to run and to make "claymations." We were pretty shocked at all of the little figures that he made.. Rachel is the baby...she's five. After a little rest, she was up and playing with all of us.

You would think that a house full of kids would be loud, unruly, and messy, but it was just the opposite. They are all so polite and each had his/her own set of chores. Yet they are normal kids who like to run and around and have tons of fun. It was pretty cool to see! It's obvious that John & Mary are good parents who are following hard after the Lord. They shared with us that the Lord has called them to take a step of faith. John has a good job with the IRS, but they feel God leading them to do something else. Neither of them know what that "something else" is right now, but they know that they must be obedient. So this coming Friday will be John's last day of work. God's timing in bringing us together is pretty incredible, wouldn't you say?!!

Sunday evening, we got to experience the Festival of Bonfires. The Wahls live right on the Mississippi River in a little town, Lutcher, between New Orleans & Baton Rouge. The levee is right in front of their house and that's where everyone builds bonfires. Normally it takes place on Christmas Eve, but it was rescheduled this year because of bad weather. Some of the bonfires were 20 feet high and filled with firecrackers. You can buy all kinds of fireworks that shoot high into the sky, so there were tons of fireworks everywhere!! We had tons of fun seeing all of the celebration!!
When we got back to the house we had potato soup and we chatted with John & Mary. They shared their testimonies and about their lives together. What a great family!! I got tons of new recipes from them! John even made his own tried & true recipe for tasty! They are kinda like home-made donuts.
As the New Year was coming in, we all sat together in the living room. Rachel was asleep, but from Jesse all the way up, the kids & the adults all prayed. The Wahls have done a great job teaching their kids and training them up in the Word. Then we sang several praise songs while Jennifer played...she even sang a praise song that she was great!! I can't think of a better way to bring in the New Year!!

On Monday, Chris and I tried to rest up...he's almost well, but it appears that I have whatever he had. Please pray for quick healing. We wrote and watched some football games. Monday night, John called to see if we wanted to come over on Tuesday to help with his brother, Gary's house. We were pretty excited to spend some more time with the Wahl family.

Tuesday, I felt worse, so I went over to Liz's (John's sister) house and spent some time with Liz and her daughter, Joya. They are really sweet too! They both love the Lord so much, so we chatted about what God has been teaching them--the Father-Daughter relationship is so important. Both Liz and Joya were reading a book about that. Liz has a heart for working with teenage girls, so I shared some good book titles with her. This Friday night, she will be talking to the teenage girls at their youth group...please pray for wisdom and words from the Holy Spirit as she shares with them. After we chatted for awhile, I ended up sleeping some more...just trusting God for healing!!
While I was over there, Chris was painting and working on Gary's house with a bunch of the cousins--Jennifer, Daniel, Gary Jr., Justin, Sarah, and Joya--Mr. Wahl (John's dad), and Gary. Gary and his boys, Gary Jr. and Justin are hoping to move in pretty soon. Sonny, Sarah's dad, lives between Gary's new house and Liz's house. John & Mary live just a couple of miles away. All the cousins are going to have tons of fun when everyone is living so close together!!
We spent the night Tuesday and Wednesday with John & Mary's family. I'm feeling some what better today...we are having tons of fun playing with the kids!!!
God bless you and keep you! Happy 2007! May God protect you, and may you follow hard after Him all year long!!

A few more pictures: 1) Jay & Sydney playing around. 2) Mike served up ice cream for sundaes...a big hit with everyone! 3) Deborah rolled out the tortillas 4)while Natalie cooked them. 5) John's mom, Jean with Rachel 6) How many Wahls can fit under the desk?