Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dogs vs. Cats

You will really think I've lost my mind from being cooped up in a small space when you read this.  This has absolutely nothing to do with our work in China!  It is merely a sideline to our daily madness living in a motor home (remember I said before it's not an "RV = recreational vehicle" because there's no recreation to it.

As I mentioned in my last segment, campers seem to love having their pets (dogs in particular) with them.   There is a small camper next to us and this afternoon Ron told me to look out the window.  A big white dog was sitting in the driver's seat looking straight out the windshield.  I ran to get my camera to get a picture for this blog but by the time I got back, the dog had moved.  What a great picture that would have been!

We marvel at the time spent walking dogs.  People are coming in and out of their RV's and campers all day long with dogs on leashes.  Ron asked me why you have to walk dogs and not cats.  Of course, the obvious answer came from our daughter, Leigh Ann.   Small dogs have small bladders and must go to the bathroom every few hours.  But carrying this mystery a bit further (no I wasn't particularly bored yesterday) I sent an email to Ronald, our son in China. 

When Ronald was young, he kept two big dogs for a minster while the family went on vacation.  The dogs slobbered all over him several times (did you ever see the movie with Tom Hanks and the big slobbering dog?).  The dogs also barked and kept him awake.  He said he would never have dogs and he never has.  He's been a cat person all of his life.  My mother let me have cats growing up because she thought they were easier to care for so I always liked cats too.

Anyway, I knew what Ronald's answer would be but I didn't expect an email this morning with such a profound explanation of why you don't have to walk cats.  I know this is going to generate a lot of animosity among my friends that love dogs but you can send me an email and debate the subject by giving me a full reason why dogs are better than cats.   

Here is Ronald's reply: 

Cats are sophisticated and competent in life. They do not need us; they are simply smart enough to let us feel like we have domesticated them in order to get what they want and need which is shelter, food, and water. They can get these things on their own but they are not too proud to take hand outs. They are more advanced than dogs in that they know where waste should go and will even cover it up. They bathe themselves regularly and do not need to go to the groomer to have this done. The are so efficient that they can sleep and relax the vast majority of their time and still achieve their goals in life. Many people see them as aloof and unpredictable, however they simply choose to agree to our lifestyle and demands only when it is in their best interest.......ah, so smart!

For you who love dogs and cats, I'm sure their individual qualities make them all special.  

I just had to post this for my laugh of the day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good week in Lewisville, TX

This is us parked at the RV park in Lewisville, Texas.  We can barely see the Lewisville Lake behind us.

The week went well for us.  We are doing fine.  Tuesday night, I gave a 20-minute power point presentation to the Lewisville C of C ladies at their holiday party.  I've never been asked to be a guest speaker at something like this so I was excited to do it.  My theme was "How we can make a difference in someone's life."    My focus was on the six orphanages we operate in China and the change of life for about 600 children.  They come from extreme poverty and sometimes abusive homes and they now live in a building that is like a five-star hotel with friends and people who love and care for them.  There was a lot of interest in my talk and it was so good to meet some of the childrens' sponsors and make friends with some other wonderful ladies. 

Friday night we went to dinner with Greg, Paula, April and Curtis, members at Lewisville.  We met them at 6:30 and were driving back to our home at 10:30 p.m.  I could not believe we spent that much time together.  We had a lot of interesting conversation and it was so good to get to know these two active and wonderful couples who are deeply interested in mission work.  They have been to Africa and India on mission trips (probably other places as well).  We shared a lot of funny stories about our travels.

A lady who works in the camp office owns a very big dog (the biggest dog I have ever seen).  She lives in a small camper nearby, so I think the dog takes up about half of the space inside! Yesterday morning a coyote came around the office and she was out calming her dog down. She said she didn't know which was the most scared of the other - coyotes run when they see this big dog but the dog is also very fearful of the coyote. Almost everyone in the park has one or two small white dogs.  I've never seen so many little white dogs in one place in my life.  I saw a man walking a small solid black dog so maybe he is like the "black sheep" in the bunch.   

When we were waiting for repairs at Camping World, a man and lady came in the waiting room with three small dogs. I think that's a bit much for one of these mobile homes. One thing for sure, dogs don't mind where they live or what the circumstances are. They are always happy. Wish I could be as contented. On Friday afternoon it was about 70 here so I took advantage of the warm afternoon and walked all around the park. I saw people cooking out. It's a bit more trouble than I want to do, however.

I did count my blessings on my walk this afternoon, however. Past the trailer park, there are camping grounds all around the lake. I saw one man and his dog with a tent (he had an outside fire going - perhaps cooking some food). I didn't get too close and didn't take a picture because I didn't know if he was a friendly sort of person and I was a bit isolated in this section of the park and didn't want to be the next casualty of someone disappearing in a park.

It is a bit cold at night to be sleeping in a tent. Although it's been in the 40's the last two nights, it will dip back down to the 30's Saturday night. Perhaps the tent camper is just here for a couple of nights while the weather is nice. On the other hand, he may live here full time. It's probably better than being homeless.   When we parked at the Waterview church last Sunday night we were told they had a night watchman. Actually, they have a man who lives in his car that parks in their lot every night. We didn't see him. however.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why anyone would leave a nice home to live in a camper. I have not yet seen the benefit for anyone but us.   It is saving us money in the long run because of the expense of hotels and eating all meals at restaurants.  I know people say they love to go places and see things but when you park in an RV park and just stay there most of the time, they aren't seeing very much. 

Most of the people who do this are as old as dirt!   They are in their 70's and 80's (grey hair, grey beards, walking sticks, etc.). Maybe they are just escaping very cold weather. Many of the campers seem to be settled in for a long time. I think some are winter campers (from NY, Colorado, Washington, but a lot from Texas). 
On my walk this morning to mail a letter, I went past one RV that has an outside storage shed, a pavilion to sit under and eat, with an outdoor stove (stacks of firewood nearby), a grill, and all the comforts of a backyard patio.  They have bird feeders, flags, trinkets in the yard, etc.  There are outdoor rugs, chairs and stuff around their campers that look like they have been there a long time or plan to be here a long time.  I'm not even sure how they close it all up to go empty their black and grey water tanks. The RV's have to do that but maybe these "snow birds" use portable sewage tanks that they hook to their vehicle to take it to the dump.

Since we've never done this before, I guess it is very interesting and sometimes a mystery to me.  It is a totally different life-style than what I have always known or dreamed about.  I have never thought of myself as a camper.  We went with our children a few times but they never seemed to get into it very much.  It was a lot of trouble and we ended up with mosquito bites and little sleep. 

Well, I guess that's enough for me to sound off about the life of campers.
We will continue to visit churches in the Dallas area for several more weeks.  Ron is getting some appointments to speak but when we don't have an appointment we just visit a different church.  They are always asking what brings us to Dallas so it opens up a door to tell a little about our work in China. 
Wednesday night we went to the church in Colleyville and we met several very interested people.  They want Ron to come on a Wednesday night to give a report on our work.  That's the way it works sometimes when we just "visit" a congregation.  We have actually been to a few where they asked him if he could give his report right then. 
Continue to pray for our success in raising funds for the work in China.  It takes a lot of money to keep it going.  The sponsors pay for the support of the children but we have to come up with money to pay the 100 or so workers we have in China who care for the children at the different locations.  If you had 100 children, you can imagine that you would need 12 people to help you care for them.  It is a very big family and it takes a lot of money to maintain the buildings and pay the power bill also.
Thanks to my wonderful readers for your interest and love for our well-being.  May God bless you this holiday season with a lot of joy, good health and good family times.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our travels in Texas

We have visited churches in Waxahatchie, Greenville, Commerce, Wieland, Richardson and now we are in Lewisville, TX.   Our travels are going well.  Ron spends a lot of time trying to reach people on the phone to set up appointments.  His job is not easy.  If we don't have an appointment, we visit a church on the way and try to make contacts for the future.  People are very nice and interested in our work in China.

Sunday Ron spoke twice at the Wieland Church of Christ in Greenland.  We went to the home of one of the elders for lunch on Sunday.  The lunch was delicious and our time with this very special couple was very delightful.  Nearly everywhere we go, someone has a family member that has adopted Chinese girls so they are very happy to know of our work in China.

We usually park at church buildings.  They are always happy for us to connect to their outside power outlet and hose but sometimes getting the RV close enough to the building can be a problem.  I'm still learning how to direct Ron into tight places, watching for tree limbs on the top as well as canopies of buildings and such like.  I help guide him into the gas stations to fill up so he won't take out a gas pump by accident.  Wonder if there are courses on hand signals for directing traffic? 

Sometimes, the church power outlets are insufficient for the RV load.  We have not had problems until now when we have to turn on heat.  It is a pull on electricity but if we switch it over to gas, it quickly uses up what is in our tank and we have to locate another propane gas dealer.  We have thrown circuit breakers at churches a few times but no one seems to mind.  We are very grateful for the loving concern and support everyone gives us in our travels.

Today, we came to an RV park in Lewisville because the rate is $8 per night for seniors.  That includes a 50 amp connection so we can run heat, microwave or hair dryer without difficulty.  We have water and sewage connections as well.  We will be here a few days before we go to Lake Dallas on Sunday. 

Tomorrow night, I will have the honor and privilege of speaking at the Lewisville ladies annual holiday party.  I will give them a short overview of our work; in particular, the work with the orphans.  I hope some of them will be eager to sponsor orphans or devote themselves to some special projects to help the orphans.  In any event, I will enjoy meeting these wonderful ladies and being with them.  It has been several years since I've done a power point presentation but I was able to prepare it myself and I've worked on what I plan to say so I hope it turns out O.K.

We have had some nights below freezing.  The RV park is almost full.  The man at the front desk told Ron that people from North Texas had driven down to get to warmer weather.  I thought Dallas was North Texas!   I guess these folks are coming from the panhandle cities where it is colder but if I wanted warmer weather, I would have driven on to Houston.

The wind has been tremendous with the cold fronts moving through.   Some nights the RV felt like we were on rough seas.  The howling of the wind was loud and disturbed our sleep many nights.  It is now calm with cold nights and warm days.  We are awakened by the rise of the sun each morning and we open shades and enjoy the warmth of the beautiful sun.

RV's and trailers in the park are decorated for Christmas.  We see mirrors with Santa hats hanging on them.  Apparently some of these folks intend to stay until after the holidays because they have strung up lights, put wreaths on their doors and have Christmas trees in their small yard space. 

Ron and I have missed many Christmases, being away from family in foreign places.  It was great when our children visited us in the Caribbean for Christmas and we went sailing on Christmas day.  Three years ago, we spent Christmas in Beijing and the weather was extremely cold.  We went with friends to The Place (a very exclusive shopping area) where the decorations for Christmas were spectacular but we nearly froze walking around outside looking at everything.  I do not know where we will be on Christmas day this year but so long as everyone is well, we will feel blessed and happy.

We are not going back to Georgia until the first week of January.  We will stay with Leigh Ann, our daughter, in Woodstock.  We have doctor appointments and Ron has other things he needs to do while we are there.  I want to get into storage and bring back some warmer clothes.

The boy that had the Tessier Syndrome Palate surgery in Dallas several months ago went to our home to recuperate the first of October.  Judy and Aida, our Chinese workers have been taking care of him but a family in Buford, Georgia, has taken him to live with them.  They home school their children so it will be good for Hongsheng to have some schooling and spend time with these children.  I know he's been lonely for the past six weeks at our home with the girls busy working each day.  He continues to slowly heal but still has some infections.

Lankui, the little girl that came a year ago to have jaw surgery at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, will go home next week.  Ron talked with her on the phone today.  She's learned english with her host family as well as many other studies but she must return to China to be able to pick up her work there and be able to pass the test to go on to high school in a few years.  Her surgery was successful so she will return to China as a normal child again.  She has loved living with her host family so she's not eager to leave.  The Borck family has kept several for us so we know that anyone they help blends in as part of their own family.  We are so grateful to them for their support and help.

This brings me up-to-date for this time.  If anyone wants to write me, my email adddress is patbrown10@gmail.com.   We miss everyone and would welcome your emails. 

May God bless each of you with good health and holiday cheer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Day in Texas this year

Things have changed on this blog site so I can't locate where to add pictures or change the heading. Be patient and I'll try to keep searching for where these toolbar things are now.

Things continue to go well in China. There have been no major changes. Dave Halligan, a supporter and friend from New York, has just returned home after visiting all of the care centers for the past month. He feels that the trip was a blessing to him but we know it was a great blessing to the children and a boost to encourage our workers and our son, Ronald, who works so diligently in China. We are very grateful for Dave's sacrifice of time and energy for the cause in China. He slept on hard beds at the care centers and ate the same food as the children. He knows what it is like for the children.

We returned to Texas about two weeks ago after a hectic two weeks at our home in Sharpsburg, GA. We went through piles of mail and handled stuff on our desks and then spent the rest of our time cleaning out closets and personal items from the house. We brought back what we thought we would absolute need in the RV and stored everything else in the attic. I gave the church give-away closet in Woodstock about l/2 of my clothes.

After we returned to Texas, Judy and Aida, our Chinese workers moved upstairs into our house. The small apartment they occupied in the basement will either be rented or we will use it whenever we return to Atlanta.

Hongsheng, the boy from China with the Tessier Syndrome Palate, has been occupying the third bedroom at our house for several weeks. He continues to have some infections since his surgery in Dallas a couple of months ago.

Flying back, I saw a girl with a cowboy hat, boots and a rhinestone belt. I've told Ron that I need those things to show my Texas pride. He has not come to that conclusion. In fact, he would not admit he was with me should I add those items to my wardrobe. This is not the image he wants me to convey. I guess it would take on a totally different tone from a young woman to an older woman so I'll forgo these items.

We spent our first week back in Houston to complete appointments in that area. We attended church services in several locations around Houston. Ron spoke at chapel at Westbury Christian. We enjoyed a meal with Carole Booker and Steve Hawley, teachers at Westbury, that went to China to teach last summer.

We had a delightful dinner with Myra and Rodney who go to Champions C of C in Houston. Myra and our daughter, Leigh Ann, were friends in college.

We had a good meeting with the folks at Franklin on Sunday night and drove on to Temple on Tuesday. Our travels from here will take us to cities near Dallas.

I have an appointment to speak at the Lewisville church on December 7th. I was invited to attend their holiday party and give an overview of our work in China, telling the ladies ways they can help with our work. I have been working on that presentation for a couple of days. It has been several years since I have done power point. I am selecting photos I want to use. Ron will show me again how to do it.

The weather has been unseasonably warm for about a week but weather news shows some colder weather on the way.

While home in Georgia, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner and shared it with our daughter, Leigh Ann, and Judy, the only Chinese worker who was in town at the time. Today, Judy asked Ron if I will cook Thanksgiving dinner in the RV. I told him to tell her I already cooked my dinner but I still have a turkey with me. I don't think Ron appreciated that too much!

Our son, Ronald, sent us a cartoon from China. It showed a taxi with turkeys inside and the caption was:

"This just out! 700 turkeys escaped today from a farm in Newnan, Georgia! They are thought to be fleeing south."

Well, I guess Ron and I are two of those escaped turkeys from Georgia.

We have spent many holidays in mission fields away from family for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although we love to be with our family on these special days, we realize that our work does not always permit us that luxury.

I have been fretting about my personal losses. Giving up my home to live in an RV and moving from city to city does not give a woman much sense of home.

It is not just a house or personal things that we often have to give up. It is also people we love, family, relationships, friendships, health and such like. Life is always changing and throughout our lives we are constantly giving up something important.

Although I wrote the last segment entirely for myself to try to get a good perspective, it's still been difficult. It seems that men to do count a permanent house a home any more than living in a tent or RV. There is something about a woman's domestic needs that men cannot understand. They don't understand the little things that make a house a home. Since we began the mission work in 1984, I have said home is where I hang my hat, but it's not so simple. Not for us spoiled and rich Americans.

Today, as I was looking for pictures to put in my presentation to the Lewisville ladies, I found the original picture of a very pitiful little girl. Looking to see if she was still at one of the care centers, I found a report and picture of her and could not believe the great change in her appearance.

I was talking with Ronald in China about what I should include in my presentation. I know life is very hard for him but he's not complaining. I sent him the "before and after" picture of this little girl because he is now at the care center where she lives. I thought it might be encouraging for him to see what a difference we are making in the lives of very poor and desperate children.

As we are counting our blessings and reflecting on thanksgiving, Ron and I were talking last night about our riches. He asked me if I considered giving up everything "rubbish" as Paul said he did. I could not honestly say "YES" because home and things in this world take hold on us and we have a very hard time letting go. We get used to comforts and luxuries. We get it all mixed up as to what are necessities and what things we just want and enjoy. The TV or VCR does not work in the RV until we connect to something. I miss not having the news and a few other programs. Most people call a serviceman if the TV does not work. When my workday is over, I read as much as my eyes permit but I get bored with things too quiet and simple.

Ronald told me on the chatline that I could mark my days on the wall and maybe I'd get out earlier for good behavior. I told Ron about this and he said I'd have to use the smelly bathroom walls to do this but to remember that "fools' names like fools' faces are found in public places."

Maybe all Christians should review their lives and their priorities. I don't like to do this and I know most others had rather just go along day after day doing what we are used to doing, never forcing ourselves to sacrifice. That's what I would do if I was not married to Ron. Although I get upset with his attitude toward extreme sacrifice, I think some balance is needed in most Americans' lives. I'm not judging. I can't decide for anyone else how much is enough. I have enough trouble figuring it out for myself. We can't work our way to heaven. Sometimes I think giving up is more than just doing without things - it's also the attitude. I am falling far short on that end of the scale. We know that if we give our bodies to be burned but have no love, it is worthless sacrifice. We have to want to help others. We have to LOVE doing it. We have to love the Lord and his cause. I have to remember Jesus' great love and his sacrifice or I will lose perspecive.

I will continue to pray that my heart will grow more and more tender and more willing to accept life's changes. I do appreciate having so many blessings after each trip to China (or anywhere else) where people are so poor.

May each of you have a wonderful holiday and great reflections on your blessings. Life is hard - every family has troubles. Sometimes we think we deserve what we have to soothe our wounds from the hard times in life. Although we are blessed, life throws curves and there's pain and suffering in every life. To overcome the many disappointments and pain, we must keep focused.

May God continue to bless us all. Enjoy your holiday!

Friday, October 15, 2010

What's Really Important in Life?

I know everyone fights the priorities of life as they go through many stages. When I was young, I was certain that every major decision in my life would be settled by the time I was 40 years old. I thought by that time life would be routine. That is what I wanted, anyway. We go through the young married stage, having children, raising children, being empty nesters, facing middle age and then old age. Priorities constantly change. What we think is important at one stage is no longer necessary at a later age.

Of course, when we marry, many decisions are not ours alone. Life is constantly changing with jobs, relocation and circumstances. Ron always wanted to do mission work from our early married days. He decided to do it in 1984. We gave up good-paying jobs because our children were educated and we didn't need that much money any more. We were in our 40's, had little savings because we had spent what we earned owning a house and sending our children to private schools and university. We had no retirement but we were young and healthy and knew we were able to work and care for ourselves, the Lord willing. We went a lot on FAITH. We did not know how anything would work out but we both knew we could still get jobs if we needed to.

Our work took us to the Caribbean for seven years, to Montreal, Quebec for seven years, back to Nashville for seven years and now we have been working in China for eleven years. The small beginning in China has turned into a huge undertaking. With six orphanages open and 650 children to care for, the fund-raising in today's economy has become a major task for Ron.

Our son, Ronald, lost his job about two years ago. He went to work with our orphanges in China one year ago and is doing such an excellent job, Ron does not need to make as many trips to China as before. Ronald was given the responsibility of the maintenance, remodeling and building of orphanages. He is now taking over the supervision of all of the care centers, hiring and training staff. He's written a procedure manual which is very comprehensive and much needed so each care center director and worker knows what is expected of them.

With Ronald in place in China and doing an excellent job, we are now traveling in an RV to raise funds and report to churches that support our work.

This was not one of those things I expected in life. My idea of camping was Holiday Inn when you could not stay at the Hilton. Actually, I don't need an expensive hotel - only cleanliness. But, if you travel all the time, moving your stuff in and out of hotels and having to eat all your meals out, it does get tiresome and boring.

I was not in favor of buying an RV. It seemed to me that we were too old to be taking up this mode of travel. I've been close to a nervous wreck many times, but as Ron gets more efficient with driving and I get less nervous about it, it's not so bad. I have made up my mind that I will enjoy it. I prefer being home. I cannot imagine anyone doing this for fun. I, actually, don't call it an RV any longer because there's no recreation to it. It is a motor home. It is a small home away from home. Yet, I am so very blessed. We have everything we need and much more than we deserve. A friend posted on Facebook that she awoke and started counting her blessings and could have stayed in bed all day. That is so true for all of us. We are so blessed!

I will never forget reading a story about a little lady that was growing old and knew she could no longer drive or care for herself. She made arrangements to move into a nursing home. She got rid of her stuff and turned her house over to a realtor to sell. She packed her bag and called a taxi. She had the taxi driver take her through town, by the first place she and her husband lived, by the church she attended and a few other places that held a lot of significent in her life. When she arrived at the nursing home, they welcomed her and told her they hoped she would be happy there. She said, "Oh, I will." The attendant was a bit shocked because no one wants to go to a nursing home. She questioned the lady saying, "But, you have not even seen your room yet." The lady replied, "It does not matter about the room; I've already made up my mind to be happy."

This story is very true. We can make up our minds to be happy. How many of us actually get everything we want in life? And, those that do get everything are not usually any happier. Happiness is a state of mind and if we do not set our minds on things we can't have, we won't be disappointed.

It has been an uphill battle for me the past several months as I learned we were going to be living in an RV most of the time and traveling from city to city. It's not easy and it's not home. But, I've made up my mind to be happy.

I know that life is constantly changing. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. We could find a millionaire this weekend that would finance our work without us working so hard, but most likely, we will have to do this for several years. If our health permits, we will continue to work for the sake of the little orphans. We will be busy until we are called home or disabled from doing the work working, whichever comes first.

We are so grateful to our workers, our supporters who help with the work but we are also very grateful to our own children that work with us (Ronald and our daughter, Leigh Ann) and allows us to give up our life at home to do this work. They both hold a compassion for the orphan children just as we do.

Whether you live in a million dollar mansion, a one-bedroom apartment or an RV, happiness is in the mind of the beholder. God has blessed us in different ways and with different talents. We will one day account to him as to how we have used those talents and spent our time and money. I hope he will find us faithful in spite of my fear of traveling in an RV and my desire to be at home.

I bought a cookbook yesterday. (I am now doing my shopping at Camping World.) I have three cabinets full of them at home but I'll give them away soon. The one I bought is called, "The Open Road Cookbook" for RVer's boaters and campers. I am learning to cook simple but healthy meals again.

The writer of the cookbook quotes a poem her mother wrote that touched my heart:

The Supreme Architect

It isn't so much the house that counts
as the people who live inside.
For houses can burn and tumble down,
or be swept away with the tide.
The furniture, too, can go out of style
and become shabby-looking over time.
But, the abode shouldn't matter to those in
a house; rather, it's keeping the soul
For, after this life, when we crumble to
dust as time continues to go endlessly by,
The Supreme Architect, who created this world
has a mansion waiting for us in the sky.

-Agnes Carrington McAndrews

We miss our friends and we miss our church family. Whatever is right around the corner will be another surprise and another adjustment in life, one way or another. Nothing ever stays the same; life is always changing. No matter how good it is today or how bad it is, it will not stay the same. Please keep us in your prayers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What an interesting day!

Early Sunday morning we drove to Marble Falls, TX. It is northwest of Austin and took about 45 minutes. The road was four-lane with rolling hills, and high points where you could see for miles and miles. Many large houses are built on the top of the hills to capture the long distance view. One house had a tower with a room at the top (all glass). Can you imagine having a penthouse apartment in the top of that tower? It was a lovely drive and upon arrival at the church, we had another huge surprise.

The church is new - they moved into the building in February. We parked and walked in and looked around in amazement, wondering if we were in the right church. There were spacious areas with couches and kitchens. I even saw a bathroom with a shower. There were several meeting rooms (did not look like classrooms) and the children's room had trees and painting all over the walls (it is called the "Treehouse).

We were told later that these rooms are used by the community. They are built so the rest of the building can be locked. These rooms are available for AA meetings, teachers' meetings or any community group that needs a place to meet. It was designed to meet the needs of the members and the community in the best way possible.

Although the building is only two stories, there was a beautiful winding stairway (but there is also an elevator for those who can't climb stairs).

Restrooms were beautiful with bronze faucets and holders for paper towels on a marble countertop (might not be real marble but was just as pretty).
Woodwork was dark thoughout the building and very expensive.

We found the preacher in the technical area and he directed us to the large fellowship room right across the foyer from the auditorium. He said worship was first and then there was a 15-20 minute break and everyone went there for coffee and fellowship. He felt our display would get more viewing there than anywhere else.

The auditorium was spacious with cushioned chairs linked together. All funishings throughout the building were new and expensive. None of it looked like stuff we use in most churches. It looked more like a country club or expensive house.

After seeing this lovely building, we didn't know what to expect but it was a delight to meet friendly people and be part of a very uplifting service. The singing was excellent with power point songs and song leader who did not announce numbers but went directly into the next hymn. The minister was dressed causally but delivered one of the best sermons I have ever heard. Two of the elders had scripture readings and a prayer (before the sermon and at the end of the service). Everything was done orderly and according to our beliefs for a New Testament worship. Because of the change of looks in the church building, I was expecting a progressive church that had many practices that we are uncomfortable with coming from a conservative church background.

After the service, we gathered to answer questions about our work and there were many interested. We went back into the auditorium for an excellent Bible class.

A couple somewhat younger than us invited us to lunch. They had taken a tour in China last October and were interested in talking about China. The minister and his wife and two children also went to lunch.

The restaurant was a grille down on the riverbank. It had a tropical atmosphere (we ate outside in a dining area that overlooked the water. The food was excellent and it was so nice to spend time and get to know both of these wonderful families.

We left about 2 p.m. to drive back to Austin. I left thinking, "now that is one place I could live." The area was beautiful with rolling hills, rivers, water falls and state parks nearby. The town was large enough but not so large you have to fight traffic. The church family was great. If anyone is looking for a place to live, check out Marble Falls, Texas! It would be my recommendation for an idea place to live.

Our Sunday night experience was different but equally interesting and good. Ron had set an appointment to meet with the elders of the Southside C of C in Austin at 5:30 p.m. It is located in the heart of the city so we left early and arrived there about 5:10. It is a black church (the secretary is the mother to one of our members at Peachtree City). Unfortunately, we did not get to meet her. We don't know if she was there or not.

Ron noticed that all parking places were numbered. Some were marked "handicap" and one for the preacher. The church is right on the street and there's not much parking space around the building. Ron decided that it could not be a 500 member church like it was stated on the website.

Services were not until 6:30 but people started arriving and all parked along the street. We began to wonder who the numbered spaces were for so when the minister and his wife pulled into their designated space, Ron went over to ask them where we should park.

The minister's wife laughed and said he should move and take #1 space because people would stay until 9 p.m. and he would be blocked in anywhere else he parked because they would park cars all down the center of the parking lot as well.

Ron told her he thought maybe you had to pay to park in the numbered spaces. She laughed and said "That's right and you have to pay double for #1."

No one had a key to the building so we stood outside joking and fellowshipping with the minister and other members. They had gathered early for a special prayer meeting at 5:30 because they have a lot of sick members.

When someone opened the building, the minister showed us where we could put up the display. Elders began arriving and invited Ron into the office. I was going to slip into the prayer meeting and not be part of their meeting but Ron came and got me saying they wanted me in there too.

We told two of the elders about our work and answered their questions and then a third elder arrived. After some time they began asking Ron when he would be back through here so he could tell the congregation about the work.

We were surprised at their interest because they are in the process of building a new building on a large piece of land. They do have 500 members with two services every Sunday. The building was packed that night. I would not be surprised if there were not 300 there. Usually, when a church is in the process of building and encountering a big debt, they have no interest in mission work until they can get that issue taken care of.

Everyone was dressed well (we have grown more casual with church attire) but our black brethren have not. Most men had on suits and ties; women wore nice dresses and heels. I remembered this in the Caribbean islands that they love to dress up to come to church. That is what I was taught as a child. Mother always said "You show respect by wearing your best, not your worse." She said we don't have to worry about having expensive clothes but we should show the same respect to Jesus as we do going to a wedding or funeral. As most of you know, Ron and I dress our best no matter what the trend because our mothers drilled that philosophy into our heads as young children. I know we are sometimes over-dressed but I hardly ever feel we are inappropriately dressed no matter what setting we are in. Over-dressed is usually more acceptable than under-dressed in my opinion.

We attended the worship and enjoyed the singing and sermon. One of the elders led the singing and when we sang "I am a harding fighting soldier in the Lord's army" the roof must have been buckling. I know it was a joyful sound to the Lord. Everyone sang and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was no dragging out the songs or acting like we were at a funeral. There was a little swaying to the sound but no hand clapping or raising of hands in the air. All of the songs were familiar but had such a moving beat the way they sing them, it was a little hard to stand still and not tap your foot or something.

The minister delivered an excellent sermon with some humor mixed in. He was really a nice man and very humorous when we talked with him before and after services. He kept teasing us before service that we wouldn't leave until 9 p.m. Actually, we didn't because there was that many people interested in our work and asking questions.

During the sermon, there were a lot of "Amens, Alright, Yes" and nodding of heads in the affirmative. Our black brethren always do this and I expected it. Everyone was listening. Everyone was interested in what he said. They had about 8 people who went forward asking for prayers and one young man was baptized.

In the midst of the congregation I spotted a little grey-haired white lady about 70 years old. When they had us stand and introduced us to the congregation she smiled at us. Throughout the service, I saw how much she loved where she was. She was smiling and nodding just like the other members.

After services, she came to pick up some newsletters and told us how happy she was to meet us and how excited she was to know of our work in China. Then she told us, "I only became a Christian here in August. I thought the C of C was just another denomination and it was by accident that I found the church." I told her how happy I was for her and congratulated her on have a loving and friendly church family at Southside. She nodded and thanked me.

I was concerned that I might not sleep with the songs running through my mind all night but I had a sound sleep.

We will definitely return to both Marble Falls and Southside if they will let us. Both were uniquely different but equally exciting and uplifting. Sometimes I can't remember a church we visited because everything was just orginary but these congregations were not ordinary. We will remember them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blue skies and lots of road ahead

Since I last posted, we left Dallas and drove to Hamilton. On our last Friday in Dallas, the Chinese boy who had surgery was released from the hospital. Hongsheng is the boy with the tesser syndrome palate that went from his mouth all the way to one eye. His first surgery was successful. They made an incision across the top of his head (never even shaving his hair) and pulled the side of his face into place. It was an amazing surgery with only a small scar near his lips where they formed his mouth.

He returned for a check up and they kept him in the hospital for several days because of an infection.

It was about 9 p.m. Friday night when Ron returned to the RV with Judy (our Chinese worker) and Hongsheng. We bedded them down with us in the RV for the night and left about 7 a.m. the next morning for Hamilton.

We parked two nights in the driveway of Hongsheng's host family (Dr. & Mrs. Monte Horne). They treated us to some delicious meals and we enjoyed a meal at a Chinese restaurant to celebrate Hongsheng's 13th birthday.

We drove to Waco and parked at the New Road C of C and went to church there on Sunday night (Ron gave a report about the work in China).

Tuesday morning, we drove to Hamilton to take Judy back to Dallas to catch a flight to Atlanta and picked up Aida (another Chinese worker coming in to care for Hongsheng). We returned again Wednesday morning to take Hongsheng back for another check up. They thought he was doing O.K. but decided to leave the drianage tube in until Monday.

We stopped at Gatesville that Wednesday night. Ron gave a report on the work in China to that congregation and we had a meal with them. Gatesville is a very small town but the youth minister has about 100 children from the community coming for a meal and class every Wednesday night.

We drove back to Hamilton on Monday to take Aida and Hongsheng to Dallas for the boy's check up. He still had infection so they scheduled him for surgery the next day to flush out the wound and restitch the incision. We took Aida and Hongsheng to the Ronald McDonald House since they needed to be back at the hospital early the next morning.

The boy's surgery was not until 7 p.m. the next night because of emergencies. Aida was there for another day without a change of clothing. She didn't take her phone charger or her computer as we had no idea she would have to stay in Dallas.

Rosy Horne, the host Mom, went to get them on Wednesday afternoon. We are all hoping this second time to open up the incision and flush it out will do the trick.

It is a two-hour drive to Dallas from Hamilton. For us to go from Waco to Hamilton and then to Dallas is about a three-hour trip so on the days we helped the Horne family by making these trips, it was an all-day trip.

We parked one night in Temple and had breakfast with two of their elders the next morning before leaving for Austin.

We have been at the Southwest C of C in Austin since we arrived here Tuesday afternoon. We met with one of their elders Wednesday morning and attended class here on Wednesday night.

Ron has been making calls to other congregations to set up future appointments as well as calling churches in the Houston area. We will leave Austin early next week for Houston. We will be there a couple of weeks.

We have cool nights and clear skies during the day with temperatures ranging from the 50's at night to the 80's during the day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

When I get discouraged I think of this lady...

Gladys Aylward (Ale-ward), was born in London around the turn of the twenty century. She worked for several years as a parlor maid, and then attended a revival meeting at which the preacher spoke of dedicating one’s life to the service of God. Gladys responded to the message, and soon after became convinced that she was called to teach the Gospel in China.

At the age of 26, she heard of a 73-year-old missionary, Mrs. Jeannie Lawson, who was looking for a younger woman to carry on her work. Gladys wrote to Mrs. Lawson and was accepted if she could get to China.

Gladys did not have enough money for the ship fare, but did have enough for the train fare, and so in October of 1930, she set out from London with her passport, her Bible, her tickets, and the equivalent of a few dollars, to travel to China by the Trans-Siberian Railway, despite the fact that China and the Soviet Union were engaged in an undeclared war. She arrived in Vladivostok and sailed from there to Japan and from Japan to Tienstsin, and then by train, by bus, by mule, to the inland city of Yangchen, in the mountainous province of Shansi, a little south of Beijing.

Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China for many years. The bulk of her missionary work was concentrated in an orphanage. One time she was forced to flee the part of China where she was living, because the Japanese were invading. But she couldn’t leave her work behind – the 100 children she was caring for. So, with only one assistant, she led those 100 children over the mountains and through the jungles toward what was known as “Free China.”

As she journeyed through the rough terrain, and grueling weather, trying to keep the children together, and safe, while maintaining her own morale, Gladys grappled with despair like she had never struggled with it before. After one sleepless night, she looked out at yet another day of hardship and pain, and no hope of reaching safety.

Then a 13-year-old girl in the group, seeing her leader’s distress, reminded her of one of their most loved Bible stories – the story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

“But, I am not Moses,” Gladys blurted out in desperation.

“Of course, you aren’t” the girl said, “but Jehovah is still God!”

Gladys and the orphans made it through to Free China. She wasn’t Moses, but Jehovah is still God. This point is simple. No matter how inadequate we are, God is still God. No matter how frustrated we may be, God is still God. No matter how desperate we may feel, God is still God. When we are doing his will whether we’re career missionaries in foreign lands or living sacrifices in our day-to-day world, all our inadequacies, frustrations and desperate feelings are overwhelmed by God being God!

God promises to never leave us. Thereby, peace can reign in our lives if we hold fast to our faith in HIM.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

We Know Where We are Going but Can't Get There!

Ron traveled for more than 20 years in his secular job so he is somewhat familiar with various cities. However,traffic has greatly increased and roads have changed (or more been added) since that time. We find some intersections that are somewhat like and sometimes worse than "Spagetti Junction" at I-285 and I-85 in north Atlanta.

Yesterday, we were in the car going to the airport and the directions were horrible. Although we were not far away, we had to get onto several different interstates and loops and still got lost with a GPS. If we make one wrong turn, the GPS lady goes crazy and keeps trying to turn us at every street to get us back the way she wants us to go.

We were on Loop 12 yesterday between Dallas and Ft. Worth and it was an absolute nightmare. I am not sure how we found our way to the airport, then to the hospital and back to the place where the RV is parked.

Last night one of the elders asked us if we found the hospital O.K. We told him after losing our way several times, we finally found it. He said he left one morning at 8 a.m. to go to a hospital in Dallas to be with a friend having surgery at 10 a.m. He said about 10:45 he was so turned around he didn't know if he could find the hospital or not so then he decided to just go back home. He said then he had trouble finding his way back. (We could really relate to that!) He said he finds it horrible to drive in Dallas. I'm glad a person living in this area said that and reassured me that I'm not a complete idiot with directions.

Part of the problem is that Ron will decide the GPS or Google directions are wrong or it is taking us out of our way as he remembers his previous travels in the city. He knows his directions so he gets impatient if the GPS turns us in the wrong direction even though it may be correct to get us on the way we need to go. The GPS may say exit right and then turn left and it's confusing as to exactly where we are to turn left. Sometimes it's an immediate turn and sometimes it's not. Ron sometimes loses his patience and starts turning in the direction he feels we should be going. When he does this, I just turn the GPS sound off at this point because it just drives us crazy saying "recalculate" "make a U turn" etc.

After a short while, Ron may decide he doesn't know where he is or which road to take so I turn the GPS back on to see if it can find us at that point and get us where we want to go.

Judy suggested I look at the map on the GPS to see the streets but my eyes are not good enough to read this small print in the glare of the sun (even when I enlarge the map). The problem is the GPS won't always tell us to turn until sometimes it's too late for Ron to get in the correct lane. I tell him it's one mile and he needs to be in the right lane, but like most people, he waits too long to move over and may miss the turn. With heavy traffic, this is really a problem.

Using a Google or Mapquest direction does not help much. Usually the GPS wants to go a different way. It's easier to follow the GPS sometimes but I can seldom compare it with the printed directions or a map. I'll have three sources in front of me and we still get on the wrong roads. I am actually working with four sources of information when Ron is part of the equation. Then if there's construction, which is often, there are roads and exits that are closed and then we are hunting our way through the maize again.

I've threatened to not do anything to help out but when we get ready to leave with the RV and car pulled behind us, I am too nervous to just leave it to chance. We can't weave all around like we did in the car yesterday with the RV and even moving over to another lane takes good timing.

I suggested we try to find a GPS that will mount on the dashboard of the RV close to Ron so he can watch the map and do a better job of maneuvering. I haven't had any response to that suggestion but when I quit completely, it might be considered a good idea!

Visits around the Dallas area

We have been very busy this week. Monday morning we had breakfast with a minister and elder at Cracker Barrel to tell them about the work in China. When we left there, we went by the Lewisville church to pick up our displays that were left there on Sunday.

Every day we awake early and get our computer work underway. Ron is still making lots of calls to churches to try to get more information to them about our work. If he can set appointments with elders, we go make the visits.

Tuesday morning I took advantage of the coin laundry facilities at the RV park before we relocated our RV to the North Richland Hills area, just north of Dallas.

Wednesday we went to the airport to pick Judy Yang up and take her to the hospital where Hongsheng is being cared for. This is the boy with the Tesser Palate that had surgery several weeks ago. He's scratched the area where they did surgery and got it infected so he's having to spend some time in the hospital on antibotics. Judy came to stay with him to relieve the host Mom from having to spend all the time at the hospital. He will probably be in the hospital several more days. He knew Judy was coming but he still cried when the host Mom left because he wanted to leave the hospital and go back to their home.

His lip looks really good but the rest of his face still needs many more surgeries before it look somewhat normal. He can eat well now but is picky and won't eat what they tell him he needs. He's lost weight. They are insisting that he eat or they will not let him leave the hospital. Judy reported this morning that he's eating more and they had a good walk around the hospital.

Before we went to pick Judy up at the airport, we met with four elders of the Brown Trail C of C. They were eager for us to put up our display for Wednesday night services. We attended class there last night and enjoyed meeting with them. They want us to give the presentation about our work on a later trip through this area.

Shirley Farris, a friend from more than 20 years ago came up to greet us. I did not remember which church she attended in the Dallas area so I was surprised to see her. It was great to see her again after so many years. She lost her husband, Joe, since we last saw her.

Today has been busy catching up our computer work. Ron continues making calls to set up future appointments.

It is very windy today but still clear and hot. We will pull out on Saturday to go to Hamilton, TX for Sunday's presentation. From there, we have several cities before we end up in Houston.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Packed a lot in this Week

We left Florence, AL on a Saturday morning (more than a week ago). We arrived in Troy, TN and parked in the yard of Jimmy and LeEllen Smith. Jimmy is an elder at the church and a judge in his secular job. They have three boys and a 10-year old Chinese daughter. The Smiths went to an engagement party that night so we went to a catfish restaurant with the minister and his wife. The restaurant was on Reelfoot Lake and the food was delicious. After the service on Sunday, the ladies had prepared a potluck meal for everyone. Shortly afterwards, we pulled out and headed for Paragould, AR. We parked that night at Crowley's Ridge Bible College and attended the night service at Hillcrest congregation next to the college. There were hookups for many campers at the college and about 10 Sojourners were already parked there. Sojourners are older people who own campers and travel to different churches, schools and other locations to assist with whatever work they can do. In this case, they were working at a local orphanage. At the services, everyone just assumed we were Sojourners (they were all there that night) but when someone asked if we were Sojourners and we said we were missionaries to China, they insisted that Ron take over the service and tell about our work.

In Arkansas, we saw a lot of cotton, soy bean and rice crops. These farmers are doing it on a big scale because fields go on and on for miles sometimes. We have driven on some very straight roads with ranches along the sides of the road, rambling fences and blue skies as far as you can see.

When we left Paragould, we traveled to Searcy, AR. We spent one night in Searcy (parked at the Foothills church) and went to dinner with Lolita and Ed Higginbothan, who also have a love for the work in China. They have recently returned from a six-week teaching assignment in China. At the College church, where they attend, they were having a devotional and serving a meal to the poorer people in the community. We went by there for a while and were pleased to see at least 75 or more people in attendance. Someone slipped up behind me and hugged me. I knew the lady looked very familiar and then learned that it was Nancy Sapio from Atlanta who I knew more than 25 years ago. Her husband, Nick, died a year or two ago and she's now moved to Searcy to be near two of her daughters. Nancy was working in the kitchen that night but spotted us in the crowd and just had to come say hello. It was great seeing her after all these years. When we left this meeting we went to the Higgingbotham's house and enjoyed ice cream and green tea while we shared many experiences in China.

Wednesday we drove to Texarkana, TX and parked at the Hampton C of C on St. Michael's
Road. The street name changed but they could not bring themselves to call the church St. Michael's so it remains Hampton Road that is located on St. Michael's Road. Due to much road construction (closed roads and one-way streets) we had difficulty finding the building this time. Sometime on Wednesday, Ron went to start the RV and it would not turn over. He checked batteries and everything he could think of but nothing worked. A member of the church came by that afternoon and found the problem but could not fix it. He was going to give us a "temporary fix" until we could get to the RV place the next morning but on Thursday, the engine started fine. We drove on to Greenville, TX without any problem and have not had a problem since. It's strange how it was dead for one whole day but is working fine now. I guess it could happen again anytime.

We spent two nights parked at the Johnson Street C of C in Greenville. We drove up to Commerce and met with elders in one congregation and a minister in another church. The minister and his wife went with us to a very nice "Tea Room" where we enjoyed a very good lunch and got to know this wonderful young family better. I guess meeting people, such as this couple, makes these trips especially enjoyable.
I told Ron I'm not much for the RV while it's moving, but once parked, I like it just fine and our time with others is great.

From Greenville, we drove to Lewisville. The church does not have a hookup available with power adequate for an RV so they made us a reservation in a nearby RV park. It was practically full when we came in Saturday night but on Monday morning, most had left. There are some RV's and campers that are not occupied but people use this as a "parking" space for their RV. Others are permanent residents because they have flowers and stuff all around that indicates they live here full time. With a beautiful lake and golf course nearby I suppose it would be cheaper to live like this than own a condo. Many of the campers (or RV's) are really nice and luxurious. Most are older couples, of course, but there's one permanent family behind us with children. We will end up staying here three nights but tomorrow we will park at a church building where we stayed on our last trip in North Richland Hills, north of Dallas.

We will go from here to Hamilton and Waco. I'm not sure where else we will stop on our way to Houston. On Saturday we will be in Hamilton. meeting with Dr. Monty Horn and his family. Dr. Horn and his wife are the host family for the boy with the Tesser Palate that just had surgery in Dallas a few weeks ago. Judy talks to the boy on the phone each day and she told him the old couple coming this weekend is her Boss.

Ron continues to book appointments for upcoming weeks and even months. He plans to leave the RV and car in Houston and fly back home on buddy passes the first of November. After a few weeks at home, we will fly back and return on much of the same path to cover churches that booked him for a later date.

Ron spoke at the Lewisville church on Sunday. It was their Mission Emphasis Sunday and they were hoping to raise $100,000 for their mission work. We are not yet part of it but hope they are considering us for the future. Ron delivered a very powerful message along with his report about our work in China. A missionary they support from South Africa delivered the Sunday school lesson via Skype. His lesson was excellent and the picture on the screen worked perfectly all the way from South Africa. At the end of his lesson, he turned the camera on his computer toward their congregation and they waved at us. It was a great morning. The donation was $74,000. They plan two more Sundays before the end of the year for mission work collection so they will raise their $100,000 (and probably exceed it).

One reason we are concentrating on Texas is that the recession has not hurt jobs in this state. Churches are over budget, in most cases. People have the means to give and they are very generous. We are trying to build our base of supporters from these wonderful Christians to help secure the future of China Mission.

Thanks for keeping up with our travels. I'm sorry I'm not too witty with these updates. Perhaps I will devote one segment to Ron's fight with the GPS. He doesn't fight with me but he often thinks the lady on the GPS is crazy and he talks back to her. Sometime I will tell you how I'm handling the problem of navigation.

I will also devote one segment about what's happening in China.

God bless each of you, dear readers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Bittersweet Day

Thursday was the funeral for J. Wayne Brooks, another dear friend in Florence, AL. We were also friends with the Brooks from the 1960's. Wayne and Martha loved our children so much when they were little and our kids loved them just like family. About 19 years ago, Wayne crashed in his crop duster aircraft. He had been doing this work for years and had recently bought a new plane. Some structural problem apparently caused the plane to crash when he banked the plane. He spent months in the hospital then and has suffered many problems ever since. Although as active as he could be helping friends, working around his home and doing church work, he spent many weeks in the hospital from time-to-time with different problems and illnesses. His dear friends conducted a funeral condensing his many achievements and highlighted how he loved helping other people. Wayne was certainly a good man, a dear friend to many and will be greatly missed. Martha, his wife of about 47 years, stood by him to the very end, making a living, taking care of him and doing whatever needed to be done without showing fatigue or discouragement. Martha is a good example of the "worthy woman" and Wayne could not have had a wife who loved him more or cared for him any better.

We spent about two hours with Martha over breakfast in her home this morning. Friends, Polly and Lawrence Alexander and Helen and Clifford Miles (we have also known them for over 40 years) came by and we had a great time reminiscing about our good times with Martha and Wayne over the years.

We are glad we could be here to share in the celebration of Wayne's life and give Martha a little comfort and our love. Martha and I say to each other every time we see each other (even if it's years apart), "we can just pick up where we left off." We are that kind of friends. I regret not taking pictures this morning!

Ronald Returned to China and we left for Alabama

Wednesday morning, Ron took Ronald to the airport at 4 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Washington,D.C. with connecting flight to Beijing. Someone was meeting him in Beijing to get him to the train station where he would have a few hours wait and then a 14 hour train to Xi'an. Once there, he was interviewing three men to serve as his full-time translator. Then he was traveling on by train to the Jackson Family Christian Care Center in Zigong. We have not heard from him (he has not had internet connection, I'm sure.)

While he was home, he had to get his house ready to rent again. He got to do a few fun things and get some needed rest.

We had a few people over to celebrate his birthday with a good dinner. Holly & Ken and their children, Bridgette and Chipper, Warren and Elaine, Joyce, Elaine's mom, Perry and Judy Baker and our daughter, Leigh Ann, all were present for Ronald's dinner.

We enjoyed him being home very much.

At 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, we pulled out to drive to Florence, AL. We had not driven more than an hour when a back tire blew a hole. It sounded like a gun went off but the RV drove O.K. At the next exit, Tallapoosa, GA, we pulled off and almost immediately there appeared a truck stop with a tire repair place. They put one of the spares on and we were back on the road within 30 minutes. Ron replaced the front tires because he was concerned about a blowout but the back tires all had good tread. Apparently, the rubber is just old and dry. I told him this RV is just like us "too old and worn out not to have problems all the time." I told Ron not to expect a tire repair place to appear out of nowhere when this happens again. He said, "why not?" The air conditioner didn't work on the trip so we have to get the freeon checked. The inside air conditioners work fine and we have been comfortable.

A big THANK YOU goes to Warren Sims and Perry Baker, dear friends in Peachtree City for their checking out and working on the RV while we were in China. The things that continue to go wrong certainly are not their fault. Having an old vehicle is the problem and you can't replace everything on it at once. We will continue to repair and replace parts as needed. Guess blow outs and failed air conditioners just add to the adventure and build memories that we can write home about!

We arrived at the home of Jan and B.J. Kennedy in Sheffield, AL in time to have dinner with them before Ron spoke at one of the churches in Killen, AL that night. We are parked inside the Kennedy's fenced in back yard.

Speaking of RV's, the Kennedy's have a very nice one with leather seats and pull outs that give a big living space. Theirs is the big, nice one in front of this picture.

We also passed a nice one with a truck and golf cart behind it. I told Ron we just have not arrived with this old RV but I'm not the least bit jealous. I don't think I'd like a nicer one any more. Living in it is just fine but driving this thing is not much fun. I don't guess I will ever relax and enjoy that part. Jan Kennedy agrees with me so maybe it's just a woman's viewpoint.

The Kennedys have been dear friends for more than 40 years. BJ worked with Ron on two occasions (Atlanta and the Virgin Islands). They are as close as family. BJ is now retired from electrical engineering with large construction firms (U.S. and abroad in several countries). They have a beautiful home and view of the river that flows between Florence and Sheffield. We are very happy for them after working hard and traveling for many, many years. It has been so enjoyable to spend time with them again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Home from China!

We are home, but it was not an easy trip. Ron left one day earlier than us to make a side trip to Hangzhou to meet with a man interested in helping with our work. He said we could take the bus from Pingliang to Xi'an with the medical team and then fly to Shanghai and meet him at the hotel. From the Pudong airport, I know where to take the hotel shuttle bus to the hotel where we always stay. Sounded easy enough.

Three of our workers were helping to take four orphan babies back to Beijing and Mongolia (along with a lady doctor traveling with the babies). We all took the four hour bus to Xi'an. Then we took a taxi to the airport, arriving there about noon. Leigh Ann and I were to catch our flight at 7 p.m. but could not check in until 5:00 p.m. One of the workers found a buffet inside the airport and paid for us to all have a meal. He got the waitresses to let us have a back table and stay in the restaurant until time for our flights. They were kind, seeing that we had four babies under one year of age that had just had surgery a few days before. A young male worker took one of the babies with him to Beijing on a 3 p.m. flight. That baby was sick during the medical mission and unable to have surgery. The other three babies were not flying out with workers until 8 p.m.

Leigh Ann and I helped with the babies so everyone could take turns to eat. They were good babies but they were active and wore us all out after a few hours.

Jackie (our medical mission coordinator) booked our flight from Xi'an to Shanghai to the wrong airport, but I didn't know that at the time. Our flight was late so it was about 10:30 p.m. when we arrived. After wandering around for an hour in the airport, not recognizing anything and unable to find the bus to the hotel, I got someone to call Ron. I didn't even have a cell phone in China. He said he had checked on our flight and we had landed at another airport (about 50 miles away). It was too late to get the bus between the airports. We got a taxi (which cost us $45 U.S.) but the driver took us to the wrong hotel. I knew immediately it was wrong but could not communicate with the taxi driver. I called Ron from that hotel which was close to the Pudong Airport. He asked if I could get another taxi and go to the Pudong Airport Gate 28. It was about 11:30 p.m. I told him NO, I could not communicate with taxi drivers and I might end up at the first airport again. He said O.K. and got a taxi to bring him to this hotel to find us. I thought this would not be difficult but when just one thing goes wrong, then I'm in trouble in China traveling alone.

We had to get up early to be at the Pudong Shanghai Airport the next morning at 7 a.m. We got on the flight from Shanghai to Detroit. We were able to get first class seats so that was a great help. We were already so tired. It was a 14 hour flight to Detroit. We arrived about noon on Sunday. We spent the next 9 hours in the Detroit airport trying to find a flight to Atlanta or any other city that would connect and get us to Atlanta. All flights were over sold. We gave up and got a hotel for the night and left Detroit on Monday but had to fly to Nashville and then to Atlanta. It was an all-day trip. It was about 6 p.m. Monday night when we got home.

I started taking a sore throat about the time we landed in Detroit so I really felt bad the rest of the day and all day on Monday. It's better now and I'm finally getting some sleep.

This was a hard trip and the most difficult of our missions. So many things were disorganized but we learned some lessons if we do another medical mission. I have to remember that no matter how hard it was for all of us, there were a lot of little children helped.

Ronald arrived home a week before us to get some needed rest. He is doing fine but arrived home to find that his renters have skipped out (leaving his house and yard in a mess). He has many repairs and cleaning to do before it can be rented again. We will help him work on it next week. He's trying to get the grass cut and yard back in shape.

Today, Ronald and I went to the Botanical Gardens. He didn't feel like going to work in the yard with the heat and wanted to do something fun. I had never been to the gardens so when he invited me to go with him, I jumped at the chance. I enjoyed being with him very much. He won't get to do much in the way of fun things while he's home, so this was a good day for both of us.

I have plenty of work to do but felt he was more important. He will return to China Sept. 7th. We will leave again for another long RV trip across to Texas on September 8th. I don't know how long we will be gone this time.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Death of a Child Brings Sadness to the Medical Mission

Our medical mission is underway in Pingliang, Gansu. It is not far from the Tibet border in Central China. We have mountains in this area. The weather has been very cool at night and nice during the day. Although there is early morning smog, we have seen sunshine and nice skies some days. The people in this area are poor. We don’t see anyone walking the streets in fashionable clothing. They are all very curious about us, having never seen a foreigner in this area. A middle school student asked me yesterday, “Where are you from?” Some stop to stare but almost everyone glances at us. We smile and wave at the children and most of them smile back and then parents smile too.

Leigh Ann has had people wanting to take a picture with her (on planes, trains and various places). We tease her that she should be charging for these photo sessions.

The medical team from the U.S. arrived about 3 p.m. last Monday afternoon. It was a rush to get everyone to their rooms to unload their bags and get to the hotel dining room for a quick lunch. Everyone had to be at the hospital by 4:30 for the hospital welcoming and orientation.

Some workers from Angel Moms (a charity group in Beijing and Shanghai) and caretakers with children from an orphanage came on the bus with the team. Two of our little girls from the Jackson Family Care Center in Zigong arrived by train, a 30-hour trip, each with a grandparent. One had a cleft lip and the other a cleft palate. (They were so happy to see us and their grandparents could not thank us enough for all we have done for these little girls). It was a joy to see them go home a few days later with their surgeries healing.

Monday night, we all gathered in two of the hotel dining rooms for a meal paid for by the hospital. It was a very elaborate and delicious meal.
The team was tired from their long trip. Most of them flew to Beijing and came together on an all-night train to Xi’an. From Xi’an, it was a five-hour bus ride. A bus was rented for the entire team; otherwise, they would not have all arrived on time. Almost every bus and train to every city in China is full to capacity no matter what day of the week you travel.

Things got off to a slow start Tuesday morning. Surgeries did not start until late morning because children had to be tested and having fasted for six hours prior to surgery. It was difficult to get this over to parents because they worried about their children being hungry and some fed them anyway, which set them back on the schedule for surgery. Nurses settled into their routine, checking patients already in the hospital rooms, with a translator’s help.

We had seven young high school or university students volunteering as translators but they were not always where they should be. They tended to want to hang out together rather than being where they should be. Often a nurse was wandering around looking for one of them.

The hospital officials and nurses have been much more cooperative this year than they were last year in Chengde. They have interfered very little in every phase of our work and been helpful when asked. This hospital is also cleaner and brighter. Last year, we had dark and dirty rooms on the ward and the Chinese nurses didn’t trust our nurses to do anything. Saying all of this does not mean that this hospital is perfect. It is probably an excellent hospital for this remote area of China. However, in ICU, there is a leak over a bed from the ceiling above. Could it be a toilet leaking? We don’t know. We are on the 10th floor of a 15 story building so it isn’t coming from the roof. There are a few western toilets (commodes) on the ward but we aren’t allowed to use them. I think the night nurses have cleaned them and used them when the rest of the staff is gone and no one is using those areas for examinations. One nurse has a picture of a shower head and right underneath is a power outlet. It has a little plastic cover but I doubt that could prevent water from running inside. At night, the nurses report that the doors to the ward are padlocked to prevent anyone from coming in. However, no one could get out either because you have to go out the doors to get to the stairway.

Barry, our anesthetist from Beijing said this hospital has a very low mortality rate with a certain number of surgeries. Compared to the best hospitals in Beijing, it is lower. He questions that being correct because of the lack of equipment and skill but I guess you can publish whatever rate you wish.

Everything seemed routine by Tuesday afternoon and everyone was settling into their jobs but on Wednesday afternoon tragedy appeared unexpectedly. A little boy, 2-l/2 years of age, went for cleft palate surgery. Everything seems to be going fine. They had completed his surgery and began to bring him out of sleep when his little body started shutting down. Oxygen levels dropped drastically and the child died before they could do anything to reverse the situation. It was a heart-breaking event for the doctors and nurses as well as all of the medical team. The parents of the child were wailing and crying uncontrollably. The hospital official took over handling the child’s relatives.

No negligence on the part of our doctors or nurses was detected. The hospital said it could not have been helped. The child appeared healthy, everything had been checked out and everything done by the anesthetist and doctor were consistent with what should have been done. Nevertheless, it put a great and deep sadness in all of our hearts.

Surgeries were stopped for the rest of that day and for the entire next day while the hospital and team re-evaluated procedures. The hospital had a machine flown in to use to determine oxygen level at an early stage of the operation. These are not usually used in China but might save a life. The OR nurses do not feel that a situation can be reversed once it begins even if surgery is stopped early. One of the anesthetists figured out a way to use the machine for two children having surgery at the same time in the same OR.

Thursday, surgeries began again and continue on to this time (Sunday afternoon, August 8). The mission will go until Thursday. Surgeries will end but nurses will have to be on the wards checking post-op patients until they are dismissed to return home.

To see a baby with a cleft lip, maybe even a bi-lateral cleft lip, and then see them when they come back after surgery, is a beautiful thing to behold. The parents are not beaming as much as we are, because they do not fully understand that after healing the lip will look much better. Often, the child is uncomfortable even with some medication for pain so the parent may be concerned. The next day after surgery, children and parents are beaming and thanking us for our help. When they are ready to leave the hospital, they are so appreciative.

Handing out the beanie babies and blankets has been a highlight of our mornings. We make rounds each morning to see which new children have arrived for surgery that day. Handing the child a beanie baby had brightened the face of the child and bridges are established because of the strange way we look. Children will smile and (in most cases) quickly accept the toy. One of our nurses brought some small trucks for older boys and they have really gone over well.

Mothers are very happy to get the blankets. The hospital bed only has a bottom sheet and a down (heavy) comforter in a duvet coverlet on the bed. After a child comes from surgery, the parent wants to cover the child but the comforter is much too hot.
We have offered them a blanket or small quilt and they have been very grateful. We see them walking with the babies in their arms in the hallway with the blankets tucked around the child.

Ladies from Laurel Church of Christ, Laurel, MD, Needles & Knots in North Canton, OH, Florence Hoshall, and Mrs. Dave Halligan and ladies from her congregation are some who have shipped quilts and blankets. Our Peachtree City Church of Christ ladies also made crocheted blankets. We collected beanie babies from several different locations but many of them were from Peachtree City. I am sure I have missed someone who contributed to these gifts of love, but if you were part of this collection of gifts, please accept my grateful thanks. We had blankets every size for the very smallest child to the oldest boy (about 12 or 13) and everyone loved the gifts.

This morning I was walking down the hall with a stack of blankets in my arms as Leigh Ann was handing out beanie babies and getting pictures of the children accepting the toys. A mother walked up and fingered one of the beautiful crochets blankets in my arms. I immediately pulled it out and offered it to her. You would have thought I had given her a $100 bill. She thanked me over and over.

Organizing a medical mission may seem simple. You team up roommates and co-workers according to shifts and specialties. Everyone goes to work. Right? Not really. Although Ron, Leigh Ann and I unpacked the medical supplies in the room assigned to our work team, it is still difficult to have all the things they need.
Each doctor or nurse wants a certain suture or a product for pain or an ointment for moisture, something to reduce swelling or prevent infection. It is impossible to have on hand everything each nurse or doctor wants. Tables and box loads of supplies are grouped together so things can be easily found but nurses are always looking for something we don’t have.

Some of the team has been sick from eating the food. It’s caused a shortage of nurses so sometimes only one nurse is on the entire ward. Shifts are long and tiring and only snack food is available. Although the hospital brings in hot boxed lunch plates at noon, the number of workers who eat it has diminished each day as others get sick. A lot of the workers go out to local restaurants at night so the contamination could have come from those places. However, Ron, Leigh Ann and I have been very careful and eaten only in the hotel restaurant or had fruit and snacks in our rooms. Fruit stands are everywhere but we must wash the fruit in bottled water. (I like ice cream on a stick which is safe to eat. No washing necessary. It’s a good excuse to eat ice cream.) Leigh Ann and I have a favorite stand near the hotel that carries ice cream and cold drinks (not many have a cooler to keep drinks cold). They have some very good cookies, crackers, chips, little cakes, and other snacks. With fruit, we can have a very good lunch and not worry about being sick.

Unfortunately, both Ron and Leigh Ann have been sick. I don’t know where it began (the food the first day at the hospital or elsewhere) but it’s difficult to get rid of. I think you could safely call it “Chairman Mao’s Revenge.” I am becoming known more and more as “Iron Gut Pat” since I am eating almost everything in front of me and not getting sick.

Every afternoon, Leigh Ann and I return to our rooms and work on our computers, trying to keep up with our workload. It has not been easy to find the time. Some plugs in our rooms don’t work and getting internet set up when we arrived was a challenge.

When nurses come off their shift or others are going on duty, we have tried to catch someone to go down for dinner with us. Ordering is a challenge. We have pictures on the menu but without knowing most of the dishes, we don’t know what we are ordering. Some dishes are cold and some hot, but we can’t tell which is which. From the picture, it is difficult to tell what kind of meat may be cooked with the vegetables.
Asking for rice or even tea has been difficult, although those are relatively easy words to pronounce. They just don’t understand “Southern Chinese.”
I find it interesting to listen to a nurse trying to order, using Chinese words, some English words and her hands with sign language, all at the same time. I watch the expression on the face of the waitress and wish I could take a picture. They are stunned to say the least. We believe they are saying, “Oh no, here comes the crazy Americans” each time they see us walk in.

When the mission ends, we will all take a bus back to Xi’an. A few doctors and nurses are scheduled to leave before us due to schedules back home. Some will go to Beijing or stay a few extra days in Xi’an to sightsee before they return home. Ron, Leigh Ann and I will take a night train from Xi’an back to Shanghai and be on standby for our trip home. We fly buddy passes so it is always “if” we get seats that we go home a certain day.

Ronald, our son who has lived in China for one year and just completed the renovation of Refuge of Grace Christian Care Center that will open soon, has returned to Atlanta for a much needed rest. It has been a difficult year for him. Our trips (20-30 days at a time) are difficult enough, but living in a foreign country without knowing the language and not having a skilled translator who knows construction, is not easy. I would imagine that Ronald has tried to communicate with contractors just like the nurses ordering food, but he is probably upset and saying “NO, NO, we don’t do it that way!”

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and concern for us. We can count off the days until our return now. I will post a brief report after our arrival home so everyone will know we are safely at home enjoying the rest but hating the jetlag.