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.