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.