Saturday, February 26, 2011

We are at Alice's ...

Actually, we are at the church building in Alice, TX.   I know most of you don't know where Alice is located unless you are from Texas.  We completed our appointments in Corpus Christi on Wednesday night and left Thursday for Alice.   We planned to go to Kingsville but as we were about to leave, someone called and cancelled our Sunday morning appointment.  Our route changed to come straight to Alice since we are scheduled to be here Sunday night.  Alice is west of Corpus Christi.  It takes a while to get ready to travel (unplugging electrical and water, raising the levelers, bringing in the extension, securing everything in cabinets and then securing the car on the dolly for traveling).  Then it takes time to reverse all of that when we arrive at our next location.   We had not asked permission to park here, but the preacher drove in just as we arrived.  He said it was no problem so we began to see where we could park.

We love the palm trees and blue skies.
We are finally having summer weather.  It was very hot the last two days (in the 80's) but it may be cooler today.  We have cloudy skies and drizzle today.  There has been almost no rain or cloudy days since we left the cold weather in the Dallas area several weeks ago.  We have not needed heat at night for several weeks (since we arrived at Corpus Christi).

We enjoyed our time in the Portland/Corpus Christi area.  It is a good place to live.  We had a good time Wednesday night with the folks at the Arlington Heights congregation.  They told us some funny stories about folks they know who have had RV's.  They had seen Robin William's movie RV so they could laugh with my sentiments about life on the road. 

Alice, which has a population of about 20,000, has a lot of traffic accidents and crime.  From the news, we heard of a lot going on in Corpus Christi as well.  One night, the news reported about three traffic accidents where vehicles had "rolled over."   It was not just one type vehicle so we wondered how so many would have rolled over in one day.  Shortly after we arrived in Alice, we heard sirens for an hour or more and thought it was probably a fire because everything is very dry.  On the news, we learned that a diesel tanker truck lost control and overturned about a mile away and the driver is in critical condition.  We expect crime in big cities, but the police is kept busy with many traffic accidents and crimes of all kind in these smaller cities as well.  I guess it is a sign of our times. 

Last evening, we went to dinner with the preacher and his wife and had a very enjoyable time with them.  Wherever we go, we find that we have mutual acquaintances and having a common goal, we feel the closeness even to people we just met.  After dinner at a Mexican restaurant, we went to their home for coffee.   It was the first time anyone has offered us their guest room and washer and dryer.  We have adjusted so well to the RV life, that we have no need for anything but we really did appreciate their offer and their thoughtfulness. 

When we leave Alice on Monday, we will drive to San Benito and park at the Sunny Glen Children's Home.  It is in the Brownsville area.  They have hookups at the orphanage because they have the Sojourners coming there to visit sometimes.   It was suggested by some of the members in Portland because they were concerned about the danger of us parking at a church building (as we usually do) and being isolated.  Being so close to the Mexico border, crime is even worse in these areas.

I did not hear this on the news, but someone in Portland told us that a few weeks ago an American was killed near Zapata, which is located along the border just south of Laredo.  The couple was jet skiing on a lake (on the American side) when someone shot the man.  The lady got away but the man nor his jet ski were ever found.  It sounds like a senseless crime but maybe they hoped to get the jet ski to sell it.  The theory was that the bullets hit the ski and cause it to quickly sink. 

We won't go to Zapata, but we will be in the McAllen/Brownsville area about two weeks.  At the orphanage, we will be surrounded with people and when we visit churches, we will drive directly there in the car to be safe.

Today is Sherry Shi's official wedding.  Sherry worked for us more than five years.  She was the first Chinese girl that came to the U.S. when we brought the first heart patient, Ting Ting.   Sherry had a quiet wedding at the end of December and moved to northern Indiana.  Her husband is a college professor but we know very little about him.  She said he had made some trips to China and speaks Mandarin, but he is an American.  Sherry was finally able to get her father to the U.S. for a visit, so I know this is a very happy day for her and her father.  Our other Chinese workers in the U.S. have gone there for the wedding.  It was just too difficult for us to leave the work here and too expensive for us to go.  Sherry said she understood.  We wish her much happiness.

Judy, one of our Chinese workers, is returning to China to live and work in Shanghai at the end of March.  We have grown to love her very much so we are going to miss her too.  She has worked very hard the three years she has been with us.   About two years ago, Judy took over the accounting and did such a good job that when we were audited late last year, the auditor was only there a short time.  Since we are a 501C non-profit charity organization (because of  the corporate donations), they can audit our books at any time.

Paige, who has also worked with us for several years (first she was the host Mom for Ha Ha, the little boy that came from China for skin grafts, and since then as my helper sending reports on the orphan children to sponsors) will take over the accounting responsibilities.

Only last week, we learned that Aida has been accepted by a nursing school in Orlando.  That schooling will begin in May, so she will be leaving soon.  Aida handles all of the heart patients coming to the U.S.  She has worked out the arrangements for the next three patients.  Our daughter, Leigh Ann, will take over the monthly newsletter that has been handled by Aida.   Ron and Aida will have to discuss how they will handle future work with the heart patients, but we will work it out so it will continue. 

Judy and Aida have been with us for about three years.  They have been an asset to our work and done an excellent job but their leaving does not mean that we will discontinue the work they have been handling.  Although everyone in an organization is special, none of us are indispensable.   Well, maybe no one but Ron.  Since he raises funds for the work, it is almost safe to say he is indispensable as his job is the most difficult. 

We have developed a lot of love for our Chinese workers.  Everyone is going to miss them because they have been a part of our lives.  We wish all three of them much success in their future lives.

It's Saturday, so I have other chores to do besides blogging.  Ron has been outside working on the RV but he's taking a siesta.  I told him it is a little early for that since we have not even had lunch.  He said the closer you get to the Mexican border, the earlier you can take a siesta.  That's all for now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Grackles and other TX Phenomenas

I hope I used that word correctly!    There are some things we notice as we travel to different places that are unique to a certain area.  Two things are evident in Texas moreso than anywhere else we have visited:   Wind and Grackles.  Of course, we have wind everywhere we have lived (Montreal, Beijing) but it's something that we seem to have much more often in Texas.  Perhaps, the lack of forests and flat land contribute to the daily occurrences. 

Yesterday, when I walked in the direction the wind was blowing, my hair was standing straight up.  When I got inside a building, I would smooth it out to keep from looking like Phyllis Diller.   I probably still looked like her!

Another thing we notice wherever we go is the large population of Grackles. 
Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they've been slightly stretched. They're taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. They eat many crops (notably corn) and nearly anything else as well, including garbage. In flight their long tails trail behind them, sometimes folded down the middle into a shallow V shape.

Power lines are sometimes covered with them, as are trees.  Some cities try to scare them off with fake owls on the corners of their buildings, but it does little good to frighten them. 

It is difficult to get a good picture because they are often gathering at dusk to roost.   The noise of them "cackling" is very noticeable. 
Everywhere we park, we either have barking dogs or trains.  There seems to be many more freight trains in Texas.  But what is really unique, as Texans will tell you, "there are more of everything in Texas."    Everything is more, bigger or better (or all three)!   It's actually true.    It's a big state, for sure.  It will take us many more months to just skim the surface of visiting churches. 
We go into an area and Ron tries to get appointments set up with as many of the sound churches as possible.  When we run out of possible appointments to present the report about the work in China, we move on to another major area.  Sometimes, it's just a matter of scheduling.  Some churches are more flexible with their agendas than others.  Some tell us they would like to schedule us on the next trip to their area.
Sunday morning, we attended services at Norton Street in Corpus Christi.  It is predominantly a Hispanic congregation but it was still a multi-cultured gathering of Christians who love each other very much.  Everyone was very friendly and accepting of our visit and interested in the work in China.  Many signed up to receive the on-line China Mission newsletters.  The regular preacher and many others had gone to a lectureship somewhere in the area so their number was down.
Brother Ortiz, one of the elders, and his wife took us to Luby's Cafeteria for lunch.  They are natives to Corpus Christi.  Brother Ortiz was taught the gospel by the church in Lewisville, TX.  He is a very kind and wonderful man.  We had a very enjoyable visit over lunch with him and his sweet wife.   Their son plans to go to a preaching school in Austin.  We find many of the small churches are turning out more upcoming preachers than the larger congregations.
We were at Ingleside Sunday night.  It was another small but very friendly group.   Our long-time sponsor, Billie Poenisch, and her husband were in attendance.  We had met Billie on Saturday night at a spaghetti supper at the North Bay congregation, where she is a member.  We would have gone with them to eat after services last night but we had already been invited to come back to North Bay for their "Silver Sneekers" or some such group meeting.  It was a dinner for their members (over 50 or 60, I suppose).   I hope the name was not actually "Silver Streakers."  
Tuesday morning I will attend the ladies' Bible class at North Bay and then Ron and I will meet Phyllis and her husband (who is one of the elders) for lunch.   I don't recall their last name at this time.  Phyllis is a tall, slender lady who works as a realtor.  She was one of the first people to take me by the arm and make me feel welcome when we arrived the first Sunday morning.  I think I had the same feeling a child would have when someone pats them on the head and gives them a piece of candy.  I easily become an instant friend to someone so friendly and accepting. 

"When you choose to be pleasant and positive in the way you treat others, you have also chosen, in most cases, how you are going to be treated by others."
The preacher at Port Aranasas, where we went this past Wednesday night, said he had known the four North Bay elders for 40 years and he did not know finer men than these four.  We have found that to be true the past 10 days.  They have been so "giving and helpful" to us.  Their wives are all wonderful Christian women as well.
Brother Charles told us when we arrived that they might not be considered by some to be the soundest church in the area.  Ron asked him why he would say that.  The only things he feels are possibly different are:   1) they permit the children to go to a class during the worship service (Children's Church) and 2) they have a cross on the front of their building embedded in the brickwork above their pulpit.   Although there's nothing actually wrong displaying the cross (we have it on the communion table in most churches), some feel we should steer away from anything that has the appearance of a "wooden idol."   It's probably not considered that way to most Christians because they understand it is not the cross that we worship.   Brother Charles said it would have been major reconstruction of the building to remove it (they purchased this property from a denomination) and they felt it would be a waste of money to make the change.   At the North Bay congregation, the overwhelming love for each other and for others has been an inspiration to us.
We have an appointment to meet with the church at Arlington Heights on Wednesday night.  We will leave this area on Thursday.  We have been properly warned about the danger being in cities along the Mexican border.  Ron says we may park somewhere north of those cities, perhaps in an RV park where there are many other people rather than isolated by ourselves at a church building and then drive on to the churches near the border where we have appointments.   By taking such precautions, we should not be in any situation where it would be dangerous or where our car could be stolen.
Everybody says they want to be free.  Take the train off the tracks and it's free - but it can't go anywhere.   

To go somewhere and be successful, we need others - freedom to do things our way often gets us in trouble.   

Have a successful week!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Portland, TX

We left San Antonio on Friday and drove to Portland.  It is a Gulf Coast town near Corpus Christi.  It was so good to see palm trees, experience warm, mild breezes and arrive at this lovely congregation.  We had a great day with some friendly people on Sunday.   Saturday, after our arrival, one of the elders came by and visited with us for a while and invited us to his house for dessert that night.  It was so much fun to be with him and his wife and another couple. 

This church building was previously owned by a denomination and there's one building with the inscription "Children's Building."  We thought that very strange when we drove in but later learned that it was previously used for a school run by that church.  It is very lovely and the property is worth a fortune although they were able to buy the property at a very reasonable price.

Sunday afternoon, we drove back to San Antonio.  We had a nice visit with the Northwest church and afterwards went to eat with a retired doctor and his wife.  The doctor was leaving this Friday for a trip to Africa.   We had a wonderful visit with them.  They were neighbors and friends with Jim and Sue May who now attend at Peachtree City.  It was about midnight when we got back to Portand and to bed that night.   It was a long but very enjoyable day.

It has been a nice week but still a lot of work in spite of the Chinese New Year holidays and less work coming from China. 

Wind power is active in this area.  As we drove to the store for a few items, we saw the windmills in the far distance that went for miles and miles.  We were actually too far away for the pictures to come out very well but you can see them along the horizon in this picture.  Ron said it will become more and more prevelant in Texas.  The winds are substantial so it should really do well and provide an alternative power source.

Last evening, the preacher from Port Aransas picked us up and took us to the church there.  This town is located on Mustang Island, just north of Padre Island.  We drove from Portland to Aransas Pass, another coastal city and from there we drove onto a ferry to go to Port Aransas.   It was getting too dark to take pictures.

We went a little early not knowing how long we would need to wait to get the ferry so when we arrived, we drove down along the beach area.  The beach area goes on for miles and miles (there is some barrier between Mustang and Padre Island) but the beachfront actually goes all the way down to Mexico. 

We met with about 20 wonderful older Christians on Wednesday night.  They were from everywhere (many different states represented) since this is a very tourist area.  Some of the people come here every year; others were visiting for the first time.  Some people from Kansas and Wyoming knew people in their hometowns that support our work.   It always helps to make mutual acquaintances.

We saw several RV parks completed covered up with RV's and 5th Wheeler campers.  It is a great area for people to winter!  

We have appointments on Sunday (A.M. Corpus Christi and P.M. Ingleside).

A dear sponsor for about seven years lives in Ingleside.  We will meet her Sunday night for the first time face-to-face.  I am looking forward to being able to thank her personally for supporting orphans all these years.  I talked with her on the phone and we had a lovely conversation.  She told me she first read about us in the Christian Woman's Magazine (an article that appeared at least seven years ago).

Ron is checking about appointments at other congregations before we leave to drive on to Brownsville.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More adventures from Texas

The weather was so bad last week, with ice everywhere, they cancelled Wed. night services.   By Friday, temperatures were creeping above freezing and the snow and ice began to melt.  We got about 4-5" of snow in Waxahachie on Tuesday.  It covered the sheet of ice that was still on the roads.  Another front came in bringing freezing rain and snow on  Sunday night and then another on Wednesday of this week.

On Sunday we got up at 5:30 a.m.   Ron hooked up the trailer to the RV and moved it (and the RV) to the back parking lot of the church in Waxahachie. 

We left by car at 7 a.m. to drive to Palestine, two hours southeast.  We had a wonderful day with the people at this fine congregation.  We went to lunch with the preacher and his wife and then left for the two hour drive to Mesquite (southeast part of Dallas).  Many people at Palestine were interested in the work but more people at Mesquite were eager to leave to get home to watch part of the Super Bowl.  We got back to Waxahachie about 8 p.m. and quickly changed into our work clothes and began hooking up the car.  It was beginning to rain and the wind was strong and cold.

With the new trailer we have to use for the car we brought from Atlanta, we are both learning how to do it.  It's more complicated than the other system of pulling the car.  Ron has to drive the front wheels of the car onto this dolly.  He was not centered completely Sunday night, as we discovered after strapping one tire.  I am the watchdog helping him drive onto the trailer, but I can't see both sides of the car at once because I can't go far enough back.  Ron has not been doing the strapping correctly so he could not get that tire "unstrapped" to relocate the car.  He left it and strapped the other tire on anyway.   With the car not centered properly, a dent was put in the front of the car when he turned corners.

Ron worked on the electrical getting signals and brake lights to work earlier in the week so we thought we were all set.  It was about 9 p.m. by the time we pulled away.  We had not driven very far until he noticed black smoke coming from the trailer.  We pulled off and he discovered the brake on the trailer was staying on.  He disconnected it and we drove on to Austin without brake lights working on the trailer.  When we arrived at the church where we park in Austin, a police car was sitting in the drive, hiding to stop speeders.  He didn't offer to move for us to pull in, so Ron must have run over the curb with one of the tires on the RV or the trailer.  Cabinet doors flew open and we had crashing dishes flying everywhere.  I thought I had everything really secured properly but it wasn't enough this time.  I have broken about half of my glasswear so the next purchase will be melomine (I hate using paper plates all the time).  We got to Austin about midnight and to sleep by 1 a.m. after I cleaned up the broken glass.

The next day we were really tired but we needed to drive on to San Antonio to get away before the next weather front moved in.  We got gas at WalMart and headed to San Antonio, arriving at the Iron Horse RV repair place about noon.  The workers were going to lunch so we sat in the parking lot for two hours before they moved us to a lower lot and hooked us up to power.  We stayed there overnight.

I was in the shower when the guy arrived to start work so I quickly dressed and dried my hair.  It wasn't long until he decided they did not have the equipment to test the speedometer problem so he made arrangements for us to relocate to Freightliner on the other side of San Antonio.  Freightliner makes the RV we own, so they should be able to correct it.

Iron Horse RV repaired the trailer electrical system, but it cost $275.   They had a meeting while the clock was running on our repair work.  It should not have taken nearly that long to repair, but they charge $125 per hour. 
Men will not ask for direction and they won't ask for help if they can avoid it either.  I would have gotten the men at Iron Horse RV to show me how to strap the tires, but Ron went to the internet and studied the pictures again.  Nothing came with the trailer - no book, no directions on how to do anything. 

Ron suggested I just drive the car and not hook it up but I did not want to do that.  If I got separated from him at a traffic light, I would have to wing my way without him.  I am not adventurous, as you all know, and I've never been in San Antonio before.  I want things to go smoothly (it seldom does).  Traffic was horrendous and I was really glad I did not try to drive separately.   Anyway, I told Ron he needed practice hooking up (strapping) the car on. This time Ron got the strapping done correctly because it was easy when we got ready to take the car off.  If the strap goes in wrong, it's difficult to get the pressure released to take it off, as we found out Sunday night.

The man at Iron Horse RV gave us "general" directions to Freightliner. I went to Google and printed out what I thought was the best route. The two GPS's  (one for "trucks") came up with two more routes.  That makes a total of four different ways to get to this place.  I looked at the blown up map of San Antonio in the Road Atlas to see where we were and where we were going and chose a route from that.  The GPS went crazy for a while because we were going a different way, but finally it picked up on the route and helped us get here safely.

We got to Freightliner about 4:00 p.m.  Since they do repairs for large trucks, this place looks like a truck stop with trucks everywhere.   But no food!   We are packed in the back parking lot where they have hookups for about six RV's.   I think we were alone here last night although there are two RV's beside us waiting for repairs. 

It has been over a week since we've been to the grocery.  The weather was so horrible last week, we just didn't want to get out and try it.  We had a lot of staples on hand so I cooked black beans one day and made soup another day.
With a small fridge and freezer, we were running short of a lot of things.   After we hooked up last night at Freightliner, we headed to the nearest Sam's Club.  We had little to eat for lunch, so we stopped and ate at a seafood restaurant.  I told Ron we would buy less at the store if we ate first.  At Sam's, we can only buy the big size of things we use regularly.  We store the extra in the bins on the outside of the RV.  There is a lot of storage space in these things.

I still refer to the RV as a "thing."  Sometimes my term is not that kind.  I think Iron Horse is a good name for a repair place.  Sometimes, I refer to it as a "piece of metal" or "piece of junk."   I sat without power for an hour or two yesterday and watched the RV's coming in for repair.   Mostly, they were the luxury-liners, very expensive and big!   No matter which one you have, there will always be expensive repairs.  Sitting inside are the poor women, like me, that trail around after husbands that love doing this stuff.  Most of them are old (guess they are the only ones that can afford them).  The luxury-liner models are nice inside and they cost anywhere from $125,000 to $250,000.   Ron overhead one owner say he had owned his for less than a year but might trade it sometime this year.  If I had that much money to spend, it would not be for an RV, no matter how nice it is inside.  I'd go for a condo on the beach!!

I keep telling Ron that I am out of my league in this RV world.  He won't let me buy a cowgirl hat, boots and rhinestone belt, which is my image of a Texas RV babe.   Instead, we are parked at Freightliner with big trucks all around.  I guess my jeans and Old Navy hooded jacket will do just fine.  I have not taken up with the other truck driver traits.

We have a good hook up with 50 amp power, water and sewage connection.  I am doing several loads of laundry today since we have these good facilities.  I can't complain too much.   My little washer/dryer combination has been a great blessing.  I guess that was my Christmas present.  I call the new trailer for the car, Ron's present.   When he bought it he said,  "this can be our Christmas present."   My reaction?   "No way, it's not my present; it's a boy toy and nothing I ever wanted."   He said he always wanted a dolly for Christmas so he finally got it.   I got a washing machine instead.

I cannot help but marvel at this lifestyle - not necessarily from a good viewpoint.  It is not easy to do all the work associated with an RV and travel extensively like we do, never knowing where we will be parked the next week. 
If we were young "whippersnappers" it might be a truly fun way to live but with old backs and bodies, we are often very tired after a day's travel.  It is a lot of stress even when everything goes well. 

I love to crochet while we travel because it helps keep my hands busy and my mind occupied so I don't stress out so much.  Traveling at night is the worst because I can't do anything except watch the road and the traffic. 

Am I blessed?  Absolutely!  I thank HIM every day for a roof over my head, warm bed, shower and good food.  I have all the clothing and material things I can possibly use (even more than I can use).  I have no need of anything.  I am blessed with a simpler life style.  We aren't busy all the time now.  We don't have a lot of other things we have to do.  It takes about a hour to clean the RV and only about 10 minutes to wash dishes.  Is this simply life style the reason people buy RV's and travel?   I haven't seen anything worth driving to see but I'm sure others go sightseeing to more beautiful locations than we do.

However, we go to the best places on earth each time we meet with the saints.  We feel like family wherever we go.  We never feel like we are with strangers.  God is blessing us with good contacts and some additional good supporters.  We are indeed very blessed! 

Never take my whining and complaining as a sign that I do not count my blessings.  I do, daily.  I just never viewed myself with this lifestyle and it's taken some acceptance and adjustments.  I'm doing great so no one should worry about me.  I am also blessed with a good husband that loves me.  I get more hugs because you can hardly pass each other in the hallway, bath or bedroom without taking turns so we hug each other often.  You have to be very good friends to live in an RV.

We are also blessed because our children are doing well and we get to talk to them every day (via computer).  Ronald is resting while they celebrate Chinese New Year holidays in China.  He has had several cold, difficult months with some hard work so he deserves his break.  Leigh Ann is learning Quick Books so she can take over our accounting work when Judy returns to China in March.  We are grateful for our children's involvement in the work and for their tender hearts for the orphaned children.

"We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid 'stinkin' thinkin' which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Global Warming?

Just my luck - I typed a whole segment with cold hands and then my save "failed."  So, I am going to write it again.  I doubt it will be nearly as well-written, interesting or funny this time.  My excuse, anyway. 

I am writing from my bed with blankets piled up around me.  If this winter weather is due to global warming, I wish they had given it another name.  There's nothing warm about it all the way to Texas!   My friend in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, and I compared notes yesterday so now I really hate to complain, but complain I must!   Betty said it was -37 and a "bit chilly."

We went to bed last night with rain and the temperature about 40, knowing that some pretty bad stuff was heading toward us from "up north."   About 3 a.m. I woke up cold and heard the sleet on the rooftop.  I added another layer of clothes and climbed back under the warm covers.  It continued to sleet until about 6 or 7 a.m.  There's hardly anything on the ground (it all blew away!) but what is there is a sheet of ice.  The streets of Dallas and Fort Worth were paralyzed this morning with a few motorists creeping about as 18-wheelers were seen stranded on the sides of the road.  The airport was shut down except for one runway.  How they can fly with wind at 40 mph and gusts up to 50 mph, I do not know.  I guess they got a good tailwind if they could get it behind them. 

It has been 20 degrees all day with the wind rocking the RV.  We have propane for cooking but trying to conserve it so we won't run out.  It's a small tank.  We have an electric heater on high and it's keeping the front room at 54 degrees.  We have an electric blanket on the bed so the bedroom is without heat.

Recently, Ronald, our son in China, wrote about their cold weather and told us he purchased a small heater for his room.  However, it never got above 50 degrees.  He said he had layers of clothing to keep warm and a heavy comforter so he slept warmly. 

We all need to go through this to really appreciate having heat, warm showers and the basics of life.  The poor orphan children spend an entire winter without heat and often do not have hot water, cannot take showers or ever get warm.  Their bodies are always cold.  They sit in cold classrooms and return back to a cold orphanage.  You know how cold a house is inside when it's cold outside and there's no heat!  They leave windows and doors open, thinking the fresh air is good for their health, even though the air is polluted. 

You ask why we don't put heat inside the buildings?  Many years ago, Chairman Mao made the rule that anything south of the Yantzee River should not have heat but any building north of the River could have heat.  They still follow that rule to this day.

We have sat in meetings in government buildings in March or November when it really felt cold to us.  I cannot imagine how it must feel in January and February.  With no heat in any other building, including schools, we can't have heat for the children in the care centers.  It would be even harder to adjust back and forth from heat to cold.  They have lived their entire lives this way so they have adapted and expect it.  We, spoiled Americans, cannot imagine doing this.  Yet, looking back to our ancestors, not very long ago, they lived much the same way with little or no heat.

Our weeks are rather routine.  During the weekdays we are working on our computers handling the work.  On Saturday, we do cleaning, washing and preparing for Sunday and the coming week.  Last Sunday, we got up early to move the RV to the back parking lot to free up the senior parking spaces.  We left early to drive one hour to the church in Lewisville (north of Dallas) to pick up blankets the ladies had ready for us to ship to China.  From there, we drove to Argyle (north of Fort Worth).

The folks at Argyle were very friendly and very interested in our work, which is usually the case because few people know what is going on in China.  We went to lunch afterwards with one of the elders and his wife and another two couples. 

We drove a short distance to give a report to elders at the church in Keller that afternoon.  They said we definitely could return and give the report to their members whenever it fit into our schedule. 

We returned to the RV and had a 30-minute rest until we drove to Ennis.  The church is actually at Bristol but their mailing address is Ennis.  We didn't expect to see anyone we knew but we got to meet Tracie Willis for the first time.  She has sponsored a child for two years but we know of her for another reason.  Two years ago, while in Beijing, we got a call from a young man named Kee Willis.  He was coming to Beijing University and needed a place to stay for a week until he could get into the apartment he was sharing with two other students.  We had about two weeks left in Beijing before David and Ya Ning returned so we told him we had a spare bedroom and he could stay with us. 

Tracie expressed her gratitude for our helping Kee.  I told her I could understand how she felt with her boy going so far away and what a relief it must have been for a Christian to meet him at the airport and give him a home for a short while.  All of the congregation knew we had done this so they were all thanking us for taking care of Kee.

After the service, we had soup and sandwiches in another part of the building and got to know these wonderful people even more.  They will help with our work in China and for that we are very grateful.

The roads should be clear by Sunday.  We have below freezing temperatures until Saturday, however.  Sunday morning, we will drive two hours to Palestine and Sunday night we will be in Mesquite, two hours' drive back north toward Dallas.  The service is at 5 p.m. Sunday night so Ron is planning to return to the RV and drive on to Austin for one night.  We do not normally drive the RV at night but it's a straight two-hour drive south.  Why are we leaving Sunday night?   The Super Bowl will be playing while we are in church so we want to get ahead of the crowd that might be going south that night.  If they all leave the next morning, we will still be ahead of them as we drive on to San Antonio.

Of all the "attitudes" we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing."   Are you counting your blessings?