Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fireworks in Texas

We escaped a round of storms that produced many sighted tornadoes last night.  This is especially scary when you live in an RV and hear the loud announcement, "tornado has been sighted, take cover immediately."   We knew from weather reports early in the day that this was very likely to happen.  We had planned to go eat early (it was my birthday) and then go to the Lewisville church building if we needed to.  They gave us a key to the building, knowing that we had no place to go for cover in the event of a bad storm.  We are about 10 minutes away. 

After we finished dinner, it did not appear to be very stormy so we returned to the RV and turned on the weather news.  There were cells forming but none looked threatening until the loud announcement was made all over the park.  We immediately closed the RV down from having electrical service and drove to the church building.  We spent an hour in the library reading where we could not even hear it raining.  Then we emerged and saw blustery skies after a lot of rain had fallen.  We sat in the car and listened to the latest location of heavy cells and possible tornadoes.  When convinced none were in our general area, we returned to the RV.  About an hour later, a heavy cell passed over us with hail and heavy rain but little wind and no rotation that would produce a tornado.  The rain was over about 11 p.m. as it all moved off to the east.

Ron said all of this was just fireworks for my birthday.  I don't think so!   Sunday night, Ron spoke at Centerville Church of Christ in Garland, TX.   We went out to eat afterwards with Holly Machemehl's parents, who are members there.    As we were leaving the restaurant, it began raining.  The further we got toward Dallas and our exit on to Lewisville, the sky lit up with more lightening than I have ever seen.  It was dancing all around from left to right for a very long distance.  It was a huge storm that spread for many miles.  By the time we merged onto I-35E, the bottom fell out.  We drove the next 10-15 miles in bumper to bumper traffic, with emergency lights blinking on every car.  Many cars and trucks had pulled over into the emergency lanes to wait it out.  We broke out of it about the time we arrived back at the RV.  The storm had moved on with no damage unless there were some wrecks.

I told Holly in an email about the bad storm.  She said everything is bigger and better in TEXAS!   It does seem that storms form west of Dallas and arrive very fiercely by the time they get here and move on to other areas.   We are saddened by the tornado in Joplin, MO on Sunday.   We learned of a family that perished when their house was blown away.   Albert and Evelyn Fuchs, long-time supporters of children in China, reported that Sara Anderson and her sixteen-year old son were found and they were still looking for her husband, Bill.  Their daughter was at work and is safe.  They were members at Connecticut Street Church of Christ in Joplin.  Bill had been on numerous mission trips to Honduras and this family was close to Albert and Evelyn so they will miss them terribly.  Please pray for the Anderson's daughter, Gracie, as she deals with the terribly loss of her family.

Now I have some good news to report.  When I checked my email for the last time before going to bed last night, I found an email and some pictures from our son, Ronald.  He is the one who works in China overseeing the orphanages.  He made acquaintance with a girl in the Philippines about a year ago and they have talked on Skype every day since.  A week or so ago, he flew to the Philippines to ask her to marry him.  We had not heard how things were going and were a little anxious to hear from him.   The good news is that he's a very happy man because she said YES.   He said she is very kind and sweet, as are her parents and the rest of her family.  He asked for their blessings on the marriage and they have treated him very graciously. 
I think they are having a special dinner and with the candles and flowers, Ronald tried to make this an occasion where she could only say YES.   Gigi is a school teacher.  Like him, she's never been married but they know having a mate is very important.   The Philippines is only a few hours from China so she will not live so far away.  We know she is close to her family and they are very important to her.  She will be a great asset to Ronald in China.  She can help with the children when they visit the orphanages.  She can teach English and become a mentor, especially to the girls.  Ronald will find life in China much easier with a wife so we are very happy for him.

"And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."   Gen. 2:18

We don't know more details of their plans.  Ronald has a few more days in the Philippines before he returns to China.  We will see him on our June trip to China and be filled in with all of the details.

The work in China is going very well.  We will visit three of the care centers on our next trip.  The facilities have all been improved and the local governments are cooperating and helping with many things.  Our latest newsletter outlines all of the many ways people, including the government, have assisted with gifts for the Jackson Family Christian Care Center in Zigong. 

May God continue to bless our work in China, but especially bless the people we are trying to reach with the gospel.  It is only through HIS saving Grace that any of us have a hope for eternity.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The joys of simple pleasures of life

This week is going well with an average load of work.  We always have plenty of things to do but some weeks the work pours in and it is sometimes overwhelming. 

We have a pleasant, shady parking spot at the Lewisville Lake Park Campgrounds.  Over the weekend, there were about 50 boy scouts (or some group of boys with chaperons) camping in tents right across the street from us.  We have had cool nights (50's) and nice days in the 70's.  Today it reached 80 degrees.  I am enjoying a 30-minute walk in the park every day.  The lake is beautiful, the sky dark blue and the breeze is nice.  Our address is Kingfisher Drive but we are right around the corner from Catfish Drive and Trotline. 

Speaking of strange street names, I could not help but smile while we were parked at Boles Children's Home in Quinlan, TX.   The streets on their campus are named:   Love, Joy, Patience, Humility, Kindness and Peace.  Even the GPS picks up some of these streets in Quinlan, TX.

People in RV and camping parks stay much to themselves.  We speak in passing but everyone is here to enjoy the peace and quiet so they are not looking for friends.   I got to thinking about the difference in trailer parks and RV parks.  People have a high regard for those who own RV's and 5th wheels and these people are considered "lucky" or "well off," compared to people who live in trailer parks.  I guess most everyone that owns an RV or 5th wheel have a nice home somewhere and the motor home is their escape from the routine. 

The other day we passed an RV, a new one that was on the upper scale of expensive.  Ron remarked  "what a beauty."  I thought a minute and told him I'd never thought of an RV as being a beauty but I guess it might be real nice inside.  He said everything God made is beautiful.  After a minute, I questioned that statement as well.  I told him first of all, God didn't make RV's; and, secondly, there are things like alligators and hippos that are not really beautiful.  You can see what interesting conversations we have now that we are senior citizens and together every minute of the day and night.

You do need to be good friends to live this lifestyle.  Your neighbors are just an arm's length away and your space inside your domain is less than 10' wide.  We have to take turns in the hallway and bathroom.  Ron likes to cook his own breakfast so I stay in bed until he finishes and then I get up and make my coffee and breakfast.  The kitchen is not bad but certainly not designed for two people at the same time.

I can clean the shower, vacuum, dust and clean mirrors in about 30 minutes.  It's a Saturday morning chore but done so quickly I can move on to things I want to do for the rest of the day.  Since the space is small, everything has it's own special place.  I try to put things away and keep things neat.  I could not stand it otherwise.

In my spare time from the regular work, I'm working on my lesson for a ladies' day in Chattanooga, TN for September 10th.  I am looking forward to my time with this wonderful group of ladies.  I have written the text for my two 30-minute talks, but much time will be spent selecting pictures for the power point to go along with my lessons.

With the trip to Chattanooga, we will also be in Tennessee and Kentucky in August and September to report to churches that support our work.   From Texas, we will give reports to churches as we travel East.  This is not always true, but generally speaking, the smaller churches and the people who are not really wealthy, are the most giving.  The wealthy have a lifestyle that takes a lot of their money and often they have little left over to help others.  As I think on this truth, I read about an elderly lady that made a generous gift to the poor.  When asked if she could really afford it, her answer was this:

"I'm seventy-four now.  My husband died twenty-three years ago.  He wasn't able to leave me much money; for all this time I've earned a living by scrubbing and washing for others.  But I felt I should do more than that.  I wanted to also help those worse off than I am.  God has been good to me.  I have my health, a roof over my head, enough to eat.  So many people don't have these blessings.  And then I thought it would be better to work a little bit harder in this life and take my rest in the life to come." 

It's interesting to me to notice that those who have things in this life "a little bit harder" often seem to have a better foretaste of what heaven will be while many who seek heaven on earth through pleasure or self-gratification, have a dim view of and less desire for heaven. 

It's something to think about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back in Texas after a trip to Georgia

We have always heard that home is “where the heart is” and that’s true as life changes. Nothing stays the same. If you don’t like your present situation, just wait. It will change. It may be soon or it may be years, but life, for all of us at all ages, is forever changing.

The middle of April, we drove back to our house in Sharpsburg, GA and packed up our stuff. We have accumulated so much “stuff” over the years. I cannot imagine someone living in the same house all of their married life and then trying to clean it out. We began our mission work in 1984 and we cleaned out our house and moved to St. Croix, U.S.V.I. We lived in simple apartments for about 15 years. When we returned from the foreign mission field to Nashville in 1998, we began to fill a house again with stuff. A lot of it was “gifts” from our family, children and friends. These are the things that bring memories and are special to us. Things I bought at stores for a certain spot to make a house a home, means nothing when removed from that location. With this move, we have moved 16 times since we got married.

Leigh Ann (our daughter) took what she could. She has limited space but she was able to accept things that had value or were of special sentimental value to me. That made me very happy. Those things are hers to do whatever she wishes with them in the future. I don’t have that pain in the heart that I would have if I threw them away. I brought back to the RV to enjoy a few things our children have given us. The rest of the stuff I packed up can be sold at a yard sale (25 cents to hundreds of dollars) but it is all too good to throw in the garbage.

We are parked at Boles’ Children Home in Quinlan, Texas (outside of Greenville and an hour’s drive from Dallas). We will visit several churches in this area for the next month. We will return to China on June 22nd. I will write about that trip as soon as I return home. Future plans include me speaking at a Ladies’ Day in Chattanooga, TN on September 10th with my subject “Making a Difference”. We will report to churches in Tennessee and Kentucky in September and October.

As long as we are able to do fund-raising for the work in China and give reports to interested churches, we will continue this life-style. I fought living this way because I honestly don’t like camping and never will. For the life of me, I don’t know why anyone would do this if they didn’t have to. Maybe it would be different however, if you could park at resorts, take in the sights, and move on at your leisure. Our purpose is so different because we go where we can get appointments and stay only as long as necessary. There’s no real “adventure” in our camping but there is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment because it is a good work. It is good to be physically and mentally able to work and we plan to do that as long as we are able. For both of us, this full-time together is important at this stage of our lives. You have to be great friends to live peacefully together in an RV!

Should we have to give up the traveling, we will reduce our “stuff” down to an apartment size living quarters. As we get older, having only necessities and a simple life-style is a blessing for us and for our children who will never have to clean out a house with too many belongings and too many memories.

Our house will be sold whenever the market is such that we can, but if it does not sell, we will try to rent it. It was a good home; it served our purposes well, but is no longer needed.

Our daughter is enjoying the benefits of a small apartment and finding life easier to manage without so much “stuff.” She says she needs to begin cleaning out unnecessary things also. Our son, Ronald, is going to the Philippines this weekend to propose to a girl who lives on a remote island in the Philippines. If this relationship works out, he will continue to live in China (or perhaps later in the Philippines). Neither of our children will need our house, so it’s time to let it go.

As I mentioned at the beginning, things are forever changing. We will be changing the sponsoring congregation for the work in China. For many years, the elders at Peachtree City have wondered what they would do with the work should something happen to Ron. Ron is currently looking for a congregation that is capable and willing to continue the work in the future. We support over 650 little children that would have no hope in life without our care. It is a big operation and will require some management from the U.S, although we have operations in China running extremely well, due to our son’s oversight. Ron continues to try to build up funds to secure the work in the future, but in today’s economy, it’s not easy. We ask for your prayers that HE will lead us to the right congregation and right people to assist with the work in China so it can continue as long as HE is willing.

Reminiscing about how life changes, I spoke on Saturday with a dear friend in Nashville. Her name is Mary Ann Farmer and she is 89 years old. When we moved to Nashville from Montreal, Quebec, Mary Ann befriended me and remains a close friend. When Ron was making trips to China and I was working as the church secretary, Mary Ann made sure I was invited with her friends to dinner, movies and events. She took care of me to keep me from being alone and lonely. We went to the mall and walked every morning during the week days. The good part of that is, after our walk, we went to McDonald’s and ate breakfast! I’m sure we needed to walk about l/2 day to offset the calories of our breakfast but it was a fun time and we convinced ourselves that it was “healthy.” She can make the best banana pudding ever! Mary Ann is now in assisted living and not doing well. My prayers continue for this dear friend from 1998.

I will close this segment of my blog with these thoughts taken from THREE MINUTES A DAY by James Keller:

“In the O.T. it is said, “Remember thy last end and thou shalt never sin.” (Eccl. 7:40). If someone could follow us always and never let us forget the great fundamentals of life – the value of our individual soul, the deep love of HIM for each of us, the love we should have for all men as children of a common Father, and above all the eternity of either heaven or hell which will follow the end of our life here on earth – what changed beings we would be. We wouldn’t make the mistakes we often make now through our failure to keep our minds fixed on these infallible truths. Instead, the life of each of us would be a living prayer which would affect not only ourselves but the world.”

Last Wednesday night I heard the teacher of our class (an elder) say: “I told my son that nothing in life is important unless you go to heaven in the end.”

Let us all be busy in HIS work and remember that we have a world to win, that those far from HIM may have heaven also.