Friday, March 29, 2013

A good week in Hamilton, TX

This short segment is just an update on our location and current schedule.
This week we have enjoyed a stop-over in Hamilton, TX.    Ron gave a report to the Park Heights congregation on Wednesday night.    Thursday morning, Sue Davidson, a long-time sponsor, invited us to breakfast.  Her house is right across from the church building.  We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and a good visit with Sue.  We went with her for a short visit to see her husband, Jack, at the nursing home.  I went to ladies Bible Class that morning and heard a good lesson from Tom Moore, the minister.  Tom is the brother of the minister in Dripping Springs.  Thursday night we attended Game Night at the church building and enjoyed some good snacks and fellowship with some of the older members.   We had a good time, playing games and talking until about 10 p.m.  

Sunday, we plan to visit the church at Meridian.  Tom Moore suggested we go there.  Sunday night, Ron will speak at the church in Comanche, not too far away.  On Monday, Ron will attend a meeting in Stephenville of area preachers.   I’ll do our grocery shopping while he is attending the meeting.   We don’t yet have an appointment for Wednesday night. 
In the next two weeks we will be in Palestine and Bristol.   These congregations are further east so we will travel from Hamilton in that direction by the middle or last of next week.
We will return to Lewisville, TX on either the 10th or 11th.

Easter, 2013

Today it is Good Friday so everyone’s thoughts go to this day over 2,000 years ago when our Lord and Savior was crucified.  It is always a sad day to me but then Sunday soon comes and we rejoice in His resurrection.  I read where traditionally people actually go through a crucifixion in three villages in the Philippines to atone for their sins and hope for miracles.  Several dozen people re-enact the crucifixion and hang on the cross for a few minutes with nails in their hands and feet and then are taken down and put on a cot for medical attention.  The Catholic Church does not condone these practices that have occurred each year from the 1950’s but it is still done each year.  Even if we hung on a cross until we died, it would not mean the same because Christ took on our sins and set us free with His sacrifice. We could have our bodies burned or do whatever else we might do and it’s meaningless because nothing we can do atones for our sins.  Only the blood of Christ saves us because He was the Son of God.   This is what we reflect on each and every Sunday as we remember Him and his sacrifice, and His resurrection, with the emblems of the Lord’s Supper.  He told his apostles as often as they partake of the supper; we remember his death on the cross.
We all have thought about heaven and what it will be like.  All I know is what the Bible says about it.  It’s too difficult for the human mind to comprehend eternity and the hereafter.  I do know from reading the Bible what it is NOT.   People have come up with all kinds of things that did not come from knowing the Bible.   We get a description of heaven in Revelation but is the language figurative?  

     “Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.  Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates and names written on them which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south and three gates on the west.  Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates and its wall.  The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth and height are equal.  Then he measured its wall; one hundred and forty-four cubics, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.  The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.  The foundation of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysophase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.  The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was one pearl.  And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.”
The overall effect is that of an incredibly beautiful and transparent city, symbolizing never-ending glory and purity.  We know there will be no pain, suffering or tears there.  We will be with Jesus and the angels that serve Him.  What will we do?  I don’t know but I don’t think we’ll be bored as we are as in the human body.  I think we may sing beautiful songs of praise.  Will we know each other?  I don’t know but there’s indication that we will from reading the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Will we be as husband and wife?  According to Jesus instructions to the Pharisees when they questioned whose wife the woman would be that had seven brothers as husbands, there will be NO marriage in heaven.  The spiritual body will be different from the physical body. 

Have you heard of Ghost Marriages?   An article came from our son in China.  He read this on-line as he searched for interesting news:

Chinese families are increasingly performing "ghost marriages," where they seek out eternal companions for their deceased relatives.

Is love eternal?
While that can be a difficult question to answer,
ABC News reports that a growing number of families in rural China are hoping to make it as everlasting as possible by reviving "ghost marriages," the ancient Chinese tradition of marrying two corpses and placing them to live with each other underground.
Traditionalist Chinese families can be reluctant to leave their dead, unmarried relatives without a spouse. According to ancient folklore, lonely corpses might rise from the dead and try to take the living back to their world to keep them company.
While the custom fizzled in the past century after Mao Zedong and the Communist Party tried to eliminate it in 1949, it has experienced a resurgence in rural Chinese coal communities where money is becoming more abundant and where young men frequently die in coal mining accidents.
When mining accidents turn tragic, victims' families typically receive financial compensation. According to China Daily, the families of 23 miners killed in a 2011 coal-gas burst at Xiangshui CoalMine in Guizhou each received almost $164,000 from the company that controlled the mine, the GuizhouPanjiangGroup.  With the restitution money and other mining-related proceeds in hand, many rural superstitious Chinese have become able to not only afford expensive dowries and elaborate ceremonies, but also the most desirable corpses.  A recently deceased young, attractive woman can fetch $30,000 on the black market, NBC reported.

Unfortunately, the surge of new money and demand for brides has created a brimming grave-robbing industry in rural China as well. Earlier this month, according to The Guardian, a Chinese court sentenced four men to prison for stealing 10 female corpses, falsifying their medical records and selling them for roughly $38,000. To increase a cadaver's asking price, criminals have even resorted to performing plastic surgery on the deceased, NBC reported.
Along with grave diggers, "ghost matchmakers" have also sprung up near the coal communities. The intermediaries assist in the selection of the corpses and broker their acquisition between two families. The matchmakers have been known to travel to extreme lengths to procure the best cadavers. According to the Global Times, they sometimes lurk in Chinese hospitals where they cut deals with grieving families. Worse, according to ABC, a Chinese man murdered six women in 2006 so he could sell them for ghost marriages.
When the deceased are more ethically and lawfully obtained, their unions can be similar to those of the living: expensive and festive. A brother and sister profiled by NBC News spent $2,500 on betrothal gifts to the family of their father's new 21-year-old bride, who died in 1989. Their father was divorced when he died at the age of 48 in 1968.
Entertainment is sometimes present at "ghost marriages" and guests commonly eat and drink. After the ceremony, the deceased newlyweds' families typically remain close. According to NBC, some Chinese think the bond between the families of the deceased is closer than the one shared by in-laws of the living.

There is no end to the things people can dream up.  We read about the terra cotta soldiers uncovered in a tomb of an Emporia in Xi’an China.  I watched a PBS documentary where they tried to determine how they were constructed and how long it took to get this army of soldiers ready to bury with the dead Emporia.  It was an amazing feat.  But, apparently the dead Emporia never needed his army to fight the enemy.  They were still intact and standing at attention after all these years. 
We know that the Egyptians buried many things with them for the afterlife.  The same thing was true of the American Indian.  People from every nation have believed in a “higher power” and life after death.  It is still traditional in rural China today to bury pictures of money, cell phones, furniture, cars, etc. so the dead person can have them on the “other side.”   Once a year there is a Tomb Sweeping Holiday when the Chinese people go to the gravesites and decorate the graves with artificial wreaths of flowers.  They leave an actual plate of food there for the dead loved one to eat.  Some really poor people go to the grave after people leave and pick up the food to eat themselves. 

Another question we often have but I can’t answer is, “When we die, will our souls go straight to heaven?”   I know many people believe this.  I often read where someone says of a loved one, “She is in the arms of Jesus now.”  Or “She is an angel in Heaven now.”  When Jesus died, for three days he went to Paradise, the realm of the dead In Christ.  He did not have a bodily resurrection until Sunday and he did not ascend into heaven until 40 days later.  Acts 2:34…”For David did not ascend into the heavens…”   John 3:13 “No one has ascended to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  He told his apostles in John 14:2, “I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. “   If he has not come back to receive the apostles, he has not received others in heaven yet.  That promise is good enough for me.  I can rest in Paradise until He’s ready to return.  Another question we often ask or think about is, “Will we know anything at the time of death?”   The rich man knew where he was but is that story an analogy?  I don’t know.  I read in Eccl. 9:4 “For the living know that they will die.  But the dead know nothing.  And they have no more reward.”   At death, the determination for the soul is fixed.  There’s no repentance for the dead.  We cannot pray someone out as one religious group practices. 
This may seem to be a morbid subject but thinking of the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday brings us such glorious hope.  None of us want to live in this life forever.  The worries, the suffering and sadness we face would be too much.  The promise of eternal life in heaven with Jesus someday is the goal we must focus on each and every day of our lives.  We do not know the day or hour he will return.  We must be ready.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cactus and Cedars of Texas

We have all heard of the Cedars of Lebanon but there are so many cedars in Texas and I never knew that before.   They are different from the cedars in Tennessee.   My friend, Eve, in Dripping Springs, said many people are allergic to the odor of the cedars that grow here.  It is on the weather news along with Oak, Mold and other plants that bring suffering to allergic eyes.   

Saturday morning we had a pleasant drive from Leander to Lampasas.  It was only an hour’s drive and there was little traffic.  It was a cool, cloudy morning with drizzle and fog but pleasant enough.  We parked in the church parking lot in Lampasas and settled in for a few days. 
Our life is simple on the road.  We have become accustomed to putting things away to travel.  I have a system of bungee-cording certain things, closet doors, drawers and things that might move or open if we hit a bump in the road.  We had a lot of mishaps the first year we traveled.  We made a check list of what each of us were to do to prepare to move.  Now, we are experienced travelers and it all comes naturally and preparing to leave occurs much swifter than before.   It is still a lot of work and we are both tired when we settle down again in a new location.  I guess that means we are using all the energy we have for our age.  We certainly don’t have the ability to do as much as we did (even a few years ago).  Ron said it doesn’t matter where we go, it’s always home when we get parked again.  We are like the turtle.  Our shell goes with us. 

Cooking is simple all the time but when the power amps are low, I don’t use the microwave or toaster oven as much.  When we have 50 amps, we can do everything at once without worrying about the circuit shutting off.  We try to eat healthy, with low-fat breakfasts, lunch and dinner.  It is easy when we prepare our own meals but with so many inviting us out to eat or having meals at the churches, we make up for what calories we may have saved during the week.   I seldom bake any more.  I don’t do casseroles either because for just the two of us, we end up with too many leftovers.   We steam vegetables, bake potatoes or eat salads.  I’ve found more and more lunch meats without hormones or nitrates.  Ron eats a lot of fish and I keep hormone-free chicken breasts on hand for quick meals. 
On Sunday we decided to travel south about 20 miles to visit at Burnett for the morning service.   The drive was interesting with fields (literally fields) of cactus growing along the roadsides.  The cedar trees and cactus were everywhere for miles and miles.  I have yet to see tumbleweeds but guess we haven’t gone west enough to find the flat land without cedar or mesquite trees growing. 
We were delighted to see a congregation of over 200 members with a large percentage being children or young people.  Before service began, the building was buzzing with the sound of children’s voices.   We enjoyed a good lesson by the youth minister.  The pulpit minister had gone to Japan to accompany one of his daughters back home from a teaching position.   The congregation was friendly to us and we felt comfortable there.  The women were dressed nicely.  Most men had on jeans, plaid shirts, wide western belts and some wore cowboy boots.  It was definitely a Texas church.  But, it was not the Cowboy Church.   We see those buildings all around but do not know what kind of church it is or what they do there.

We attended a class at Lampasas on Sunday night.  They have small groups meeting in homes on Sunday night, which is common among many churches here.  The group at the building was made up of older people (our age!).  Ron will speak to a group on Tuesday night at Lampasas.
We were awakened about 2 a.m. Sunday morning with the next cold front blowing in.  And, it was blizzard force winds.  The RV has canvas over the sliders that move out to give us extra room inside while we are parked.  When the wind comes, these canvas covers flap and make a horrible noise.  Sometimes, we move the sliders in to sleep in a small space so these covers are not exposed to the wind.  The RV rocks in strong winds and it’s impossible to sleep.   The strong wind blew all day at 40-50 mph on Sunday, so when we went outside the wind was so strong our hair blew all over our head.   The cold front also brought very cold temperatures.  It was very cold this morning and will be in the 20’s tonight.   It was 54 inside but we only kept a little heater on low all night.  The gas furnace makes so much noise, we don’t like it at night.  It’s most unusual for this time of the year for the fronts to dip so far south with temperatures this cold.  RV’s are not insulated nor designed for cold weather.  Ron does all he can to provide warmth inside by covering the windows around the front, but it still gets very cold inside unless we run the furnace full-force.  Winter is surely almost over for this year so we’ll survive a few more cold nights and days.
Wednesday we will move up to Hamilton, TX.   It is a short drive.  I think Ron just confirmed an appointment in Palestine so we are probably completely scheduled until we return to Lewisville.
Ron completed our tax returns tonight and he is very happy to have finished that task.  With our regular computer work, things like this have to be worked into the schedule.  My load has not been too busy lately, but most days I do work until about 4 p.m. 
At night, I crochet baby blankets.  In the past, I left some at the church in Lewisville to give to expectant mothers at baby showers.  I gave some to Leigh Ann to give for gifts.  In recent months, I have mailed seven to friends’ grandbabies.  I have one more to mail soon.

I’m keeping the ones that I like the least to use for packing around medical supplies going to China.  They can be given to little babies next winter that they treat at the hospital.  I began crocheting baby blankets two years ago so we could give every baby at the cleft lip/cleft palate medical mission a blanket.  I’ve kept up the hobby because it gives me something to do at night and when we are traveling.  I love to see how they come out when I finish one.   They are not expensive to make and it makes a good gift.  The other benefit is that my thumb joints do not hurt as much with arthritis as they did years ago.  I contribute my typing and crocheting as therapy for my hands. 
We can pick up TV stations only when we are in larger cities or at least close to a large city.  We don’t want to spend money on satellite so we get whatever the antennae picks up.  If I can get a PBS channel and one of the networks, I’m happy so I can get news and weather (maybe a cooking, nature or musical show on PBS).

I can’t say that there are a lot of things interesting enough to report, but I like to post about our simple life and travels just for the fun of writing and remembering what we’ve been doing.  It’s mostly for me, but if anyone enjoys knowing where we are and what we are doing, this is a simple narrative of our lives.
Every day I end with a prayer of thanksgiving for our many blessings.  We are blessed and I must remember that although many others have luxuries and life easier than we have it, we still have far more than we need.   Having safe travels and good health is a bonus.   God is good and I know HE loves us as we continue to try to do His will.  God be with my readers.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring travels and updates

We are traveling a lot these days but for only short distances from one city to another.   Our week at Dripping Springs, TX was delightful.  Eve Mickelson, a friend we knew in Peachtree City, lives there now and she treated us like royalty.   She prepared a delicious dinner for us at her house soon after we arrived.  Eve went with us to Red Lobster to celebrate our 55th anniversary.  She invited us back to her house for triple chocolate cake and ice cream.  Then she gave us the rest of the cake!  Ron has surely enjoyed getting a piece from the freezer every day.  Eve included her friend Vivian, another widow, in our get togethers and we had so much fun.  We also went with them to a fast food pizza place on Wednesday night and to Texas’s famous What A Burger on Sunday night.  Foy and Beth Forehand bought our dinner on Sunday night.  For those people who have not been to Texas, What A Burger is as famous as McDonalds.  We can see their buildings everywhere.  Food is good!

Sunday, the church secretary, whose husband is one of the elders, (Janice and Carl Garner) had us for lunch at their beautiful home which has a spectacular view of the area.  It's a panoramic view that includes Austin, 20 miles or more away.  Their daughter, Carla and their grandson were there also, so we had a great time and a delicious lunch.   Carla's husband, John, is the minister and his father is also one of the elders.  It was good to get to know them.   Lunch was delicious.
Monday brought us to the next location.  We parked in the rear of the Leander Church of Christ.  There was a power hook-up, water and sewer at one area but there were some low lines to go under.  Ron drove about half-way under until we got to the lines and then he came out, got a ladder out, propped a mop up that was at the back door and pushed it higher.  We still weren’t sure he could go under it so he said, “Pat, how about you getting on top of the RV and you can hold up the lines as I drive under?”  I knew he was kidding so I said, “Hush yo mouth and get back inside that RV!”   He said he just wanted to see my reaction.  He knew I was not getting on top of the RV even if he was not driving it.  He got out once, went on top and put the wires over the stuff on top of the RV and then drove under without a problem.  This morning, he got a taller ladder from the church and while I held the ladder steady, he got up and pulled the lines in and put ties on them to raise them higher.  It was not a power line that was the problem.  I think the young people had run some communication lines back to the building they use so they were thin wires.  They are now well protected from anyone driving back to this area.
Tuesday we were invited by one of the elders to meet him and his wife for lunch.  It was a really colorful and cute Mexican restaurant.  We had a fun time with them and discovered that we knew many people that they know.  They were sweet to us Wednesday night and told us to stay as long as we want to and come back again.  There was a lot of interest from the members about our work.  No doubt Ron will be asked to deliver a report and sermon on Sunday when we come back through this area.  

We will be in Lampasas tomorrow and Ron will meet with the elders of the church there on Tuesday night.  We will probably visit some other church in the area that we have not been to before, on Sunday.   They also have a spot where we can park.  We need to drive on Wednesday to be with the church in Hamilton, TX for Wednesday night.  I don’t know where we will be on Easter Sunday.   Ron is making appointments along the way as we travel back to Lewisville.  Ron will have a meeting with the Lewisville elders to go over the work on April 11th.  On the 14th, Ron will fly to Houston for just one day to speak to a group of Chinese doctors and nurses planning a medical mission to China.  They will work at the newly constructed hospital in Wadian, Henan.   Donated medical supplies and tools are being taken to China by various individuals.   I think Ron will get everyone going to China to take an extra suitcase of supplies.  Dr. Lou Smith of Tennessee, brought a truckload of medical things to Leigh Ann's house in Georgia.  Leigh Ann has to get them to people who can take them to China. 

Our worker is in the process of finishing the remaining things to be done on the hospital building and start pricing and purchasing the equipment.  Ronald has completed his work there and has been traveling to check on things at the care centers the past two weeks.  If you receive our newsletters, you know it's a beautiful building.  Ronald has done a great job with the construction even with many problems. 

The workers in Wadian will also need to make a survey of the homes in this area to determine who is poor and deserving of a medical card to give them free treatment.   We will start out as a children’s hospital because we would be overrun with people if it was opened up to everyone.  They will not turn an adult away that has an injury or something that we can correct.  The first team going in will probably examine children to establish a medical record and see what they need at the present time.  This province is the most populated and perhaps the poorest in China.  The need is great for medical care for the poor.   Chad Jackson with Jackson Healthcare may also get a team together to go before the end of the year.

Ron is planning to go to China on April 16th.  I’m debating whether I will go with him.   We have a problem with the government at one of the orphanages.  After Ron meets with the elders on the 11th, it may be decided that he needs to go to that location on this trip.   The initial trip is planned to meet a man who is over Christian bookstores that is very interested in our orphanages.  He can’t travel in China alone and we don’t have anyone that could meet him and show him around at this time.  Ron is primarily going for that reason.
Ronald has to leave China every so often to renew his VISA.   I think it’s been six months now so he’ll fly to Manila and meet Gigi.  They will spend some time together there for her birthday and if she’s successful getting the next VISA, she will return to China with him.  They have to meet a couple in ShenZhen early in May to interview them as potential orphanage directors.   We relocated Jerry, the director at the Jackson Care Center in Zigong to run the new hospital.  His wife, Christine, has been running the orphanage but we need a couple to go there so she can join her husband in Wadian.

Ron has been making reservations for a group going to work at two of our orphanages at the end of May.  Ten will go to Wesley’s House in Pinggo and 10 will go to John Connor Brown in Tiendeng.   Adults and teenagers are included. 

Little Addie, who was adopted by Connie and Stan Burnette, will be in the group going with her parents.  Here's how she looked when we brought her to the U.S. and the pictures of her when she started kindergarten this year.  She is a very precious little girl and everyone loves her. 
She is the child we brought over about four years ago for her to begin yearly surgery on her joints that would not move.   She was found at our orphanage door in a box, wrapped in a blanket, the morning after she was born.  She had so many things wrong with her, her parents knew there was nothing they could do for her.  She was lovingly wrapped up so I have to believe they thought “Maybe her only hope is for the Americans to help her” and they were right.  No child like this will be neglected if there’s any way Ron can find someone to help them. 

The trip to the orphanages will be an eye-opening experience for this group, especially for the young people.  People who go, say it changes their lives and they want to go back. 
Our work continues to be busy all the time; both with things going on in China and at home.  The amount of computer work between the workers and the U.S. (orphan reports, letters from orphans to their sponsors, and the medical work for sick children) is a daily task.

Taking the gospel to every creature in every nation is not an easy job.   We know Dr. John Bailey, a retired dentist in Colleyville, TX and Dr. Fred Massey, a retired OB-GYN/Oncologist in San Antonio, TX who are both part of several medical missions every year, going to foreign places.  The working conditions are horrible as well as their living conditions to go help people and take the Good News to a lost world.  I just received an email today from Dr. David Darrah, a retired physician in Tennessee, who went with us on at least one medical mission to China.  Here’s what he wrote:
I went to Madagascar with an American/European medical mission team of 52 persons from March 1--10. It was a very long trip there and back (with which you are very familiar traveling back and forth to China) and we hope the effort was not only beneficial to the poor people we saw and treated but pray the government will allow World Madagascar Voice (a branch of World Christian Broadcasting) to ship and install the transmitters in the radio station that has been built in that country.  Only time will tell but you also are familiar with dealing with foreign governments.    ….I keep thinking I will someday write a letter or note to my children in China; it isn't that difficult but I also have children in India, Ghana, Guatemala and Haiti.

God continues to bless us and the work in China.  Thank you for your prayers and interest in our work but please remember the sick and suffering all over the world.   Many need prayers for physical healing but others need the life-saving spiritual healing of salvation.   Our workers all over the world and Christians struggling with life problems need your prayers.  We cannot despair because so many evils are in our society.  They have always been present.  We may not seem to be winning the war against Satan but I know the Bible says Jesus will overthrow him and his kingdom.    We just need to keep on doing our part in this battle.   God bless you!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

55 Years

The Way it Was
     It all started on May 24, 1957 when I had my first date with Ronny Brown from Columbia, Tennessee.   It was my birthday and the only reason I went with him was because I didn’t have another date and it was my birthday!   A week earlier, a friend of mine at Lipscomb University, asked Ron to try to sell a rocking chair for her.  He was working in the bookstore and as the school year was ending, she wanted to get rid of a rocking chair she bought from someone going around with a truckload of rocking chairs early in the school year.  When she ask him to put the rocking chair in the bookstore to sell it, he commented, “Sell it to that girl you run around with.  She looks like she’s about ready for a rocking chair.”  When he called to ask me for a date I reminded him of what he said about me.  I was irritated that someone would make that kind of remark about me.  He laughed and said he was just joking.  After we talked a while, I accepted his invitation because he said he wanted to take me to Cross Key’s Restaurant for dinner and it was my birthday!    Cross Key’s was a very good and expensive seafood restaurant and no college boys ever offered to take a girl there. 

     We enjoyed the time together and at the end of the evening, he asked me out for the next night.   I already had a date so he suggested we go to the Nashville airport on Saturday and he’d treat me to a tour over Nashville.  He was not the pilot!   It was a fun experience and then he asked me to Centennial Park to an outdoor concert on Sunday afternoon.   We were together every night after that for the next two weeks. 
      We were studying for final exams and the girls could not leave the dorm after 10 p.m.   My friends decided they wanted a pizza but no one delivered pizzas in 1957.   The other girls started chiding me that I could call Ronny to go get us one. They reminded me that I had said he was nice and if he was that nice he would do it for us.  He lived off campus with Ken Davis (who is now an elder at Wood Avenue in Florence, Alabama).  I had been taught never to call a boy but I finally gave in from the pressure.  We had our money ready to pay for it when he brought it to the door of our dorm.  They all agreed that he really was nice.  My friends were all impressed.  They said their boyfriends would never have done that for them.   They began to tease me that I was in love but I denied it for having known him for less than two weeks.

       The school year ended and my brother, Leon, came to get me to take me back home to Oxford, Mississippi, for the summer.  Ronny left to serve six months active duty in the U.S. Army.   He asked me to take his class ring and write him.   We wrote every day until he got a leave in August.  He called me every Saturday night.   I told my mother he waited until 8 p.m. to call to be sure I wasn’t on a date.   Anytime boys called me, she’d give me a sharp look that would have pierced anyone’s heart.  She said I’d have to send his ring back if I went out with anyone.  I kept his ring and didn’t go with anyone.
       Ron was different.  He was nicer than almost anyone I had dated.  We enjoyed being with each other and after 55 years together, we still do.  He was ambitious and hard-working.  I didn’t want a lazy guy.  I didn’t mind working hard myself but I didn’t want to be the only one in the family doing it.  He was a dedicated Christian so he didn’t smoke or drink.  He had the best list of good qualities of anyone I had ever dated.   I thought I’d be a fool to let him go.   Even though we’ve had a lot of rough times, I still think that.  I don’t think you can get through life without some rough times regardless of who you marry.  I know a lot of people who’ve had it much harder than us so I’m thankful we have weathered the storm.    There may have been a lot of wind and rough seas along the way but the boat is still intact!

       When Ron returned to Oxford, Mississippi in August to see me, he began talking about where we’d live.  He didn’t really propose but just kept beating around the bush.  I got the message regarding his intentions.  I decided not to return to Lipscomb but keep the job I had so I could save money.   My brother, Billy, kept telling me that if I wanted to return to school, I did not need to worry about money.  He would help me with the tuition.  I had gone to school the previous year on my part of my inheritance after my father’s death.  He died before I was 4 years old but the money had been saved for my education.
      When Ron came to visit me for Christmas (December, 1957), he brought me an engagement ring.  We talked about waiting for summer to get married.  He was out of the U.S. Army active duty and beginning his Reserve status and enrolling in Lipscomb University in January, 1958.   My job at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) ended at the end of February but I didn’t know at that time how long I could work.  I had been filling in for a girl having a baby.  She decided she was ready to return to work.   With this new turn of events, we decided we might as well get married on spring break so the date was set for March 15, 1958.

      Sometime in between these times, Ron came down and took me to Columbia, TN for a weekend to meet his family.   Gayle, two years younger, threatened to let the chickens out so they could roost on the front steps while I was there.  Ned was also at home.  He was two years younger than Gayle (much quieter) and probably a senior in high school at that time.  Ron’s mother and Dad were very kind and sweet and I had a nice time.   In the spring, Ron’s mother had to sign for him to get married.  In Mississippi, the boy was supposed to be 21 and the girl 18 to get a marriage license.  Ron would not be 21 until June 29th so his Mom signed the document.  She and I loved each other all the years so I don’t think she ever regretted it.
        We married in the preacher’s study at the church building in Oxford, Mississippi.  My mother said it was too hard for her to go to the wedding but she wanted to prepare lunch for all of us that day.   My two brothers and their wives were present and a couple we knew stood with us to be our maid of honor and best man.  It was short and sweet and then we went to Mother’s for lunch.   After lunch, we left for Nashville, TN.  

       Ron rented an apartment in the rear of a church member.   It was a garage apartment but very cute.  There were no curtains so I remember spending a few days that first week, sewing curtains and a couch cover by hand.  Ron was campus policeman in those early days of our marriage.  I quickly got a job at AVCO Corporation as a secretary to a member of the church.   We didn’t see each other very much.  He was on duty until about 1 a.m. and was still sleeping when I left for work at 7:00 a.m.   He would attend classes during the day and go back on duty at night.
      Mother told me later that she liked Ron but thought we would starve.   She just didn’t know how hard-working we were.   I took off work about six months after Leigh Ann was born in 1960 and a couple of months after Ronald was born in 1964 but I worked all the rest of the time.   (There was a little time I could not work in St. Bart, French West Indies.  We were missionaries on that island during the years 1989-1991).  But, to keep busy, I baked goods to sell to the public and no matter how much I baked, it was all sold daily at a little market nearby. 

      That’s the way it was when I met Ronny Brown.  I’d have to write an entire book to tell about all the years in between 1958 – 2013 (55 years later).  This was our anniversary dinner.   




Sunday, March 10, 2013

Iron Horse

For Texans, my reporting about our travels may be boring but for those not familiar with traveling in Texas, you may read a few interesting things.  I wrote all of what's below last week but did not get it posted.   We have now completed our week in San Antonio so my next segment will be after  we leave here on March 11th.  I have some pictures to post about this part also as soon as we are in a location where I have sufficient internet.
We left Alice, TX right after Sunday morning service on March 3rd and arrived in San Antonio, TX about 3:30 p.m.   Ron didn’t think we had time to eat lunch with the preacher and his wife.  Ron does not drive the speed limit with the RV pulling a car so it takes us longer than it would just to drive a car.  We had to park, unhook the car, and be at a church on the west side of the city by 5:30 p.m.   Instead of going to Chili’s for lunch, we split the small loaf of banana nut bread given to visitors that morning at the congregation in Alice.  Our lunch consisted of some nuts, banana nut bread and juice.   Usually, we only eat a granola bar when traveling through lunch so the banana nut bread was a treat. 
It was desolate country driving from Alice with miles and miles without towns or people.  As we drove through George West (yes, that’s a town), it looked like a western movie could have been made there.  Along the road, I saw a for-sale sign offering 2000 acres for sale.   I heard that a ranch in Texas must have a minimum of 100 acres to be called a “ranch”.  Otherwise, it’s just a farm.  We see gates along the roadway identifying ranches with a winding road back into the landscape with nothing to see from the road.  Perhaps, they have a mansion like “Southfork” from the TV show Dallas somewhere but we cannot see it from the road.  Even with a house like that, you could not give it to me.   I need to be closer to some neighbor or at least to a Wal-Mart!    Most of the land we saw yesterday was not farm land and did not look like it had ever been cleared (at least not along the roadside).  

We saw a billboard advertising a Wildlife Safari (it said “African Safari, Texas Style” but I have no idea what they mean.   We have not so much as seen an armadillo (even dead on the roadway).  We do suspect that there are thousands of rattlesnakes in the wild areas.  It’s so dry that nothing grows but scrub trees and cactus.
Oil has been discovered in stretches along this highway so we saw many new oil wells pumping away.  A convoy of trucks and digging equipment on vehicles passed us and turned off heading to a new location.  It made me think of a story about a man that lived on desolate land in Texas and has experienced drought for a number of years and got so fed up that he sold his land cheap and moved to California.  Within a short time, the new owner discovered oil on the property and became a millionaire.  Sometimes, we think the grass is greener somewhere else when we are sitting on a goldmine and do not realize it.

We passed a big oil refinery along the way that is owned by Valero (many Valero gas stations exist in Texas but their gas is never cheap).   At night, the refineries are beautiful with so many lights it looks like a huge city many miles away.    The oil industry keeps many people employed in Texas and we see “Hiring” or “Help Wanted” signs in many cities.    The State of Texas actually has a surplus of money so there’s little poverty in Texas except for the illegal immigrants that do not have jobs and many of them are unskilled.   We see large orange and grapefruit groves in these southern cities so I know there is one area many of them can work.
Between McAllen and Alice, we crossed a border check.  It’s probably 50 miles or more inland from the valley cities but it is at a point where roads from many of those areas would meet before reaching this check point.  I looked at the map and expected us to find a check point at that location.   They looked at our driver’s licenses, asked if only two people were aboard and then waved us on through.  Another RV just ahead of us went through easily but the car right in front of us was inspected by a dog, and then pulled over to the side for a thorough search. 

The preacher in Alice told us they have a sign up at this checkpoint listing the number of illegal immigrants they have caught at this check point and it is over 5,000.  They also list the weight of drugs confiscated.  I don’t know what period of time their totals cover. 
Last week, we heard on the news that they found a small house in Brownsville with 90 illegal immigrants inside.  Some of them had been there over a week.  They had enough food brought to them but there was not even sitting room for all of them.  I think someone in the neighborhood tipped off the police.  This is common in the valley cities.  How so many get across the border, I don’t know.  I suspect we have the same problem as China – bribe some border patrol officers and they turn a blind eye and let them through.  There are smugglers that professionally get them across at certain points and help them get inland.  Many mix in with relatives in these cities and stay but others are caught. 

When we arrived in San Antonio, we parked our RV at Iron Horse RV so we can get the RV serviced while we are in San Antonio.  Ron thinks Iron Horse is the best service we have found - dependable and thorough.  They are expensive at $125 per hour for labor.  An RV service man makes as much as some professionals but he gets much of his experience with on-the-job training.  The workers here do seem to know what they are doing and we trust them.  They have a good reputation and a good business.
Iron Horse is a great name because that’s what I’d like to call this vehicle.   Ron saw in the lobby that there are estimated to be 20 million RV’s in America.   I guessed 1 million and thought that was a high figure.  But, they always have quite a few RV’s lined up for service every time we have arrived at Iron Horse.  Some of these RV’s are worth as much as $300,000 (some are almost new) but with anything mechanical, there will always be things that need servicing or repair.  They may look luxurious inside but I can assure you that the lifestyle is anything buy luxurious.   I’d take Holiday Inn for trips any day if we did not have to travel full-time and be in so many cities.   

We connected to one of their power outlets yesterday afternoon with RV’s parked on both sides of us awaiting service.  We save a little money on the parking but not enough to pay for the things they have to do.  We can’t connect to internet here.  They gave us the code for their wireless.  Ron was able to connect but I never could get my computer to connect.  For a short time, I connected to Lowe’s customer service wireless but after I lost that connection, I could not get it again.  I’ve worked on things off-line all day today.
The RV’s on each side of us have blocked our TV signal as well.   We do not take satellite TV because it’s just too expensive and it’s still a lot of trouble.  We see people trying to set up their satellite dishes in front of their RV and tinker with it for hours to get it set right.  Ron claims to hate TV so I won’t put him through that just for me to have TV.   He watches news and some programs on PBS but complains about a lot of stuff.  I agree that there are some horrible sitcoms and other stuff, but I don’t watch them anyway.   Like anything else, you can select the good things and leave off the bad.  Usually, with the antennae on top of the RV, we are able to pick up three or four networks in big cities and maybe one or two in smaller cities.   If I can get a major network and a few programs, it’s enough.  We work all day and have only a short time for TV at night.   In the Rio Grande Valley most all the channels are in Spanish.   If I can get one English station, it’s lucky.

Today, it was 85 degrees.  I think we had a low of about 40 this morning and it will be 40 again tonight.  About 4 a.m. in the morning, a cold front is coming in (no rain expected) with strong winds with gusts up to 40-50 mph.  It will be in the 60’s tomorrow.  These drastic temperatures change like this almost weekly in these southern parts of Texas.
We had a good time meeting some new folks last night and look forward to three other congregational meetings while we are in San Antonio.   Dr. Fred and Peggy Massey always have dinner with us when we come through here.  We will meet them Thursday night at a restaurant.  Ron wants to talk to Dr. Massey about the new hospital in China and get his idea about equipment and tools we will need.  We have three Chinese sponsors from one of Lily’s visits to San Antonio with a heart patient last year.  Ron is going to meet one of them for lunch tomorrow.  They have been very helpful when we bring children from China for surgery at Christa Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio.  Some of these families have served as host families for the poor children.  We know other people who live in San Antonio but may not have time to see everyone.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Moving On

We are moving on.  I will post this segment to my blog while I have a free internet connection.
Our work in the Rio Grande Valley has finished.  It’s been a good two weeks in this southern tip of Texas.  We have been well-received by the churches but it’s our second trip to visit most of them.  Some Christians have been very generous to give donations for the work. We find some new people each year that have not heard of our work and are quite amazed that we are able to do this in China.  God has certainly blessed us.  It’s isn’t humanly possible to accomplish a lot without God’s blessings.  HE goes before us to soften hearts that give up permission to care for the poor children.  We read in the Bible about Christ’s compassion for the people and his love for the little children.  We are merely servants trying to follow HIS example.  The need is great in many third-world countries.  It is certainly this way in China.

Last Sunday morning, we met a couple from Illinois.  They took us for Mexican food after services.   It was definitely real Mexican food! This sweet couple spends six months each winter in McAllen and live in a 5th wheel camper.  They said there are 1000 slots for campers in the park where they stay.  As we drive around, we see parks on each side of the roads.  When I say there are thousands living in motor homes in southern TX in the winter, I’m not exaggerating.  Sometimes we can see them lined up for miles.  They are referred to as “Winter Texans” rather than “Snow Birds.”   It doesn’t matter where they are from – they still “winter in Texas.”
I saw one RV park mentioned on the 6:00 p.m. news.  They must also have thousands of motor home residents.  They have activities planned for them day and night.  There was a roomful of them (all senior citizens, of course) so it looked like an activity room at a nursing home.  I’m sure these older people enjoy meeting other people and doing things together.  If they live in a very cold area, this life style provides them with several months of vacation in a warm climate. 

This Sunday morning, we will be at the church in Alice, TX.   We will arrive Saturday about noon and park overnight in their parking lot.  Sunday afternoon, we will drive to San Antonio.  Ron is scheduling appointments in San Antonio now that will take about 10 days to complete.  He is working on appointments for other places after that. 
Our weather in the Valley has been in the 40’s at night so it’s good sleeping weather under a warm comforter.  The days warm up to the 70’s.   One day this week, a cold front moved all the way down to Mexico and brought winds that were unbelievable.  We know we had sustained winds up to 40 or 50 mph and gusts much higher.  We brought in the sliders of the RV in order to protect the canvas covers over the sliders and reduce some of the noise and movement.   We are too heavy to turn over with winds like this but we do “rock and roll” in high winds. At night, it was impossible to sleep some of the time because of the noise.

We did not complain about the winds when we saw this front dumped 19” of snow in Amarillo, TX (panhandle of TX) and took its toll on many people as it moved northeast.   Old man winter is not sleeping yet. 
February is usually a low-income month.  Many contributors give donations during December in order to have a tax credit in 2012.  Many orphan sponsors pay yearly and send in a large donation in January every year.  February usually dwindles down for these reasons, but we were very blessed with a very good income this month. 

March brings many expenses for China Mission because the spring semester of school begins in China.  We now have a large number of children in high school.  They live at the school during the week so we have cost of living expenses in addition to tuition.
Ron is working on travel arrangements for a group of 14 going from Buford, Georgia to China,   They will be going to Wesley’s House in Pingguo to work for a few weeks at the end of May.  We know it will be a very rewarding and exciting experience for them and for the children at the care center.

A group of doctors and nurses from Houston (I think they may all be  Chinese) plan to go to the new hospital in WaDian, Henan in July to conduct our first medical mission.  Ron thinks it will primarily be to give physicals to the children in that area to determine their health needs.  This team will not do surgery on this trip, but they will identify problems with children, such as congential heart disease, TB, hepatitis, and locate other problems such as cleft lip/palate and dental needs.  We can schedule heart patients to Xi’an or to the U.S. for surgeries.  Future medical teams will be able to handle some of the less severe illnesses.  We are excited about this new method to help poor children.  When we can expand our borders, it gives hope and opportunity to help children that would never receive treatment otherwise. 
We are hopeful that the government is this area will be proud of the work and support it with approval and offer help in various ways.

Ron has been working on the Form 990, the yearly income tax return that must be filed for all non-profit institutions.  It’s taken a lot of his time and is very complicated.  I helped add some columns for him last night and checked his figures. I got a close-up view of the complicated return.  The IRS audited us a few years ago and when the worker went by our house in Georgia, Judy, our Chinese worker, answered her questions.  Judy was very fast with her work and I’m sure her explanation was too complicated for the IRS worker.  She didn’t stay very long.  Keeping our books really is difficult because of the uniqueness of sending funds to China and receiving petty cash forms from China as to how the money is spent.

We received good news this morning that Ryan and Rachel Swanson, our workers at Refuge of Grace Christian Care Center in Luxi, have a baby girl.  They have been full-time teachers working at this care center since last June.  They were educated at Freed-Hardeman University and have majors in Bible so they are well-prepared to help the children.  For six or seven years, they have taught English in China and are fluent in Mandarin.  They are a great blessing to our work.  We are so happy that Rachel and their new baby daughter are doing well.
Well, that’s all I can report at this time.  We don’t get a chance to venture out of the RV during the week except to shop for food and visit the churches.  I hope to write again and have more interesting news next time. 

Keep us in your prayers.  Not only for our health and safety but also for our workers and the children we care for.  Thank you.