Friday, August 16, 2013

Autumn is coming soon

Each year when school begins, I realize that summer is almost over.  School begins earlier than in past years because the students get more time out of school during the year for holidays and short breaks.  

This summer has been so different because of the weather.  It has been very hot in Texas and other parts of the country but since we left Texas in May, we have not endured many days up to 90 degrees.  In the early part of our travels there were tornadoes that seemed to be following us.  The rain since that time has been non-threatening thunderstorms or simply a slow, steady rain.  It has provided us with nice days and cool nights.  It’s unbelievable that we still need a blanket at night.  Tomorrow night, it will dip to 58 degrees in the Nashville, TN area with a cold front moving down from the north.

We have had safe travels and visited many good congregations of the Lord’s people.  Everywhere we go, we feel that we are meeting with family members.  This is at least our third year for most congregations.  When we get to Tennessee, we have churches that have supported us for our entire mission time of nearly 30 years.  We add a few new congregations as we go through cities when there’s time and opportunity.  It is always a delight to meet new people and see the good that is being done for the Lord’s church. 

As we travel in Kentucky and Tennessee, we see churches of Christ every few miles.  I’ve told Ron that there is a large concentration of the Lord’s people here and that brings hope to our nation.   I know that God delights in righteousness because HE says that sin is a reproach to any nation.   As our country and its morals deteriorate, I hope Christians will hold fast to our convictions so a remnant of God’s people will determine the future.  We know that God is in control.  It’s just a matter of whether HE lets our nation decline to the point of someday having it taken over by other people who are not HIS people or whether HE will defeat the enemy threatening HIS people in the U.S.    

This last weekend was very enjoyable.   Linda and Rick Clark, our friends from Benton, KY, were coming down to Franklin, TN to a mule pull event.  They made reservations for Saturday night at Smyrna, TN to be near us so we could get together.  They wanted to go with us to church at Liberty Hill in Fairview, TN on Sunday morning.   Linda wrote that Rick wanted to come on down on Friday but she didn’t want another night’s hotel expense.  I wrote her and ask if they would consider staying in the RV with us that weekend.  She hesitated saying it would be too hard for us but I kept insisting that it would not.  They are campers with a 5th wheel so they know how to “rough” it.   After a bit more persuasion, they came for one night (Friday night).   Everything worked out well so Ron insisted they cancel their hotel for Saturday night and stay with us.  Linda hesitated saying it would be hard for us all to get ready Sunday morning.  I told her it would not be too difficult because she and I could go to the bathhouse to do our hair and put our make up on.  They finally agreed to stay and she cancelled their hotel reservation. 

The mule pull and events did not begin until 4 p.m. on Saturday, so we had most of the day to just relax and be with them.   The mule pull events ended up lasting until 9 p.m. so they returned to the RV about 10 p.m.   Rick goes to work at 4 a.m. every weekday so they were up when we got up at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning.  Rick had gone to take a shower but Linda was already dressed and ready to go to church.  It was not difficult at all for both families to share the RV for a few days.  They are a lot of fun to be around and we enjoyed our time with them so much.   They are 25 years younger than us but the age difference didn’t seem to matter.  We have much in common and have grown to love them just like family.

Linda makes homemade peanut butter ice cream that Ron loves.  She made a freezer of it and packed it in containers with dry ice in a cooler and brought it.  What a surprise that was!   Ron has asked Linda several times since we left KY if home delivery was possible so she proved it was possible, to his delight.

This weekend, Leigh Ann will come up from Woodstock, GA.    We will go to dinner Friday night with Ron’s sister, Gayle, and some of her family members. We had hoped Tatum would come too (Leigh Ann’s 20-year-old daughter) but she already have made plans for the weekend.   Leigh Ann will be leaving for China in a few weeks so it will great to be with her before her trip.  We have not seen her since last October.   She will get to meet up with Ronald and Gigi at the Refuge of Grace Christian Care Center in Luxi, China.   They may not be there all of the time she’s there but it will be wonderful for her and Gigi to meet for the first time. 

Ron has appointments booked for almost every Wednesday night and both services on Sunday through September.   He is now working on phone calls and emails to book appointments to speak during October.

Mike Gifford, a young man from Cartersville, GA, has been giving China Mission presentations to churches in Georgia.  He has been successful in getting some new sponsors and promoting our mission work with a positive approach that should bring much more long-term support.  Ryan Swanson, who worked last year at Refuge of Grace (teaching English and the Good Book) has been making a few presentations in churches in Mississippi while he and Rachel are on a summer break.  Ryan has gotten several of his family members to support an orphan.

Our work in China is going on about the same but slower with the children out of school and some of them visiting relatives.  Ronald and Gigi took a short break to the Philippines to renew Gigi’s passport.  They are back now and busy traveling to various care centers, living out of suitcases for the next month.   Ronald’s yearly VISA will need to be renewed by October.  By then, Gigi will have to return to the Philippines and he will have to fly somewhere to get another VISA.  He found out that he can’t get it in the Philippines so now he has to fly back to Hong Kong, Guam or somewhere else.   It is a hassle every year to get another VISA and even then, he has to leave the country every 90 days to have his passport stamped so he can return again.  This is why he’s going back and forth with Gigi as she renews her VISA.   This gets expensive but it’s the only way he can continue to work in China. 

We will be in the Nashville area for a while longer and then relocate to Columbia, TN for two weeks.   From there, we have appointments in North Alabama.  

Thanks to our supporters, friends and family for making our lives so rich and wonderful.   Not having contact with everyone more often makes us feel lonely sometimes.  Our work is the driving force that keeps us active and involved.  We are grateful for the encouragement we receive from everyone. 

God bless you!



Monday, August 5, 2013

Covering a lot of ground

While the RV was parked at Campbellsville, KY, we made a car trip to North Canton, OH on the weekend of July 19-21.   We left on Friday and drove to Columbus, OH where we spent the night.  We went through a huge thunderstorm as we coasted our way through Cincinnati at a snail’s pace.  The traffic was heavy and the rain was coming down in sheets so heavily it made it difficult to see the road.   I had driven for more than an hour to give Ron a break but I saw the black clouds ahead and turned the driving over to him at a rest stop only a few minutes before the storm hit.  We had another storm before we got to Columbus but it was not as heavy. 

As Ron was checking into the motel, I saw an orange car parked next to us with rubber eyelashes over the front lights.  I quickly got my camera and snapped a picture before the owner could come back outside and catch me.  It was just too cool to pass up.   There were about five police cars in the parking lot and a sign on the motel door said to take GPS and all valuables inside and not leave anything in the car.   A crazy woman was in the parking lot yelling for someone and acting strange.  I don’t think the police were there because of her.  All of this indicated to us that we were not in a very safe area.  We went nearby to have dinner at Bob Evans Restaurant and then returned to the hotel for the evening, getting a very good night’s rest.   We drove on to North Canton the next day.

We spent the weekend at the home of Jim and Pam Griffith.  Jim is the C.E.O. of Timkin Corporation.  Timkin has plants all over the world and it was so interesting to hear Jim talk about his work and he and Pam talk about their travels.  We enjoyed seeing and staying at their very beautiful and interesting English Tudor home (built in 1925).  The house is very lovely and the gardens and outdoor areas are also beautiful.   Jim and Pam made us feel very comfortable so it was a delightful weekend and visit with them.  We are so grateful for their friendship, hospitality, encouragement and support for our work in China.
After the Sunday morning service at the North Canton congregation, we left quickly to drive five hours for Ron to speak at Owingsville, KY that night at 6 p.m.  We snacked in the car on the way.  We went to eat with the elders after services and then drove back to our RV in Campbellsville, KY, arriving “home” about 11:15 p.m.   It was a trip of about 900 miles.  It was a safe and good trip.   We will have fond memories of that weekend.
We left Campbellsville on July 22nd and relocated to Dale Hollow Dam Campground near Celina, TN.    We have visited with congregations at Beech Bethel and New Hope (both at Celina), Moss, Red Boiling Springs, McCoinsville and Leonard.   We will finish our work here and travel on August 6th to Poole Knobs Campground in La Vergne, TN (southeast of Nashville).
Two elders from Moss and their wives, came to take us to dinner one night.  We went to a little restaurant overlooking the water here at Dale Hollow Lake.  Afterwards, we piled into one vehicle and drove around for more than an hour.  We crossed the dam and after some very winding roads, drove into a scenic area overlooking the lake from many angles.  Then, for more than 10 miles, we drove on winding roads that were high above the lake with spectacular views of the mountains, valleys and water that jutted out in many directions.   It was dusk dark so I did not get to take pictures. 
The interesting part of this trip, in addition to the wonderful views, is the story behind all of this land.   A few years ago, a man that used to attend church (I think at Beech Bethel, a small congregation we attended one Sunday night), bought the entire area for $5 million.   I do not know the acreage but it is a very large amount of land.  They said he spent another $15 million or more developing the land, clearing the trees enough to construct a road.  Then he installed water and power lines (all underground) to the area.  He was ready to start building houses when the housing market fell so he put the project on hold.  He died a couple of years ago and this land is now owned by his relatives (wife and a son and daughter).   They are now selling off plots and building houses.  I guess there were a dozen or more new homes along this 10-mile stretch.  Some were elegant log cabins; others were beautifully stained wood houses, and one or two might have been brick.   I could not see on both sides of the road and it was getting dark by this time.  The houses have to be constructed in a manner so they will not block the view of any other house being built.  There are strict guidelines concerning the construction and design of the homes.  None were extremely large but they were not small either.  They probably had more space than we could imagine because they were built at several levels with decks jutting out over the hillside, supported by metal poles like stilts.   Some were just teetering on the side of the hills and looked really dangerous.
I asked where the man got his money.  They said his father owned a sawmill but was not a wealthy man.  This man started a broom handle factory but didn’t do too well and discontinued it.  They said he was a strange sort of fellow that could not work well with others so he went into the sawmill business (maybe he took over his father’s; I’m not sure).   In any case, he took lumber from the forests in this area, diversified into logs to build log cabins (famous in this area) and hardwood flooring.  His operation is very large, located in Moss, TN.  He was a self-made millionaire.
One of the men that went with us that night, works for the company that constructs the houses so he knew the history of this development.   When we got back to Celina, it was about 9 p.m. and completely dark.  We stopped off at Dairy Queen for ice cream and then they brought us back to the RV park.  It was a really great evening with them.  Times like this are when you really get to know people personally and get to feel close to them. 
The Moss congregation helped us when we were missionaries in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  I can’t remember back then to know who was at Moss at that time.  These two elders are rather young so they probably have come along since that time.  The one that works with the sawmill/construction company also serves as their minister.  
Our summer weather has been great.  Seeing that Dallas is having temperatures around or over 100 every day, makes our weather almost perfect in comparison.  Kentucky and Tennessee has enjoyed an unusually heavy rainfall this spring.   Crops are beautiful everywhere and grass is green.  The 60 degree temperatures at night require a light blanket for sleeping with warm days in the 70’s or 80’s.  The lakes are full and campers are having a great time enjoying the cool nights and mild days.  We are camped on the downside of the dam so the Cumberland River flows through the park, with a swiftness that carries the boats down in a hurry.   In the afternoons and early mornings, the river has a layer of fog hovering over it that is almost eerie.  The park is full of families so there are many children on skateboards and bikes everywhere, getting in the last few days of summer before school begins.  There’s no real protection from the river so I would be a very nervous parent if I had children playing all over the park.  Children are naturally curious of water and the river could entice them into a dangerous situation.


We walked the nature trail a couple of times.  It winds around for about a mile from one side of the park through the heavy forest and back to the other side, over streams and waterfalls.  All along the mile-long walk, we can hear the waterfalls.  

The Corp of Engineers has a fish breeding pond for trout above the park and water from that pond flow down into various streams that form the waterfalls.   Picturesque bridges are numerous for crossing the streams and for sightseeing.

Other news:

During this month, Ronald and Gigi, went back to the Philippines so Gigi could get another VISA for China.  She is only able to extend her VISA and stay in China for three months at a time.  Traveling through Guangzhou, they went to a zoo and had some time on another island in the Philippines.  Part of the time they were at Gigi’s family home.  They arrived in time to celebrate “carnival” although I don’t think they call it that.  They had a big parade with costumes and dancing in the streets.  It’s a time for feasting also.  The locals used to have these celebrations in the Caribbean Islands when we lived there.  Other than a rough ferry ride that made a lot of passengers sick, I think they had a good time.   We received lots of great pictures from them.   They are back in Guangzhou now on their way back to the various orphanages to take care of things that need to be done.
This month, Carole Barker, a teacher at Westbury Christian Schools in Houston, TX, traveled via Beijing to our hospital in Wadian, Henan.   She is a very brave girl making the long trip alone.  Our missionaries in Beijing met her at the airport and after spending a night with them, saw her off on her next flight to a city near Wadian.   Two weeks later, she got to return to Beijing and worship with the group on her way home to Houston, TX.   Jerry and Christine, workers at the hospital met her and made her visit productive and enjoyable.  She had some unusual experiences and wrote hilarious blogs each day while she was there.  She and Christine unpacked donated vitamins and medications and got shelving up and the pharmacy arranged.  They labeled the items in both English and Chinese.

The equipment is still being purchased and installed.  The dental chair and equipment arrived before Carole left to return to the U.S.   It is slowly coming together and should be ready sometime this fall for medical professionals from the U.S. to go there and work at their convenience.   They have been working to identify the families surrounding the hospital that are poor.  We have to establish a data base of poor children who can receive free medical care at this hospital.

The orphans at our care centers are out of school and visiting relatives.  Many do not have anyone to visit and remain at the care centers all summer.  Reports about the children are coming in slowly because some workers also take vacations during this time. 
We will be in the Nashville area for about a month.   When we finish our two weeks at Poole Knobs at La Verge, we will relocate on the north side of Old Hickory Lake to Seven Points Campground.   We have many churches to report to and many individuals to try to see.  It will be difficult to see everyone we want to visit during this time.
From Nashville, we will park at Villa Rica Plantation (for the second year) at Spring Hill, TN.   We also have many churches and individuals in the Columbia, TN area to visit during early September.   We still need to work in visits to Chattanooga and North Alabama after that.  
Leigh Ann is going to one of the care centers the first two weeks of September.  She and Ellen Mao, a Chinese nurse friend who works in San Jose, CA, will spend their vacation at the Refuge of Grace Christian Care Center in Luxi, China.  We will give her time to recover from her trip and visit her early in October.   Until I have more news to post, this is it for now.
Thanks to my readers who comment on our work, our travels and offer prayers on our behalf.  Please continue to remember us, our family, the workers and orphans in your prayers.   We have been so blessed with health that keeps us moving along, safe travels, good friendships, donations and prayers.   Ron and I have episodes of back problems but it only slows us down a little.   Daily, I pray for the safety of our family because when they are doing well, we are too.   I’m like a mother bear that is contented when her cubs are safe.  But, when the cubs grow up and are out on their own, the mother bear has many more worries than just how she’s going to feed and care for her young.  Now, I just have to turn their care and well-being over to God. 

God bless you.