Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Tea Time Treat!

I think if I had been driving I would have passed right by because this little treat was in the middle of regular residential houses in Largo. A couple of the staff wives brought me and Savannah, and the other missionary wife, Ana, out today to this tea house. It was cozy and filled with everything tea, girl-ish and flowery. 
Someone had a knack for making mosaic benches and counters for an outdoor bar-type seating area, and they also had a penchant for collecting everything and anything that struck their fancy. I think this business stemmed more from their love of collecting than for making delicious meals!
 I could have photographed for hours and never taken a shot of everything. It truly was a sensory overload in some aspects, and a complete delight in others!
 The floor was painted so beautifully with large tropical flowers, and I was sad that the sun was shining so brilliantly that I couldn't get a clear shot of the whole area. (Even as I typed that, I debated striking it as the date on the calendar read February 26, and I KNOW back home everyone is currently hunkered down in frigid temperatures and feet of snow! I almost feel a little bad about complaining about this lovely, skin-drenching-with-VitaminD sun! Almost!) (That is the worst of my evil side. Really!)
While the tea was to be a treat for us ladies, I doubled the moment to include it as Savannah's last tea party while still 7! Her birthday is March 3 and it seemed too soon to celebrate this as her birthday, so the other option worked! 
 Here she is in a bus renovated to be everything child and tea and pink. Her little companion is Bailey,  one of the twins that escorted us. Bradon (her brother) was NOT as enthusiastic about this place!
It was time to get to the table to enjoy the brunch, and Bradon quickly decided he was done with all things pink and flowery. His mommy saw a teeny spot on his thumb that may have been the cause of the problem, and we asked for a little ice to put on it. They brought out their ice, and it was absolutely perfect for a finger boo-boo! It was like a little frozen mushroom cap, and it fit right over his thumb. 
 It kept him a little entertained for a few minutes, but thankfully we were nearing the end of our visit, because he really just wanted his bed, and we needed to get him home!
I want to have an Ice Maker like this! Aren't they great?! How crazy that in light of all there was to see, I was thrilled with the ice! It was a wonderful treat with some equally terrific ladies! Thanks so much New Testament BC, and Janette and Kim! We had a delightful time!
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Job Completed

While we were in our state of homelessness, we were so blessed to stay with the pastor and his family of Lakeview Baptist Church in Saucier, MS. What they had been expecting to be a few days of us parking our camper in their yard became nearly a full three weeks of us living with them- the kids in his sisters RV and Dan and I in their son's room. (He is in college.) For the first week we were treated like guests. After that they realized we weren't leaving any time soon, and we quickly became family status... which we were thrilled to take!

The church was in the beginning stages of a mini remodel, and we were glad to be of assistance in some small ways. This family cannot sing in four part harmony or play instruments to melt the heart, but we can pull nails and chisel out concrete!
 Here are some beginning shots of the guys working on getting nails out of the removed wood. It was going to be reused as strips to nail the sheet rock onto.
Prepping inside to get all of the flooring covered. The beams in the ceiling were going to be painted a creamy shade of white, and the rug was not slated to be replaced, so this was quite prudent! 
 Nearly all covered, and you can see the back wall is the wood that was getting removed.
 Micah was making a good show of working with the chop saw... but that didn't last long. He was actually a great help in keeping Savannah occupied by finding her little critters to play with.
 She was thinking about naming the little guy... but I (wisely!) discouraged this. We were in the first week of a 10 week long venture, and I was not about to tote him with us all along the southern coast!
 He wasn't the cutest or the nicest one we had seen either. This one clung on for dear life so much so that she was getting a little freaked out that HE had CHOSEN US to be his ticket out of there.
 A couple of good flicks and he was off her finger. Whew! That was not going to end well if he didn't decide to leave willingly!
 Here Josiah is using a reciprocating saw... I think that is what it is. (I learned something watching my Daddy all those years!) They had to remove the boxes around all of the windows and make new ones that were deeper to be flush with the drywall once it was hung.
 Micah also helped Savannah find a new adventure in the bamboo bushes. They cut down tree after tree and made a mess really, but it was an easy clean up and they had a riot with it. Simple children to please!
 This is post sheet rock up and painted, and the carpeting was cleaned while all of the chairs were out of the area.
We stopped by after an evening out, and Levi was showing off all of his work. I know he has only been in the first picture so far, but he really did do a lot of the labor! 
 This is the day we left Gulfport. We made one final stop to the church to see it nearly all put back together. The chairs were in place, and most of the boxes were around the windows...
 The ceiling was all painted and the back wall was now a compliment to the main sanctuary in style and color.
This is a shot of the main platform nearly finished. All of this was done within a week! We were certainly not the only people working- there was a crew of four men there every day, but still it was completed in a much shorter time than they expected. It was a blessing to be a part of this church, even if primarily with a little sweat. We have been so blessed by the people of this family of the faith, and we continue to pray for them and their leadership, and the work the Lord desires to do with them. We are also grateful that even though we aren't the traditional "musically talented" missionary family, we are given opportunities to be a blessing in the area of our family's giftedness... demolition and reconstruction!
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Pick Up DAY! Part 2

Sorry for the suspense filled night... I know you were dying to know the details...! 
Just a preview!! 
After we - astutely I might add- realized the van would not be fixed before we would need to get the camper, we just decided to leave... broken hinges and all. That surely was a job for another day! 

So here it is Tuesday at 2:45, and we need to drive 50 minutes to PawPaws Campers in Picayune, MS.  Simply by pronouncing the name of the dealership you know we are in the south, even if you are from a foreign land and have no idea what state abbreviations mean. There is no other way to say that than with a southern drawl. Kind of like the sandwiches they have here... "Po Boys". Other wise known as subs, grinders, hoagies, or "subway" for you more traveled folk! Southern through and through, I am tellin' y'all.

Ok... back to the pick up day!

Just a bit of background info here.

Mississippi has rains that pretty much will flash flood. (Or hurricanes... remember Katrina?!) For that reason, there are large gullies along the sides of the roads for the water to run into to prevent the roads from being impassable. They also build the roads up quite a bit, for as we all know from 3rd grade Science class, (we are all smarter than 5th graders here, right?!) water will take the path of least resistance and flow to the lowest point. It makes for passable roads, but they have not mastered the "shoulder of the road" thing. They put the rumble grooves ON the white line... if there is a white line... which is also the edge of the road. Period. No SHOULDER! Just a little dirt... then the gully. Wow! So UnLike NY! There is a visual for you...

Now the other fun piece is... this a logging industry haven. They grow super huge Southern Pines that the rest of the world knows as telephone poles. I personally knew they had to come from somewhere, and now I know one major source of them.


In order for the pines to grow tall and straight, they have to keep the ground brush free of the junk that will not only make them grow less, but will also make harvesting quite a challenge. Ever walk through thicket? Well me neither, but Dan tells me it is a pain. I guess he has done it a few times while hunting. Who knew?!


In order to keep the ground cleared, they start brush fires that to these Yankee eyes look nothing short of a full blown forest fire to rival the ones in Southern California. I am talking acres of burning ground that billow black smoke hundreds of yards into the sky, and project the heat to any vehicle that may pass by. Just imagine it! It truly is a startling thing to me, yankee that I am! (I know you southern friends are so familiar with this... liken it to seeing 4 feet of snow on your lawn. The "shock factor" comparison is similar!)


We got to PawPaws, put the whole hitch thing into the receiver, and then got the clamps onto the tongue of the camper for the load leveling bars, put the chains on, hooked up the electric, and both nearly felt like we were going to be physically ill. After what seems like anything that could go wrong has in the past three weeks, we were- to say the least- filled with angst and anxiety  nervous.

We pulled it out of the parking lot quadruple checking every angle, turn, mirror and tire... and every creek of the axels and squeak of the hitch and rattle of the chains brought back visions of metal being ripped off the van and 32' of camper sliding free-form on pavement... I was not doing well to say the least! One look at my man... and he was faring little better!! We have traveled campers for YeArS at speeds of 75 mph through wind, rain, sleet and snow and navigated out of tight parking lots behind dealerships with 70 ft. drops separated only by broken and rusted fences... we are not novices here! We were visibly shaken just getting this thing out of the parking lot!!! (OH... just keep praying for us!)

Now we have the 50 minutes to travel this back to Saucier where we will park it until we leave for Florida in a couple of days. Now comes the time when that little bit of background information comes in handy.

We were traveling a small country road between Rt 59 and Rt 603. I cannot begin to tell you the name of the road, but it was very much like the one pictured above. Except it had no white and yellow lines. Just a narrow paved road edged with a little bit of dirt and gullies. Then we catch a visual of some black plumes of smoke, and first-hand we experience acres of brushfire RIGHT UP TO THE ROAD!!! We are already completely unnerved trailering this camper, and this had to happen!  These are not actual pictures. I was too busy covering my head and crying out like a baby for mercy enjoying the scene to have the presence of mind to take an actual picture. 

We were so comforted to see the 'ol boys that owned the land standing nearby, each with a shovel in their hand just in case it got out of control. You know, a man can do a lot with a shovel. 
The fire went RIGHT UP TO THE EDGE OF THE ROAD!!!! I am not kidding here!!

Savannah... please comment and tell people I am dead serious when I say these things! I expect this in Zambia... I ExPeRienCed this in Zambia... but that is a 3rd world country!!! 

I have stress in my neck just typing this because it is making me relive those moments. I no longer cared about the creaking of all the metal, it was certainly going to be a fire ball that would do this camper in! I didn't even look at Dan for fear he would mirror my emotions, and we would just curl up in two little balls and never be heard of again. I am sure it was only a few hundred yards of fire that we passed through, but I so understood the teeniest tad of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's plight for those brief moments. 

Dan somehow managed to hold it all together, and the camper stayed centered on the narrow little road, and we did make it to our destination. And when we got back we just thanked the Good Lord for his abundant mercy in our lives. Mercy alone is truly why we are not consumed!! 
Here is a nice picture to leave you with. The trees somehow survive the flames, and the ground is much cleared of the ground scrub. Oh the things we are learning on deputation. Not only about geography and regions unlike our own, but of God and his amazing love for us. Truly we are blessed and thankful for all of these events. Who knows what we may need to have in our arsenal of personal experiences when we get to Zambia! God knows... and we continue to TRUST HIM in it ALL!!

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Pick Up DAY! Part 1

On Tuesday we were scheduled to pick up our new HOME!! We were excited and terrified all at the same time! We have had some unusual and exceptional experiences traveling a camper, and all of them have wreaked havoc on our resolve to never worry! Unfounded and irrational fears are one thing, but we have a little track record of the unexpected and unbelievable happening... many times before the first installment is even paid on the vehicle! So needless to say, we were both a little sick to our stomachs uneasy. We were supposed to get there around 10:30 am which would allow for the plans we had for the rest of the day, but it was NOT going to happen the way we planned. As we are learning... few things do! 

Dan took the van to have the frame looked at. Kind of important to make sure it is all good after 8,000 lbs of camper get ripped right off the frame. You think?!? 

Well, there is a "frame specialist" guy here who took a look at it, and said it is fine- except a little spot (that is not a safety concern) and if Dan wanted him to he could weld a piece onto it to make it extra doubly safe. (umm... YES PLEASE!!) He then proceeded to look at some of the factory welds and also all of the lovely NYS rust-in-progress all over the under side, as well as the door hinges. (Our passenger doors have never closed right since we purchased the truck, and the left door hinges were just plain BROKEN!)  He said he could take care of all of it... as well as install the hitch and spray a special "bondo-black-change-rust-into-metal" stuff under the rear end... for an UnBEliEvAbLe price. This was Monday afternoon, and Dan said "SURE... if you can get it all done by Tuesday morning". (Remember our appointment to get the camper...?!) He gave Dan his word, and said "if everything was that easy he would sleep like a baby every night".  Famous last words... 

Dan got there Tuesday morning, and he was spittin' and bashing' and mumblin' and bangin' all over those hinges... AND the other things weren't even started!! WHAT?!?!? 

Arrange to come back in three hours... 

The hitch and other things are finally done, but the door hinges were barely half done. And there were some nice new custom work done on the paint job! We took the van to get the camper... ** look for a post on that next**... with the agreement we would bring the van back on Thursday morning to get the job finished "while we wait for it".  

This is now the new and improved easy to close "finished hinges"... 

Shored Up right hinge... still a little rusty but closing well! :) 
and after 12 HOURS here is the final product on the left originally broken and rusted hinge. BeLiEvE me when I say this looks AMAZING compared to what it looked like mid-progress!! (Well except for the gouges to the paint..!!) 

The New Hand Made Hinge...
and my Newly Pedicured toes in the reflection! Thank You Lovely DANA!! :) 

This also explains the reason for the original estimates we had received for this job. Several times what we paid!

It not only wasn't done on Tuesday morning, it wasn't done Tuesday afternoon. Or Thursday Morning when we brought it back again... and then finally THIS MORNING (Friday!!),  Dan waited an additional three hours to get the job completed. Not what we had originally expected to be sure, BUT... the frame is great, there is a new undercoat on the van, the hitch receiver is installed, some factory welds are shored up... and my doors close GREAT!! All in all... we SO are thankful for this vehicle! It certainly has been through a lot!

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Please STOP the madness!

NO, nothing tragic has happened... ! WHEW! I can hear the collective sigh of relief! :)

But we have been going full steam for 7 full days... with no end in sight!

We left last weekend having purchased our lovely new camper, but still had yet to get a new hitch receiver put onto our van, and ALSO need to replace the hitch and load leveling bars (the hitch BrOkE and the bars BenT!)  Turns out the receiver was an older style, and the pieces that broke during "The Event" were not able to be replaced. In light of that fact, and that we are minus one "metal magic man" who can refashion us some new pieces (not like I would trust them... I am just a sceptic like that...!!) we needed new ones. All of these this needed to happen (Obviously!) before we picked up the new camper. I've never kept a running tally of these purchases... as I have never had to buy them before all of these escapades we find ourselves on. Turns out, these things on the retail market are not only ridiculously expensive, they are usually a special order for the ones we need. WHAT?!?!

We called U-h@ul (@=a ... again!) and they could order us our receiver and have it in time... or so they told us! We wanted it on Friday, and then on Friday they said "We have you scheduled for a pick up and install next Tuesday!" Oh NO you don't! We were not overly impressed with their PR skills already, and this just pushed them over the edge. After we explicitly calmly explained our situation, they offered to have it overnighted for us to be there by Saturday noon... exactly three hours AFTER we had planned to leave for Alabama.  But why not, right? We need to learn how Zambian time works eventually...!! So we delayed our departure, and got the receiver only to be further insulted because the clerk said, "I have given you a discount to reflect our apologies for your inconvenience"... and then charged us the regular price!!
The New Receiver... and Oil Change Day! Those come quite frequently anymore!! 
 WHO CARES at this point! Just get us out of there and take the receiver and RUN!! It is a very pretty receiver, by the way. All shiny and not rust-finished! So unlike anything that has been on a New York vehicle for any amount of time!
So Pretty! And not broken - Bonus! :) 
THEN we still needed the hitch and load leveling bars! Cr@igslist to the RESCUE! Thankfully (Read God-orchestrated event!) only 50 minutes away a man had a set for a fraction of the cost, and that was used only two times! YAY!! He had listed it only a few days before we started looking, and had held onto them for years! God knew we needed them... and WHEN!

We were finally all ready to get the camper! Another post!
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Friday, February 11, 2011

An FYI chronology...

Here is the letter I recently emailed to those on my "update list". If you want this emailed to you, please just let me know! If you click the image, it will bet bigger, and more easy to read. 
Have a great day! 
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Monday, February 7, 2011

This Sunday Eve...

While I was waiting for the evening service to begin here in Mississippi, I was listening to the first few minutes of my home church service online. I LOVE that our church broadcasts LIVE on JustinTV. We have been staying with friends in MS while going to a missions conference these past few days. We are staying with a pastor and his family as well, and will be attending church with them tonight. Their initials are  R&R, and it has truly been a good place for us to be after the events of these past few weeks! R&R!!

Guys and guns just seem to go together. I have no idea what kind of gun this was, but it was loud.
Randy shot a few, and then gave it to Dan. His backyard is full of a lot of land and a pond, so there was nothing preventing this bit of fun. He says his neighbors think he is crazy already, so there was no real harm there either  :) Actually it was during the day, and likely they were gone.
The pond is stocked with hundreds of fish just beckoning the guys to catch them. We have talked about frying up some good 'ol catfish. These are from waters much cleaner than those in NYS so likely they will taste quite good. Still not sure if I will eat them, but everyone else will! 
Cast away guys! In each picture you can see the lute in the air. The black blip to the right on the one above, and nearly center on the one below. I have no idea what they were fishing with, but they were big enough to show~! 
 This is something we are thoroughly enjoying. Back in our hometown this is a rare sight indeed. It is rare in the summer, and especially in early February! It was warm and bright. Perfect!
The natives of this area say it is as cold as they get for the most part. We can handle this no problem! If we have to be homeless, this is a good place for it to be so!
The sun set so quickly behind the line of trees. We had only a few minutes before we needed to get ready for church, so it was good that we weren't tempted to stay home to enjoy the sunset!
The long shadows are the same here as in the north. The short winter days when the sun is at a low angle to the Earth are tell tell signs of the season, even if the short shirt sleeves tell a different tale!
Yet another perk of this restful haven... Randy is a bit of a car nut. He has this gorgeous car and it is truly a pleasure to just look at it. Just today he bartered with a friend and now has an authentic train whistle that he is debating on mounting under his truck- complete with compressor for maximum sound. It is quite LoUd and people would definitely MOVE AWAY!! 
Pastor Randy was not always a preacher, and a great majority of his previous occupation(s) and current hobbies make this a fun place for our guys. He was a builder and a gun nut. He has tools, gadgets, guns and land. Great combinations! We may stay here a while!

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thankfully we do not drive a "Compact Car"...

Just a "Well Packed" one!! 
 Notice the car-top carrier... it is loaded down with a bunch of SB's crammed and suctioned with every piece of clothing we figured we could do without for a few days... or weeks!  The inside of the van has more bags and boxes and baskets... and SB's that (unfortunately!) expanded prematurely and may forever be lodged in place until we decide to cut them out!
Hard to say what is going on in their brains right about now. They are doubly homeless in the passed 10 days. We moved out of our house into our camper... and now we have no camper. This is either insanity or following God. I pray it is the latter...!
Chair backs have become coat racks, and seat cushions have become ExTrA cushiony with three and four blankets layered on them! Ma Hayes was snapping all these pictures as Dan and I were only slightly out of our minds preoccupied trying to get it all in and not bust the door hinges at the same time. 
 We drove out without incident... (I whispered that if you were wondering why it is so small.) I am not superstitious but I do believe in opposing forces and am praying for God's favor on us and protection from the wicked one. God wins the war, but we are in these battles through the journey. We pray we are found faithful, following, and believing all along the way.
We may regret vacuum packing some of those clothes...! This is looking to be the trend for the next few days! I know, most of you are enjoying 15" of snow and sub zero wind chill! We will take this in stride, and get out our hoodies and fuzzy slippers!

Stay tuned... I (HOPEFULLY) see another episode of "Flip this Camper"in my future!!

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