Friday, November 14, 2008

Kenneth Copeland Victory Campaign, 9:30 AM Session Continued - Part 4

A continuation of Sandi's Live Blogging from the Washington, DC Victory Campaign in Woodbridge, VA.

DISCLAIMER: Remember, this is MY INTERPRETATION of what I'm hearing. For the actual meeting audio go to Kenneth Copeland Ministries' website to listen On Demand to the service for free. Click on the Media tab. Or go to Believer's Voice of Victory TV for live or replay streaming of Bro. Copeland's services.

Jesus didn't go into hell "believing" that He'd be raised from the dead in 3 days...He "KNEW" it!

The power that raised Jesus from the dead...that defeated all of death, hell, and the grave and paid the penalty for every sin we'll ever create through just one man, Jesus...that same power DWELLS IN US!!!!! Why aren't we walking in the authority and victory that are OURS!!!

Daniel, praying in Babylon (that confusion system), had to wait 21 days for that angel to get through... because the Holy Spirit wasn't fully loosed upon the earth yet. That happened in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. The angels couldn't operate the way they do today. That mighty rushing wind may have been 2/3 of heaven pouring out upon the earth to take their places as the Word says in Hebrews 1:14, "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?"

What are we doing to allow them to minister for us? Are we speaking faith or confusion? "Well, now, every year I get the flu, Bro. Copeland. I can't even plan a vacation during that time of the year 'cause we're always sick." Your angel is standing there going, "Did he say he wants to be sick every year at this time?"

(Speaking of angels, some people are waiting to see an angels to make them believe, when in actuality seeing an angel would rob them of their faith...then their faith would be tied to seeing an angel. God's not going to do anything that's going to rob you of your faith...You see an angel and you'll go off and start an "angel religion" and have everyone going around looking for angels rather than having faith in the living God!)

We cannot put our trust in ANYTHING BUT the WORD OF GOD!!!!!!! I am blessed by GOD! When we are trusting in God and His Word, then the blessing of God can manifest in your life!

Take those "illegal" thoughts and put them into captivity. Get your, "yeah, but," out of the way! Stop thinking that your thoughts and feelings are more trustworthy than the Word of God. Don't be like Thomas, who had had more faith in what his fingers touched and his eyes saw than what he'd heard from Jesus for 3-1/2 years! John 20:29,
Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."!!!!!!!!!!! [Emphasis Mine]

You need to be saying, "I'm blessed! The blessing of Abraham is operating in me now! God loves me!"

I will obey the Word of God! Father, Your will be done in my life as it is in heaven!

Daniel in Babylon got a picture of the Babylonian system (confusion) and how that it could not stand. It still won't stand today. Stand in the healing line and get healed, but then lose your healing the next day..."Well, I guess Bro. Copeland lost his healing anointing."

It's not the world and other people that are our problem, it's our mouth --> Change you. Get rid of the fear. Believe only. And you will be made whole!

Well, that's what God spoke to ME through Bro. Copeland's message this morning. Again, understand, it's not necessarily word for word, but what the Spirit spoke to me. NOW, go and listen to or watch the service for free online at your convenience by going to Kenneth Copeland Ministries' website to listen On Demand to the service for free. Click on the Media tab. Or go to Believer's Voice of Victory TV for live or replay streaming of Bro. Copeland's services.

Kenneth Copeland Victory Campaign, 9:30 AM Session Continued - Part 3

Part 3 of Sandi's Live Blogging from the Washington, DC Victory Campaign in Woodbridge, VA.

DISCLAIMER: Remember, this is MY INTERPRETATION of what I'm hearing. For the actual meeting audio go to Kenneth Copeland Ministries' website to listen On Demand to the service for free. Click on the Media tab. Or go to Believer's Voice of Victory TV for live or replay streaming of Bro. Copeland's services.

Homework Assignment:
Go to John 13:31-John 17. Read straight through without looking at the ch/vs numbers and let it impact you...
Anchor Verse for the conference: John 16:13

Christianity is not an "-Ism" it is the reality of God and His family.

"Faith as a grain of mustard seed..." (Matthew 17:20, Luke 17:6) It doesn't say "faith the size of a mustard seed..." It's the POTENTIAL in the mustard seed, not the size. And when that mustard seed reaches it's potential, it can house a thousands of birds, produce a large area of shade, and produce food...all from the POTENTIAL in that seed.

Back to the tower of Babel. At Babel, God confused their ability to communicate and imagine...He capped their potential to create. But He also spread the seed that produced all the languages we know now...

Confusion doesn't understand that it's killing itself, because it doesn't understand the power of its words! What my spirit tried to do that got left undone leaves my spirit unfulfilled or disappointed. When we exercise our love, it gets stronger and stronger. Our Spiritual Food is the Word of God.

Fear. God can look at our heart and know what we mean...satan can't do that. he's a legalist and can only take our words that we speak and try to shove them back down our throats..."Are you going to church tonight?" "No, Brother Copeland, I'm afraid not." he'll take that word, "afraid", and look it up in the dictionary and throw it right back at you!

We need to be speaking God's language, the language of faith! We have to stop putting our faith in money, political signs, the government, etc. We have to put our faith in God and our ability to CHANGE those things by prayer! Making people totally dependent upon any thing other than God, makes them a slave to that thing...look at the welfare system and how it has enslaved people.

Everything that happens is the church's fault. If our country fails, it is the church's fault. If our country succeeds, it is the church's blessing. The angels of God take their orders from US, and if we are speaking doubt and fear and mixed commands, they are in confusion and cannot go forth and effectively operate to bring the plan of God into fulfillment.

More in next post...

Kenneth Copeland Victory Campaign, 9:30 AM Session Continued - Part 2

Live Blogging from the Washington, DC Victory Campaign in Woodbridge, VA.

DISCLAIMER: Remember, this is MY INTERPRETATION of what I'm hearing. For the actual meeting audio go to Kenneth Copeland Ministries' website to listen On Demand to the service for free. Click on the Media tab. Or go to Believer's Voice of Victory TV for live or replay streaming of Bro. Copeland's services.

Homework Assignment: Go to John 13:31-John 17. Read straight through without looking at the ch/vs numbers and let it impact you...
Anchor Verse for the conference: John 16:13

He needs MY mouth to BLESS instead of Curse!
Military Analogy: Why is it so vital to learn the correct terminology when you are in the military? Because when that commander is formulating a strategy to WIN the battle for his side and needs to relay it to 1500 soldiers, he needs everyone to be on the same page. When he says, "pick up the rifle," you better know "rifle" not just "gun" so you pick up the correct weapon. He doesn't have time to explain what he means to everyone who comes from a different background than his. Everyone being "on the same page" is crucial to them operating as a well-oiled team. We need to think the same thoughts based on the same words! Example: fixin'. Some people may think "repair". Bro. Copeland is thinking "about to..." As in, "I'm fixin' to go home!"

For the Church, we have to come to Our Common Standard, which is the Word of God! And we need to understand it...get a Greek/Hebrew Lexicon!

Babel example: Once God confused the language during the construction of the tower of Babel the people were not able to be on the same page...they couldn't get anything done, and the construction project had to be left unfinished.

If the body of Christ would all get on the same page...imagine what we could accomplish...Look at Genesis 11:6
6And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them..."

Everything you do and everything you say gets a response!

Here's MY VERSION of Genesis 11:6...
6And the LORD said, "Indeed the body of Christ is one and they all have MY language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them..."

More in next Blog Post in a few minutes...

Kenneth Copeland Victory Campaign, 9:30 AM Session

Good Morning to All! This is Sandi, and I'm blogging the 9:30 AM KCM Victory Campaign service from Woodbridge, VA. (I'm moderating comments on this blog, so if you're a Copeland or Word of Faith basher, don't bother. It's my blog, I still live in a country where I can blog a church service without fear of reprisal from someone.)

DISCLAIMER: Remember, this is MY INTERPRETATION of what I'm hearing. For the actual meeting audio go to Kenneth Copeland Ministries' website to listen On Demand to the service for free. Click on the Media tab. Or go to Believer's Voice of Victory TV for live or replay streaming of Bro. Copeland's services.

Already the Holy Spirit...and Bro. Copeland...have stepped on my toes. Bro. Copeland was talking about his Worship Team and making the statement that they were the finest worship team, period. He said to the effect, "Some of you may say, 'Well you're just saying that by faith.' NO, I said it by faith before it ever came into being. No it's here!" That kicked my butt regarding my confession over my website team at Valley Word.

Now he's talking about the current US situation in relation to John 13:31-John 17. Our "homework assignment" is to read those verses straight through without looking at the ch/vs numbers and let it speak to us. And he's echoed the same verse I've used so many times in the last few years, "A kingdom divided cannot stand." And, what I wholeheartedly agree with, that the Church is responsible for not fulfilling her responsibility to provide the prayer covering for our country that we SHOULD be doing.

More in a few minutes...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Writing Retreat...With a Lot Of Copeland Mixed In!

Hey everyone! Sandi here. My goal is to post a brief update on the status of my book...Yes, the one I was supposed to finish a week and a half ago... :-(

No excuses, as I couldn't see trying to "talk my way out of it" with I won't list my "reasons" for not being done yet here either. BUT, I am on a retreat for the next few days up in Woodbridge, VA with one of the two retreat goals being to finish my book.

I got up here later than I had planned due to trying to follow a "computer generated route" in the dark, rain, and fog (and WHY would the directions say "slight left at Dumfries Rd/Hwy 234" when you're actually supposed to go STRAIGHT and NOT turn left onto Dumfries Rd? (Which apparently both goes straight AND turns left...???)

I'd debated on whether or not to go straight to the opening meeting of the 3-day Washington, D.C. Victory Campaign or to go to my hotel and stream the meeting, and after the delays and driving on no sleep the hotel room was calling my name. I finally found it, and by the time I got my Verizon Aircard working--since the "Free Wi-Fi" doesn't, at this point in time, seem to reach my room in the back of Rodeway Inn--the first meeting was already underway.

I only caught part of it, so I'm starting at the beginning and listening to the replay while I'm writing. Kenneth & Gloria Copeland were instrumental in my faith walk in my early years as a Christian, and they still have a POWERFUL Word from God any time I hear them.

Well, anyway, I'm working on Chapter 5 of what I believe to be 7 plus the Introduction and Conclusion, and I'll be on Retreat until early Sunday morning. I'll head back toward Roanoke about 5:30AM Sunday morning so I can get back in time for church Sunday morning. My Pastors have been ministering in England during the last couple weeks, and I am excited to hear about all that God has done while they were there. You can read their blogs by going to: Pastor's Blog and Rev. Deb's Blog. I highly recommend both of their blogs as regular reading.

I'll be updating again in the next day or so, and will also post about this last week of babysitting my three oldest grandchildren. We had a blast touring Washington, DC's museums, going camping in Shenandoah National Park, hiking to a waterfall, seeing a bear (it ran across the road in front of us), and going to a real Tea Party. We have lots of pictures to share and I'm looking forward to getting it all journaled in the next day or so. Until Blessed!

Monday, October 20, 2008

LOL! God's Sense of Humor!

I gotta hand it to God. He's got a great sense of humor! In a 48 hour period God told me to write a book, gave me the title, gave specific command as to when to do it and how long it would take to write, and gave me the introduction for it. I'm going to share the introduction here, with my faithful blog readers. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome! You're all a part of my accountability team now! So Here's the Introduction...


For 20+ years now God has spoken to me about writing books. And for 20+ years now I’ve said, “Yes, Lord, as soon as I get time I’m going to do that!” I always have had great intentions, but my follow-thru has been lacking…a lot! But as I was in the process of returning home from a recent 48 day deployment as a contract Disaster Housing Inspector contracted to FEMA to work the Hurricane Gustav and Ike disasters the Holy Spirit almost yelled these words at me. “You’re going to write a book!

I’d been reading more of Margaret Feinberg’s book The Sacred Echo, which is a Must Read for anyone interested in hearing God’s voice in every area of your life. I’d cried my way through part of chapter 6 as Ms. Margaret related a story about her friend Shana. As I read the words on the pages in front of me, I saw myself and my life, desires, and calling so vividly.
"I've watched Shana's life for almost a decade now, and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day. And he does--time and time again. Somehow Shana has managed to start her own entertainment company, film several movies, and launch a significant ministry with less than $1000 to her name at any given time."

She later says,
"Just watching Shana's life provides countless snapshots of faith in action and what it looks like to answer the call, You follow me. If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?"

Now granted, I have no aspirations to have an entertainment company, but there are other equally as daunting things that I desire to do and have already been doing. And some of them do involve filming documentaries, and a HUGE chunk of them involve launching a missions ministry.

But the two things that caught my eye and heart were, “…and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day” and, “…with less than $1000 to her name at any given time." I had to laugh at that because it was so fitting! When I got to Ms. Margaret’s question, “If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?" I had to cry. Not a “bad cry” though. I cried because of the immense implications of that question.

It was later that night, after reading that chapter, and reading about Ms. Feinberg’s own lifelong desire and call to write, that I heard that loud, firm voice telling me, “You’re going to write a book!

God gave me the title the next night, the night I got back from Houston. I was getting ready to go to bed and grabbed a book I’d received in the mail while I was gone for a few pages worth of “bathroom reading” before turning in. The book was Mark Batterson’s Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God. Right off the bat I was captivated by part of the excerpt on the back cover.
Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: ADVENTURE.
A few pages into the book I came across this statement,
If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty; it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.

I’d been thinking about all the various adventures that I’ve embarked upon in my life, including my recent South America trip and my FEMA deployment. I’d asked for God to use each one for ministry for His Glory, and He’d answered accordingly. As I read this excerpt in Pastor Batterson’s book I realized that that’s what I always seemed to be seeking—Spiritual Adventure. It was then that the Holy Spirit told me, “You’re going to call your book CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.

I thought, “OK. I’ll do that Lord. I’ll work on it sometime soon.” Yeah, right! Like all the other things I’d mentally assented to work on that never even got started. But God had other plans. The next day I was at church. The service had ended and I was standing in line to enter in to the Pastor Appreciation Luncheon. Suddenly, as I was talking to some friends, the Holy Spirit spoke to me—very clearly. “You’re going to take the next two weeks, and you’re going to write the book. I’m going to give it to you. I’ll use it for my Glory.” I almost laughed out loud! It was so unexpected and random! I told him OK, and here I am—writing my book…His book.

In the almost 28 years that I’ve walked with God, I’ve experienced some pretty wild adventures. Some were of my own choosing. Some were the ramifications of other people’s choices. Most were good adventures. A few weren’t. But I’ve asked God to use each one to further His Kingdom.

To echo Pastor Batterson’s words a couple pages farther in, “...Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.” It is my hope that in writing this book I can encourage you
  • To Choose Your Own Adventures with God.
  • To Challenge you to Not Settle for the Mundane, Boring Existence that brings a smile to our enemy’s face.
  • To become Armed and Dangerous to the kingdom of darkness!

Let The Adventure Begin!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homeward Bound...

Well, I've been gone 48 days now. At times it hasn't seemed long, but right now it seems like an eternity. Not in a bad way, but in the way that some things just seem like distant memories, even though 48 days really isn't that long.

By the time anyone reads this, I'll probably be home. I'm actually writing this while sitting in a hotel room across the street from NASA's Space Center outside of Houston. In about 2 hours I'll be headed to the airport and in 5 hours from now I'll be on a plane headed home. BUT, since I'm trying to surprise as many people as possible, I'm setting this to post on Saturday evening late. I don't know how many people actually read about my wanderings, so it shouldn't spoil the surprise too much.

I know if I wait until I get home to record my "final thoughts" about this tour of duty, I'll never get around to my last South America post that has yet to be written. So it's really important to me to actually put my thoughts to "paper" right now, before I get home.

Once I knew I was being released from the field, I arranged for Evelyn (one of the inspectors with whom I'd roomed previously) to come and pick me up. She was being released as well, so I knew we could ride to the field office together to turn in our equipment.

Before she came to pick me up I carried my laundry the 3+ blocks to the Washateria (that's a laundromat if you hadn't already figured it out!) and finally got my dirty clothes washed...YAY!!! When Evelyn came to pick me up I was somewhat surprised at the pangs of regret I had for leaving the area with which I'd become very well acquainted over the last several weeks.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to sow seeds of God's love to the people whom I've encountered on a day to day basis. Many had voiced concern for my safety in that area, which opened the door for me to share how I felt about the people in that area. I had to laugh at one lady on Thursday, though.

I had just finished my last inspection for this deployment and was walking away from my applicant's apartment. My camera wasn't co-operating, and I was carrying it and trying to get it to turn off. A man and woman were walking by and said, "Hello, officer..." I laughed and made it very clear that I was NOT a police officer, but a contract inspector contracted to FEMA.

They cautioned me about having a camera out in that area (for a couple reasons 1- theft risk and 2-people who are using and/or dealing drugs get real nervous when there are people with cameras around taking pictures). Then she asked me my name and age. She introduced herself by saying that people called her "69" but that her real name was Re-----. The nickname "69" kind of makes me think she was a prostitute, but I'm not sure...

The thing is, SHE was concerned about ME. Before she walked away she cautioned me again to put away my camera and my cellphone, "You're too pink to be carrying a camera or a cellphone around here!" I laughed at her comment and thanked here sincerely for her concern. I've found most of the people in the Third Ward to be really nice, caring people.

I was talking to an applicant a couple days ago about why she chose to move into the area in which she is living. She said that it was a big decision for her at first, because the neighborhood was pretty run down when she bought her house. But she pointed out that if people who do care will move into a neighborhood that's run down and crime/drug infested, they CAN change the neighborhood.

It takes guts and time, but that's what happened in her case. She started caring, not only about her own house and self, but about her neighbors as well. She became pro-active and it rubbed off on a few of the other neighbors as well. Now her block is totally different than when she first moved into her home. The neighbors work together to keep the area clean. They look out for each other. They've run the drug dealers out of their block. They take pride in their community.

What I got from talking to her is that sometimes the easy road isn't the road that we have to take. That to get something worth having it may take some hard decisions and you may have to put up with adversity along the way (and people may tell you you're crazy for doing what you're doing!). BUT, there is a tremendous reward in the end. And when we stand up for Good and Right, we naturally draw other people to do the same. We shine the Light into the darkness and the darkness has to fall back.

I know that many times when we hear that term "shine the light into the darkness" we think of preaching the Gospel...telling people about Jesus. But shining the Light into the darkness can also mean looking out for our neighbors' well being, showing a love and compassion for others, giving of our time and energy to help those around us, encouraging others...being a "good neighbor."

I could ramble on and on, but I don't want to lose you as a reader, so let me just finish with this. I had a little time at the washateria to read more of Margaret Feinberg's book The Sacred Echo. At one point she was talking about surrender. I want to leave you with a couple quotes from her book and some final thoughts from me...
"Surrender means it's not just about getting things done, but how you get them done that matters. When Jesus speaks of walking two miles instead of one and giving your coat instead of just your shirt, he's saying that surrender takes many forms--everything including your schedule, your possessions, and, of course, your heart. Surrender asks us to hand over not just what we have but who we are to God."

There are many people who look at me and don't understand why I do many of the things that I do. I often step out of what little comfort zone I have left, and as my pastor commented to me on the phone the other day, "You do seem to get yourself into some interesting situations, Sandi."

In another chapter of Ms. Feinberg's book she talks about a friend of hers named Shana. At one point she states,
"I've watched Shana's life for almost a decade now, and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day. And he does--time and time again. Somehow Shana has managed to start her own entertainment company, film several movies, and launch a significant ministry with less than $1000 to her name at any given time." She later says, "Just watching Shana's life provides countless snapshots of faith in action and what it looks like to answer the call, You follow me. If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?"
That question resonates throughout my very being, "Then what could he do with me?" I truly have always striven to live my life as faith in action in response to God's call on my life (I didn't say I've always succeeded! :D ).

My dear family & friends, though you may not ever fully understand me...I hope & pray that you'll join me in the adventure of this pursuit!

To God's Glory!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ministry To The Hurting...

Hey, this is Sandi! I finally have the time to take a couple minutes (yeah, right...I know my posts are never only a couple minutes long :D ) to talk about the stuff that really matters to me here. The ministry...

Each day as I make my way from one applicant to the next I am trusting God to order my path. I ask Him to place me in the right place, at the right time, to speak to the right people...Divine appointments. He says He will in His Word (Psalm 37:23 AMP and Proverbs 3:6 AMP), so I remind Him of it.

Yesterday my first appointment was with an elderly woman who had a couple trees still on her house. I knew when I first met her that she was a Believer. You can just tell... As I started talking with her and her 16 year old granddaughter whom she'd raised from a small toddler, the Holy Spirit began moving.

We'd talked about the way God had done a healing miracle in her granddaughter's life after a severe child abuse incident as a 2 year old had left her paralyzed on one side. Now as a teenager, she was walking with just a mild limp and was involved in Junior ROTC in high school. I listened as the young woman shared how God had challenged her and transformed her life to overcome the disability and the poverty of the area in which they live. I had tears streaming down my face almost the whole time she was speaking.

By the time I was done with my inspection we were "havin' church" right there in my App's living room and God opened a door for me to pray with both of them. The 3 of us were crying, laughing, and praising God for His faithfulness. My Applicant looked at me and said that she "just knew" that God had sent me to her and was so grateful for me coming. Little did she know that I was the one who got blessed by meeting them!

A few weeks ago I did an inspection for a single mom who has 5 teenage+ kids. She herself was back in school pursing a Medical Assistant degree. I had been talking to her and two of her children about their dreams and goals in life. Her one son wanted to pursue a career as an architect and I'd seen some of his drawings. They were really good. I saw a Bible laying on the counter, so before I left I used that as an opening to just simply say, "I'll be praying for you."

That opened a door, and she responded by saying they could use all the prayer they could get. I asked if she'd like for me to pray with her before I left and her face brightened. The thing that was so awesome was that her two teenagers reached out to grab my hand to pray with us, so we all gathered in a circle and I got a chance to pray for each of them. We were all hugging and crying. God was just so awesome!

I've seen countless incidents where God's placed me in the right place at the right time. Case in point is one day last week. I'd made a decision to walk to Denny's for dinner and take a taxi back to the hotel since it was going to be dark by the time I got done (home girl don't walk in the hood in the dark!). Anyway, I always try to let the Holy Spirit guide me as to which road I walk down.

I looked down at the ground while I was walking, and there was a gas company credit card that someone had dropped. I picked it up and called the toll free number on the back to report that I'd found it. The lady at the credit card company was so amazed that I had turned it in, and it was a good feeling knowing that God had used me to keep someone from having their card stolen. If I had taken a different street someone else may have found it that may have misused it. God is good!

To all those back home, I send my love. I don't know when I'll be back, but I want to encourage all of you with the same encouragement that I give to myself...only those things done in the Spirit and for the Kingdom of God will stand for eternity; so, no matter how the economy or the election or anything else looks, "keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ" and press through to finish the race that we are running. Fight the good fight of faith.

A friend of mine wrote to me the other day and voiced the thought that he couldn't wait to get to Heaven...and I agree...I'm longing to hear my Heavenly Father tell me, "Sandi, you made me right proud! Come on home!," and to see the countless lives that I'm believing God to touch through my life.

Until then, Daddy, let me touch one more life for you...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gasp! My Son, Jed Wrote A Blog Post!

Just had to get a word or so in out of my shock at Jed actually posting...and to let any new readers know that there are 5 of us who have the ability to contribute to our family blog (I need to get my grandkids blogging too...hmmm) so not every post is necessarily from me. You can usually tell Jed's: short, to the point, and infrequent! :D His will be the ones that say Brother Grymm. Troy's will say Brother Gromm. I don't remember what Rachael and Zip's pen names are, but you get the point...Anyway, gotta run!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Has the world ended?

Probably not, but it should have, because I am writing a blog post. Very short, very much to the point. If there was one.

This is Jed. I've been in Texas for a little over two weeks, and right now would give almost anything to be able to go to Dallas tonight and watch a football (A football game? No, THE football game...) The Red River Shootout. I love college football, and I have two teams I cheer for any time they are on the field, one of them is Oklahoma University, and the other is the University of Florida. Anyway, Rivalry Weekend is going to be awesome, I just wish I could watch the games rather than work.

Other than that, nothing major to report, been inspecting houses and generally just wishing payroll woul get their act together. I will say, however, that this would be the perfect place/time for a bum to live. Meals can be found on nearly every corner of Galveston Island, and sometimes they find you first (Mobile Salvation Army food trucks driving up and down the streets all throughout the day, serving hot food, cold water, and even some Gatorade.) Two nights ago we slept in the truck on Galveston, in a parking lot. There was a furniture place that had thrown all its sofas out because they had gotten wet, but were dry now. So, being the Birds that we are, we pulled a sofa over to the car, pulled a stack of crates over, ran the power cord of Troy's laptop out the passenger window, and watched a movie on it, sitting on a couch for the first time in ages. So, yeah, if you ever thought about becoming a transient, this would be the perfect time.

My biggest complaint while down here, though, has got to be the McDonald's Dollar Sweet Tea, or lack thereof. First off, most of them don't even have sweet tea. Its like, are you all freaking yankees or something? What the hell is wrong with this country when the southern restaurants don't have sweet tea. Second off, when they do have sweet tea, it isn't a buck. It's a buck 69, plus tax.

Anyway, going to cut the chat now, so until next time, take care and have fun.

Where Angels (Some Folk) Dare Not Trod...

Hey everyone! This is Sandi. I'm still here in Houston, TX on deployment with FEMA. I had a little time to write tonight, so I wanted to try to catch things up a little bit. To do that, I'll have to back-track to last week. I hesitated to share part of this lest I concern people back home, but I don't think the people I'm worried about being concerned for me actually read my blog anyway! (And if they do, yes, I Know...!) :-) And hopefully none of you who are reading this will get freaked out...I'm laughing about it as I write it, so I hope you'll see the humor in it as well...a typical Bird Family Adventure! And I've had a chance to minister to and pray with a LOT of the people here. That's where my heart is in all of this.

I'm still in the Third Ward, an area that I mentioned in my last blog post. Due to a payroll issue that has persisted over the last couple weeks, I had to turn in my rental car last week (which had doubled as my hotel room for two nights)...that made it kind of hard to do my work. I stayed with Evelyn down across from NASA for 4 nights, but that was 25+ miles from my assigned area. So on Sunday I moved into this divey little hotel where I've been staying ever since.

Let me describe my humble surroundings...At $150 for the week, it's a pretty good bargain. It comes complete with mirrors around the bed, a cable channel that I have to turn my head to pass over (since I'm not into hard-core X-rated programming), and a shower stall that took 1/2 a bottle of Tilex and an hour of scrubbing to get it to the place where I felt comfortable using it. By Day 4 they finally put a working deadbolt on the door and fixed the door where it had obviously been forced open at some point and been broken in the door knob area. They even let me borrow the vacuum cleaner on Wednesday!

Classy place, right? ;-) It does, at least, have an air conditioner and free local phone calls. And a perfect view of crack deals going down in the park that borders the property...I won't mention the name of this fine establishment while I'm staying here though. The best thing it's got going for it is the people who run it. They are actually very nice, and are concerned about me being here without a vehicle.

Oh, it gets better though! I've had the lovely opportunity to walk to all of my applicant's houses. It's a lot slower going, of course. And as I mentioned in my last post I have some pretty rough neighborhoods in my area. I've become somewhat of an oddity, I'm sure, as I walk all over the "hood". I am learning which people not to make eye contact with, which people to ignore, and which people to avoid altogether. The up-side is that I've been getting some great exercise by walking 4-6 miles a day in the last few days. The walk time is also great time to talk with the Lord. Plus it gives my angels something to do as, well,...I normally lead such a "boring" life...I figured I'd spice things up for them. You know, keep them on their toes! :-)

I've had applicants ask me if I was afraid to be walking around this area. My reply has been this: If I were to be afraid to be in this area then I would be judging the whole community based on a few "bad apples". I figure there are a lot of good people here who just happen to live in a poverty, drug, and gang-infested area. (Yeah, I forgot to mention that there's gang activity here too...) I do make it a point of being in my room before dark, and most importantly to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit when He tells me to "turn here", "go this way", or "DON'T go that way.

My heart really goes out to the people here. I went to one applicant's house today. He is an elderly, disabled man who looks like he's going to fall with each shaky step, despite using his cane. There is still a tree on his house that messed up the badly deferred maintenance roof and walls, tearing up the termite-eaten/dry-rotted rafters and the top plate on the exterior bathroom and bedroom wall. There's a hole in the bathroom where you can look out and see tree limbs and sky. And the sewer is STILL backed up into his tub and commode. And he's afraid to leave there because of the number of break-ins/thefts in his neighborhood.

Another thing that amazes me is the number of people that will fit in a 1 or 2 bedroom house. Back in Virginia it's a violation for a landlord to rent a one bedroom to a family that's larger than 2. Here they'll let a family of 8 stay in a 2 BR...

Anyway, I let the time slip away from me, so gotta go. Will try to actually get more of the stuff I really want to talk about (the stories about the people)down in print soon. Bye for now!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Houston Update

Not much time for internet, but wanted to update everyone. I've been in Houston for 2 weeks now, and it's been an interesting experience. A great many signs are blown down, so finding my way around has been interesting nonetheless! If you ever want to find someone to take wrong turns with and explore Houston the hard way, you should have ridden with me the first week...I know God has a sense of humor and was ROF LOL watching my navigational attempts! The street I was looking for was always the one that had the sign blown down... :-D

My first night here was spent in a hotel with Barb and David (two of my roommates from New Orleans). That was when we got the news that our first paycheck was going to be held back TWO weeks, not just one, so the paycheck we thought we were going to be getting wasn't going to be there that Friday.

Since I'm a member of (you can check out my profile at I got on the local Houston Group and posted a request for a place for the three of us to stay. I got a phone call that night and the next day we had the absolute honor and privilege of meeting local CouchSurfer Steve McNulty.

Steve and his wonderful family opened up their home to the three of us and another inspector (Kendall) for over a week until our inspection assignments caused us each to relocate. His wife, Lorei, fixed us some of the most delicious meals, and they just plain spoiled us while we were there. It was a nice place to come home to after seeing destruction and hearing sad stories all day long.

And that leads me to the people and homes affected by Hurricane Ike. My assignment finds me meeting with people in the Third Ward area of Houston. It's where you find the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. And it's an area that has a strange combination of HUD projects, student housing, really old falling down shacks, really old nice homes, and some modern urban living buildings mixed in. At any given time of day there's probably a crack deal going down within a few blocks of you, and many of my male applicants have the tell-tale extra long pinkie fingernail. But there are a lot of really good people in this area who have lived here for years.

As I go from house to house to perform my inspections I am appalled at the conditions in which many of the area residents live. I see houses that should have been bulldozed years ago. Many landlords do little to nothing to maintain their properties. And I'm surprised to see how many of the buildings actually managed to remain standing after the hurricane. I'm running out of time, but I wanted to post a few pics...

Tree vs. House 01

Tree vs. House 02

Tree vs. House 03

Tree vs. House 04

Ram Tough

Double Whammy

A House On Galveston Island

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath, But A Harsh Word Stirs Up Anger

Well here we are... Houston, after what seems like three weeks. We are here. Jed just cussed out a lady on the phone at PaRR, right now I am more than a little concerned that she is going to cause us more trouble. Yes she was being unreasonable, but Jed needs to learn to keep his temper in check. If his little outburst costs us the chance to work here, then he better hope I have better control of MY temper. After all this I am swearing-off ever going out working for PaRR again.... but then again everyone does, each time they leave the field. And somehow they always come back. It’s like getting Malaria, it never really goes away, but with the right medicine you can control it, and mask the symptoms.

Other than these little bits of excitement the trip here from New Orleans was uneventful, which is a blessing. After the three months we battled through Katrina, we have much appreciated the traveling and mechanical mercies God has granted us. Well for now I guess this is all. We shall see what happens from here. We arrived to Houston with a third tank of gas and about 80 cents between us. If we are able to get the quick pay through, then we should have some money in about 4 days, but somehow we have to survive between now and then. As I said we'll see…

Sunday, September 21, 2008

City of... Humidity

Troy here...This morning found us... sleeping, imagine that. Casey our host said she had to bike uptown to meet with someone about buying her car, and she wanted to know if we wanted to bike with her. They have a pile of bikes on there back porch for couch surfers to use. Of course we said yes. We were sitting around waiting for a phone call to say that money had been wired to us so we could head out to Houston.

So we hopped onto our bikes, one which was referred to as "Deathtrap" and the other one had a seat which refused to stay in one place and continually flip straight up—pointing right at one’s rump... this of course made for awkward riding. We headed out for our leisurely 9 mile bike ride, much out of shape from a week of sitting around twiddling our thumbs, and sleeping in the car. Ridding through Downtown New Orleans was beautiful—an amazing city to be sure.

As my brother put it, "It’s not every day you get to ride on a bike that’s older than you are, through a city that’s older than your country." We rode to Tulane university, and rode around Audubon Park. While in the park we saw a gorgeous stone pavilion and headed for it. When we got there, we had to stop and watch the locals who were practicing what can only be described as some odd mixture of tai-chi, and 80's pop dance.

To top it off, at everyone’s feet was a nice warm can of Papst blue ribbon beer...mmmmmmm yummy! I can only imagine the taste, as it was close to 90 degrees. We finally got a phone call that we were not going to get any money, and we were pretty much stranded in New Orleans. So we headed “home”. Then Rachael called back, I tried to answer the call while ridding Deathtrap and nearly wiped out into a street car. She had called to tell me she had managed to borrow some more money, and we WOULD be able to get to Houston. Whew what a relief!

Hopping back on Deathtrap I caught back up to Jed and headed back to the apartment. After nine miles of no injuries, in the last half block I turned a corner and the peddles caught the ground…jumping and throwing my foot off, to be run over by said peddle and gouge my Achilles tendon. Not to complain, but…ok I will complain!!! Arrgh. Anyways, we decided to stay around and hang with our hosts for a while, there was no reason to leave so early and still get there late at night in the dark, with no idea where to go.

Later I walked the six blocks to find the closest Western Union, and found it in a literal hole in the wall convenience store called "Royal Convenience Store." Tucked in a nook in the base of a tall building down town, the inside was about the size of my living room, with a small glassed in booth for the Western Union guy. The man inside was…very unique. A small thin Jewish man, about my age, wearing both a Yarmulke and a pony tail.

He was dressed in a maroon polyester suit straight from the 70's. And had on a green and purple paisley shirt and a necklace with the symbol of the Klingon empire on it... Why I know the symbol for the Klingon Empire I refuse say, but other than that he was completely normal looking. I filled out my papers and slid them through, then as an afterthought I slid my passport through the slit as verification.

He thumbed through it and then asked "is this a new passport?" "Yes" I said laughing. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a worn-looking passport and slid it through the slot to me. "Man look at mine its so boring looking, these new ones are sweet.” Overlooking the absurdness of the fact that I now had his passport, I had to agree, the new ones are "way cooler." I slid his back through and remarked, "Yeah, I spent some time in Papua New Guinea earlier this year, so I had to get a new one." He stopped dead. "You've been to PNG?" he practically shouted.

Then he began to ask me a landslide of questions, "Did you fly into Port Moresby? Did you get to see the highlands? What were you doing?" I told him I was doing cultural and linguistics’ studies with New Tribes Mission. He was floored. Turns out he has been trying to go to PNG for five years. He is a philosophy major with a minor in cultural anthropology. And a special interest in PNG. A year ago he had written the embassy and asked them if they had any spare literature, so they sent him some flyers and a police manual in Pison {the trade language of PNG} and then he starts rattling of words and phrases in Pison, and asking me all these questions.

The clerk at the counter was staring at us like we were insane. We began discussing cargo cult, and cultural syncretism. In all, the whole thing lasted about 7 minutes but when I left, I was blown away at yet another odd "coincidence" in our journeys. Ahh, the life of a Bird! Oh yeah, when he asked me where I was from he was laughing when he said he girlfriend was from Roanoke as well. Yup, another good night. Later we rolled out of the “Big Easy” and headed to the “Lone Star”. Texas, here we come!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sloshing Through Swamp Muck...

Trying to make time for a quick update. Here are a few more Houma pictures:

The water was rising while I was in this area...

You can see the water line in this house where the water was receding by the time I came through here.

The water was up into this home before going down...the levee broke in this area.

For More Pictures Go To My Online Album

I spent two days in Houma, and then got called back to the Marrero area, outside of New Orleans. The storm surge had hit there as well, and whole towns were inundated with water. On Monday I tried going to the area where my applicants were located (lower Barataria Blvd), and ran up on a "road closed" barricade due to high water. I consulted my "trusty" Streets & Trips software and decided to try to enter from the Lafitte Larose Hwy side, but came up on a police roadblock. There was standing water across Barataria in both directions, and floodwaters surrounding the houses. The police weren't letting anyone in there. On top of that, it was raining heavily, and during the several hours I was there while waiting to meet with some of my applicants the water level actually rose a little bit.

Over the next couple days I trudged through a lot of swamp muck (blackwater form the bayous mixed with contaminants like raw sewage from flooded septic tanks, fuel oil, etc). But I met a WHOLE LOT of great people. I'm sharing a few pictures with you here, and I'll blog more later...I'm late for an appointment right now, so gotta go!

On The Hunt

This is Troy. Well it started off as a pretty straight forward morning. Waking up in the Explorer... trying to stretch and get the kinks out of my neck, then realizing that I'm 6'1" and the Explorer is a foot and a half narrower than I am tall. Then you begin to notice the rain. Heavy rain, and of course we have the windows half down. So it dawns on you that you’re wet. The sun roof is leaking, despite the fact that we have a large silver boat strapped over it. Jed is sitting there wild haired, with my laptop checking game scores. It’s of course Saturday, game day, and he is all about the games.

Well I'm still sore and more than a little hungry. so of course I make the obvious suggestion, "lets find some sort of sports bar where we can eat some cheep wings {one of my favorite foods in the world} and drink free ice tea refills all day, and you can watch your games on the big screens. seemed very simple, but in the end it cost us nearly two hours of peoples misdirection’s, to places that had been closed for years to places that weren’t even wing joints.

Finally in the end I was so annoyed I said, "Frick it, I’m pulling in the next place and asking for better directions. The next road veered of to the left, I turned down it and was upset to see no store for a ways, and I considered turning back but kept forward. Pulling in I saw the sign. "Wow, World of wing! Cafe and wingery." Yeah it was a beautiful thing.

Hours and hours later, we headed out to find our couch surfers place. Whew that was fun; they live two blocks off Bourbon St... well if you know anything about Bourbon Street that means is a heck of a thing to get to it on a Saturday night at 9:00 pm thousands of drunk college girls wearing a speck of thread and a thought. Stumbling around running into an equal amount of completely smashed rednecks. Throw in a few hounded transvestites strutting around in about the same thing as the college girls. And even a few dozen midgets and some people that looked like they stepped of the set of Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh yeah, and cops... lots and lots and LOTS of cops.

Finally we were able to find a parking spot a mere 8 blocks from our destination. When we got to our home for the night, we were greeted by Heather and Casey, a couple of extremely friendly and happy hosts. Their house was full of their art, from paintings of Jafar and Cruela devil in the stairwell to many beautiful ceramics upstairs. Later we were lead down to a comedy club that performs freeform comedy, which was incredibly funny, I would recommend it to anyone. It’s called "Yo’ mamma’s." All in all a great night, and a nice break from the annoying life of a parking lot dweller.

We were sitting in the living room, and I was playing guitar, and singing into my amp like at the Drainage canal the night earlier, when it hit me. "We are two blocks from Bourbon Street! What am I doing here; I should go make some money! Well it was already 1:00 in the morning at this time, but I grabbed all my stuff, and of course at 1:00 there are still 20,000 people stumbling around. So I sat on the corner, and actually made 16 bucks.

But it was cool. I had a lot of people gathering around me and listening. Then after it was all over and I was walking home, I heard a familiar style of guitar slicing through the night, I turned to see Bill Gregory, a guitarist whom I had the honor of seeing three years earlier, playing on the stage of a club I was passing. I walked in and he saw me and smiled walked over to my corner of the stage and proceeded to pretty much show off, because he remembered me.

I personally think he's is one of the greatest guitarists out there…period. And as a semi-professional musician and a perfectionist, I don’t say it lightly. Here is a link to a video I found of him on really doesn’t do him justice, but it’s still pretty amazing. We walked home together and watched each others back from getting mugged, until we parted ways on St Louis Street. Wow another freaking cool night. And hey, now I can say I have been a street performer on Bourbon Street. Now that’s paying your dues! LOL!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just another reason to never ever come back to do this again... Just like all the other times I never came back...

Today I got a shock.. Yup, I lost it too. When going to go check into the base camp as usual, I got a phone call from PaRR. It seems now, 13 days after I drove up to Winchester VA to get my FBI fingerprints and background check done--Which was supposed to come back in 48 hours}, it had finally come back, and low and behold.. It was "Not favorable" so after 6 1/2 years of working as an inspector, and no problems, and busting my bust for FEMA, they tell me Ii can’t work for them. Of course they won’t tell me why. They just say, "Go back home." Too bad I had to borrow money to get here in the first place, and now I don’t have enough to get home. We have been waiting for them to give me the go ahead, so we could request a Quick Pay which basically advances us enough money to live off for the next couple weeks till our real pay comes in. Plus the entire time we were there I was supposed to be getting paid a per diem each day. It is a large per diem, and would have actually made it worth while. Since you can be sitting there for a week waiting, but then I was informed that not only were they sending me home, they were not going to pay me the per diem. But rather a very small lump sum which was smaller than one day of the per diem. And no matter if I was sitting there for one day or two weeks they hadn’t planned on paying anymore than that.... Now hundreds of new inspectors are being paid the per diem to sit around the hotel and await their FBI results... Be me, a 6 year veteran. I get shafted. Yup, sounds pretty normal from PaRR

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adventure calls..

Adventure calls.. and its probably calling collect

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flooding In Houma, LA

Well I got to Houma a lot later than I meant to. I passed flooded areas along the way and when I got to Houma I realized that many areas of the city were already flooding. I found my way to my first applicant's house, and the street was flooded. I'm in an SUV right now (A Chrysler Torrent) so I wasn't concerned about driving in it, because it wasn't that deep.

Southwest of Des Alemands...

It WAS a mobile home...

Just dock your boat at the front of the Family Dollar and come on in to shop...

Starting to flood from the backwash of Ike...

By the time I got done with my inspection, the water had risen about 2 inches. I don't know how high it's expected to get, but I heard someone mention waist deep water in places. I'm camped out in my car for the night in the parking lot of the Days Inn (that has no room in the Inn...) They said I could use the restroom during the night if I need to. It's a beautiful night with a lovely breeze. Almost no mosquitoes...

I had Chinese for dinner before parking here. I'll share my two dinner buddies with you...Crawfish and Frog Legs...Mmmmm Mmmmm Good!

Oh, I actually prefer that my food DOESN'T stare at me while I'm eating it! LOL!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Calm Before The Storm...

9/12/08 08:00 It’s Friday morning, and we’ve been experiencing the outer bands of Ike since yesterday. On my way to my first appointment this morning I heard the Tornado Warning on the radio, and there was already localized flooding and small scale power outages in our area.

18:00 Here are a couple pics fron Metairie, LA (a suburb of New Orleans) along Lake Pontchartrain.

21:00 Well, we've had wind and rain, but not anything major by our hotel. I saw on the news that one of the levees in Plaquemines Parish was breached. That's where I was for quite a while after Katrina.

I was on the phone with one of my applicants in the Houma area earlier today. Last night the water had crossed the raod and was in his yard. This morning it was into his house. He was "gonna grab a few things and git in m' boat and try to leave." I've worried about him so much. When I spoke to his wife she said he'd been having chest pains too (and that he was a stubborn man!)...She and I cried on the phone together.

The emotional strain on the people in this area is just tremendous. With the threat of residuals from Ike and the financial burden of mandatory evacuation expenses taking their rent and utility money it's created tremendous pressure. Please pray for all those who are affected by Gustav and Ike (and Hanna too). I've laughed with, cried with, and mourned with many of these people, and they all have a very special place in my heart.

As I watch footage from Ike's assault on the Texas coast all I can do is pray... They've issued a "certain death" warning for all the Galveston residents who decided to ride out the storm. Rescue efforts have had to be canceled due to the 110 mph winds. I pray that God spares their lives...

Our little "family" is dissolving. David left tonight. I'm leaving tomorrow for Houma. And Evelyn leaves Sunday for Baton Rouge...

More later...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From Pearl River, LA...

9/10/08 I’m sitting in Pearl River, LA at Pearl City Seafood (64207 Hwy 41, Pearl River, LA 70452) eating Crawfish Etoutfee. It is really good. When I pulled in I thought this was a restaurant, but it’s just a store. BUT, the lady was so sweet…she pulled out a folding chair and pulled over their “garbage can” that they use to store sugar, so that I could sit and eat. I love the food in Louisiana, and wish I could come sometime when it’s not following a hurricane, just to do a “food tour.” I want to find some Boudan sausage this time. I got addicted to it when I was here after Katrina.

So glad that the level of destruction out here is not like after Katrina. One of my applicants out here today lost everything because of Katrina. Not to downplay anyones losses with Gustav. All losses are still that...losses.

More later...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quick Update From New Orleans

I’m sure everyone’s been wondering when I was going to post about my current deployment to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Gustav. It's going to have to be in bits and pieces, but here it is.

Those who know me know that I “moonlight” occasionally as a Disaster Housing Inspector contracted to FEMA through PaRR Inspections. I’ve been involved in Disaster Relief since 2002 when my sons and I went to WV to volunteer with the Salvation Army for a few days after severe flooding wiped out whole communities.

While there we met a number of inspectors who were contracted to FEMA and decided that we’d like to do that as well. My oldest son and I checked in to that and ended up driving to E. Syracuse, NY for training. Since that time I’ve been deployed to New Orleans 3 times (2003, 2005 – Katrina, and 2008 – Gustav), Baltimore (2004), and Puerto Rico (2004).

As a Disaster Housing Inspector my function is to go out and verify whether or not the applicant has damages that are disaster related and record them for FEMA. Long hours, little sleep, 7 days a week, mentally and at times physically challenging. If you like to help other people and don't mind being out of your comfort zone, then this job is for you! :-)

I've hooked up with three other inspectors whom I met when we first got to Dallas on the first. We're all sharing a room here in Kenner (a New Orleans suburb). Let me introduce you:

Meet Barb from Spokane, Washington. She’s been with PaRR for a long time and has a very interesting background. She’s got a bunch of kids, a passel of grandkids, and her stories remind me of things that I have done or would do. In her spare time she fights to promote safety and fair laws for taxi drivers.

David...a new inspector, from Albuquerque, NM. He’s one of the few real gentleman that you run into (polite, opens the doors for you, protective of women, and makes it obvious that he’s happily married and not interested in anyone else). He’s been a great addition to our happy little group.

and Evelyn from...I don't remember... LOL! Evelyn is also a new inspector…and she’s a hoot! I had an opportunity to spend some time talking with her on a deeper level one night, and realized that she’s like an onion…there are lots of layers filled with great things inside. And there’s never a dull moment with her around, She’s got a heart of gold.

It's been nice having a team of people to hang out with (aka work until 12 -1 AM with and know you aren't the only person working at that time of night/morning). We haven't even had any issues with getting on each other's nerves (too much) or in each other's way! That's pretty good with only one bathroom for the four of us.

Out of time, more later...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Special Olympics Benefit

Well, I don't have much time, but I wanted to write a short (I hear you laughing, stop that! LOL!!!) post about the Special Olympics Benefit Concert that I attended on August 30th. The band that my daughter, Zipporah Bird, sings with, Ryze, performed for the 3 hours in Covington, VA and most of the proceeds went to help sponsor the Special Olympics athletes in that area.

I had the opportunity to go with them and take some photographs and home video (surprise, surprise!) So I wanted to share one of the videos with you.

It was a great concert, and I danced for almost 2 hours with one of the Special Olympics athletes named Jimmy. Outside of dancing during Praise and Worship at church, I hadn't danced in 26 years, so it was a lot of fun.

I want to encourage everyone to check out the Special Olympics group in your area and help support these very special athletes!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Price To Pay

I met Emerson today. He seems like he could be a nice guy, but he also seems waaaay to tightly wound right now... and he told me to shave off my beard... blah, “good bye rocker, hello little boy face.” {sigh} Whatever is required. Though I guess it could be worse... what if they only allowed eunuchs. Ugh!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Beginning Of A Great Adventure Around The World

Troy here. Well I haven’t had time to think or even breath it seems…Let alone time to write. We just got here to our new “home away from home”…Lapilo Center, the hub, the Mecca of NTM in PNG {New tribes Mission, Papua New Guinea}…after my crazy 8 hour bus ride to DC and then sleeping on the floor for 6 hours at Reagan Airport. I had a long flight with several layovers on my way to LA. When I got there I walked out of the terminal just in time to see bomb trucks go by, and hear that they were shutting down the terminal. Soooo, I had to carry my over abundance of crap all the full length of LAX international airport... which if you have ever been to, you know what that means. And there were mobs of people all pushing, trying to get away.

Welcome to Los Angeles. Anyway, next morning early it was off to Fiji, then the Solomon Islands, then Port Moresby, then Goroka, and finally a 20 minute bumpy ride in something called a Canter to here…home sweet home-away-from-home. I heard it called Little America and The Bubble. I can see that. As soon as you round the bend and see the neatly lined up houses with shiny tin roofs you know something isn’t normal. Anyway adventure awaits! What a beautiful and wild land.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh the Stories I Have to Share!

I’ll pick up from where I left off on my last post. When we got back from the indigenous community on Saturday, we did some sightseeing in Cuenca. Then it was time for Brenda to catch her flight, and me to go buy a bus ticket to Quito. I had planned an overnight bus ride so I could save my daylight hours for sightseeing. You may not be able to sleep wonderfully on the bus, but you can at least nap on and off. I had an uneventful bus ride, even arriving early, and hopped into a(n) (always available) waiting taxi to go to the hostel that I’d chosen out of Lonely Planet’s Ecuador guide.

After a nap in a real bed and breakfast, I went out to explore a little of Quito and find internet access. Within a very short time, it started raining, so I don’t have many photos from Quito. I did get to walk through Parque La Alameda, which was very nice. There were pedal boats and various other things. I was really brilliant and left my rain jacket at the hostel when I began my exploration, so I was pretty wet by the time I found internet. The internet was REALLY slow, so I didn’t get a whole lot done on it.

I did manage to stumble across Museo del Banco Central, which was a fantastic museum with lots of artifacts from the various people groups, including, of course, the Incas. I really enjoyed wandering around the museum, but it was closing as I walked up. They let me in for a short period of time though. It was very cool.

I had KFC for dinner and finally made my way back to the hostel shortly after dark. I worked on the computer a little while and then got my two packs ready for the airport. I’d made a decision that when I got to Lima I would check my large backpack in to the luggage lockers, and just carry the small one. I was looking forward to not having to lug both of them around. I had to get up at 4 AM to get ready for the trip to the airport, and was grateful that another traveler was heading there as well. We shared a cab, so it only cost $6 each.

My flight was uneventful. I landed in Lima pretty early in the day. It was lunch time by the time I got through immigration, check my backpack, etc, and I still had to make my way to downtown Lima. The official taxis were S./55 (Peruvian soles), which is equivalent to $20.30. When I hit Peru, I only had $160 left. That had to last me for 4 days in Peru (bus, food, lodging, sightseeing, luggage storage, taxis, etc.) and my trip back to Roanoke from Dulles.

Needless to say, dropping $20 on a taxi didn’t sound like a desirable thing to me, so I walked past all of the taxi drivers and the airport security who were all telling me that I HAD to take one of the taxis. I firmly told them, “No dinero!” and ignored them as I made a beeline for the airport perimeter where the city buses were supposed to be. The challenge that I realized I was facing is that the buses there only stop when you flag them down. And you have to know which of the 100’s of buses going by is the one you need…Uh huh! Right! Fortunately the tourist police helped me to get an unofficial taxi that only charged me S./14 ($5.17), and I headed for Lima Central.

(A note about taxis in Peru: The official taxis are sanctioned and regulated by the government. The unofficial taxis are pretty much anybody who throws a taxi sign on their car to make a few extra bucks. You have to kind of play it by ear, and if you flag down one you don’t feel comfortable with, you don’t get in. You also check to make sure windows roll down and doors open from the inside, before you shut yourself in one. I’ve learned lots of things from other travelers and from the tourist police…)

After walking around Central Lima and visiting museums, I headed to the bus station to buy my ticket on the 12 hour all night bus to head toward Chiclayo and the archaeological sites that I wanted to visit (Sípan and Túcume). I bought the really nice seat on the way there as it was going to be my transportation, bed, and included 2 meals as well. I traveled via Cruz del Sur, which is a bus line that puts our Greyhound buses to shame in a heartbeat…too bad we can’t learn from them!

Anyway, I found out that my bus was leaving from Cruz del Sur’s OTHER terminal, so I had to flag down the RIGHT local bus to go across Lima to get there. With the help of instructions from the tourist office, I actually made it without incident. And the bus attendant made sure I knew when I was supposed to get off. (The attendant is the guy who hangs out the door shouting out the destination and who takes the money when someone gets on…the driver just drives, this guys does everything else.)

I got to the bus terminal without any problems, and at 8pm I headed off towards Chiclayo. I was in first class in a seat that was like a Lazy-Boy recliner, the bus attendant (on THESE buses they are the equivalent of a stewardess) brought me my dinner and beverage, and I settled in for the long ride. I’ve copied my handwritten journal to describe what happened next:

02:20 AM martes, 20 de mayo, 2008.

Boy, will I have stories to tell from this trip! I’m on a bus on my way from Lima to Chiclayo. I was asleep, so I’m not sure exactly what time, but 83km south of Casma we ran into a parking lot of cars on the Pan-American Highway. Apparently there is a strike…farmers somewhere, and it’s not safe to proceed. I’m really getting a taste for what non-English speaking travelers must go through in the USA…when I woke up enough to figure out that this wasn’t a “normal” stop, I had the challenge of finding an English-speaking person to tell me what is going on…yeah, in the middle of Peru, uh huh! Not easy!

One lady spoke a tiny bit of English, and managed to tell me about the strike and that we were stopped here where we were safe…and that we may go on to Chiclayo TOMORROW NIGHT! OK, so my American mind freaked out for about 10 minutes at that point. :D

Then my training from somewhere past kicked in. Oh yeah, Gabriel Call! I’d never imagined using Gabriel Call info on a bus in Peru, but I specifically remember Peter Daniels telling us that when we are facing trials in our business, to figure out what the worse thing was that could happen. Oh, and the author of the book The 4-Hour Work Week said the same thing…Hah! What a way to put teaching into practical use! LOL! Not ROL, not enough room on the bus!

OK, Worst Case Scenario:

1. We’ve been told we’re safe here and that we may go on to Chiclayo a day late…so I may get there, do an hour or so of sightseeing, and then have to head back to Lima the same day with the return ticket that I already paid for.
2. And worse, the return road could be closed again due to the strike & I miss my plane—I’ll eventually get back to Lima and board a plane and get home, somehow, some way!

It’s not the end of the world. Jesus isn’t sitting in heaven going, “Father, I didn’t see that coming. Did You?!” Also, I had a peace about getting on this bus, and I know that my steps are ordered by God…so I might as well buck up, enjoy the experience, and learn whatever I can from it.

OK, back to what I was thinking at first: “Why didn’t the bus company workers come and explain to me in English what was going on?” WELL, because I’m in Peru and it’s MY problem that I don’t speak the language, not theirs! We don’t expect one of our Greyhound bus drivers to explain things to his or her foreign passengers in their language if the bus breaks down or if the traffic is stopped for hours due to a wreck or something.

Like I said earlier, I have a greater appreciation for what non-English speaking people experience in the States. Well, I’m going to close for now, because I think my headlamp is annoying people…although I can’t be sure, as I can’t understand them!

At least we have the always present South American street vendors who came through earlier selling agua! I wish I had realized that we were stranded here for an indefinite period of time. I’d have bought more than one water. As far as a bathroom, I think the one on the bus is still functional. If not, I guess we just go by the side of the bus next to the multiple other vehicles that are parked on the highway…ah, the joys of South America!

I have the chorus of “Trust in Me” floating through my brain, and the sound of someone’s iPod
A few rows back playing American music… “oo ooo oooo, oh baby, please don’t go…” How ironic—they don’t speak it, but they play it. Hah!

Still having a great time! And my stuffed traveling companions, Frankie the ferret and LC the purple hippo, are here with me.

…The bus is moving! YAY! I think… We’re driving through a section of highway that’s lined with police officers in full riot gear on both side of the highway. They are guaranteeing our safe passage through the area of conflict. It’s a little surreal, like a scene out of a weird movie…not scary, just weird. “On the road again, I can’t wait to get on the road again…”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A long story and an Open Door...

(18 de mayo, 2008) I’m not sure when I’ll get to upload this, but I wanted to take a little bit of time to let everyone know what’s been going on. On Thursday (15th) I was talking to 3 young women at the hostel I was staying at in Cuenca…they had all gone to college together. And where did they go to college together you might wonder? Of all places, Hollins University, Roanoke, VA…just a couple miles from where I live. Who would have thought (or…who’d a thunk it?) that in the middle of Ecuador I would run into 3 Hollins graduates!

As I’m writing this I can’t quite remember where I left off earlier, but I’m going to go to back to Friday.

When I got done with my last Spanish class on Friday (16 de mayo, 2008), hopped a cab to meet the other two solo female travelers from the hostal, Kapa and Brenda. The three of us had scheduled a trip to Tarqui, an indigenous community (the Cañari’s) just 30 minutes outside of Cuenca. There is a non-profit organization there that runs a Cultural Center and Restaurant called Mama Kinua. It is run by members of the Cañari people, and the profits from the restaurant and the tourism project help provide medical care for children and pregnant women in 6 communities. That’s really important for you to remember, because that comes into play later in my post when I get to the awesome praise report that I have to share.

Back to my account…When I got to Mama Kinua’s Brenda, Kapa, and another solo female traveler from France, Joannie, were already loaded into the mini crew-cab pickup truck that was our transportation. I tossed my pack into the back, and we headed off. Our driver, Manuel, was much better than any of the taxi drivers I’d ridden with, and we had a good, but very bumpy once we got to the dirt road, ride out to the community. On the way there it started to rain, an everyday occurrence in Cuenca in May (one of the rainiest months of the year there.)

We arrived without any unexpected events and were ushered into the Kañari Kushi Waira Lodge building. I hope that you check out the pictures once they are uploaded. The lodge was a simple, square, two-story building with a dirt floor. There were benches inside, and a couple tables. We were asked to sit down at the tables. I was very grateful that Brenda speaks VERY good Spanish, and both Kapa and Joannie spoke passable Spanish…I had 3 translators! :D

Within a few moments, a woman in traditional attire (which you can see in some of my pictures) brought in a tray with small cups. It was the special drink that was only used for welcoming guests and for special occasions. I was warned by Brenda that it had alcohol in it, which was obvious from the aroma, even at a distance. It would have been a dishonor to our host’s hospitality to refuse it, and although it was tasty, I was glad that it was in a small cup. Our host/guide, Alfonso, told us that the hot drink would keep us warm on the inside and on the outside…yep!

Next came a tray with a light breakfast of mote pillo (can’t remember if I’m spelling it right, but it’s a mixture of hominy and cornmeal) and herbal tea. After the breakfast we watched a short video, and prepared to take our hike up to the primary forest where all of the medicinal plants grow. I thought it was interesting, the people there live to be very old, many of them over 100, and they use the same medicinal plants that their forefathers used for generations before.)

As we hiked up the hill (at a starting elevation of 9,342 ft.) I was glad that our total elevation GAIN was only going to be 274 ft to an elevation of 9,616 ft. I’m still getting used to hiking in higher elevations, and it does take some getting used to. I did OK, though. I was pretty excited about that. I wish I could remember all of the plants, their names, and uses. Alfonso had spent his whole life studying the medicinal plants and their uses, even having taken a university program that was specifically started to ensure that the cultures of the various Ecuadorian indigenous groups were not lost as more and more of the people migrated to the cities (a BIG problem here).

We stopped to eat a flower that was supposed to help with the respiratory system at high elevations during exertion, and then went on. Alfonso explained the history of the area, about when the Spaniards had come and how it had influenced and affected the indigenous people. I was interested in hearing about the religious influence from the Spaniards. They came under the banner of the Catholic church, and the local people adopted many of their beliefs, but continued to worship the sun, moon, rain, wind, and mother earth…as they do to this day. Alfonso said that even though his people practice Catholicism, they were very angry with the Spanish who came in conquest, because the Word of God says to not steal, kill, lie, etc., but that’s exactly what the Spaniards did to the Indigenous inhabitants as they claimed more land area.

After about an hour or so we got to the Cañari Sacred Area, and area at the top of the mountain that was used for worship rituals and festivals. Brenda asked what Alfonso meant when he said that they kept the area undefiled, and he replied that they did not allow any domestic animals in that area, and if humans were there they had to leave the area to “relieve themselves”.

There were some wooden benches up top, and we sat and listened as Alfonso talked about their worship of the elements that brought them the crops that they needed for provision. He said that we were all going to participate in “taking in the energy” from that area, and that if we focused, and really believed, we would not be tired at all that day, nor the next.

We went through a ritual in which we closed our eyes, raised our arms in front, and slowly lowered them down to the side as we “took in” the energy of the sacred area. We did this procedure four times as we faced each compass direction in turn, and Alfonso prayed his prayers to the elements and mother earth. (I, of course, was praying to MY God, thanking Him for the light of His Word, and His goodness and provision in my life.) It was interesting to see the sincerity with which these beliefs are held.

Afterwards we all ascended up onto the observation platform that is at the very top of the sacred area, and we were able to see a great deal in every direction. Alfonso told us more about the history and geography of the area and his people. The view was breath taking, and the pictures we took just don’t give an accurate portrayal. After we descend from the mirador- observation platform/tower we learned even more about the area, and then we caught sight of one of the women from the community, dressed in traditional clothing, and carrying a blanket wrapped bundle on her back. It was lunch time.

Lunch was served on a tablecloth on the ground, with the food being distributed along the middle of the length of the tablecloth. There was hominy, potatoes, mixed vegetables, popped corn, greens, and chicken…enough to feed an army. We all sat, or half lay due to the slope of the ground, and ate from the tablecloth with wooden spoons. We ate until we couldn’t hold any more it was SO GOOD!

It was siesta time after that, so we stretched out on the ground for probably 30 minutes, then we went to see the areas of multi-colored earth. It was a large area where the clay soil ranges in color from shades of red to brown to yellow to red. It was absolutely beautiful. From there it was time to head back to the Lodge. After another hike we got to the Lodge and were welcomed by another steaming cup of the “Welcome Drink” as I’m calling it.

They were beginning the preparation of the cuy (aka guinea pig) that we were going to have for dinner, and we’d indicated that we’d like to watch the process from beginning to end. We had seen the cages with all the guinea pigs in them, and it brought back memories of raising hamsters and gerbils. Now we were watching them as they killed two for the community meal…I will not go into any detail; it was somewhat emotional for me, and even “camera happy me” didn’t take any pictures. We half-heartedly offered to help with the process after they were dead, but were told that we would just be roasting them, someone else would do all of the prep work…we were grateful.

We played with some of Alfonso’s grandchildren (nietos) for a long time until it was time to help with the supper chores. Alfonso’s wife came walking up with a load of corn stalks strapped to her back…freshly cut from the field. We helped shuck corn (something I AM good at) and then went into the kitchen to help with the rest of dinner. I peeled a bunch of potatoes, and then it was cuy-roasting time. It takes 30-60 minutes to roast cuy over coals. You have to constantly turn the rotisserie stick so as to not burn the cuy. Someone else has to fan the coals to assure a good hot temperature. You can see pictures of us roasting it.

Dinner was very good, and we were stuffed, again. During the dinner we were talking with our host/guide Alfonso. I don’t even know how we got around to the question…since he and I couldn’t communicate directly, but we got onto the topic of advertising and the internet. I had Brenda ask if they had a website. Alfonso replied that they did NOT have one, but hoped to Someday (…hmmm…I have a t-shirt that talks about someday. It says: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…See, There Is No Someday!)

I checked the Spirit real quick before speaking, and then asked Brenda to tell Alfonso that I work on websites, and wanted to donate my time to work on a website for them…You’d have thought I’d offered him a thousand dollars. He was so grateful! We gat together later to get the information together for it, and then Brenda, Kapa and I did a little brainstorming. Brenda (who just “happens” to have a background in International Marketing) told him his prices were too cheap for the overnight add-on. She raised his prices for him from $11 to $15 per person per night. That was really reasonable still, as the price included dinner and breakfast.

Remember back at the beginning of my 2 hour long discourse here, I mentioned that the proceeds from the tour go to help provide medical care for children and pregnant women in 6 communities? As I was talking with God later that night the Holy Spirit reminded me of the prayer that I prayed before leaving the States, “God, allow my visit to Ecuador impact the nation for you.” Now I know that we affect people everywhere we go, but I wanted to impact a nation, not just a handful of people. And that’s where my faith was…I have a world-wide vision. I’m called to a church whose mission is to impact the entire world, and I have a call on my life to impact the entire world. That what God told me a long time ago. That’s what I’m believing to do.

When I realized that by doing the website for them it had the potential to drastically increase revenues, therefore providing medical care for more people, it hit me…I was impacting their nation…the people are the nation. And I was showing the love of God to them, without asking for or wanting anything in return…GOD IS SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!! Then the Holy Spirit started talking to me about the rest of the trip…how I had considered my plans to have fallen through (the rain forest trip and then the Peru route that I’d wanted to do) and having had to switch to “plan B”. He told me that “plan B” was His plan all along…and that He had guided my steps every single day.

Every delay that I thought I was going through was His divine timing. As He began to bring different things to my remembrance I started to cry. The Bible says that the steps of a righteous man are ordered of God. It also says that if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart and don’t lean on our own understanding and if we’ll acknowledge Him in all of our ways, then HE will direct our path. While I’ve experienced that time and time again in the past, it always brings me to tears to know that God wants to and does use me for His glory! That’s the only thing that I want to be remembered for…what I did for the Kingdom of God

The next morning we had breakfast and then headed back into town. We purchased the domain for their website, and over the next couple weeks Brenda, Kapa and I will be collaborating on designing and launching their website. Once it’s done I will post the URL and a notice that it’s live.

I’m closing this post here. I’ll start a new one for the next portion of my trip. Thanks again for all who have lifted me up in prayer. God is so good!!!