Monday, February 18, 2008

First Presbyterian of Salem - Heading Back to Katrina in '08?

Here we are in February 2008, and despite our best intentions to keep returning to the Gulf Coast we have yet to do so. Thank goodness many other churches in Oregon, including our sister Presbyterian churches, have kept the faith and continued to launch missions into the area. But perhaps we can get back on track and form up another team. Wes Carter and others from First Pres are "chatting" up the idea...give him a call or see one of our first team's members, or contact Morella Larson who is now with the Presebyterian Disaster Association. Morella serves with PDA as a designated missionary from First Pres.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Salem Katrina Team Report - February 1

We are still sad, of course, with the news of Morella Larson having lost her sister. The announcement was made during services at Salem's First Presbyterian, and I wish we were in Palm Springs to be with her at this time. On happier news, the folks donating the used travel trailer for me to tow to Mississippi have made it a somewhat nicer gift than first thought, upgrading their donation to a 1998 model of a Shasta 26' unit.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Salem Katrina Team Report - January 29

Terrible news today, when Joan emailed me the news that Morella Larson's sister died in a car crash. My last blog entry mentioned Morella, and she was so happy with her work in Palm Springs when she phoned me on Friday. You and your sister are in our prayers, Morella. God Bless.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Salem Katrina Team Report - January 28

Last night I heard from Morella Larson, our well-traveled team member from Salem who is continuing her winter in Palm Springs. She is also continuing her work for Katrina relief, mentioning that she's making a presentation on our work in Gautier. Her friends in Palm Springs should be very proud of sending Morella to the Gulf with such generous gifts! I will always have a picture in my mind of Morella standing in the fellowship hall, wearing her work apron with the MORELLA name tag.

Various paperwork delays have kept me in Tampa, so today I worked with the RV dealership in preparing their donation of a travel trailer for me to tow to Ocean Springs. There, Christus Victor Lutheran Church has a couple older motorhomes parked behind the church for volunteer housing, and this very wonderful donation will allow up to four volunteers to have a bit more privacy and comfort after a hard day. Judy, an insurance manager here at the dealership told me earlier in the week that God must have a reason for slowing things down a bit and keeping me in Tampa longer than I'd like. She was right.

I phoned Bob Montgomery (a retired Navy commander and church member) at Christus Victor to give them a heads-up on this unit coming in, and he was eleated! A couple more such vehicles and it will look like we're having an RV rally! Bob and his wife Brenda have set new standards for Joan and me to consider in their tireless rededication of their entire lives - home, income, time, prayers, everything they have - to help their church meet the needs of Katrina victims. And we see folks like them in Gautier as well, and I'm thinking of Pam Martin, Fred, and so many other wonderful folks like them. Also...ever notice how so many of them are retired military?

Bob and Christus Victor remind us that money is still needed. Lots of money. Besides their free medical clinic and labor crews, Christus Victor continues to operate a huge distribution point where storm victims get food, clothing and other necessities. Although some food is donated, most has to be bought and they need money to meet the need. I wish we could do more than we have!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Salem Katrina Team Report - January 27

I've been feeling pretty useless, sitting here in Tampa while completing arrangements to replace our burned motorhome. The insurance folks considered it a total loss following the fire in the Norcold refrigerator, but have their channels to follow...and they take time, of course.

Anyway, today made up for all that, and in spades! I asked various managers of the dealership we're working with about their donating a travel trailer for Christus Victor Lutheran Church in Ocean Springs, and a few minutes ago they agreed! Amazing and wonderfully kind on their part. Their donation trailer sleeps four, is a modern, 1996 unit complete with a nice bedroom, a kitchen and a front "living room", and will be ideal for church volunteers to use back in Gautier or Ocean Springs. The dealership, Lazy Days RV in Seffner, Florida, is even providing RV supplies to get folks into it promptly.

Thus, whenever I finally can drive our replacement motorhome back to Mississippi, the mission of old Salem First Pres continues by bringing this useful donation, thanks to great people in business who care about helping Katrina victims.

Thanks, Lazy Days! Glad we came here to do business. And I can't wait to tell the folks in Mississippi!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Salem Katrina Team Report - January 20

I wanted to comment on the strange feeling as I arrived in Tampa and looked around.

Something is wrong! These streets are clean. The fences are upright. The homes don't have blue plastic covering the roofs. The trees aren't broken off and crashed all over the place. It smells clean. No little signs stuck in the ground at each intersection hawking roof repairs or discount electrical work.

It looks normal. It looks like what this entire country looked like the day before Katrina. Suddenly seeing "normal" really hits you after a few months in the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I've been working here in Tampa on insurance papers, bank stuff and details about replacing our burned motorhome. It is necessary, and we have to do it to replace our loss and not suffer the loss of our investment, but boy, do I feel I'm wasting time! Here I am in Tampa, playing with my "toys" instead of working. I learned that our RV sales rep's aunt lives in Gulfport and lost her home. The sales rep's company sent her a motorhome and it pulled a travel trailer which was donated elsewhere.

I certainly missed the crowd at evening and morning devotions back at Christus Victor.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Salem Katrina Team Report - January 19

Today is quite an adventure, building on yesterday’s events. Last night I got an email from our motorhome insurance carrier that they decided our burned coach is a total loss. This means we’re able to get a replacement for the same price we’d paid for the first vehicle, but it will be quite a bit newer and thus very much to our advantage, and is everything we could have hoped for as a solution. So, this morning as I type I’m sitting in an AirTrans plane flying to Tampa to visit a couple dealerships, select a coach and complete the paperwork. I’ll then return to Ocean Springs to reload our salvaged personal items, partly cleaned of soot and smoke damage, into the replacement coach and complete the donation of our son Ben’s Dodge van to our host Lutheran church. I want to say that this week's “life lesson” has been that insurance folks can’t fix things instantly, but they can be very, very fast when they’re needed, and we are grateful both to them (Mike McGuinness of National Interstate) and our selling agent (Lazy Days RV).

We were at first afraid we’d have to ask to be excused from our promise to donate Ben’s van because we'd need it to pull the UHaul trailer with our belongings back to Oregon, so this solution of a replacement RV might be totally perfect. The old Dodge van is needed here to provide crew transportation and to haul large loads for the volunteers. I am also so grateful for the folks at Christus Victor who’d kept asking how things were going regarding our personal needs and the insurance issues, and I appreciate their happiness when I told them last night how things were resolved. I must say that these two pastors have been a blessing here in Mississippi, but they would be the “dynamic duo” anywhere they chose to serve. I have been blessed with meeting saints everywhere during these four months. And Lutheran saints are pretty good!

We heard from Wayne and Mary Swanson, members of our original team, that they’re to visit in Dallas soon, so I hope we can somehow connect. They were also a couple saints who walked into my life, and into the lives of those folks in Gautier they came to serve.

Work crews were busy here in Ocean Springs all week. They have restarted repairs in the sanctuary, which Joan was worried about, as well as finishing roof repairs in the back. Other teams worked at the distribution center, joined by 30 or so Air Force volunteers from Keesler Air Force base who came to help. As a retired Air Force man, I am proud of these young folks giving up their time off to help the community.

We’ve started getting more job requests. For awhile, we had more volunteers than work for them because bad weather forced cleanup crews to suspend outdoor work. We have had several folks who need help sent over to us by the local FEMA officials, who themselves have requested assistance on their personal homes. Glad to help!

Joan is at home in Oregon, busy scheming how we can continue to help both the Lutheran and the Presbyterian missions in Gautier and Ocean Springs. She’s designing some sort of a matching gift proposal to run by other members of our Salem First Pres. She’s also organically unable to keep from volunteering for her other interests, mostly trail maintenance for the Park Service so she’s already got new trips scheduled. Her months here in the Gulf will be the highlight of her volunteer work, I’m sure.

Late note: I made it to Tampa just fine, looked at vehicles and have some papers to complete, then I hope to head back to Ocean Springs early next week.