Here is a video that we played this weekend in our services. I thought I would share it with my friends and family who aren't COF attenders. This is a video/photo compilation of some of the work COF did this summer.
You will see clips from Burundi, Africa. This is a people group in Africa we have become friends with. We are partnering with them as they try to attain land and education for their children, and much more. We will have a relationship with them for many years to come. We plan to take at least 60 people to Burundi this coming Summer. We are just beginning our partnership with the people of Burundi, so be looking for more to come.
There are also clips from our trip this past summer to Zambia. Here we lead camp for over 2,000 AIDS orphans. Also COF is building an orphanage there. You can read more about our trip to Zambia on this blog and the ones following it.
There are clips from our trip to Oaxaca, Mexico with our missionaries there. We take part in all types of projects such as animal husbandry, drilling water wells and many, many more. You see more about them here. Note: I am leaving for a trip to Oaxaca on October 10th, so be looking for blog updates about this.
Included are clips from our orphanage and community center in Costa Rica.
Also are photos and footage from the makeover project we did with Bane Elementary right here in Houston. To find out more, click here.
I hope you enjoy! I feel so blessed to be a part of a group of people that have such a passion for the world and the community around them. There are also many, many partnerships and projects our church has taken on locally alongside the Bane Elementary Makeover project. These are more long term volunteering efforts instead of project driven efforts, so it's hard to capture in a few words the extent of it. That's for an upcoming blog! :)
Oh yeah...props to Matthew Crook, the best technical director in the world for the vid!
Last night was just one of those nights (I'm sure we've all had them). I was up all night. I was tired when I went to bed, but I just couldn't get to sleep. All night I was frustrated about it. After what seemed like a looong night, the alarm went off at 7am and I got up to get ready for church.
In between services today, I was talking with Mark (my pastor) and in the conversation I told him that although I don't typically have completely sleepless nights, last night I was up the entire night. He mentioned that he hoped I prayed for him and I had to look him in the eye and say I hadn't. We both laughed, but it was a good reminder for me. I pray for him and Laura often, quite often actually. I pray for our entire staff because the attack on us can be pretty intense because of the work we do. But last night, I wasted it. I was too consumed with me.
Then tonight, "coincidentally" I'm reading in Exodus and came across this verse: "Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." (33:11) But you have to read the whole beginning part of the chapter about when Moses was leading his people out of Egypt; a WHOLE bunch of people, flawed people (people like you and me and the rest of the world). It says that he would often set up a "tent of meeting" near the camp. Everyone who wanted to make a request of the Lord would go near the tent of meeting and make their request.
BUT...when MOSES went to the tent of meeting, all the people came outside their tents to watch. Can you envision that? Do you wonder why it was different when Moses went? Why it would evoke such a response from everyone? Well, it tells you why. When Moses went into the tent, a great big cloud would come over the tent and hang out there while Moses was inside (are you still picturing this?) Then, that's when that verse, verse 11 comes in..."Inside the tent of meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." Now that's pretty cool. Moses had reached such an intimacy with God as an intercessor (someone who pleads on another's behalf) that he could speak with God face to face like you do with your friend.
I read a quote once that said "an intercessor is someone for whose sake others are blessed." For Moses’ sake, for his intimacy with God, a whole nation was both spared and blessed. You can read all about that in the OT.
It's about selflessness. When I was awake all night, I WAS praying, but I was praying, "Lord, let me go to sleep." I bet I prayed that a hundred times last night. It was selfish. Mark was not reprimanding me today in any way, he wasn't speaking that way with me, and we actually laughed about it. But it's a lesson for me today, one I already know, but needed to be reminded of. I would love to be that someone...that because of me, someone else is blessed because I interceded for them.
Ok, I can't tell you all that other stuff (in my blogs below), without sharing the good stuff. First off, if you want a laugh, go check out Donald Butler's Hunker Down reports we taped the night of the hurricane. I stayed with him and Gretchen and their children to ride out the storm. I think we used humor to cover the fear. For some good fun and a few great laughs, check them out here. You might have to scroll back a few posts to get to the original one titled: Hunker Down Houston and then follow them back up to Hunker Down 7.
Ok, so the Hurricane hit on Saturday, and we still had church on Sunday by generator and candlelight. It was really cool. We had 2 services and about 1,000 people came. It was a really sweet time for us to come together. Laura Shook told us a story, and I'm probably gonna do it a giant disservice because my memory is terrible, but here's the gist of it:
There was a pastor who was helping his church coordinate a community fair. They wanted vegetables at the fair, but had nowhere to get them other than the "butcher." The Butcher was a guy that everyone was afraid of and no one associated himself with. The pastor decided to go and ask the butcher if he could get vegetables from him. So he went to the butcher’s house and the butcher met him at the gate and growled at him, "what do you want?" and the pastor told him he wanted vegetables for the fair. The butcher replied, "Can’t you see I'm busy. I can't help you." The pastor asked what he had to do, and the butcher said he had to clean the pig trough. The pastor said, "I want to help you," and so he did. (I know I'm getting the details of this story wrong...but oh well). Then the pastor went back every day for 6 weeks and cleaned the pig troughs. After 6 weeks at church one Sunday, the butcher walked in the door and everyone was afraid. The butcher went up to the pastor and spoke of how much what the pastor did in cleaning the troughs did for him to change his life.
Mark and Laura talked about how now was the time to serve our community. Serve it in the good times, but also in the tough times. That's what Community of Faith is all about; to serve your community, no matter what.
We had sign up's at two separate tables in our foyer; One table for people to list friends and neighbors of theirs that needed help. The other table was to sign up to help. I had the privilege of helping coordinate these teams. I think I took over 400 phone calls to my cell phone between Sunday and Wednesday of that week and sent and received no telling how many emails and text messages, all to/from people wanting to help. I am astounded at the kindness of people. I think that's why I've been so emotional about it. I talked first hand to quite a few people who lost everything and were so amazed that people would help them without even knowing them or being a member of their church.
We moved several families completely out of their houses, we cut down trees and cleared debris, we fixed roof's and fences, we distributed MRE's, ice and water at the FEMA PODs (Points of Distribution), we worked for the Houston Food Bank, we delivered meals to people in the meals on wheels program that couldn't get out of their homes, we helped at the George R. Brown Convention Center putting together care packages to those evacuated to shelters and lost everything in Galveston, we delivered hot meals to those who just needed to feel like "home," and to be reminded that everything was gonna be ok. Our church also funded and sent out a mobile feeding unit out to the hardest hit areas, and probably countless other things that we'll never know about.
I'm not saying this to be bragging, please don't read that into it, I'm NOT saying that. I'm saying this to give the positive side to the devastating thing that has happened to this area. Texan's are helping Texan's. Churches are being what the church was meant to be...we are BEING the church. We were even privileged to run into a guy and a few of his buddies that just got in their car and drove from Georgia to cut down trees. We used them to help clear trees from several of our church member’s roofs.
I am reminded of a guy in our church who had signed up on the "needs help" list and also the "I'll help" list. He got called up for the "I'll help list first." I called him up to help deliver a hot meal to someone. He never spoke at all about his needs at his own home. He delivered the meal and called me to tell me that he'd do it every day this week if I'd just give him a name, number and address. The next day, I flipped the page to my "needs help" list and saw his name there, his house had a tree on the roof, a hole in his roof, gutter damage, etc...and he never mentioned a word to me about it and was so thrilled to help out after the storm. Then we were able to turn around and serve him. It was a cool experience.
A few years ago a bunch of my friends and I were hanging out and talking, I had recently moved to Houston, Texas from Mississippi. I had only been here a couple of years and my native Texan friends said that you couldn't be called a "Texan" until you meet specific guidelines (this was all in humor). I can't remember all the rules, but it was something like...you had to live here at least 10 years to be able to refer to yourself as a "Texan", or you could "marry in" if you married an original Texan and after 5 years of marriage you could claim the name early. To hold your name as a Texan, you had to proclaim it to everyone whenever you went out of state, "I'm from Texas" (and be PROUD of it). There is a traditional love of state and if you attack a Texan, you draw fire from all Texans. There were a bunch more, but I can't remember them. But in chatting with them this past week after the storm, I've been told that if you "hunker down" through a hurricane and survive it, you automatically become a Texan for life! So I guess I finally made it! LOL!
I found some photos online to show those of you who aren't from here a little about what the devastation looks like from Hurricane Ike. A few of these came from NY Times and others from Houston Chronicle and other sources.
(Houston Chronicle Photo)
(Houston Chronicle Photo)
Here's a little taste of what downtown Houston looked like (NY Times Photo)
Yes, that's glass from the skyscraper windows (NY Times photo)
If you weathered Hurricane Ike with us, you can skip this one. You already know this stuff. This is for my non Texas readers:
Rules to follow when a hurricane is impending:
1. Stock up with non-perishables for 3 days. ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: Stock up for a MONTH of water and non-perishables. Your power may very well be out for a month. (1 week later, 1 million Houstonians are still out of power - the boil water status has just now been dismissed.) Remember to fill pitchers of water up and put in your fridge, even if you DO get power back, a week of not being able to drink the tap water is a pain. You can't use it for meals (unless you boil it), you can't brush your teeth (I feel like I'm on a mission trip), you can't really wash your dishes with tap, etc. Even if you get power back and just need groceries, a week later all grocery stores are still not open and not nearly fully stocked; even Wal-Mart for awhile was only letting people in 10 at a time and rationing what you get. The wait to get in Wal-Mart is crazy long.
2. Get a little bit of gas for your vehicle ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: Fill up your tank and go to Wal-Mart and buy as many gas cans as you can, and fill them all up with gas (BEFORE the storm). The line to get gas is HOURS long for many, many days afterward. (People had generators, but couldn't get gas to run them). If you have to go back to work or travel anywhere for the week after, you'll have to wait for hours to get gas...or spend a good bit of time driving around looking for a gas station that has power so you can pump gas. (NOTE: gas pumps do not work without electricity).
3. Be sure you have a land line with a NON-CORDLESS phone attached to it. ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: This one!!!! Cell phone circuits will be completely busy. You won’t get calls in or out for days. Texting will work somewhat, although at times they will be delayed for hours. (Even a week later my phone at times wasn't ringing, but I'd suddenly get a voice mail.)
4. Stock up with battery operated supplies: radio, flashlights, fans, etc. ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: This one too! If you live in Texas humidity, by all means go purchase one of those small battery operated fans (you can get them at Wal-Mart, Target, etc.) And make sure you have a radio and extra batteries for all. After the power was off, it was great to be kept up to date about what was happening by radio. (Even though at times it was frustrating because it was the TV news on the radio and sometimes they talked like you could see what they were saying).
5. Watch it when driving ACTUAL RULE TO FOLLOW: this was another good one...and still is! With the flooding, trees down and debris all over the roads, light poles snapped in two and power lines down... these are all good reasons not to get on the road. Even a week later, many red lights are still blown away and not replaced, or broken. So that means big intersections will now become 4 way stops...which translates - LOOONNGGG drive times and waits to get anywhere.
MORE GOOD RULES TO FOLLOW: Make a friend with someone who owns and operates a chainsaw. Have friends who are carpenters, roofers, maybe even with someone who works for Centerpoint Energy. Live next door to a grocery store so your power will be turned on first. Live in Texas, these people have the best spirit of anyone I know; friends and neighbors helping out friends and neighbors...it's a beautiful sight.
So although the storm didn't affect you other than your gas prices, and CNN and all the major news networks have left to go to the next big story....we're still here, in lines at the grocery stores, at the gas pumps, in lines at red lights that don't work, with no electricity, no food or water or ice. Many have lost their homes but haven't even been allowed back to see the damage or begin to rebuild...and the rest of the world goes on.
Don't worry, I don't blame you...you can't understand unless you've experienced it. It's human nature to forget when it's not right in front of you. But I will ask you to remember to pray for those who are struggling and will for quite some time. Maybe every time you go to the gas pump and don't have to wait in line for hours to get it, you'll remember to pray. Or when you can just go into the grocery store without a wait, without having what you purchase be rationed, you'll remember. Or maybe when your cell phone rings you'll remember. Or when you walk into your house and the AC is pumping, and you have cable TV, and you can open your fridge and get something cold to drink, or you can cook, or you can brush your teeth with water from the tap, you'll remember to pray....the people most devastated by this storm really need your prayers!
And for those Texas readers who kept reading even though I said to skip it, here's a reminder for me and you...
Leaky roofs, no electricity, no gas, no Wal-Mart or grocery store, no red lights, no good water, no food, no vehicle, heat and hunger, survival at it's minimum...the majority of the rest of the world lives like this every single day. This is not a devastating natural disaster for them, this is daily life. These are inconveniences for us. Use this time to remember those less fortunate than us as we are forced to relate to them.
I typically use writing to help me process through things, so I might be writing about Ike a good bit over the next few posts. After the storm, over 2 million people were without power. We were "powerless" (in the words of Donald Butler) and also completely exhausted because this particular storm was soooo huge that it just went on throughout the entire night and half the next day.
After the storm passed, I really wanted to go home to my apartment. Mainly to check on things, and also to just feel a little bit like I was at home. As I left the Butlers in the early afternoon on Saturday and drove out in the Fairfield area, it was interesting to see the actual effects of the awful wind we heard all night. To see the devastation all over was surreal.
As I was almost home I noticed I had a voicemail on my cell phone. Cell phones weren't ringing - and it was difficult to call on them, but a message would show up at random times (its still doing this 6 days later).
It was from Stephanie, a friend of mine who left a message saying she already had her power back and for me to come over if I wanted. I didn't call her back because it was almost impossible to call out on cell phones at this point. But mainly it was because I just wanted to go home.
As I drove up into my complex, it was incredible. This complex was built to look like it's in a forest. There were trees down everywhere (thankfully not on our roof) and debris all over the place. We obviously didn't have power. I hauled all my stuff up to the third story of my building and dropped everything in the floor and sat on the couch a minute to settle and let things begin to process. I was completely exhausted.
But it was sooo hot. I looked on my thermostat and it registered 86 inside my house (3rd floors are hot). So I opened the balcony door and tried to get still on my couch to take a nap but it just wasn't happening.
Then I remembered that phone call from my friend Stephanie and I thought, "Sherry, this is ridiculous...it's stupid to be here in the heat with no power, when your friend has power, showers and all the nice things that go with it." So I picked up the bags I'd just dropped in the floor a few minutes before and went right back downstairs and loaded them in the car and drove right to Stephanie's house.
I walked in her door; into her nice, cool house and breathed a sigh of relief. After we sat there talking for a little while, they jumped up and said, "Let’s make spaghetti for dinner." I thought that sounded wonderful after all we'd been through. The smells were amazing as they cooked and then we sat down to eat.
As I was sitting there I thought to myself, “this warm meal....it just feels like home.” You know, the feeling you get when no matter what is happening to you or has happened to you…“home,” makes you feel like everything’s gonna be alright. I know that sounds crazy, but that's what it really felt like to me. And I felt it even more as I got to take a nice shower, blow dry my hair and get into a bed and sleep awhile.
A few days later I was coordinating disaster relief for COF. There was this one person who did not ask me for help, but another friend of hers called me and told me that this particular lady was having financial trouble before the storm and she couldn’t afford to stock up before it. And then her power had been out several days and she had to throw away everything in her refrigerator and freezer and she didn't know what she was going to do. She said she was crying. My heart broke. Then in an email a little while later, another church member mentioned to me that he works for a restaurant and would be getting off at 8pm that night and wanted to know if anyone could use a warm meal. I knew immediately what he should do, and I had him take it to this lady.
Now most of you might think a warm meal isn't much, or that it's very temporary. I've even thought it myself for a moment when I saw the Red Cross setting up a mobile feeding station in the parking lot of a grocery store. All they were handing out was one warm meal to people. I caught myself, but before I did, I was asking..."shouldn't they use that money on something else that could be more lasting?" Then I remembered the spaghetti that Stephanie and her family made for me and I thought, "No way, a warm meal means everything....it makes you feel like home, like everything’s gonna be ok."
Don't underestimate what the little things mean to people. That's my lesson in this.
I have so much to say that I'm keeping running notes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I'll just blog a little about it every day. It might be random or out of order, but at this point it's the only way I can gather my thoughts enough to share with you.
On Wednesday night I got the news that Ike was heading our way. I began making plans and starting processing through what I should do. I got gas and went to the grocery store after a meeting at church Wednesday night. I got what I thought I'd need for 3 days. I began filling up water pitchers to put in my refrigerator and everything else you do to try to prepare for a devastating hurricane. I had intended on staying in my apartment and "hunkering down" (a Texas term).
On Thursday, Gretchen Butler called me and demanded I come to their house, that I shouldn't be alone. I told her that I appreciated it, but I was fine.
But the more and more I began thinking about it and looking at the storm on TV as it was approaching, the more fearful I became. Its times like these that you just want your family, to just feel at "home" around those who love you and know you best. I didn't have that because my family is very far away. At that point I decided to go to the Butlers house on Friday to ride out the storm with them.
I can not even put into words what we experienced during the storm. It was very scary, the unknown was unnerving, it was pitch black dark but I could hear the wind in a way that is indescribable. I could not see the damage it was doing or if anything was coming towards where we were staying. I know I prayed through most of the night, having the peace of God through it is the only thing that would calm my fears.
To experience God and how big He is in a storm like that is a great point of reference. To relate the power and strength He has to a hurricane is interesting, while at the same time receiving His peace through the relieving of my fears as I am praying to Him through the night. It reminded me of people who are going through storms in their lives, that through it all they have the opportunity to feel His peace when they should be scared out of their minds.
I won't lie, often times my humanity took over and I was fearful. I remember during the worst of the storm, sometime during the hours of 4 - 6 AM, I was listening to the TV news on the radio and there was this lady who had also been listening that called in. She explained where she lived and how she was in the eye (the calm) of the storm at the moment, but could hear the reporting of how horrible it was on the back side of the storm to the people in Galveston. She was completely afraid, crying. She said that she couldn't afford to get out because she lost her husband last year, and that she was afraid all during the first half of the storm and was terrified about what was coming towards her and wanted to know if what she was hearing on the radio was coming towards her. The newscasters were so great with her, they asked her to stay on the line, and over the radio brought on the meteorologist and had him speak with her directly to answer her questions and calm her fears.
This lady was alone and afraid. And I think to myself, that could have been me, alone and afraid. But I had people like the Butlers who took me in. Sometimes it’s just good to go through a storm WITH someone. I also knew my mom (who was in Mississippi), who was probably just as fearful as me, was praying. I also got a text from one of my best friends (also in Mississippi) at around 1:30 AM that just said, "I want you to know, I'm not sleeping. I'm not there with you, but I am up with you and with you in this storm, and I'm praying."
So this is a great lesson. You don't have to be alone; whether it's in a REAL storm like Hurricane Ike, or any storm you go through in life. Sure, Jesus can calm the storm, or calm YOU in the storm. But at times, He will also use others to go through the storms WITH you. Trust me, it makes a difference.
Ok...I'm not posting too much. I am staying at the Butlers house (our worship pastor), so click here to get updates from the hurricane. We are having fun, but this is serious stuff, so laugh...but pray!
Hi everyone! I am riding out the hurricane. Be praying for us, i will keep you posted on what's happening. Our church will rally together on Sunday to try to formulate teams to help the hardest hit areas.
There's this place that's become pretty special to me...
here's a quote of what someone said about the area:
"That’s a war torn area of Houston. Even police are afraid to go to that part of town. AK-47 is the order of the day. Basically, if a person doesn't dress/act like they just came out of prison you don't fit in. Gotta look gangsta or else! There’s an abandoned apartment complex where homeless and drug users go to die…called the “Death trap.” Need to place a Mortuary next door to save a trip or 2 or 3. Wear blinders like a horse would. The whole quadrant needs to be nuked, mushroom cloud the whole joint! Its urban blight at its worse/finest. The patient is now officially deceased! Everybody go home...."
Well....I completely DISAGREE!! Watch for updates!
"If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places — firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again." Isaiah 58:10-11
I'm just a regular person who has had some amazing opportunities to serve. I have a job that I can't describe how wonderful it is to be able to get paid to do what I do. I have the best friends and family anyone could ask for! So I want to share about them all here!