Monday, October 27, 2008

Ministry Potential

Driving through the city, it seems like all the homes in the city have been gutted, but appearances are deceiving. We continue to get a steady flow of calls into the church saying mostly the same thing, 'We got a flyer from a neighbor or someone in your church. It says you'll help for free. Is that really true?' Several hundred ministry contacts have resulted in just the first 6 weeks since Ike. We have those needing assistance come by the church to fill out an 'application', consisting of their essential contact information, but it gives us time to sit with them and hear their story. It also gets them familiar with the church facility. Vicki was one of those who called today. She came by the church shortly after she called. We were able listen and pray for her. Her story is becoming common. She tried to do it all on her own, but is weary. We pray that God will bring workers to help us serve her soon. Please pray with us.

Pictured to the left are teams from Hilltop and Bastrop Christian Churches, who served with us over the weekend. They helped a city employee work on gutting his dad's house. It had not been touched for a month. As the team was finishing work for the day, one team member felt compelled to share his testimony and after he did so, the home owner prayed for forgiveness and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. Galveston Bible Church is beginning to mobilize the Body to begin to follow up on those God is bringing to them.

God is bringing many. In addition to the hundreds of home owner contacts, the church has been helping to care for the immediate needs in the community with a food dsitribution ministry. Several hundred more families have come to the church for this help, and the church members and volunteers will also be initiating follow-up with these families.

Teams from Hershey EFC, Cornerstone EFC and Coasthills Church arrived for this week. The Hershey team met Lisa today. Her home is shown here with a large tree. Lisa was very close to paying off her home when the storm hit. She now is on the verge of homelessness. She has been told that her home must be elevated 4 feet higher if she is going to rebuild it. She can get a loan to do this, but has no income. She had an interview for a promising new job on the day Ike hit. She is in a motel now, but will be forced to leave that the middle of next month. With no other opportunity apparent, her current plan is to move back into her now gutted shell of a house.

God has a house of many rooms prepared for her. Pray that we will be able to continue to walk through the door opened today, so that we can share hope and Christ'slove with Lisa. ml

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Definitely Blessed more than I ever was a blessing...

Hey Yall!

Well first off, sorry for the lack of posts this week. But just so you know since I've been here we've gotten 12 homes gutted and started another dozen....and you know what, there are about a bizillion more to go! Trust me, if you didn't think you could get down here in time to help, you are mistaken! Come now, come in a month, come as soon as you can, and see how God is using Ike to open doors for impacting people with the truth of His gospel!

This week has been great, Sarah Painter has arrived! She will be the on-site coordinator for teams and she is a sweetheart! The roof over the distribution center has now been completed and we have electric in the church! YAY no more generators! The team from Coast Hills CA has been such a blessing to work with and to hang out with! They are awesome!

For the 2 weeks I've been here I truly have been blessed more than I've been a blessing! I was telling Kelly today, the church secretary, how much GBC is a family along with a church! They really are the definition of a church family and I'm sooo blessed to have been able to get to know them. Looks like Wanda's home will be one of the first ones we rebuild (HOORAY!!) and I'm so blessed to have been a part of this process of getting her home gutted and seeing what the next step is!

God is moving here people! He is opening up doors, providing connections, getting things going to help those He loves! I pray that Galveston is not forgotten and God provides not only the volunteers but the opportunities to share His love with all Galvestonians, New Orleaners, and people everywhere!

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasureably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ike Day 32 - It's NOT about the work...

Hi Everyone!

The title is the one thing God has really been teaching me this is NOT about the work! I've been thrown into an environment that does needs lots of visible manual labor and also into a position where I'm kind of in charge of the designation of jobsites for teams. I desparately want to help everyone so if a team finishes a job we can move on to the next person to help...but at the same time, I desperately want these team members to LOVE on the people of connect with them, to care for them, to put down the crowbar and take off the face mask and have a geniune conversation with them...this has to be my top priority! So if a one day job takes all week because the teams are developing a relationship with the homeowner than who am I to stop that, who am I to stop what God is doing in their lives! The desire to love others has to be for all Christians around the world one of the top priorities! To Love God and to Love others! These are the greatest commands!

So my challenge to everyone is to stop focusing on the work, otherwise you might miss the chance to share God's love with someone who truly needs it!

p.s. We finished gutting Wanda's house on Tuesday! And she came by the free store yesterday so I got to see her! I'm really hoping we can start the rebuilding process soon but I know everything will work out in God's timing.

Jesus says, "This is my command: Love each other." John 15:17

Monday, October 13, 2008

4 Weeks Later...

Hi everyone! Katie here!

I'm sitting in the office at GBC (pictured) which used to be a Sunday School room where the carpet has been pulled up and all that's left is cement. Sunday marked the one month mark of Ike hitting Galveston. The church service that morning was filled with songs of joy and songs of hope. The church body is ready to hit the ground running, getting back into Bible studies, and serving their community that is not only suffering from physical damage but spiritual as well.

I'm sure a month ago no one would've ever thought this is what this office would look like today, no one would've thought of bunk beds taking up other sunday school rooms and a distribution center being run out of a lumber mill one human would've ever seen this a month ago...but we all know God saw this from the very beginning! He knew exactly what would happen and how it would change everything for the people of Galveston and those who come to help.

It's not a coincidence that one of the church elders owned an old church (pictured) nearby that could be used for sleeping volunteers, or that a church elder owned a lumber warehouse nearby that could be used for a free store for people to get groceries they couldn't get otherwise...God had all of these things set in motion long before the storm to be used for the work He's doing now in the lives of Galveston, the church body, and the surrounding community! God is awesome!

And 4 weeks later, we're still gutting, we're still perservering, and we're still putting our hope in the God who has everything under His control! We have teams from Arizona, Pennsylvania, and California this week! Pastor Clay's house is completely gutted and we hope to start rebuilding soon! Remember you can still be a part of God's work here either through the giving of supplies and/or time. Also, please always be in prayer for us! We cannot do this without God and we can't forget that! Just today, we had deliveries of $1000 worth of groceries for our free store (pictured), and a 17 foot truck of supplies for us to use for teams and in the free store! God is good! He is faithful til the very end to provide for our needs!

"Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies."
Psalm 36:5

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ike Day 28 - Galveston Welcomes Katie

*Street down from the can see debris piled along the side of the road which is common on all roads of Galveston right now

Hi everyone!

For some of you who don't know, my name is Katie Hooks and I'm the volunteer coordinator for EFCA Crisis Response ministry for both New Orleans and if you email or I'm the happy receiver of those emails! I grew up in NC and after graduating from college the Lord opened the doors for me to come serve in New Orleans! I'm grateful to be a part of this ministry and see God working in the lives of not only those directly affected by natural disasters but in the lives of those who come to help!

I arrived yesterday and was literally thrown into the mix of helping out in anyway I can. I guess I was expecting Galveston to be some ritzy vacation spot but boy was I wrong. Galveston is not just a vacation spot but a home to many people who are barely getting by. Yesterday, I was able to walk around the church and see how the operation is set up and work with Mark Lewis who was working on where to put the 60+ volunteers on the island and the 40+ volunteers on the mainland for Saturday. I don't know how Mark does it but I'm so very blessed to work for a boss who loves the Lord and truly wants to reach out and help not only the physical needs but spiritual needs as well of God's children.

Today was just awesome! I get to meet a lady named Wanda Hayes (pictured below). Mark and I were in the office when the team leader of that jobsite called to ask a question and Mark decided to go over. Well he was already taking Emily his daughter so I asked to come too and he said sure! When we got there, we discovered she had had 3.5 feet of water and since you can only tear out either 4 feet or 8 feet of drywall, we had to tear from floor to ceiling to make sure to get rid of the mold. As Mark moves on to the next room, she looks at me and says "I love hugs!" and gives me the biggest, most meaningful hug in my life. As we're hugging, I can hear her begin to cry...I can't even begin to comprehend what she is going through right now.

Come to find out later, she is a single mom of 5 who works as a nurse's assistant at the hospital on the island. She doesn't know if she'll get her job back, she's only been in her house for 5 years but to her it was home! It was a place to raise her children away from the dangerous neighborhood she'd been in before. I was able to meet her son Jamal (aka Linky) and GG (her adopted daughter) (also pictured) and like her mom, they were throwing hammers, pulling drywall, and rolling out the wheelbarrow with the rest of the team! She said she'd had people come in before to help but really feels like she can trust us and that Jesus brought us to her! Please be in prayer for this family...Wanda was able to stop by the church later (which made me really happy) and brought her sister Sheila who needs work done on her house too! God is awesome yall! He is providing not just the workers, but the opportunities to really show the love of Jesus to the people of Galveston! Praise Him!

The Lord is definitely moving and working here in Galveston! I hope everyone no matter where they are can find the Wandas of their neighborhoods and truly love them and help them like Jesus would!

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
1 Peter 5:10

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ike Day 26 - The People

The team from Community EFC spent the early part of the week serving John, the retired police chief of Galveston. He served the community for 50 years, as well as in the Marines. Team said, "
He is a charming 73 year old gentleman who was very appreciative of our help. The home was flooded with 8 feet of water, and his insurance was canceled 4 months prior to Ike as a result of damage sustained and resulting claims from Hurricane Rita in 2005. We gutted his home completely and when we left, it was ready for restoration work to begin. He said, 'It has been a very long time since anyone helped me for free.'

The team was able to then share about the Grace Plan, how it's a free gift from God. Jeff, pictured on top, was also with the team from Shippensburg EFC. He bonded well with John as Jeff too is a police officer. John'sson JAy, who is also an offcier on the Galveston PD was grateful as well. He has been unableto help his dad as he is working 12 hours a day since. EFCA Crisis Response and Galveston Bible Church have been focusing on meeting the needs of many first responders in the community. Lisa and her teams act of service is pictured, as well as the team and John.

Jack Symmons was also following up with Bill in Houma who recently professed faith in Christ, and wrote,

"Last Friday afternoon I had a chance to pay Bill Witty a visit on my way out of Houma. When I arrived at his house his wife greeted me with the biggest smile and told me the Bill was working on the side out the house.

Well after suprising him, he began yelling I’m a sinner I’m a sinner. I was in shock at first but then he told me that he was sinning because he could not stop bragging about the team that had been at his house and the work that they had done for him.

He was so happy the he had created a wall of fame. And on that wall is all the names of the team members that help cut his trees. And with their names are their favorite bible verses. Bill told me that he goes out to that wall and reads those verses everyday.Praise God for His perfect timing.

I have been challenged to work on a list of the blessings I have seen in the last 4 weeks of ministry in TX. Stay tuned for the Blessing List, as best my memory will allow.

We have over 40 volunteers schedule for the weekend from area churches. We really need longer term staff and volunteers coming from out of the area for a week at a time. Please join us in asking God for His provision in those areas as well. ml

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A weekend of gutting

These are some pictures of the past weekend of showing the love of Christ to those in need.
If you haven't seen the video we made from the first week in TX, look to the bar on the right. ml

Patty helping to clean her house (Above).
Left and Below - 4ft of water in Tina's house. She's legally blind.

1st Free Austin with Patty, Laura and pile of debris.

Chris (Grace - Killeen, TX) showing his might on the old tub.

Sunday worship (below)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Fruit

This past week in Houma, LA, through the transformational power of the Holy Spirit, we were blessed to witness 24 people profess faith in Christ! We now have the blessing of following up!

Our team working in Houma wrote this of an experience last week....
"We went to Bill Witty house and was there to check his trees that were down. After I met Bill I looked at his trees with him and told him we should be able to do it next week or the week after. He told me “wait a minute fella how much is going to cost me” . I told him how’s about zero dollar and zero cents. He stood back and was in shock , asked where we from and who we were. After I told him who we were and what our jobs were he in Houma, New Orleans and Texas. He told me that he has been praying for God to send him some help for these tree, he had been praying almost every night asking God to please help. Well last night he said that when he prayed he told God that this was it he was at the end of his rope and that he was throwing in his chip with God. And then I showed up today and offer free help and where from a faith base group. The tears just flowed. He was thanking me and thanking Go."

The rest of the story is that the team went to serve him and connected so well. They showed the practical, tangible side of God's love, and also shared the Truth of the Gospel. Earlier this week, we got word from one of the team members from NV, that Bill had called him and told the team member " I prayed to become a Christian". God is so gracious, and we rejoice with Bill in his new life.
In TX, we had a big weekend of ministry of ministry today. Thanks for praying for workers for the harvest....keep it up. We had groups serving with us today from First Free Austin, Grace Houston, Trinity Fellowship Friendswood and Grace Bible Killeen, about 60 people total on Saturday! Teams from Coasthills Community, CA and Community EFC, PA arrived today.

I met John, pictured, who works for the sherrif. We were blessed to serve his family this weekend. He had 4+ feet of water in his home. He has been working 12 hour days since the storm, and has not been able to do much on his home. He started to tell me how he has seen God's hand of blessing on his family through this, but stopped as he was trying not to cry. ....and now I had to stoptyping for a minute as I am trying not to cry...the background of the picture is the entire contents of their home trashed on the street... John told me that they had wanted to do some remodeling two month ago and applied for a loan. They were denied, but through the process they were 'forced' to apply for flood insurance, which they got and paid for. They felt rejected and taken, as they were now not able to do the improvement, but also had paid in a lot of money for some seemingly impractical insurance for a neighborhood that never flooded. He knows it was God.

His family had wanted to stay for the storm, but he prevailed on them to leave. He again teared as he told me all he could think about was his wife and kids alone in the house the night of the storm in the dark in 4+ feet of muddy water. He knows it was God that a hotel room just happened to have a cancelation on Friday afernoon at 2pm, as the storm was already blowing in.

He spent an hour walking me room by room through the house, still finding ruined photos of his family in the mess in the rooms, keep sakes caked with mud, pictures of his now flooded police motorcycle, and the room that his wife and daughter had just so creatively painted over the last 2 months. All Gone...

We signed up dozens of more families today that need help working on their homes, and found dozens more without insurance that are going to need help rebuilding. We need workers! Pray. ml

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ike Day 19 - Blessings

We had a truck driver from Stoltzfus Trucking in Lancaster, PA deliver more supplies for us on Thursday. God is using this company is such an amazing way. Whenever they have space on a truck, they ship pallets of donated grocery products to us for the distribution ministry the Galveston Bible has set up, without charge to us. They are a huge blessing.
The driver, Jonas, not only helped us unload, but he some extra time, so he stayed and helped us with some other needs we had. This was another blessing.

Another blessing came in the form of two men from a church in nearby Friendswood, TX. They were such an encouragement, as they came seeking us out to see how they could help. We have such a HUGE need for volunteers,and they were going to take that need back to their congregation and see how all they might be led to partner with the outreach ministry here for the long term

We also had a visit from a church in Austin, looking at what the needs are and how they might help. The encouragement of churches that God brings looking to see what the needs are is huge.
We have dozens and dozens of people that have come in to the church looking for help in cleaning out their homes. This Austin church is coming on Saturday to do a food distribution. One of the men that came to visit with us asked if the church needed any printers or copiers. Of course all that equipment was ruined in the flood. He said he was going to bring several high speed printer and a good copy machine, since he had just come upon 350 of the them that he was going to wholesale. God's provision is best, and HE will certainly meet our needs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ike Day 18 Some Signs of Hope

There was a strange sensation late this afternoon in Galveston Bible Church. A cool rush of air was felt flowing from the cieling in the Sunday school rooms. A distant humm of a compressor could be heard outside. Yes, AC is back on in these rooms. Kevin Watterson, one of our EFCA Crisis Response staff has been working for a week, getting part, rewiring, rigging, to get the air back on. This will help in the process of removing humidity and moisture from this part of the building. The AC, combined with a continuously stocked refrigerator of drinks and two freezers occaissionally filled with freeze pops, will also turn the Fellowship Hall into a cool place to escape from the sun on the hot afternoons of working on flood damaged home. Stop in and see for yourself.

Tary Snyder, with Texas Disaster Response has taken hold of a plea we sent out for approximately 30 sets of bunk beds for the volunteer housing center we are setting up in a former church building around the corner from GBC. They have even set up a website on the bunk bed project. click for link. We are also seeking mattresses for the bunks as well. We hope the Lord will bring many to fill them on a regular basis.

Pray for the workers to come to LA and TX to serve in the mission field left after the storms.
Pray for God to call a staff of committed Christ followers to help in the long term ministry needs in both places, especially for skilled tradesmen to help in the rebuilding process.
Pray for God to bring the Body together in submission to His greater purpose.

On a personal note, it was great to be with my family in LA for a few days the early part of the week. Pray for the families of all of our staff. ml