Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Under the Overpass

I read a fantastic book this weekend titled "Under the Overpass: A journey of faith on the streets of America" by Mike Yankoski. It's one of those books that I read in one sitting with several cups of coffee and my journal by my side. If you are at all intrigued by the homeless or have a desire to serve and love them, this book is a great one. It's the story of two guys who chose to be homeless for several months after feeling God prompt them to "be the Christian you say you are". It was a test of their own faith in God to literally provide for their every need, as well as a look into how Christians in America are treating the homeless. A guy and a friend spent about a month in 6 different cities to get a look at homelessness in all parts of the US. They met some amazing people who are living examples of Jesus, and they met some people who were extremely hurtful and misguided. What I really love about the book is that they end with really practical ways that Christians in America can love the homeless better.

One of my favorite parts of the book was when Mike was staying in a shelter in Denver and interacting with James, a man with severe mental illness and drug addiction. James was talking about how he was really sad, and Mike encouraged him to read a particular Psalm. It turns out James had read the entire book of Psalms the night before, clinging to the intense emotion and promise of rescue. Mike pondered if he had ever been so honest with his emotion or so desperate for Jesus that he literally stayed up all night pouring over the Bible seeking comfort and a promise that there was hope. It left me thinking the same thing, have I ever needed Jesus so badly that I stayed awake all night pouring over His words?

Friday, July 9, 2010

I will not leave you as orphans

A few weeks ago, I attended the summer conference (audio is available until 7-15) put on by our network of churches with about 50 other Clear River folks. About 15 of us camped for the 4 days to save some money, and it was probably one of the most amazing experiences ever! Anyways, the theme of the conference was The Father's Love, and the theme verse was John 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to you." We had sessions on how the Father knows us, the Father is good, the Father chooses us, the Father is trustworthy, the Father forgives, and the Father's house. I thought a lot about the kids in Mexico, particular the teens in the Hope program. I desperately wished they could hear and really understand some of these truths. Particularly the second and third sessions on how the Father is good and that the Father chooses us. I wonder if those kids understand even a small fraction of the Father, that He is always good and gives good gifts to his children. That he chose them and their presence was His idea. That every single part of them was made purposefully and right, the Father didn't make a mistake with them or overlook them. We sang a song called "You Hold Me Now" by Hillsong, and some of the lyrics really spoke to me. I had a wonderful image of the Father rejoicing over and restoring all of his children in Heaven. Ironically, my good friend Heather had a very similar image. Must be the social worker in us both, our hearts hurt for these little ones.

"When the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
May the songs of Heaven rise to you alone

No weeping, no hurt or pain
No suffering, you hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness, no sick or lame
No hiding, you hold me now,
You hold me now."

Swimming in the lake, we tried to spell Jesus with our arms. It worked, kind of...
My amazing lifegroup, Ashley, Jenny, and Me
Heather and I

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hurricane Alex vs. Monterrey

1st Picture: a road about a 1/2 mile away from the property and for perspective that white thing is taller than I am

2nd Picture: the front steps of LDM (where groups stay and probably where I'll be living)

This is the email I just received from Todd, the executive director of Back2Back. Please be praying for the Back2Back staff in Mexico and all of the casa hogars and rio villages as they begin to clean up after the storm.

I am sure you have heard by now that we were hit with the afternmath of Hurricane Alex (felt like the hurricane without the winds). We received 40" of rain in about 36 hours. Everyone is safe. The mountain run off (more like blast) and the rains were relentless. We cancelled the teams for this week, but will be evaluating for next week, pending septic, in/out passage from the neighborhood, weather, and the facility.

Try googling the Santa Catarina River Monterrey and check out the You Tube videos. The Santa Catarina River in Monterrey is usually a dry river bed, so much so that they have businesses in the river bed, professional soccer fields with turf, a golf course, etc. Crazy! It took out some of the major highways going to the airport.

Many of our staff have posted video clips and photos on their face book.

In Preparation:
In preparation, we did have 3 generators for the wells/ refrigerators, and office (Internet/ phone), and praise God, we ordered two loads of gravel for redirecting streams of water. We also had plenty of flashlights etc. I do not think we could have prepared with out having dug a 6'x6' mote around the property:). We also stocked up on food and water. We distributed tarps, bottled water and other resources to the Rios, and Cadereyta, so they could have one point "shelter / refuge".

Our Team:
Our staff was incredible. I am not an emotional person, but at midnight on Thursday, I was spent, and so tired that I actually fell asleep on the bucket I was using to bail water. The staff men and interns stepped in and kept saying "we got this". I am still overwhelmed by their friendship and sacrifice. Some of the staff men spent the entire night taking turns bailing water from the front of my house, so it would not flood again. I was able to rest for about 5 hours.

Other staff were incredible filling the gaps wherever needed: prepping meals, digging trenches, leading people, making make shift sand bags, working in knee deep pouring down rain to try to prevent flooding. Others maintained the cause with the team helping keep everyone calm and on task. We have an incredible team!!

Our U.S. team was awesome in re-booking flights, etc.

The campus took quite a hit. Most of the east walls are damaged, the Hope House, Ester House, and David House flooded with gushing waters coming in the back doors. My house flooded with about 2" of water, LDM building had a constant stream flowing through it. The soil in some areas is so soft it would take you in to your knees. This is a major concern of mine in recovering because we need the soil to dry out, and it is still raining. The water pressure from the rains created 5' deep holes behind the teen homes. I am almost certain that the large palapa will need reinforcing. At one point part of it was covered in 2' of water. Ironically, Dain Jepson was here with his church and was grilling in knee deep water. I think he is certain now he does not want his old job back:)
We had one water line break, but it is now repaired. The septic tanks area leeching... not sure how to evaluate. We are trying to only drink the water that we stock piled because most of the run off from the mountain was septic with rain water, so we are not sure how that impacts our well. My gut is that it has enough natural filtration (60' down) that it is okay, but we are trying to only drink the stored water or bottled water. We will have the water tested this week.
We were without power for about 24 hours, but with the generators were able to keep some fridges working in LDM ie. group food.

Ministry Sites:
As far as reported the Casa Hogars are fine, but Rio 1 and Rio 3 were burried in water. We begged Meme (Rio 1) to come here early, but she insisted on staying in the soup kitchen to provide a refuge. Ultimately, she had to break into some ones house in the neighborhood across the street and took the kids from the rio to the second floor (the first floor already was flooded). She was concerned she would get in trouble, but I believe she did the right thing.
Cadereyta, I am still unsure of.

The Teams:
The teams were one of our major concerns. We were not concerned about their safety, but concerned we could not get them out of the country or let alone our neighborhood. Most flights were cancelled in/out on Thursday, so an early departure was not possible. I assume that American and Continental were not going to send their 30+ million dollar planes to Mty; it was easier just to keep them grounded in Houston, and Dallas.

We were able to get them out yesterday, Friday, by walking to the highway. They had to wade through knee deep water to get out of the neighborhood. The bus was able to make it to the highway, but not inside the neighborhood. All but about 25 people of 110 flew out yesterday. The rest stayed in a hotel 1/2 mile from the airport. We booked rooms in advance for all 110 people hoping we could at least get out of the neighborhood and close the airport, but all but the 25 were at least able to get to Dallas. The 25 stayed in the Hampton and will prayerfully fly out today,but regardless are dry, and in a hotel near the airport.

Please pray. We are going to spend the next couple of days trying to estimate what the damage is. In any normal storm, even with heavy rains, we would have been fine, maybe a little wet, but fine. The water pressure build up from the mountain side and properties above us trying to re-direct built up behind all of our perimeter walls (east side of the property). We punched massive holes in the walls so that they would not be pushed over. some walls had 5' of water behind them. We have tons of water damage. We need some dry weather to recover, so please pray for good weather.
In the recovery, I hope to spend some time on rain water control, but I am not sure that anyone could control 40" in 36 hours.