Monday, December 31, 2007

Ambling to Ambridge

The ambient ambivalence amassed among the inhabitants of the Gulf Coast toward the ministries of God's Kitchen and Church Army (i.e., "You're doing really good things, but could you please do it somewhere else?") has slowly been displacing its volunteers. Although ample ambition is available, we have been invited to ambulate our aspirations elsewhere. That "elsewhere" could turn out to be the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, where we may be back up to speed about 6 months hence, if that is God's will for us.

During this transition period, many of the long term volunteers with the former God's Katrina Kitchen were taking refuge on the back lot of a church in Long Beach.

Along the property line are RV's and trailers for long term staff, e.g. (left>right), temporary homes for Greta, me, Nashua, and Van.

Farther back, vacant cabins that formerly housed short term volunteers are waiting for new locations with other Gulf Coast ministries, while space in the church buildings is used for short term mission teams still arriving.

The former site for short term mission teams lays denuded of its cabins, its utilities, and its life, seen here beyond my "big rig" packed for the journey north.

The big blue building at Camp Avenue is still in use as storage for the food and construction supplies for God's Kitchen.

Mr. Bill (left) is a graduate of the NoAH program of Church Army Gulf Coast, and he is staying on the Camp Avenue property to keep an eye on it. Nashua (right) has been an associate of the program; I dropped him off in La Grange, Georgia, with a Christian community who will appreciate his construction skills.

In Cartersville, Georgia I attended Sunday church services with my sister's Grandson, Michael Melendrez II and his family. He gave his life to Christ two years ago and is miraculously picking up the pieces of his shattered life. He has moved in with his mother, is looking for a job, and is participating fully in the life of Liberty Square church.

Michael rose to be with the Lord February 28, 2010. For updates on Michael, see : this web post

Next stop was Black Mountain, North Carolina for some fellowship with Colin Munroe and his lovely family. The last time I saw him was at his ordination (pictured).

Then it was time for the 11-hour drive north to Ambridge, stopping only for this photo of the longest single-span arch bridge in the U.S.


There I was welcomed by Bishop Alan and his wife April, who put me to house-sitting for a few days. They helped me find, rent, and move my stuff into a lovely ground floor apartment right in town.



The front door leads upstairs. My entry is through the back door, on a spacious deck overlooking the Ohio river gorge.

None of the feared snow or ice appeared during my drive north (although it may yet appear for New Year's Eve tonight). However, back at my sister's place in Paradise, California it did indeed snow, and she sent me this picture of her house.

For the next few months I will be working with Bishop Alan on developing ways to make disciples who make disciples. In the Gulf Coast, the Holy Spirit brought me just the right people at just the right times to show me, one step at a time, how discipleship might be done, especially among the lost and the lepers. I am looking forward to learning much more at my bishop's side.

That will have to suffice for a New Year's resolution, and for the last post of 2007. Thank you, all of you who have encouraged me with prayer or funds or just a kind word,

December 31, 2007.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Traveling North

Van has graduated from the Jacob Project in the Life Transformation Program here at Church Army Gulf Coast, and is headed east to New Orleans. Praise God for His faithfulness, and pray for steadfastness in the Word for Van.

I'm headed north for a while, to work with my bishop in Pennsylvania.

My daughter sent me this cautionary video.
I'm not sure I wanted to see this.

Monday, December 10, 2007

CEEC Consecration of Henry Roberts

Dr. Henry Roberts is founder and pastor of Word of Life Community Church in the Mobile, Alabama area, which operates in multiple locations. The largest location (pictured below) houses a very active School of Ministry (off camera to the left), a health and fitness center (off camera to the right), a 1200 seat sanctuary, conference rooms, and bookstore.On Sunday December 9, Archbishop Russell McClanahan of the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches consecrated Pastor Roberts as a Bishop of the Church Universal.

Here is Archbishop Russell, assisted by yours truly as chaplain.
The laying on of hands is a tradition which stretches back in an unbroken line to the 12 Apostles themselves.

Here +Russell is assisted by four other co-consecating bishops as they lay hands on Henry, strengthened by his wife Sherry.
Henry Roberts is a powerful teacher at the vanguard of life transformation in the black communities of southern Alabama and Mississippi. He leads a fellowship of 20 or more churches who support one another in building disciples of Christ.

My own bishop, Alan Morris, flew in from Pittsburgh to assist in the con-secration. He also had a chance to renew his friendship with fellow Trinity Seminary graduate Fr. James Giles and to counsel me as we seek God's path forward for my own ministry.

Some 60 or so bishops, elders, deacons, and ministers participated in the processional and recessional for the consecration, which was attended by 700 or more people in all.

This is convergence of the three streams of Christianity: the Liturgical, Evangelical, and Charismatic traditions. Convergence of another sort took place on the same day, as multiple bishops took part in consecrations that will fuel the emerging Common Cause.

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Wineskins and the NoAH project

The Fall 2007 edition of ReachOut, the bulletin of the New Wineskins Missionary Network, is out in print (but alas, not apparently on the web), with a 4-page lead article which features the now-closed God's Katrina Kitchen and our own Church Army Gulf Coast NoAH project.

The article, "WHO IS FEEDING THEM NOW?", was written by the stalwart Mary Edna Thompson, who is currently back among us working diligently, plastering drywall in Katrina-damaged structures, meeting and praying with political figures who would rather that we disappear, and leading nightly Bible studies. Here are some condensed excerpts from her article:

The images of the victims of Hurricane Katrina are haunting and stir a deep desire to reach out and do something to ease their pain. Two years later, Hurricane Katrina is still wreaking havoc on the lives of many. Concrete slabs and piles of rubble are all that remain of many homes and businesses.

The work of God's Katrina Kitchen was awe-inspiring. GKK has fed an estimated 20,000 volunteers, most of whom work in reconstruction and restoration of storm damaged homes. Not only did GKK feed the volunteers but they also fed residents who needed to be fed. On July 2, 2007, the Gulfport City Council voted not to renew the permit for GKK to continue to provide meals for the residents in need, though God's Kitchen (renamed) can continue to provide meals at a nearby church to volunteers.

HOMELESS ON THE GULF COAST: Homeless is too broad a term for the people who came into the big red and white tent to receive three meals a day. Let me introduce you to some of the regulars at GKK—names have been changed.

SALLY is a cute little four-year-old who lives in a minivan with her Mom and Dad. Black plastic covers one area that used to be a window. Sally won the hearts of everyone. Sally always received a hearty meal three times a day. Her mom would fill plastic jugs with water for her bath. They came to Gulfport in response to a promise for employment. The employment opportunity never manifested and now they are caught up in a homeless situation with occasional day-to-day jobs to help them. So now, who is feeding Sally?

MRS. CORA. Across a field beside the kitchen are FEMA trailers which currently serve as homes for survivors who are struggling to rebuild their lives. Mrs. Cora lives there and walked over to the kitchen at mealtime. She is a quiet sort of woman but never hesitated to say thank you to the volunteers. She suffered great loss from the storm. When your eyes meet her eyes you see pain. But, she is quick to tell you about her faith in Jesus. Who is feeding Mrs. Cora?

VAN AND FREDDIE. No report about GKK would be complete without the inclusion of the on-site ministry of NoAH and two of its participants, Van and Freddie. NoAH is dedicated to the rehabilitation of the homeless and the addicted. Van and Freddie were living under the pier and caught up in a lifestyle of alcohol and drugs. They came to God's Katrina Kitchen one night for a free meal. They received far more than food for the body; they received hope and saw a possibility of a new beginning. Jesus led them to GKK and He received them with open arms. Both were given a place to call home while they worked in the kitchen as lead cooks.

Not only did they accept all the responsibility of running their shifts but a great deal of their time was spent in devotions, Bible study, and accountability sessions. Both Van and Freddie graduated from the NoAH program. Freddie has left GKK in order to support his daughters. Van is now with God's Kitchen, in charge of feeding staff members and volunteers. God answered his prayer to use his talents in food service to serve the Lord.

There is much more to Mary Edna's article, along with a photo of NoAH residents Terry, Van and Freddie. Perhaps if you write or call the contact below, New Wineskins will send you their fall bulletin. And don't forget to send something along to these good folk. .

Looking at the New Wineskins Website, there is a page summarizing the 2007 seminar led by Steve Brightwell, the National Director for Church Army USA. Sharing in Jesus' Heart for the Poor reviews what the bible has to say about our response to those around us who are poor. .

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tuxachanie Trail - Mileposts 6 and 7

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

Time to stretch my legs again (not to mention exercising my broken mended hip and broken mended knee). Before I left California I had found a cobbler who repaired my special shoes with the 2cm lift under my damaged mended left leg, so I was ready to roll; off to the De Soto National Forest in south Mississippi.
But not ready enough to get there on time, apparently. After ruling out POW camp with its 7-acre lake (finding some 50-60 campers there, all outfitted in combat fatigues), I landed at the 1.5 acre Airey Lake, pictured at right and below.

In spite of the lateness of the hour, I tackled a two-mile segment of Tuxachanie Trail from Airey Lake to Big Foot Road near Horse Camp. I found the junction of the western and eastern legs of the trail where a sign advertised 5 miles to POW camp (west) and 7 miles to POW camp (east). The eastern leg showed no evidence of any maintenance since Hurricane Katrina, with major trees still laying across the trail.

Continuing on the western leg, I arrived at Big Foot Road in the gathering dusk of 5:30pm, faced with a decision: return along the moonless trail with no flashlight, or go the long way by following the roads. I chose the fool's route, and before too long I was crying out to God to light my path and protect my feet from stumbling.

After my prayer, the clouds dissipated and my trail ahead was dimly lit by faint starlight. What startled me most was when I entered a more deeply wooded section in the shade: I had been seeing lights off and on for a while, thinking they were distant airplanes or radio towers. But no: in the deep of the woods I was being accompanied by dancing fireflies. I stopped in the pitch dark, and just then a firefly lit up long enough to show me where the trail led.

Back at Airey Camp (7:30pm) I broke out an MRE that I had been saving for just such an occasion as this, and slept overnight in the car. I feel much better today; the pains from my old injuries have subsided, to be replaced by that tired feeling one has after a good bit of healthy exercise.

Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth,
And teach me your laws.
(Psalm 119:108)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Farewell to California

Sunday I attended Saint Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church (TAC, Anglican Province of Christ the King). I arrived an hour late (actually, they started an hour early) because the new archbishop and diocesan was visiting for confirmations, etc. This is one of the historic buildings of Chico, California.

Saturday I went for a hike on the Sacramento River Rail Trail near Redding. Aside from the ATV's, dirt bikes, and Jeeps it was a pleasant place to be.

I fly out this afternoon at 2:30pm, but I won't arrive in Gulfport, Mississippi until 8am tomorrow. I'll have time in Portland for a late supper at the airport with my brother Roger.

Wednesday update: Make that a late gourmet supper cooked and served at Roger's house floating on the Columbia River, including Picante Vegetable Stew and Maringo Chicken. Delicious!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Heading Back to the Briar Patch

Apology: for those of you who were expecting to find the Briar Patch Dictionary at this post, it no longer exists (there were only four words in it, anyway). I have withdrawn the acerbic Dictionary because it seemed to be taking me off the track of Making Disciples while Christ builds his Church.

However, the photos are too good to pass up, so here they are:Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, California
After farming and its supportive waterworks structures (1800-1931) had destroyed most of the wetlands of the central California flyway, this portion of the wetlands was reconstructed north of Sacramento on land of a former hunting club. This set of well-regulated lakes and dikes includes a three-mile auto loop (pedestrians not allowed) and a two-mile hiking trail. Most of my photos were taken out the window of my mom's car while on the auto loop. This photo was from the hiking trail. Out of the gentle murmers of placid waterfowl on a misty afternoon, suddenly ten thousand geese launched themselves into the sky simultaneously, with a sound not unlike a jet airplane passing overhead. I was so startled I almost forgot I was carrying a camera. Placid.
Below: A carpet of geese on the misty lake.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The View from Feather Falls

Hi! I'm on leave, visiting friends and family in California.
Here's my latest activities and news (updated as of Nov. 15).
Update (Nov. 30): Renegade Radio (see item 4 below).

It's been too long since I updated all of you on "what's going on" with the Resurrection Community, so here's another post before I return to Mississippi. In this post I'll be covering:
1: Camping at Lime Saddle;
2: Hiking and Camping at Feather Falls;
3: A Visit to Saint James Anglican in Newport Beach;
4. A Visit to ELM Community Church in Reno;
5. Caring for my Mom in Northern California;
6. The Hope for the Future in Gulf Coast Ministry; and
7. My Schedule for the Coming Weeks.

1: Camping at Lime Saddle:.
I've been visiting my sister in Paradise, California, high on a ridge above the Sacramento Valley, just a few miles north of Oroville. Not five miles from her house is a state campground called "Lime Saddle," perched on a bluff overlooking Lake Oroville. The weather was sunny and marvelous, with temperatures at night dropping into the low 50's. So... you know me... It's time to go camping! . I expected to see some wildlife (squirrels, birds, etc.), but I had not expected to see flocks of wild turkeys browsing in the fields and commuting from and to the lake each morning and evening. I camped here three nights (@ $13 per day) with my rented minicar under the spreading big (!) manzanita trees.

2: Hiking and Camping at Feather Falls:..
At 640 feet tall, Feather Falls is the fifth tallest waterfall in the United States. Without a fisheye lens, there's no way to get a photo of the entire falls in one shot. .. Here's the falls in three parts, taken from the overlook platform. Getting there requires some effort: the falls are some four to five miles from the parking lot at the trailhead. The water comes crashing down the cliff in great clumps of liquid, in an incessant, undulating roar. The splendid overlook platform clings to a rocky outcrop in the Feather River Wild River District, 650 feet directly above a branch of the river. .

. ..
This should be called Tall Country, for I had the same vertical challenge when trying to take a picture of my campsite. These spruces and firs vault some 180 feet into the air, forming an aerial canopy that only allows an occasional shaft of sunlight to break through. A gentle semi-twilight pervades the atmosphere at ground level, where crickets chirp softly at mid-day. This is riparian forestland, where the ground never quite drys out and the trees feast on a constant supply of plenteous water. A brook babbling nearby made sleeping in my borrowed tent a restful treat.



3. A Visit to Saint James Anglican in Newport Beach:
This church was my home for three years as I completed my Master's Degree at nearby Vanguard University. One of my advisers there was Fr. Richard Menees (at right), who is now the Vicar. I was there on October 10 to witness three ordinations overseen by Bishops John Guernsey and Evans Kisekka of the Anglican Church of Uganda. Those ordained were: 1) Cathie Young, Deacon, the very active discipleship pastor for St. James; 2) Brian Schulz, who now will serve as the Priest at Christ Church in Highland, CA, one of St. James' five church plants; and 3) Chuck McKinney, who goes back to serve as Priest in the vibrant new church of Flagstaff Anglican Fellowship in Arizona.

Before leaving Southern California, I was able to spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon exploring the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island with my daughter, Amber (at right) and her fiancé, "Turtle." We rode the ferry from Balboa Peninsula over to the Island and found a small and tasteful restaurant where we ate a small and tasty late lunch.

4. A Visit to ELM Community Church in Reno:
In 2005 a job offer in South Lake Tahoe, California, led to my meeting Fr. Karry Crites (at right), the nearest ACN priest and the only one in Nevada. On October 21 I visited his independent, storefront church north of Reno, where a gracious congregation of 18 people warmly greeted me and encouraged me in my ministry. ELM Community Church holds the candle of Anglican orthodoxy for the state of Nevada.

Update: One of the things that lights a candle in Fr. Crites' eyes is talking about his work to support Renegade Radio. The antenna for this 50,000 watt youth-oriented broadcast service is on a remote roadless peak in an Indian reservation, running on wind and solar power. Fr. Crites talks of hiking up the mountain with backpacks to service the antenna site, sometimes in foul weather. It's also available on the web; click the link to give it a listen.
5. Caring for my Mom in Northern California:
Back when I bought the airline tickets, I had planned to return to Mississippi October 20. But on October 1, My 92-year-old mother, Alma, fell and broke her elbow and bruised her hip, which she had broken two years previously. With my ministry in a dormant phase in Mississippi, I was able to extend my stay in California to help with Mom's recovery. I brought her back to her house from the rehab facility this past Tuesday, and I'm helping around the house as she recovers her strength. She's doing fine, and is determined to resume independent living in her new and spacious duplex in Paradise, CA.
6. Hope for the Future of our Gulf Coast Ministry:
First, a quick update on the past: I've been working alongside God's Kitchen (formerly God's Katrina Kitchen) which has been on site in the Gulf Coast for over two years. I came in under Fr. James Giles (at right), of Church Army USA to help build a ministry to the homeless. The Kitchen was succesively forced out of the Gulf Coast towns of Pass Christian, Gulfport, and now Long Beach for the unforgivable crime of feeding the homeless.

For unrelated reasons (a lease expiration), as of September 30 the NoAH Project (housing myself and Van) left our "undisclosed location" in the Sanctuary leaving James scrambling to find us alternate housing. There are some 20 long-term volunteers for the Kitchen, some of whom have been working for up to two years without drawing a salary. The city of Long Beach has been increasing the pressure to have them vacate the church property where they are currently living. The message is clear: the political structures of the Mississippi Gulf Coast no longer want us there.

Now, the hope: Fr. Giles is working to close out an agreement to work alongside a ministry which is currently setting up shop in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. That ministry is similar to the Kitchen's, in that it services the groups of church volunteers that come south to help rebuild from the Hurricane. There is no area devastated by Katrina that is of greater need than the Lower Ninth Ward, and the resources available to that ministry are a good fit with those of the Kitchen; sort of like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that exactly fit together. Church Army's outreach to addicts and homeless looks as if it also could coexist well with the other ministries in this location, and the need for this ministry is great there.

Housing for the incoming church volunteer groups has been secured. The major hurdle remaining before joining forces with this group is housing for the 20-odd unpaid volunteers from the Kitchen. Specifically, we are seeking permission from the government authorities in New Orleans to move our travel trailers and motor homes to the Lower Ninth Ward. This permission is required so that electrical power poles can be requested from the utility services. That process is under way, and I solicit your prayers for favor from the political structures in New Orleans.
7. My Schedule for the Coming Weeks:
My flight from the major metropolitan airport (not!) of Chico, California to Gulfport, Mississippi is booked for November 27-28. It routes through San Francisco, Portland (!), and Houston. One advantage (!) to my circuituous route is a five-hour layover in Portland, where I will be able to have dinner with my brother Roger, who lives on a floating house there on the Columbia River. Roger has been helpful to me in processing digital photographs for this blog. He might even take on the challenge to attempt to stitch together my snapshots of Feather Falls into one tall photograph of its entire 640-foot height.

On December 8, I will be travelling to Chickasaw, Alabama (near Mobile) for the consecration of Robert Henry as a bishop of the CEEC. His Walmart-sized church facilities there serve the black community of Mobile assisted by several of his satellite churches. I have attended his worship services there and brought the men in the NoAH program to the Saturday breakfast of their Men's Week, where we received a challenging message from Rev. Henry about our responsibilities as Christian men. My archbishop, Russ McClanahan will be the principal consecrator, while my bishop, Alan Morris will also be there along with James Giles.

James has cautioned the Kitchen's volunteers to have a backup plan in place, in case the New Orleans negotiations fall through. For those of us in Church Army, backup opportunities include a move to Church Army posts in St. Louis or Branson in Missouri. But Van (at right) and I both feel a call to ministry from New Orleans; we may look to other possibilities there if Ninth Ward is not an option. This may seem confusing to you; at times it seems confusing to us.

Please pray for us.