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)