Monday, September 17, 2007

What a Journey!

Greetings-Friends & Family!

Many of you have wondered about our well-being over the past few days, so I wanted to touch base and let you know our status.

Tuesday we left around noon and headed for Jackson, MS. I enjoyed a catfish po'boy for lunch, with a side of fried pickle chips. YUM!

Wednesday we drove to Vidor, TX to spend some time with a family we discipled, Leno and Mary Yellott. Mary is Hispanic and was born in the USA; Leno is Mexican and was adopted by a USA couple when he was 18 (they helped him get his start in the states). Leno has built a roofing company from scratch-bringing over family members as he can, for staff. Many live on the same lot or block as he. Considering he was mute until the age of 10, he is quite the success story. He doesn't read English or Spanish, but he knows numbers! Leno was one of Russ's deacons when he pastored in Vidor, and Mary was one of my best friends. Russ performed his first Spanish baptism (he memorized the words) for a family member named Oscar-and we got to see him this trip-grinning ear to ear. Oscar asked where we lived now. We said Kentucky, and he said "Pollo!" And then we had Mary tell him, no Kentucky Fried Pollo in Fulton, Kentucky!

We also saw Mati and his familia, and Rene. And we enjoyed time with the Yellott's grown children, Connie and Alan. It was a blessing to this ol' heart to see so many who were discipled during our time in Vidor, still going strong. And to see Alan all grown up with his wife Belinda, and to think we knew him starting at age 12!

When we got ready for bed, the weather said tropical storm Humberto was headed for Galveston. We wondered if we would make it to our next destination and determined to just take it an hour at a time. But first, SLEEP! In the middle of the night, when the air conditioning shut off and the lights were blackened, I realized the storm I heard outside was more serious than a thunderstorm. Leno awakened us around 6 am to say he needed our keys to move the van in case his palm tree fell. Russ got up with him, and I snuggled in the bed a while longer, although the crowing roosters kept me from sleeping (and Jazzy was antsy, unsure of the upset, but knowing there was one). We all gathered outside on their front porch/carport area, and talked. Mati's wife Chelly swept the fallen leaves. Her children, Angel (4-year-old all boy) and Karen (10-year-old shy girl) entertained us. Angel had his Uncle Leno strum on the guitar so he could sing (in Spanish) and always ended with AIEEEE in a high pitched Cajun-style yodel! His legs and hands not to be outdone by his voice, danced and strummed while seated in a rocking lawn chair.

No shower, no power, no land lines, but the cell phone kept ringing. We were in the home of a roofer! Russ and Leno took a smaller truck to go see what was out there, and discovered the street in front of the school covered in 3 feet of water. Smaller vehicles were getting almost swallowed. Traffic was backed up, so they returned home to get a truck with more gas. This time Mary and I were invited to go along for the adventure, and we made it through the water, to see about some donuts. All the shop had left were kolaches, so we ate them in gratitude (they were yummy!). Each gas station was packed with panicked Vidorians, flashbacking to Hurricane Rita, getting gasoline for their generators, prepared for the long haul. We witnessed cameramen and newscasters reporting the damage done. In a nearby town, a man was killed under his carport. Sometime around this time we discovered Humberto had been upgraded to a hurricane rather than a tropical storm, and that Vidor was in the eye of the storm-not Galveston.

I can say I've survived a hurricane! Grant it, Humberto was only graded a Category 1, unlike the Category 5 (Rita) that hit them a few years ago.

Speaking of Rita, we were glad to see that Vidor had rebuilt since that disastrous hurricane and was looking better than ever. Most churches were able to use the insurance money to improve their structures. We were saddened to see that what used to be the church where Russ pastored was not able to rebuild after Rita, and they had chopped off the damaged part of the sanctuary and capped the end of the building. Rita may have destroyed the church, but those who became believers as a result of that ministry were still going strong as they dispersed to various churches for worship.

One of the funny things that happened while we were staying with the Yellotts is that I put on a little show without even realizing it. Leno told me he was growing some hot peppers hotter than jalapenos. I looked at the plant, and the peppers looked similar to the tabasco-sized peppers my Granny and Papa used to grow. They used to pickle them and we ate them with pinto beans. Mati brought out a large jar of these peppers, and I ate the tip off of one (cautious at first, until I knew how hot they were). Then Russ ate a teeny-tiny bit of it and said "that's HOT!" and then I finished the pepper. For "braving the pepper" they gave me the jar to take home. The next day, Leno wanted me to eat a raw pepper from the plant, so I did. Evidently it was then that someone said in Spanish that they had never seen a white woman eat a hot pepper without running for some water. Ha ha! They then gave me yet ANOTHER jar of the peppers. I explained privately to Mary that there was no way I could eat both jars of peppers before they went bad, but that I didn't want to hurt the feelings of Mati and Chelly. She said I should just take them and give them away (Mom-they are yours if you want them!). Then she explained that Chelly had just been in the E.R. for stomach pain that ended up being an ulcer (and stones), and the doctor told her she couldn't eat spicy things. So they were giving me their peppers-and thought it was funny that I could eat something that one of "their own" couldn't eat. CUTE!

The waters from Humberto receded and we were able to leave Vidor in the afternoon, on the way to Galveston. First we stopped in Texas City at our hotel, to grab a shower and freshen up. Then we entered the island of Galveston and found our friends, Dennis and Teresa Hankins, and daughter Becky. We enjoyed fellowship, talked about church stuff and hobbies like writing and music, and ate a yummy gourmet-style meal at Casey's. It was great to see them after six years.

After a night's stay in Texas City, we journeyed on to Raymondville-our destination! Oh how it thrilled our souls to see the mission-style church with gothic touches. I'll take photos to share as I can. Since no one was there, we went to the local McDonalds to see about wi-fi and then called Terry, the head of the pastor search committee and deacon board. Terry is a teacher at the high school and also the tennis coach. Terry escorted us to the parsonage, and Guy, another gentleman on the search committee, met us there. They helped us unload (it looked like we were moving in!) and told us where to find things before giving us time alone to unwind after the trip. We decided to venture out for dinner and tried the Carne Guisada at Mecca. It was "media" but the server was sweet. Then we went to their H*E*B grocery store. I used to love the H*E*B in Beaumont, so I'm happy happy! Everywhere we turned we found more of the Mexican treats (both savory and sweet) that we used to love so much. And we looked around to notice the faces, and felt as if we were in Old Mexico. The homes and landscaping also bespeak the same "feel."

Saturday we met with the pastor search committee for dinner, and enjoyed a time of fellowship as well as an opportunity for them to interview us. It was easy to bond with these good people!

Then Sunday-the day of our expectation! We got all spiffed and buffed and showed up for Sunday School. I attended a women's class and enjoyed the sweet spirit. These women really enjoy getting into the Word-many carried study Bibles or 4-version parallel Bibles. It was neat to see they didn't just rely on their quarterly (S.S. curriculum), but each had their Bibles open to the passage we studied.

The new song leader, Jesse has such an endearing spirit! He's a band director at a nearby school and father of a one-month old baby. He is jolly, tenderhearted, willing, moldable, and all the traits for a good servant of the Lord.

Russ preached both Sunday morning and Sunday night, and it seemed he connected with the congregation. It was great to sense their reactions and hear their interactions and responses. Sunday afternoon before church we met with the church body in an informal time of tea and cookies. It was a great time to hear their life stories and share our hearts with them. After church Sunday night, the pianist told the chairman of the pastor search committee that Russ was a "keeper." She then turned to hug my neck and told me the same thing. I jokingly replied, "well then don't throw him back!" (like the fish.) She said Russ was just the man of God meant for this time in this place. What a wonderful affirmation of what we had already sensed. Of course, there are no guarantees. Another pastor candidate will be following us, and then they will consider who to recommend for a vote-or will pursue more options. We're not really sure. We just are willing to be used, whether for this two-week period, or permanently.

Let me tell you a little about the parsonage. It was built around 1960 from what I understand, and is a type of ranch or rambler style home. The kitchen still has the original cook-top and oven! It is connected to a sort of great room, with areas for dining and recreation or television, with a type of very large 3-foot squares of what looks like a hard-finished flooring (not tile, but not linoleum). The rest of the home is floored with berber carpet. All the walls and woodwork are the same white paint. One full restroom has the 1960s pink tile floor, countertop and wall surround. The master restroom has the same look, only in mint green. There are 3 bedrooms, and also a formal living space that is currently blocked off to save on air conditioning. The most noticeable thing about the house is the number of closets. The master bedroom has 3 large closets, the guest room has 2 large closets, the other bedroom (probably will be the office if we come) has 1 large closet. The hallway has 2 more closets, and the kitchen has 2 pantry closets. Each restroom has built-in storage. The family room has large built-in bookcases and cabinets. It also has a sliding glass door to go out to the porch/carport area. There is also a laundry coming in from the carport, on the way to the kitchen. Oh! And I mustn't forget the 2 doors outside under the carport, closets for even MORE storage! The formal living room has a foyer with yet another closet, and also built-in shelving.

Outdoors, there is plenty of local flora and fauna! I can't even identify all of the plants and trees, but I'm sure if I take photos, I can find out! I did recognize 3 orange trees in the fenced side-yard, with green oranges just waiting to ripen. I hope I get to try one! And Russ has been saying for months that his dream would be to sit under a palm tree on Christmas Day. If we come here, that will be possible-as there are several palm trees near the parsonage!

We also have enjoyed the bright-yellow-breasted birds landing in the parsonage's trees. I'm not sure if these are orioles or what-I will have to look at photos to decide what is the best match.

Monday we spent time with the church secretary, and at lunch with her, her daughter, and a friend. What great fun as we cut up and it felt like we had known each other for years rather than days. She said one of the members of the church has been asking if we could just go ahead and vote on "Brother Russ" as pastor because he's the ONE! She asked if we had any thoughts yet about if we wanted to come if called. We said so far everything we have seen matches our heart's desire for ministry, but that each day we seek God's will and also touch base with each other.

Learning the Spanish language will not be necessary down here, but it will be a help. Even so we know what to order on the menu!

Stay posted for more adventures On The Road!


Lai Ann Mitchell said...

Hi Kathy and Russ!

We are happy to read that your trip is going well(I guess) smile
Good grief a hurricane of all things! You are much safer here, you know.. just kidding just wish we could keep you too. Be careful, enjoy the trip, talk to you when you get bacj

Full Contact, Savior-centric Livin said...

I'm popping in after a long absence from the internet. So Russ is a candidate--in a little town in Texas? Very cool.

Pray for us. Looks like Bill is going to Iraq in November--maybe for a year. Arrrgh.

Your sis in Christ,