Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adjuster Says...

For those of you following the path Hurricane Dolly has taken through our church, you might be interested to know the insurance adjuster came by yesterday for his initial assessment. He has been in the Rio Grande Valley examining church damage for a few days now and he says our church has the worst damage of any he has seen from Dolly's destruction. But...not to leave it on a negative...we are also seeing God providing in amazing ways. It will take months of rebuilding but we are up for the challenge. Our heart's desire is to not just see the sanctuary rebuilt (the PLACE of our worship), but the church family rebuilt (the PEOPLE of worship). We certainly plan to take this two-prong approach to rebuilding. We all have something in our lives that needs a do-over. Not just redoing the junk we already have, but letting God do a NEW WORK in us! If you are here to see photos of the damage, feel free to scroll down to last week, when this journey began.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Scroll Down For Hurricane Photos

The most current post is at the top of this blog, so I encourage you to scroll down if you are just checking in, to see the photos of how Hurricane Dolly impacted our church sanctuary. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and for your interest in our church during this time. Your supportive encouragement means so much!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Survivors!

Today we were blessed with the opportunity to share communion together and focus on what's really important: the gift Jesus gave us through His shed blood and broken body. What a beautiful symbolism.

Our facility still did not have electrical power, but that didn't stop about 45-50 people from meeting in the Fellowship Hall equipped with funeral fans (actually they were wedding fans). We met for an abbreviated service since the heat was almost unbearable. ALMOST. You can bear just about anything for a little bit of time!

Russ's message today at First Baptist Church/Raymondville was an awesome challenge to continue to live above the circumstances rather than under them (sorry for the cliché).

His sermon series from the past few weeks is called “FEARLESS” (how appropriate!) and today he focused on Benaiah. Russ quoted Mark Batterson who wrote In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.

Characteristics of Overcomers:
They Defy the Odds
They Face their Fears
They Overcome Adversity
They Embrace Uncertainty
They Take Risks
They Seize Opportunities
They Look Foolish

Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor, said:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.

I’m determined to be grateful for that choice with which we have been gifted.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sunday's Coming!

We’re already seeing God at work! He has given us all sorts of grace. Not just amazing grace, but sufficient grace, enduring grace, discerning grace, and more!

There are some great opportunities for God to be glorified—the testimony we have as a church family in the community can go a long way during these trying times-more than a new church program or a big church budget.

Tomorrow during church we are excited to get together, even without power and dealing with the high temperatures and rank smells, to show God He means more to us than the aftermath of Dolly. We are going to celebrate that our lives were spared and that most houses are still standing, and that things aren’t worse than they are. So much to be grateful for.

Every time you see rebuilding in the Bible-from what I can remember, revival breaks out. Oh Lord, may it happen in Raymondville!

Some have asked more details, and I've sent out notes, but just so you all know:
You have asked where you can send donations as we rebuild. That touches my heart more than you KNOW! All charitable donations can be sent to:

First Baptist Church
P.O. Box 367
Raymondville, TX 78580

You will receive a receipt for tax purposes, as well.

Another question I received was about our insurance benefits and what we will be left to pay to redo the church, and what offerings we have to work with. We do have insurance, but it is a 20/80 plan, plus our deductible, plus to get things to look historic (we are on the historic registry with a marker in front of our building) we will have more expense than just using modern church design. Our church is a very small church membership, with primarily senior citizens on fixed incomes, and those still working just making it paycheck to paycheck. An average week of offerings is only $1500 to run all the ministries of the church and pay the salaries and the utility bills. Our county is the 12th poorest county in the entire nation, so fundraising will be challenging.


More Photos From the Hurricane

Above: Our side street at home.

Above: The street sign by the church.

Above: The street by the church.

This is the side of our house, where the water got right up to the foundation.

Work Day Photos

Today, 18 members of First Baptist Church met to bring order back to the chaos caused by Hurricane Dolly. The first step was to remove the fallen ceiling tiles, soggy carpet, and soaked pew cushions. We discovered more damage today. The beautiful beams in the church now have wood popping loose--must be a type of veneer. Also it looks like the new carpet we just put down a couple of months ago in the Sunday School classrooms has mold starting to grow (it smells that way too). Not sure the wet vac will be the remedy. Maybe if we could have gotten to it the first or second day, but with power out, that wasn't possible. We plan for services tomorrow. A little hurricane isn't going to keep us from worshiping God!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two Days After...

Just like two days after surgery is the most painful, two days after a hurricane the overwhelming impact of what you've just survived and what is left to deal with hits. I have no real mental focus for my business, although I want to work to have something different to focus on than what is around me here. Sort of a different version of Paul's statement of old, "the things I wish I could do, I can't, and the things I wish I wouldn't do, I find myself doing."

The media heard about our church building's destruction and came to the church to interview Russ and get footage for the evening news. It should be on video stream at:

The parsonage is like Grand Central Station with phone calls, planning meetings, and emergency prayer requests. I'll be honest and say I've had to pray for God to give me grace because even though I'm a people person to the max, I also like a certain amount of alone time each day to decompress.

I'm grateful, though, that we have a place we can use for God and for our community, to reach out to them in their time of need. We will have at least one house guest spend the night, and others coming for a meal tonight, and perhaps a quick shower. And of course, those without power have been invited over to watch the news coverage of our church loss. I'm making a big pot of chile verde because it will feed a crowd and I don't need to fuss in the kitchen all day with it.

The insurance adjuster will be coming on Monday to do the appraisal, and she gave us permission to go ahead an start the clean up work since we have documented everything with photos. So, we will be able to remove the foul-smelling ceiling tile (it has been getting wet for years and years, so you can imagine...) and the soggy carpet. We'll also sort through the hymnals and pew Bibles and separate the damaged pews from the decent ones. Of course, we don't know many churches with mismatched pews, so they will probably count it a total loss since it would be near impossible to find pews to match today since these were quite old. Tomorrow we are calling for a work day for anyone who can come out, but we aren't expecting them to if they have health ailments or their own emergencies to tend to. But there are a few members who really want to have a part in the clean-up, so this will give them a chance to get the church ready for services on Sunday.

Russ and a couple of other guys (thanks Rich and Jesse) already set up the Fellowship Hall for church service on Sunday. We still don't have power, but we are prepared to have at least an abbreviated service no matter what because we don't want to allow the devastation to get the better of us!

So many of you have asked what you can do to help. I know we have cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer coming. We will know more what we need after the adjuster gets the appraisal complete. There will be deductibles to meet for sure. We will be meeting in the Fellowship Hall for several months while the repairs are going on. I'll keep you posted. We are just so blessed to report that as far as we know, no lives were lost in our area due to this horrific storm, and the rescue teams that came in to offer aid to our community were quick and efficient, ready to offer ice, water, and food rations (RTE Army-style).

My odd sense of humor kicks in at the strangest times. Like today when I read that Hurricane Humberto was the last Texas hurricane of 2007 and Dolly the first of 2008--and we experienced BOTH of them. We had Humberto on our way down here to try out for the position. And we warned the people here that extreme weather follows us wherever we go. And then now we have Dolly. "We told you so!"

We aren't discouraged. We have a great God. And we know things could be much worse. And we also know that the church is the people, not the building. But there's just something sacred about that sanctuary, so to see it destroyed really knocks the air out of you when you first walk in.

In fact, when we walk our church members through to tour the damage, it is very similar to being at the funeral home and meeting someone at the door who came to the viewing, and walking them up to the casket telling them all the good memories of the deceased and helping them gently walk the walk of grief to say their good-byes. Those first moments for anyone seeing the damage are very somber.

Thank you, THANK YOU, for your many notes of kindness, prayers, and support.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Photos of Dolly's Damage-Our Church

(Sorry if there are some repeats)

Our Church Building Took a Hit!


We just got power back and as soon as the air conditioning cools the house (and my brain cells) I'll be able to write about our 2-day Hurricane experience. But for now, I want to share some photos so you know how to pray for us--we have a rebuilding ahead of us.

We have an older mission-style church with a copper roof. The roof curled up much like opening a sardine can. Even though there was plywood under the copper, you can see spots of daylight, and water came in and ruined the ceiling tile, crashing it into the pews. Pews are ruined with popped veneer, the hymnals and pew cushions are ruined, the carpet is soggy, the walls are water damaged and the SMELL is horrific. We'll be meeting in the fellowship for several months while we do the repairs. I'll tell you more about the hurricane later, but for now, take a look at some of the photos and pray as we rebuild.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I've never heard of this before. Willacy County EMS (the county we live in) has discontinued service until further notice to specific towns/areas. It does not include our town, but the nearby Port Mansfield. I didn't realize EMS ever said they wouldn't respond to a 9-1-1 call. It seems to me that they should evacuate any area that cannot have rescue crews in place so that individuals with health problems would know to go somewhere that will still have medical aid. What if a person has a stroke or heart attack during this storm? They are just out of luck. Scary thought! So glad our town is still receiving service so that our elderly are taken care of in their potential times of need.

Willacy County said they will never endanger their rescue crews to go to the aid of another person. Hmm...


Hurricane Dolly continues to churn. The news just reported some bad news for us. Dolly has decided to stall out, churning for longer right along our coastline, and rather than making landfall south of us, she will slowly make her way north on the shoreline and will probably make landfall just east of us, and with this slow-mo action, they are now saying it will be another 2-3 hours before she hits. If you hear the town Port Mansfield on the news in relation to this hurricane, that is the closest shoreline town to where we live (north of South Padre Island area).

The bad news is, with Dolly taking her time coming ashore, the rain and winds have camped out longer in our area, rather than making its way west and out of our area.

We needed moisture earlier in the year, but now it has hit at the worst time. The cotton crops had just opened up their buds and before most farmers could get the cotton in, this rain has come to wreak havoc. They might be taking a total loss.

Our electricity has powered off three times, but each time came right back on.

Jazzy doesn't know what to do now that her bathroom is flooded. Hmm...

And inside, I'm making Crispix party mix. We might as well make the best of this, right?

Thanks for your interest and prayers.

Hanging On!

The storm has slowed down before making landfall, which means it's prepared to drop a LOT of rain before moving out of the area. It's also brewing some tornadoes.

Our lights have flickered several times, but power has not gone out. The television satellite signal has gone out several times, but comes right back on in just minutes. Of course, we have it on our local news for up to the minute weather updates.

Dolly is having 120 mile wind gusts and is making interesting sounds out there. The trees look like God is stirring a pot of guisado. Not blowing in one direction but swaying in all different directions. The palm trees are REALLY swaying.

The birds outside act confused and worried. My Libby (calico cat) has hunkered down in her comfy sleeping cube, and Jazzy (Boston Terrier) is on her blankee on the couch with a bite of blankee in her mouth much like a pacifier. Animals KNOW.

Thanks for those prayers. Someone asked if we have insurance. We do and so does the church. BUT our church is a historical building and there is no way to replicate it if something happens--no amount of money can make it all better. More important than buildings though, are the individuals who are at risk.

Still watching and waiting.

Dolly Upgraded

Dolly has been upgraded to a Category Two Hurricane, with winds over 100 MPH, with gusts higher than that. She is slowing down as she approaches land, and they predict she is still strengthening so she is powering up!

Our Front Door

I apologize for taking this photo through the screen door, but the door is blockaded with sandbags so I can't open it. This is a view of our sidewalk being covered with water just about 30 inches from our front door, and Hurricane Dolly isn't here yet.

This shows our vulnerable areas.

Still watching and waiting!


We have every reason to believe that we will be fine in our own home. Russ has plans to cover any damaged windows we might get with the wood we have from extra doors and even a ping pong table so we are set to go if we need to cover up windows. These windows have lasted through storms since 1960 so I have every reason to believe they will be okay unless a fluke tree limb or other debris crashes through.

We also want you to know that the Raymondville Shelter is right across the street from us, at the High School Auditorium, so if things worsen, we will go there.

The rain has been start and stop, along with the wind--coming in bands. But now it seems to be here to stay.

We have our cell phones fully charged and a way to recharge them if electricity goes out, so if your worrier gets to be too much you are welcome to call us. Otherwise, we will just keep posting here to let you know updates (until electricity goes out).

We should be one of the first to regain power after the storm is over, since we are in the same region of town as the city shelter at the school. The power crews say they will not send out workers in the storm so they will wait until the Hurricane passes and risks of tornadoes lessen before they send crews to fix failed power lines.

Watching and Waiting!

Morning Watch, Less than 2 Hours to Impact

Bottom Photo:
The sky reflects the impending hurricane and the trees are blowing in the wind.

Second Photo:
Our big plastic container is there to catch water from our faulty roof drainage and divert it away from the house (we poked holes in the container away from the house). The sand bags will help stop a little of the back flow of water towards our back door. They only gave us limited bags, so we put the rest at our front door.

Top Photo:
Our driveway is already almost flooded over, with very little rain down compared with what is to come.

The news says this has time to make it to a Category Two before it hits land. And the news keeps mentioning Raymondville as the worst possible flood area because of our poor system to divert even a little rain before the streets flood.

More soon!

Midnight Report-Before Dolly Hits Land

It's midnight now and the rain is coming down harder. Tornadic activity has been reported on radar in the county South of us, a precursor of Dolly. She is said to have several potential tornadoes in her bag of tricks. At the rate Dolly is approaching land, she is estimated to touch our beaches between 10 AM and Noon (Wednesday). Prior to that will be a great amount of wind and rain.

We have a special adapter we can use in our vehicles to plug in small electronic devices like our laptops and our cell phones if the electricity goes out.

I noticed our neighbor pull out a charcoal grill to use if we lose power. I wish I would have thought of that! We don't have a gas or charcoal grill of any kind and our home is all-electric.

We have plenty of cheese crackers and peanut butter and saltines to get by if we have to! I also purchased tuna and canned chicken and some other nonperishables. And like the bears before hibernation, we have a nice "fat pad" to keep us nourished if we don't have three course meals for a while!

The main thing we didn't do since the storm is only a Category One is to board up our windows. We have quite a few windows, but they've survived storms since 1960.

To be honest, we are most concerned about the church because it is in a low-level of the town with worse drainage conditions. The roof and ceilings are compromised anyway due to age and previous weather problems. Also we are concerned for our elderly church members who might require assistance and be too independent to ask for help. We will be sure to check on them as soon as we know what we are dealing with.

Our Music Director went ahead and left town with his wife and infant daughter, and left his tall truck with us because it would be safer here than at his rental. So we have permission to use it to get around town if we need to, and it sits up taller than our mini-van.

There has not been a voluntary evacuation ordered, though, so we should be safe. We'll probably just be inconvenienced. This time tomorrow, we'll know what we're dealing with. And if the Internet is available, you'll know too.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Storm Watch

Dolly is on her way, promising to dump torrential rains, damaging winds, floods, and more. They are predicting electric will go out and houses will heat up quickly without air conditioning. The roads will flood due to lack of drainage systems here (the streets ARE the storm drains!).

So far, we've had some slow rains, but not much more. Nevertheless, we know Dolly is coming.

We have gassed up the vehicles, put sandbags in front of both doors, purchased water and nonperishable foods, been to the bank, and stocked up on prescription medications. So we are set.

Now we watch...and wait.

I'll be posting hurricane news alerts as long as I have internet access.

Thanks for praying-especially for our elderly, and for those who will be isolated when the waters rise.