Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wait Till Next Year... Again

Why am I once again having to wait until next year. You know, after a while, I should find a team that doesn't break my heart every single time out there. But I just can't bring myself to it. So I guess I'll once again sit and watch as someone else gets to watch their team in the World Series. :(

Late night ramblings

What does a youth pastor do when youth group is cancelled? That's the question I faced tonight when I had to cancel youth so I could be available for a special service for our guests staying at the church. Not to mention we don't have our youth room or gym available. And, now that I think about it, many of our kids live on roads that are closed, without power, and in a town where usually only one gas station has gas at a time.

Not that I'm complaining. God has absolutely blessed this town in so many ways since Saturday. FEMA is here and getting people help. This morning, I was woken up by a knock on my door. It was a local policeman and a national guard officer. They were checking on the area elderly and mistook my place for my 82-year-old neighbor's. At least it was encouraging that there are people out there who care.

This past morning, three nurse practioners and two RNs from Austin came to the church and checked on everybody staying here. They wrote prescriptions for people who were running out of the medicines they needed, and supplied some samples for them to hold them over until our pharmacies get restocked.

There are a bunch of people here from Idaho. I'm not sure who they are or why they are here, but it's still nice to see them. Our electric co-op is being supported by crews from all over Texas and many other states. I've seen some license plates from way out of state on some repair trucks.

Here's a couple of links to some stories from the Nacogdoches newspapter
San Augustine takes brunt of storm in Deep East Texas
High percentage of DETEC customers without electricity

By the way... Do I really look young or is it just people being crazy? While I was on my flight to Midland, I was sitting in the exit row. The flight attendant came over, and actually asked me if I was old enough to be there. You only have to be...

AHHHHHH!!!! :) :) Guess It's time to grow out the old youth pastor goatee again. This is worse than when a teacher tried to give me a detention for talking on a cell phone during lunch. :)

Oh well, my shift watching the shelter is about to end. Time to catch a few hours of sleep and get back at it tomorrow. Eventually, I have to plan for everything to get back to normal. Whatever normal will be.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

First First!

Of course, this past weekend, I had to make a decision on rather to stay in the area, or use the nonrefundable ticket I had bought to Midland. After a lot of prayer and discussion with the SP, I went.

Something that never happens, happened... I won! I was 1st in forms in the 17-29 year old colored belt division! I couldn't believe it! I watched the last guy go through his form and thought, "I'm in the lead."

I ended up also taking a second with my weapon and third in sparring. I went the full two minutes in my last match, losing 3-2. I got to get back to the gym. By last 30 seconds, I was breathing so hard. What a weekend.

We still have about 100 people in the church. Everything is being cancelled tonight, so no youth. I met one teen girl staying with us and found out that she was a dancer. (the shorts that said "dancer" on them gave me some clue). So I made a call and found a ballet teacher who teaches one of my youth group kids. She offered her free lessons as long as the family is in our shelter. Just another one of those things were you get to see the best in people.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita vs. the small town

I'm not a beach person. Don't get me wrong, I like visiting the beach every once in a while, but you could not pay me enough to live right against a coast line. So I sit here amazed that my town turned into a coastal village this weekend.

The news coverage is totally consumed with Hurricane Rita coverage. (At least that's what they tell me, becuase my cable is out and we can't pick up regular signal out here.) From what I've heard, towns like Beaumont, Vidor, Orange, and Lake Charles got hit really hard. What a lot of them won't tell you is that this storm was still a hurricane 150 miles inland.

I live 100 miles north of Beaumont, Texas near Nacogdoches and Lufkin. Back starting Wednesday, we started getting people leaving Beaumont, Orange, and the like to get out of the way of what was coming. We took in as many of them as we could in the church, finally peeking out at 215 filling up our gym, activity center, every sunday school room, and even the santuary itself.

Saturday morning, the storm came in so fast and strong that it kept together even as it came into deep east Texas. Our power went out almost immediately. Even the water went out for a while. It's back now, but not drinkable. We're under a boil order until Friday. Some people are beginning to leave and head back to their homes, especially those who came to us from the Houston area.

There are trees down everywhere. This area is full of pine trees and beautiful forests. The Sabine National forest is a mess. In town, almost every house has at least a tree down if not more. There is a historic building by the chamber of commerce building that had the Texas state flag painted on the roof. The roof is almost gone, leaving on slivers of the once large flag that welcomed people. I personally have a very large tree resting gently against my home, but thankfully not in my home. My power and water is on, but that makes me one of the lucky ones in my county. The co-op that runs our power is working so hard to try to get everyone back on as soon as possible, but that may be up to four weeks for some of my students. Who knows when school will be back in for those kids. The school has about 700 people in it. In fact, one person in the city administration told me that as of Friday night, the population doubled.

As I said before, the water is not drinkable. The boil order is at least until Friday. The one grocery store in town is almost empty. When the power went out, they lost what hadn't been snatched up by everybody's last minute buying. There is no bottled water in the town except what has been brought in by some wonderful people.

Want to know about gas? So does everybody else in town. This afternoon, there was only one out of five gas stations that had any. It's line was at least a mile. At another station, some people from out of town were sitting on top of their car in 100 degree heat. I went up to them seeing if they needed any help. They told me they were going to wait in line there until the truck arrived.... tomorrow. It's $2.85 in case you were wondering.

You know, when Katrina came through, we were so concerned for Bayou La Batre, Alabama. A bunch of students and I went to the bayou for a mission trip this summer to work on houses and with people affected by Ivan last year. As I made twenty phone calls trying to get information, a pastor told me that it was like "trying to explain colors to someone born blind" describing the damage he had seen. I'm going to try to post a few pictures and see if I can bring a few things to the light.

Bottom line, we're doing fine down here in Texas. I have been amazed at the capacity of people to care for each other when they all work together and God is in their hearts and on their minds. Black, white, latino, and asain, they were all here huddled together in the gym. We still have over 100 people using our church property as a shelter. The vast majority of these people are working so hard, that we barely need people working to help them. Everybody is pitching in with the cooking, cleaning, caring for the little ones, organizing food and clothing donations, and everything else that it takes. In fact, as I sit at my computer while keeping guard on the night watch, it's so quiet. As much I would like life to get back to normal, I will miss the wonderful folks who have stayed up with me until a few minutes ago and kept me company.

Be sure to keep inland Texas and Louisiana in your prayers and don't forget about us here. I'll try to post more later if possible.

An old tree just knocked over in our church parking lot.

This used to be the sign at our grocery store

A large sinkhole just a block away from the church.

This sign just kicked over by the wind.

A power line still down

This tree used to be in my back yard, now it is on top of my place.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Long Time

Wow. It's been a long time since the last post. I've always had trouble with journals, so I guess a blog is no different.

It's amazing how far Hurricane Katrina's effects have reached. I live almost six hours drive from New Orleans in the middle of nowhere, and yet all of our hotels are full and we are looking to open our church as a shelter. I would have never thought that this small town would be on the map when it comes to relief, but we're ready to our part if called upon.

I'll make some longer posts later, but I just wanted to get back on so those on the ring will see something new here. God Bless!