Saturday, March 14, 2009

final trip

Happy Spring!

This was to be my last entry a couple of days ago – but there were no wireless hookups when we camped, along with limited facilities (no water).

We left Houston on Sunday, March 8 with 77 degrees at 10:00 in the morning. Highs were to get up to the mid 80’s.

Our days in Galveston are now behind us, until next year. It was bittersweet leaving our new friends, but I am hopeful to be going back in May with our church group. The next two weeks in Galveston will be the busiest time as they will be expecting close to 1800 students to come down to help during the two weeks of spring break. Added onto that, Pastor Billy is trying to put together a rally for the volunteers at the Convention Center filled with worship leaders, skits, drama, music…so exciting! I would love to be there.

As we headed to our next visit in Caldwell, TX we encountered many bluebonnets and some Indian paintbrushes! The bluebonnets are such a lovely blue/purple flower with a white coned top and they were at their prime. I was so excited that I took many, many, MANY pictures! It is such a beautiful and friendly flower.

Bluebonnets galore!

Sunday we spent the evening in Rockwall, TX with Ken’s previous secretary, Jackie, and her family Steve and Sara. It is amazing how kids grow up so fast. We remembered when Sara was born and now she is graduating from high school. Even though we have seen her growing up it is just amazing how time flies. We had a very enjoyable visit and a wonderful dinner. The time passed so quickly and we had to bid adieu until next year.

We then visited with Audra & John. Audra is the daughter of a very long time friend of mine (Charlie) from King’s College. Audra and John have a ranch, appropriately called the A&J Ranch. They moved from the rat race of Houston to the country and have 57 acres, where the cattle and horses roam, along with the wild critters of rattlers, wild hogs, etc…the type you would find in the country/hills of Texas. They converted their garage into their house and are living amongst oil derricks on their property. They are really enjoying it.
If someone would have told me Audra would be doing this I would have told them they were crazy. Audra has always been a small town girl (from Forty-Fort, PA) living in the big city of Houston. She has adapted quite well. A pleasant surprise was Audra’s aunt Shirley & her friend, Fred who came for a visit.

In Crowder, OK, on our way to visit our niece, we saw a ‘cow rescue’. A helicopter was hovering over water, lifting a cow up! You don’t see that every day.

We headed out very early on Monday morning to Van Buren, AR to visit my niece, Aly, and her family.
Mommy Alyanna Daddy Mike
As many of you know, I was in the delivery room when my great nephew, Austin, was born. He is such a grown up little boy. And his brother, Keifer, is just a cuddle bear and then there is Airyanna. What a little princess. She is such a handful for her mom. But what a pretty little girl…and she loves her Great-Uncle Ken. Ken rocked her to sleep one evening …it was such a beautiful sight.

Julie, Keifer & Airyanna Airyanna giving Ken that devilish look

Austin on left
Keifer in center
Airyanna with pacifier

We left AR and it was in the low 30’s. BRRRRRR. The cold front was fast approaching. Branson, MO was our next stop and we had snow flurries with the prediction of sleet. We decided to stay an extra day to see a few shows and wait out the weather. Our first night we saw Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. It was quite a sight to be that close to longhorn steers and horses.

Our next night we saw the Liverpool Legends…a group that looked and sounded like the Beatles in their early years. We were quite impressed and really enjoyed the show. Along with the show they had George Harrison’s sister who put the group together and showed video clips from the 60’s when the Beatles were up and coming. It is quite a tribute to see them. Especially when both Ken and I could not afford the $5 back in the 60’s to get a ticket. $5 doesn’t seem like much now, but back then, it was quite a lot.

We are now heading towards St. Louis, Indianapolis, IN and then home. This will probably be my last entry into this year’s blog.

See y’all very soon and we miss all the friends we left in the south!

Blessings to all,
Julie and Ken

Friday, March 06, 2009

The News from Galveston...via our blog,

Ken has become a celebrity down here. His team was on the local news, Channel 13 (ABC) out of Houston.

He was supervising a group of students at the University Baptist Church where we are staying, sandblasting some old bunk beds in preparation for accommodating hundreds of students for the next several weeks. He is in the video briefly, his back is turned from the camera, unloading sand, and wearing a green sweatshirt.
They interviewed Pastor Billy who explained about all the devastation that is still down here. We had sent the link to a few people and they sent us an e-mail the next morning saying the church (and Ken)were on Good Morning America! Everyone here was excited that we FINALLY got some news coverage about the devastation here. The link is, then look for the video titled: "Students rebuild instead of relax". It might be in the archives.

This is Pastor Billy's normal day - on the phone making arrangements for teams coming in and assigning work for all the volunteers, along with pastoring and running for supplies.

We have had many people here this week. There was a group of 46 students from St. Bonaventure, outside of Buffalo, NY that happened to be without a place to stay (their reservations got messed up) so they called Pastor Billy and he told them to come over and that we would find a place for them. They were even willing to sleep on the lawn (right!)… these kids did not know about FIRE ANTS!
So, the Sanctuary became a dorm along with the other parts of the Education wing. It was quite cozy, but the kids were thrilled they had a place to sleep. This has been a learning experience for all involved.
There were two other church groups that were also here - one group that really wanted to include all the college students in the their meals and make them feel like part of the family. The second night was originally scheduled to be sloppy joes, but a restaurantier brought what we thought would be a meal. ..turned out it was only spaghetti sauce. Fortunately we had extra uncooked spaghetti, so I asked Tim (one of our community family 'kids’) to go out for salad and garlic bread. The meal was scheduled for 6:30 pm., but because one church group did not get out of the kitchen til after 6:30, this put everything behind. Jenn (our other community ‘kid’, married to Tim) helped get dinner ready for 75 people! Tim helped out by washing the dishes Jenn and I got dirty, which was a great help. There was a bit of a miscommunication, but we did get everyone served by 8:10 pm. Talk about feeding the multitudes!
The next night we introduced the college kids to BBQ brisket…most of them had no idea what it was, but once they ate it they were in love with it. They couldn’t believe we would prepare such a meal for them. They even had left over BBQ sandwiches for lunch, which they devoured. The following night we had taco salads which they also enjoyed. They were so thankful and just couldn't believe we would include them and even cook for them! It was so neat to be able to minister to these kids by using the tool of ‘food’. Many of them said they didn’t know such hospitality existed. They were expecting sandwiches most of the time, peanut butter and jelly.
The one church, who had kind of taken them under their wing, served them breakfast. One morning of sausage and gravy over biscuit another morning, egg and sausage burrito. We tried to make them feel welcome so far away from home. I became known as the “den Mom” because I did bed checks on them every night. It got to be a joke when I would walk in, some of the boys would hide to make me look for them. They were like little kids playing pranks on their parents.

There was one college girl from Erie, PA (Lauren Adams) knew our Ben Sperring, Meredith Neel and Rachel Unkle! What a small world. Then there was a boy whose relatives owned a financial business in Erie and he visits Erie during the summer.

I got to sing in the Praise Band on Sunday! I was so excited. Pastor Billy is next to me singing. I really enjoyed it! Lee, the Worship Leader,is on the left).

Ken took me to see "Menopause, the Musical"at the 1894 Opera House on the Strand...we really enjoyed it. It was at the recently renovated Strand, which had been completely covered with water. Ken has a new appreciation for my "personal vacations in the tropics".

Our family community here at University Baptist is slowly dwindling. Rex & Janice left on Thursday. It was sad to see them leave. The 'kids, Tim and Jenn, FINALLY received their RV and finished unpacking their belongings from the van to the RV. It is parked in the yard of a Methodist parsonage in Fish Village. Each street is named for a fish. We call Tim and Jenn the 'kids' because they are the youngest here.

From left to right: Dawn (Pastor Billy's wife), Ken, Julie, Tim & Jenn...stopping for a Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

Punay & Bing & Lee will be moving into their home by mid-March, Ruth won't be moving until May and Pastor Billy and his wife, Dawn, hopefully will be moved in by mid-March also. Ken has been spending the last week fixing up Pastor Billy's house , connecting plumbing to vanities fixing plumbing that was too high, a kitchen vent when the ceiling was opened to put it into, there were two supporting beams. One from the old roof and one from the new roof. Just little stuff that is aggrevating when you are trying to get into the house. Dawn told Billy she would not move into the house until it was completely done for fear that once in, it would not get finished. Moving him along is the fact that they are living with another couple with four children and another on the way. We are the last of our little group that would be leaving.

Ken has also been working on Hazel’s house. Here he is drawing up floor plans for how the house should look when

finished. He decided to do this for the upcoming groups to make it easier on Billy. Hazel has no money and we (the church) are trying to get money from donations and grants to finish up her house. We heard last night that she will be receiving a FEMA trailer.

We left Galveston Thursday Afternoon, Mar 5.
We are currently in Houston, heading home with stops in Caldwell and Rockwall, TX and Van Buren, AK and Branson, MO.
The weather yesterday turned cooler, but as I am writing this today, it is 85! We had 80 degrees a couple of days ago and a cold (cool to us Pennsylvanians) front has come in and stalled. Looks like we will be dodging the storms again this year.

See y'all in about 2 weeks.