Let them bring me to your holy hill

I know it’s been a little while since posting. The days and weeks all run together.
Since I last wrote, the LW and I had a wonderful trip to California. There I officiated her brother’s wedding in Napa Valley, preached at one church, did a Q&A at another, and met with two others. We were able to raise awareness and money for ST. Patrick’s and the Gulf Coast. Plus, at the end of all the “work”, LW and I had two very nice days in Oakland and in the Valley.
And, the truth is, it was VERY hard to come back home.
Meanwhile we plug along. My vestry has begun pushing for us to make some decisions on where to build and when. We have begun evaluating land, talking to officials about the feasibility of the former site, and looking at temporary office and worship space. Some good news on that over the weekend that I hope to report soon. I have underestimated the importance to my people-in-exile of having a church home, where we are not the visitors every Sunday morning. So I am now clear on that, and we will resolve that soon, I hope. Many of our adopting / partnering churches are ready to help make that happen as well.
In addition to all of your prayers for our church and people, please pray for my parents. My father is facing some difficult health problems, and over the weekend that became even more apparent. We see some docs tomorrow. My mother is a wonderful care giver, but this will be an enormous challenge.
Speaking of prayer, that is my sermon for today. I will talk about praying – and my own struggle with prayer post-Katrina. I am reminded of John Drebilbis (beloved Seabury prof) who often asked me “how is your soul”?
I do pray. But I struggle to PRAY….I don’t know if that makes sense or not. But I am committed to following Jesus’ example of praying through all things, of carving out that special time of communing with God, of being led by the Light and the Truth that is Jesus Christ, led to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy. How then can my soul be cast down, disquieted?

That’s the sermon. I wing them mostly these days, although I am again recording them and posting to our web site. The idea is above, what will come out I am not sure of. I am sure of this – we must pray.

Six Weeks…..forgotten????

We have officially entered the “despair zone”, and of great concern to me is how the focus of our nation seems to have moved on. Not to say that the recent disasters in Pakistan and Mexico shouldn’t take up much needed attention and appeals for help. But debates over woefully inexperienced Court appointees, and etc. now occupy much of the media’s attention. I wonder if those outside our region have a clue of the desperate situation we are in.
While some areas of the Coast are up and running, with a few businesses getting online, we still are in a stage of mass destruction cleanup and the need for the basics of life. Our relief center continues to see 100s a day, and we are very short on food and other supplies. We send appeals out now (we didn’t have to for a long time), as folks need the free food so they can spend what litle money they have on other things. Many are jobless, with not much hope on that front in the short term.
I know this is not the most popular of blogs in the internet world, but I did seem to have a lot more visitors leaving comments in the early days of Katrina recovery. I don’t see that any more. And as I puruse the blogs that I read most often, rarely is the storm mentioned any more. Being forgotten worries me more than the threat of more storms. This will be a long, long haul folks. Keep us in your prayers. Keep coming to help. Keep helping us think of how to put it back together again.

I will be in California this weekend. It was a pre-storm scheduled trip to do a family wedding, but now while there I am visiting several churches in the Bay Area to talk about Katrina and to raise money for the recovery efforts. Plus, the LW and I get a chance to escape the madness for a few days, and for our sanity we must do so from time to time. Problem is, we have to come back. Just typing that depresses me. This is the challenge of a life time. Don’t forget us.

Doctors Without Orders


First, for those who wanted to see the sermon for Oct 2nd, click HERE. I did not record it and the Word file is just what I remember from what I said.

I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of my LW (seen in the clinic at right). Right after the hurricane she decided what we needed was a free medical clinic – this was two days post-storm (mainly because she knows how to do medical missions, she no longer has a job – clinic destroyed and no jobs in town). After I asked the Bishop for permission, she ran with it. Having been on Honduras Medical Missions for years, she knew how to get a clinic up and going. Our Diocesan Panama Misison sent meds and supplies to get us started (and their team is working here this week). From our relief center she somehow connected with a group from Meridian that came down and got us going. A group from Charlottesville, VA came too (they were GREAT). Following them came Duke University ( wonderful team). The U of Miami now sends a group weekly – all hard workers. We’ve had docs and nurses and pharmacists from Canada, Indiana, Kansas….on and on the list goes. They began seeing 300 patients a day, it’s around 125 now. They now go out in vans to mobile sites – FEMA trailer cities where people have been deposited with no food, no cars, no gas, no medical, no NOTHING. We have found 3 such sites this week and send supplies and medical personnel to them. It’s very sad.
Anyway, I find myself very impressed with the medical community in America. So many have come, not just to our clinic but also to many others on the coast, giving of time and meds and skills to help us in our need. Bless them all. But mostly, I am impressed with my wife. From deep tragedy she saw a way to use the gifts God has given her, and the result is that literally thousands of people have gotten medical care these 5 weeks. She is amazing.
The folks working our medical clinic gave themselves the name “Doctors without Orders”. Another group preferred “Doctors without Lawyers”. Either way, thanks for coming. We need you. We need you bad.

KAT 7

As reported in KAT 6, my LW and I spent a weekend (not the one just completed but the one before) in North Miss. with our daughter, and attended a football game. On Sunday, we ran from tornados – the remnants of Hurricane Rita. We were staying in a mobile home and as the weather worsened we left for our friend’s house. Meanwhile, a twister touched down on the college campus, wrecking their cafeteria, two blocks from where my daughter was huddled in the basement of her dorm. Over 350 tornado warnings were issued that day in the area we were in! Hurricanes, tornados,….what’s next? I got a note from friends in California asking me NOT TO COME! Thankfully no one was killed by all the bad storms.

The days continue to all run together. The last 4 or 5 especially. My LW and I were awakened at 3:30 Sat morning by the phone – our college attending middle child called to tell us a young man whom she had been seeing (for a short time) had been killed – hit by a drunk driver as he crossed the street. My daughter had talked to him on the phone an hour before. Funeral is today. My heart breaks for his family, and of course for my child who is devestated.
Two of my three vehicles broke down this week. I was able to afford repairs on one, and after picking it up I had a blow out on the Interstate. A very nice policeman stopped to help (I discovered I did not have a jack in the trunk). The spare tire, which was in the trunk when I bought this piece of *** car, did NOT FIT! The policeman took me to a tire store and I was able to get something to put on the car. (There are LOTS of tire problems down here as you can imagine, we are still running over debris, including LOTS of roofing nails – their are shingles EVERYWHERE). I thank Gulfport policeman Dave for his generous assistance.
Our relief center is serving over 1200 people a day, and the free medical clinic between 170 and 250 a day. We thought the need would have slowed by now, but it is instead increasing. Our volunteer force really dwindles on weekends, but we had a full house last night (around 100 people). We need them all.
We are 5 weeks post-storm. I sense much more despair now than before. The adrenalin rush no longer carries folks through the days. As they face the enormous, long, impossible tasks in front of them, and struggle with insurance adjusters and FEMA and Red Cross (has their ever been a charity with so much funding and so incapable of using it?) their patience is exhausted. We go through trucks and trucks of food supplies, because people without jobs are afraid to spend money on groceries. It’s getting harder…..
Yet as 130 of us gathered for church in the school gym on Sunday, their were smiles, laughs, and a lot of tears. I have been asked to recreate my sermon, I will let you know where that will be. The Palm Pilot I used to use to record them was a storm victim, so I don’t have a sound file. It was from the heart but I need to try and type up some recollection of it. I was interviewed on BBC radio after the service and the reporter was very moved and asked me to repeat much of my words in the interview. They didn’t come from me, that’s all I know.

Disaster Recovery

One common comment I have heard since Katrina has been “well, they didn’t teach you about this at seminary, did they?”.
No, they didn’t.
But, as someone who spent 20+ years in the banking world, in Data Processing, I should have been better prepared.
As a mainframe systems programmer, we were required not just to have published disaster plans, but to test them. At least twice a year we would take backup tapes of all our systems and fly to an off site center, load the entire systems (this is WAY WAY bigger than PC network stuff, folks), get it up and running, run a day’s work for the bank, establish communications links to branches in Mississippi, etc. It was HARD stuff but very important. We utilized two offsite vaults and backups were sent to each every day – in case the “disaster” affected one vault as well as our main location.
To make it more realistic, at times the auditors would come in a declare a “surprise” disaster test. Part of the surprise was to mark certain staff members as MIA – so they could not participate in the test, nor were they allowed to communicate with those who were. We had 4 folks on my staff, and two would be exempt, really testing how well we documented our plan and cross trained our staff.
So here comes Katrina, and you would think I would have had a better plan. Now I must give credit to our altar guild, as they had a written plan that they did execute – three seperate large buckets were loaded with altar sets – chalices, patens, linens, bread, wine, BCP, Bible – all that we needed to “do church” from one container. They were then sent to three different evacuees to take off site. All survived, so we have all our chalices, etc.
As to the church records, we loaded them to a parishioner’s house who had built to withstand 150+MPH winds, and had a “safe room” made of extra reinforced concrete and steel. In it we took our Parish Register, our Services Record, our charter (when we became a parish), checks, financial records, backups of our computers. It was all wiped out by storm surge. All….gone.
Thankfully my secretary, at my suggestion, took a copy of our church database records with her, so we do have a backup to restore from once we get a computer.
I left WAY too much stuff in my office, stuff that is not replaceble. I did get all my personal stoles, but left albs (mine and my wife’s), ordination certificates, some pictures, all my books. Idiot. I should know better. And I should have simply taken the desktop PCs (sans monitors and printers) with me, it would have saved us tons of time (and money).

Bottom line – you ALL need a plan and you need to TEST it too. Write it up, declare some people MIA, and try it out. You need redundant backups and you need safe places for stuff. Lots of places. Lots of stuff.
If Seabury (or any other seminary) wants me to teach a class – PLEASE let me know. I can, by example, tell how not to do it – and maybe a little of how to.
Peace…..

Itinerant: noun. a person who alternates between working and wandering.