Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Habitat for Humanity-Alaska 2009

Our 2008 trip volunteering in Fairbanks was such a success plans are being made for this summer's service trip. We have planned August 9 2009 as our arrival date. We will volunteer from Monday the 10 through Friday the 14. This past summer's trip cost each person 30 dollars above the flight to Fairbanks. That included gas money to visit so many places in the Fairbanks area and thanks to PleasantDale Church of the Brethren's Mission Scholarship fund for picking up the cost of the rental vehicles. The noon meals were brought to us on site by members of the community along with good fellowship. Evening meals were brought to us two nights and we went to the home of a family a third night. That evening was as meaningful as anytime while in Fairbanks. We had plenty of space at the church we stayed at and a full kitchen to use cost free. The folks with Habitat along with the community were so grateful for our work ethics they hope to see us in 2009, yet we are thinking about meeting in Anchorage to meet new people and visit new places. Penny and I are very familiar with this part of Alaska and would enjoy giving tours to all that attend. Please contact us if you feel called to do the Lord's work in this incredible far away place.

Winter Garden: Arctic Village

Teachers in Arctic Village have began what I hoped for last year, a winter indoor garden. Heidi Rader (TCC) has sent seed and soil to the school along with a light system enabling not only students, but all the villagers the joy of gardening. The larger new school now gives them the opportunity for a healthy diet and more importantly changes their way of thinking. If you truly want change it must come from within. I have worked so hard the past six years to convey this concept through the recycling effort to sending hundreds of books and Sports Illustrated as a learning tool. Many,including Penny, have questioned why I would make such an effort. After last year's time in Arctic Village and Fairbanks Penny understands completely. The villagers laughed at my efforts in 2007, they are no longer laughing.

I wanted to begin this gardening project in 2005 yet my gut feeling told me to wait. This effort isn't about me or my schedule, this came about on God's time. Heidi Rader's job opened up three weeks before Penny and I walked into Tanana Chiefs Conference. The new school was built last year. Everything fell into place as it was to be, it had nothing to do with us.

The 2009 plans are in the works. I will travel to Arctic Village on or about May 20, Penny will join me when the school year ends. We will again turn down the offer of comfort and live in a tent throughout the summer. Leaving your comfort zone enables one to experience God's presence and better understand God's plan for you. My life, more than anyone I know, is an example that this is so true.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Arctic Village:Frist Things First

Heidi Rader has now confirmed that Arctic Village had a community wide garden for all to enjoy for the first time in their 20,000 year history. This is the beginning of not only fresh food each year, and a source of income from the hikers who fly in each day, but a mindset change that you must follow through on your passions in life. Both Penny and I have seen first hand that the youth of all ages are inspired by this effort not only in Arctic Village but everywhere we travel in Alaska. This effort will expand next year and then we will know where we are moving. Alaska is a big state. Many photo's will follow, and the DVD is near completion.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Believing in the path your walking: Bill and Penny

I was just contacted by a professor from Chicago. I heard him speak on National Public Radio six months ago. I felt called to write him after hearing the years he spent on his efforts to help folks realize their potential. I shared that after a death in my life, I strayed from the life I was leading to a path of self destruction. After several years of having too much fun being unhappy, I began rewalking the same path with a whole new spirit.

He would like to write an article about Arctic Village and why I've earned seven Gov. Special Tribute Commendations. I find it amazing that in each path of service I've walked, the new people I've met are wonderful, while at the same time the people closest to me question me and my character and call me horrible things.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Special Thanks: To the Gilberts

Having Tremble Gilbert ( Village Priest ) show interest in a garden kicked off the project on the right foot. Then his son Albert wanted a garden, followed by Bob and Anette Gilbert. With the Gilberts on board others wanted to follow. I know we were sent there for a reason, and I know without so much interest shown by the Gilbert family our job would have been so much more difficult. It is so clear God's hand was in control of this effort, Penny and I were along for the ride and what a ride it has been.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Week in Arctic Village: Bill

The first eight hours in Arctic Village was a continuous roller coaster ride. This included finding camp unsuitable twice, angering two council members whom I had never met, witnessing a collision between a motorcycle and a four-wheeler that sent a teenage boy flying twenty- plus feet as he did a three-sixty and flipping the four-wheeler with two teenage girls on it--all of this while I was reacquainting myself with so many friends. By day's end I was reminded again what happens when there's too many white people in Arctic Village. I'm also reminded again of how many friends I have in this special place, because not too many white people could pull off what I've done today. My words carry so much weight because I care enough to show I care, year in and year out for my friends so far from my home.
Snow fall was constant the first week, but the greenhouse kept the seven hundred plus starts warm; it didn't do a thing for me! Our three-season tent provided so much ventilation with each corner being screen, in fact twice the snow was swirling in the tent with the same intensity as outside. Bringing the greenhouse was the single reason for such a successful start.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Meeting Candy: Bill and Penny

The free time we were given had us travel and learn so much about Fairbanks and Alaska. We walked into a Historical Museum in downtown Fairbanks and met the owner, Candy. She asked us to sign the guest book so she could see the scope that folks travel to visit Fairbanks. We struck up a conversation and spoke for over an hour. She understood tent camping in Fairbanks was so much softer, but why do it. She asked if we would like to stay in an apartment in her home saying we would have a separate entrance. We spent a week at Candy's home and felt so welcome. We will see our friend each year, not for a free place to live, but to catch up as friends do.
Thanks Candy!!!
Bill and Penny

New Friends in Fairbanks: Bill and Penny

One of the many blessings returned for acts of service is new friends. We left Arctic Village sooner than planned because folks took home-ownership of their gardens. Heidi Rader ( Tanana Chiefs Conference ) was glad to hear of the success in Arctic Village and asked us to attend a meeting in her office that week, saying it was so fortunate that you were in Fairbanks. The meeting was with a grant writer from Washington state. The meeting lasted two hours, each avenue traveled had Penny and I sharing on our experience in that line of service. It was like we were meant to be there, which is so true. Gi Gi wants a copy of our upcoming DVD and a power point to present for grant funding. We left the meeting with Gi Gi planning to return the following day for a workshop Heidi and Cara were presenting. The three of us went to the Farmer's Market and enjoyed learning more about crop production and each other. We dropped Gi Gi off at the Ag. Dept. on the campus of Univ. of Alaska at Fairbanks. We made plans to meet and spend more time together later, then meet the Dean of Ag. the following day. We never would have met Gi Gi had we stayed on schedule. This trip is not about us.

Fairbanks Habitat for Humanity: Bill and Penny

Meeting our friends from home made this service week as unique as any. Seeing the site made me realize why we were called, Penny and I would be working on the same home we helped frame. It was so important for each one of us to be there, both at the job-site and everywhere we traveled. Once you're called to a specific act of love you must answer, because the service would be incomplete without you. The work Penny and I performed was necessary for the success the following week for those who traveled so far.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gardening Project: Arctic Village Bill and Penny

The 2008 project was full of challenges and changes from Day One as the community concept changed to home gardens. The village was on edge as more "Outsiders" entered and disrupted the flow of their home. This began each morning at 7AM six days a week as the new school is being constructed. I would spend, as planned, the first three weeks camped at the runway. I positioned camp so each plane would pass directly over me as it landed. WOW!!! This was my first spring-time visit. Seeing snow-covered mountains surround this place is enchanting. Throughout the summer and fall these same mountains are the last few that completely melt off as you enter the Brooks Range. As you cross the Junjik River at the north end of Arctic Village you enter the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Highlights will began being posted as we share how we were used as a tool to change a 10,000-year culture, and as we put together a very interesting DVD of this effort and so much more. Next year's project is already in the works and will be expanded not only to home gardens, but a large community garden surrounding a much larger greenhouse.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Peru, Penny

I have had the opportunity to visit Peru, South America twice. Tom Hough, a high school teacher/coach of mine quit teaching to continue the mission work of his father in Pucullpa and along the Ucayali River. They now have a Bible institute in Pucullpa where folks come to be able to teach and witness in their own villages and communities. During my first trip in 1996 our group worked at the institute painting, hanging ceilings, and other odd jobs to improve the school building. It was an eye-opening experience to see life and the culture of this South American town. An overnight stay at a village along the flooded river had an even bigger impact on me. To see people living with so little and being happy made me realize how "easy" life has been for me. My desire to have "stuff" dwindled in exchange for simply being happy for what I do have. One exciting part of the trip was going out alligator hunting at night.

The second trip in March of 2001 had the group working out at SAM Air a little drive out of the city. This part of the mission has the planes, land and water, for easier access to the villages. Part of our group rebuilt a dock for the float plane. My part of the group helped to dig trenches, cut and tie rebar for a fueling pad, and painted the aviation service building. We once again visited a river village, but returned in the boats that night. The smell of the jungle at night is an awesome fragrance of the blossoms opening up after the heat of the day. It amazes me of how blessed I am when I serve others.

Nicaragua, Penny

In August 2001 I traveled with a group from Cross UCC, Berne, IN to a small mountain community in the middle of Nicaragua. It was the end of the work for hurricane recovery. We participated in a few educational seminars, but for the most part we worked with the people to help build homes, care for their community farm system, and shared in faith activities with them. The children were happy to receive one crayon and one paper to color which occurred every afternoon. Personally, I helped tie rebar together and gather rocks for foundations and I worked out on the farm making supports for tomato plants. The women slept indoors and the men outdoors. The host family made our meals for us. This trip once again showed me that we have so much, but could probably be happy with less.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Arctic Village

The gardening in Arctic Village has started well. The planned community gardening project turned into individual gardens at 15 locations throughout the village. Thankfully, we had a greenhouse to begin the plants in as the ground was finally warming up in mid June. Bill faced daily snowfall his first week there, May 22, and some hesitation of being welcomed due to many outsiders working in the village. Had we been first-time visitors to the village, we more than likely would not have been accepted with friendships made. We were eventually accepted with appreciation shown by being invited into many homes to break bread and fellowship. Expanded sharing will happen when we arrive back in Indiana. Look for the DVD!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

BBQ Fundraiser for Greenhouse

Help from FAMILY and FRIENDS made this event a success and fun-filled. The proceeds were over $1100 and thanks to Judy, Christie, and Deb, no deserts were purchased. Thanks to all of you who attended; the money will be spent wisely. Many photos were taken and will be posted soon. One of the ripple effects took place at Penny's mom's office. An unnamed woman entered saying she had 100 dollars to give away. She heard of Penny's plans for the summer and wanted $50 to go to Penny. There is no greater pleasure for me than to be used as a tool to inspire others to help our fellow man.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Habitat in Fairbanks trip : Update

The excitement is growing as more people commit to travel to Fairbanks. The directer for Habitat for Humanity (Julie) in Fairbanks is planning all details. She is making our stay as comfortable as possible in hopes that we will make this an annual event. Nine people have answered the Lords call with many more pondering. The age mix is near perfect, along with so much construction experience. Each brings talents/gifts that will make this so spiritual. In the next month we will know the total number going for what will be the first of many mission trips to this beautiful place on top of the world. We will stay at a church and some of our meals will be dontaed. Several local churches will cook love gifts, along with fellowship to share as appreciation to us traveling so far. A love gift from our mission fund at Pleasant Dale will offset a portion of the price of rental cars and breakfast. This will bring the amount per volunteer down to less than one hundred dollars above the airfare. We will be posting progress as the week unfolds on this exciting service trip.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

BBQ Fundraiser: Greenhouse in Arctic Village

Bill and Penny will sponsor a Texas style BBQ to raise funds for a greenhouse in Arctic Village. This will take place on Sunday, May 4 at Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren. We will serve Brisket, Chicken, and Sausage, with two sides,soft drink, and desert for $7. This will take place after church service, between 11 AM and 2PM. Bill will be leaving for Arctic Village May 20, Penny will travel on or about June 4.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Photos and Penny's callings coming soon.

All posts will eventually feature photos. Penny's travels as she follows her callings will soon be added.

Our Wedding

We met in March 2007 in McComb, Mississippi where Bill was a project coordinator for COB Disaster Response. Penny had traveled with a group from Pleasant Dale COB (Decatur, IN) to McComb to work during the spring break week. A work relationship was developed as our work group remodeled the bathroom at Ms. Zettie Bridges home, as well as other projects for her. Bill says that by 10:30am during the first day of work he "fell in love" with Penny. He knew that he had only five days to convey this to Penny. By the end of the week he asked Penny to "go out" with him. He stated, "If there's a will, there's a way. And, if there's a Bill there's a way." We would be a thousand miles apart when she returned to Indiana, so we were on the phone quite a bit continuing to learn more about each other. On Oct. 6, 2007 we were married at Pleasant Dale COB. On Oct.7 a small ceremony was held in our honor at Hope COB (Freeport, MI). We choose to include foot-washing at both the indoor Pleasant Dale and the outdoor Freeport ceremonies. Serving others is very important to us and we thought how better than to include Jesus' example of serving. As you can see, we spent no money on our wedding clothes wearing COB Disaster Response shirts and even going barefoot.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ripple effect: West Michigan Recycling!!

In late May of 2006 Grand Rapids' news reported that the Rockford School Dist. saved $950,ooo during the 2005-06 school year due to a complete energy savings program. This was a direct result of a change in mindset about conservation that began in 2003 with a recycling program started by Bill and then student Colleen Hamilton. In 2004 Rockford committed to building an out-station to house the used polystyrene products until being picked up by DART Container of Mason, MI. This led to the implementing of a complete energy savings program. After airing, three more school districts signed on to Rockford's effort. The national News wire also picked up on the story for the nation to hear. Isn't it great when you strive to do the right thing and others are inspired by your beliefs!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Lord and Habitat for Humanity- Bill

I am amazed at how the Lord will use us as I stumble through life. I was invited to a breakfast for many of the more experienced volunteers; we had such good fellowship before the meal. As Colleen Mahon Vandoran spoke, she uplifted the staff who helped with the meal. She was asked where the food was purchased. She said, "Gorden Foods." As Colleen left the stage and walked by, I asked, "Did you have a connection or pay full freight?" She said, "Full freight." I said, "We'll talk later." The following day I gave her a phone number saying John, a friend of mine who works for Gordan's, he's expecting your call. This started a process that led to the owner's involvement and a very large check from Gordan's for Habitat for Humanity, all because someone asked where the food had come from. There's more as well as other connections that were so beneficial to Habitat for Humanity. All that is needed is a mindset to make connections and seize opportunities for the good of our fellow man. Please think about how this can be effective in your life.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

2005: Jimmy Carter Work Project- Bill

As the project approached I became more excited about meeting Jimmy Carter. I would travel to Detroit, work and break bread with the group invited to work with the former President. I'd worked hard for Habitat for Humanity and had earned the right to meet Mr. Carter. I was asked to stay in Grand Rapids and be a skilled leader for a group from Illinois. I just didn't want to, this is about me and getting paid back for so much of my time and effort. June 20, the first morning, we were waiting for the group from Willowcreek Church and I was feeling sorry for myself. I'd been given the youngest group because I work with youth in so many areas. I wasn't excited until the buses pulled up,WOW!!! One-hundred sixty people from one church, I had no idea how big Willowcreek Church was until now. For many reasons this became one of the most spiritual weeks of my life. Spiritual for me, the group, the homeowners, and their neighbors. The ripple effect has been as meaningful and personal as the week itself. I will never forget " The SHED Crew " and I look forward to each time we cross paths. I've used this act of Love as an example to inspire so many youth to a time of service.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Distaster Response : Pearl River -Bill and Penny.

Traveling to Pearl River over Easter week was just what we needed. Stopping to spend the night in McComb started the trip so spiritually. After spending four months volunteering while living at the Fergason house, entering McComb seemed so natural to me. After several stops at homes where I had worked, the people made me feel like I'd returned home. By returning I found our friendship went to a new level. They believe I want to be friends,there is no other reason for me to be there. For the rest of my life, I have family in McComb Mississippi and each of the many family members are so special. Penny now sees what I stated to each group of volunteers is true, "there is more than one definition of disaster response." When New Windsor opened sites in LuceDale and McComb it was to help the forgotten folks from the hurricane. Words don't begin to describe what we have done for race relations in Mississippi. As Zach Patterson ( the first black Mayor of McComb ) said " Never have so many white folk traveled to McComb to help so many black folk". We left McComb glad to have stopped and a little homesick as to so much love shown us. This will always seem like home to me. Pearl River is just an hour south of McComb. so how did we end up in Pascagula? We had planned on spending the night in New Orleans, but instead I wanted to show Penny where and how I spent over five months in 2006. We went to Vancleave where I lived on Ridgeland road. I spent months being led to so many people. I would give them two or three days free labor and move on to find someone else to help. Penny and I woke up to a beautiful Easter day and drove to New Orleans by state highway 90. Our response site was Pearl River, we worked in the Ninth Ward. There is still so much to do, we split into two groups and did the Lords work all week, plus got to know each other better. Ed and Becky Motley were the directors, I know them from McComb and was so glad to see them. Bob and Marrianne Pitman were there along with Lee and Trudy Stamy, and Amy Fishburn (BVSER). This week was yet another example of what can be accomplished as a denomination when we are all on the same page

Friday, April 4, 2008

C. O. B.-Disaster Response Trips-Bill

Disaster Response has been near and dear to me leading up to Katrina. Since August 29' 2005 it has consumed my life. I've spent over ten months volunteering on the Gulf Coast and when I'm not on the Coast I dream of being there. I've been to Illinois, West Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida four times, Alabama three times, Mississippi in several cities for months, Louisiana three or four, I'm not sure. These trips and more to follow are such a part of my life and I have a MAN at Hope Church of the Brethren to thank for inspiring me to begin this journey of love. I won't name him (he is so humble it's sicking) but all who know me know that he has been a tireless Director for Disaster Reponse for the Church of the Brethren for forty years. Every place I go and cross paths with C.O.B. folks, they share of their times with him and his wonderful wife Violet. Yes, I said her name, she won't be angry, but he will, he is so humble. As the nameless HERO from Hope has taught me, "It's all about Love and doing the Lords work, nothing else matters".

Federal Position Offer To A Gwichen-Bill

As Gov. Engler's third and last term came to an end many of his staffers planned to move on to Washington D. C., I was ask if my bags were packed? I had much to offer as part of the Gwich' in community as it pertains to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I was humbled by another Gov. Special Tribute Commendation and was told to write President Bush concerning my work in recycling and my connection with the Gwich' ins. After several drafts and a couple of weeks I sent it off on May 20 thinking I might get a reply from a staffer by the end of the year. On June 25 I received a letter from the Oval Office, it was the talk of Alto. I learned years ago how word of mouth from postal workers can help my efforts in many ways. My reasons for not excepting this position and the positive repercussions will be spelled out in my book. I am so thankful I continued this time of doing the Lords work

Zeeland and Lowell High Schools-Bill

After two months at Rockford High School broken up by an incredible trip to Arctic Village it was time for me to move on. The recycling program was in place and the students made this a success. I had decided in Arctic to take yet a third year off for community service. The good Lord had opened avenues for me and they traveled through Hope Church of the Brethren. It wasn't long before Shearl at Zeeland High School. and Chris at Lowell High School contacted me saying they had been talking to John at Rockford and wanted my help beginning a recycling program. This effort effects so many in Mason Michigan, as well as across West Michigan and the ripple effect has turned to waves. I'm truly beginning to wonder which chapter will be the most exciting to write. I don't know because they have yet to play out, what I know is a year for community service isn't long enough. As it turns out I will spend four years walking paths I find amazing,amazed that the good Lord would use me as a tool this way. What I see is the change in me over ten years of service. The recycling programs that benefited teens in Central Michigan was all about me and I wanted those Gov. awards. In West Michigan I love being used as a tool to do the Lords work, and I turned down two more Gov. Special Tribute Commendations asking that they be given to Colleen. In fact, I chose not to even attend the ceremonies, or when she received an award from The Isek Walton League, along with a lifetime membership. I wanted this to be all about Colleen and it was, what a great way to end her time at Rockford.

Recycling: Schools in West Michigan- Bill

In December of 2002 Colleen joyfuly anounced to the congregation she was heading up an effort to begin recycling at Rockford High School. In January her update came as a concern and her joy was gone. I wanted so much to get involved, yet it wasn't my place to ask. I would have to step into her world, she must come to me. Colleen knows my involvement with Gov. Engler and has seen my Special Tribute Commendations, if she wants help she will ask. Months went by still nothing, , not a word even at our Calling group meetings. Then in May of 2003 at our last Calling group meeting she ask me if I would talk to her asst. principal Steve Lewis. I went to Rockford High the following Wednesday, and was told I had five minutes. It was the last week of the school year and Mr. Lewis is very busy. AS always, when I entered his office I looked for something to connect with him. There on Steve's wall was a wall hanger of a buck, I WAS IN!!! He said he shot it on a ranch in Texas, his brother buys cabinets from Quality Cabinets and this is the owners ranch. His name is, and we both said Bob Ladd. I told him I was employed at Quality Cabinets for several years, Bob and I are friends. Steve picked up the phone, they spoke of my character as a man and an employee in 1980. Steve and I spoke for forty minutes, then spoke about recycling. He told me I could do whatever I wanted to concerning recycling. I walked out of his office remembering I applied at Quality Cabinets because my transmission failed and I could no longer drive to my job. I sat out walking in hopes of finding a carpenters job in walking distance, I found Quality Cabinets a ten minute walk away. God truly has a plan for us, even when things go bad, it's for a reason.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

First Disaster Response - Church of the Brethren-Bill

Massac Co. Illinois had been hit with several tornadoes on May 6,2003. Church of the Brethren Disaster Ministries opened a site on the southern tip of the state in late September. Not long after the site was opened a director from Hope left to head up the site for a month. He is a wonderful yet humble man so I won't use his name. I received word through our Pastor requesting me to come down, the Kansas District was there with no persons with framing experience. They were about to start a new home and needed a framer. I love framing and said I would be happy to go,but preferred not to take a leadership roll. After arriving I found myself in a leadership roll and having a great time doing the Lords work for a complete stranger. After just returning from Arctic Village and truly beginning to understanding the philosophy of the church of the Brethren opened my mind to new thinking. The connections I made with folks there opened my eyes to a new calling in life and the opportunity to meet incredible people throughout our denomination. I came home with a new love for service and again more gratitude for Gary for holding down my home front, along with his own. He was glad to hear my story,glad for the people I was used as a tool to help, not so glad knowing there would be many more trips and more favors of him. This chapter will take me all over the country with much to share. Little did I know the strength it would bring to my story to share with so many youth.

Bar-be-cues for Habitat for Humanity- Bill

The American Recycling Foundation was created to bring awareness on many levels, fund raising being one. Twice annually you will smell the smoke of something good cooking at the Alto American Legion. The fragrance of Brisket and sight of Bill and Gary's trucks means another Habitat dinner is here. The party has started and all are welcome to have way too much fun and help support Habitat for Humanity. Kerry Helwig first agreed to the idea saying it was a win win situation for the community. and Habitat. What still surprises me is how spiritual this event is, how often church comes up with a bunch of bikers. As is said never judge a book by its cover. this holds true with my friends in Alto. There is always a large turnout with such a mixture of people, I am so blessed to have so many friends in so many walks of life. Our Pastor at Hope C. O. B. Doug Riechenbach is in his glory that day going from table to table in fellowship. The money, one-hundred percent presented to Habitat is wonderful, the ripple effect of all the fellowship and love at each event is priceless. The American Recycling Foundation is so grateful to Kerry and The American Legion of Alto, Michigan.

Habitat for Humanity of Kent Co. - Bill

Frank Townsend, a lifetime member of Hope Church of the Brethren founded Habitat for Humanity in West Michigan. I never met Frank but heard so much about him, at Hope as well as the entire region. One Sunday at church his daughter Peg spoke so lovingly about her dad, and the two Habitat houses being built in his name. Peg inspired me to volunteer the following day, something I'd thought about for years. The following day I met many volunteers and really felt good about this act of love. What stood out the most was a black guy on a bike stopping by a group of white guys to express his gratitude for us being there. This took me back to Marshall, to jail and to church and the first times I listened to black men and women express themselves. This was new and very powerful to me. as I was raised in an all white community. I also met Bill that day, he is the construction head for Kent Co. and we worked together as if we had been co-workers for years. He told me later that he will never set truces again without thinking of me. This week of framing in 2002 started a multi avenue support effort which will make me part of Kent Co. Habitat for Humanity for ever. To date I've volunteered in nine cities in five states. I've taken a leadership with volunteers, youth on probation, youth offenders in honor camps, jail inmates, and prison inmates. My entire involvement will be many chapters of my book.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Visiting Churches,Black Congregations In Texas - Bill

As we left the second jail that Sunday morning, Rebecca asked me if I would like to go to church with her. I said, "Of course, I would love to." She said, "We will be the only white people in church, does that bother you?" I said, "After the past four hours how could it? Let's go." The Assembly of God in Marshall, Texas had about one hundred fifty members and very few white people. As we entered all eyes seemed to be on me; being with Rebecca helped ease any ones apprehension. Rebecca took me to meet the Pastor. After we shared a bit, he asked me to share with his congregation. I asked him, "What about?" He said "Tell them what you think about black people". I stood before this congregation and spent twenty minutes telling them what I thought of black people. They began taking up a collection and gave me a $272 love gift. I noticed they were filming. What I didn't realize was this was for a cable channel...I was being broadcast across the entire region! Over several visits I developed quite a following and the love gifts increased, the most recent a $2100 love gift. The reason being is I would leave the money in each community, at homeless shelters, recycling centers ect. I found this type of sharing is very appealing to me.

Jail Ministries in Texas - Bill

This time in my Jesus walk affected me more than so many other avenues. This is all about being Real; men and women in cages brings out the best and worst in them, which I witnessed in this Black Man's world. Make no mistake, it's a white world and we have Congress to help us white folk. When you enter a jail system roles reverse, the black people run the show. As Rebecca and I entered the Harrison county jail, I saw first hand that almost the entire population was black. I could see in the eyes of the white guys a look of hopelessness and a feeling of power in the body language of the black guys. My, my, how things change; it was like stepping into a black man's skin. I know all to well what it feels like to be the wrong color. As I stood there with Rebecca, I wasn't sure who I felt more sorry for, white people for putting themselves in this situation or black people out in the free world. This jaw dropping time not only in jail systems in Texas, but several other states gave me strength for many other avenues of my faith walk. This first three hours of jail Ministry also prepared me for where Rebecca took me when we left. For several reasons this will be one of my more exciting chapters.

My First Visit To Hope Church Of The Brethren - Bill

Gary Collier introduced me to many wonderful people in Alto Michigan like Kerry and Amy and Amy's daughter Casey. Gary and I introduced each other to many friends and the most interesting people across the country. You will find Gary in each chapter of my book, he will be a friend portrayed in many lights, no friend is perfect, certainly not me. After four years of friendship and sharing Casey invites me to Hope Church. I was sharing or maybe complaining about the church I was attending to the three of them one evening, saying the congregation was too large. I felt like cattle being herded through with no one really taking the time to get to know one another. Casey simply said '' come visit the place I've felt so loved for fifteen years", I said okay. That Sunday I arrived at Hope and found a safe place to sit and waited for Amy and Casey. No Amy no Casey, I also knew Amy's parents, Cal and Fern were not there either, I wondered if I was at the right church. Hope reminded me of the church I grew up in. This was such a good feel, I hope I'm at the right church. Pastor Doug Riechenbach made me feel so welcome, yet red faced at all the questions he ask of me. What made me realize I was at home at Hope was Ray Weiland. So if I wasn't at the church Casey grew up in, sorry Casey. Little did I know at the time, this is just where God wanted me to be and my life would be changed forever by Casey proclaiming of her love for her church. I moved to West Michigan to be used as a tool to do the Lords work and all avenues led through Hope Church of the Brethren.

Called to West Michigan - Bill

-By the fall of 1997 so much had happened, so much had been accomplished to me personally and for the benefit of all. I knew in my heart I was to move to Grand Rapids. Two Special Tribute Commendations from Gov. Engler and the gratitude of many policemen and teachers would make living here so easy. Yet I was pulled by the desire to start afresh and find new challenges in recycling and working with youth on probation. Gary and Carole had a couple spare bedrooms so away I went to West Michigan on a new adventure. We have been friends for twenty years and always had fun in everything we do together. For me personally things were great, I had all the carpentry work I could handle. What was missing was the reason I came to West Michigan, I've tried so many avenues to make some advances in recycling yet no real changes. I've been volunteering for weeks at a recycling outstation in Rockford, yet no connections. I'm friends with Gov. Engler, that carries weight in Beal City, not in Grand Rapids. I ran into dead end after dead end for one reason, that was Gods will. For me to be used as a tool to do the Lords work I would have to change everything.

Recycling Effort in Central Michingan - Bill

Dawn and I first crossed paths at the Green Spot, those from the Mt.Pleasant Michigan area know where I mean. We each shared our walks in recycling and our hopes for more public interest. I've finally realized being pushy has no positive effect,so I spent a year or so being a good volunteer. Walking into a working program in Lansing is easy, starting youth programs that interact with the public puts you against not only the public but the probationer. Parents would rather drive twenty five miles than have their child perform community service locally. This several year journey opened the eyes of people throughout Central Michigan, most importantly the youth. The " Hey Kids ya hav Ta '' concept and Tee shirts spread from school to school and aired on WCEN radio. I was given the airwaves to speak my beliefs and I was called simply horrible things for months and months. With former Gov. John Engler's help the ripple effect has turned to waves and the waves will last a lifetime. During this time came the birth of the American Recycling Foundation. This journey will be just one exciting chapter in a jaw dropping book I am writing. I found myself being fearful of how God led me each day. It took years,but now I'm joyful and humbled.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Finding Joy Through Recycling!!!! - Bill

True pain through loss will live with you as long as you allow, finding Joy by walking a path set by Jesus is the answer. After many mistakes while feeling sorry for myself, I followed my heart and my interest in recycling by volunteering. In Lansing, Michigan youth on probation perform community service at recycling stations. I found myself enjoying time spent with the youth more gratifying than conveying the concept of recycling through service. Soon I realized the positive impact I was having on the young people, and how this was fulfilling my parental needs. This was the first step in learning to believe in the path God had planned for me. I knew in my heart I was to pull up roots and move to Central Michigan, specifically to the Weidman area. This area had been near and dear to me throughout my whole life, our summer camping area. Soon after moving I found Weidman had a part time recycling program, a program most found confusing as to which Saturdays would be open. I happened to meet the director of recycling and threw a couple ideas at her. I had just begun walking God's plan for me, and finding out just how much trouble being a Christan can be.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

God's plan for Penny and Bill

Penny and Bill met in McComb Mississippi over Easter week of 2007. Bill was a long term volunteer at the Furgeson house, a C.O.B. disaster response site. Penny was part of a group from Pleasant Dale C.O.B. This was God's will and both of them knew this before week's end. Twenty years of believing in the path they were walking led them to McComb. They will now chart the course of service that led them to each other. Penny's a Godly walk, Bill has walked a path with many mistakes, then retraveled with a whole new spirit.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

fairbanks connections for community gardens

Bill and Penny have been used as tools to do the Lord's work in many parts of the globe. As they spent thier last day in Fairbanks in 2007, they were lead to Heidi Rader of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, David van den Berg of North Alaska Environmental Center, and Habitat for Humanity of greater Fairbanks. The ripple effect has been felt not only in Fairbanks but across Alaska. They're not sure how many organizations will be involved in community gardening in the summer of 2008, what they are sure of is the belief in the path they're walking. What a great thing it is to follow God's plan and inspire others to help our fellow man. Who knows what part of the construction process will be completed by Bill, Penny, and the group from Pleasant Dale C.O.B.? What we know is we're doing the Lord's work and everything else will fall into place. Never get too old to follow your dreams. Some laugh as they call Bill a dreamer, but thank God others are inspired by Bill's dreams and dedication to making them come true.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Habitat for Humanity in Fairbanks

In July 2007 Penny and Bill volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Fairbanks. Because of our interest and involvement with Habitat at home, we decided to see if Habitat was active in Fairbanks. Yes, they were building, so we spent our last day in Alaska helping frame the roof. We met a group from Idaho volunteering for the week, as well as the Fairbanks Habitat family. The Idaho group inspired us to pursue the possibility of bringing a group from our church in 2008. When we presented this to our congregation, the response was positive. As a result a group from Pleasant Dale C.O.B. will be volunteering in Fairbanks the week of July 14. YEAH!!!! We will leave the gardening projects in Arctic Village to travel south to Fairbanks to meet and work with the group that week.

Due to the Lord's calling, we will return to Arctic Village after the week in Fairbanks to continue the gardening projects.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alaksa Environmental Awareness Conference at Aquinas College(Oct. 25, 2004)

Connections with the Gwich'ins don't always happen in Alaska. Bill attended an informational program at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan which featured Luci Beach, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee and Subhankar Banerjee, author of "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land." They shared about environmental concerns in Alaksa due to the unwanted influences of industry. The subject of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was cause for a very heated debate and dominated the Q & A portion of the program.

At a reception following the program, Mr. Banerjee held a book signing for his photographic journey, the book mentioned above, as Ms. Beach was asked more Gwich'in specific questions. She allowed Bill to field the questions knowing about his caring relationships with the Gwich'ins and his concern for their land. Bill's answers appeared to have an impact speaking on behalf of the Gwich'ins from the perspective of a white man from Grand Rapids.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Supporting My Gwich'in Family

Bill has made several trips to Arctic Village since 2003. He has seen the needs of the people and has been able to help them in many ways. Hundreds of pounds of books, clothes, and food have been sent in hopes of making life there a little easier. A subscription to Sports Illustrated has also been sent to the school to help with reading skills. The gardening project is a result of Bill's concern for the health of the villagers. We plan to leave around June 1, 2008 to lead and participate with the village in growing both community and home gardens. We ask for your prayers, especailly for the students' involvement and realizing the importance of a more complete diet and combating the effects of global warming.

Environmental Programs Update, Arctic Village 2004

Bill was invited back to Fairbanks, Alaksa for the wedding of Margerie and Danny Gimmell (in the caribou picture). Immedialtely after getting off the plane upon a return visit to the village after the wedding, Bill walked into an environmental meeting held in the village council office. The office was filled with energetic youth who were truly interested in the future of the village. He was happy to see that the recycling program continued to be an ongoing village awareness project and still is today.

Recycling Above the Arctic Circle

During Bill's 2003 trip to Arctic Village, the tour group noticed the man-made clutter of this pristine land. After establisihng recycling programs in Michigan involving youth, Bill approached the Arctic Village school principal and teachers. They were already considering a recycling program through the school. So, through brainstorming and discussions with the students and Bill, a plan was developed and implemented. The entire village was cleaned by the students, teachers, and Bill with recyclables be sorted and flown to Fairbanks. This is an ongoing program and the villagers say the first above the Arctic Circle.

First Connection with the Gwich'ins

Bill first travelled to Arctic Village, Alaska in 2003 as part of a tour group led by David Radcliff of New Community Project. It was a tour to learn about the Gwich'in people and their culture. This trip also helped Bill better understand the Church of the Brethren philosphy that he had learned the previous three years. By living with the Gwich'in for nine days, he experienced the struggles of living in this harsh, but beautiful land. Bill was permanently bonded with the Gwich'in as a result of risking his life along with two Gwich'in, one who is now the village chief (the lady, Margerie), to bring back much-needed caribou meat to the village one night. Bill choose to stay and help butcher the 5 caribou, even after dark when the threat of bear attacks is at its greatest. Due to global warming, the caribou were not migrating near Arctic Village as much. So, even sighting the caribou was considered a blessing by the Gwich'in. This marked the last time that five caribou have been killed by anyone in Arctic Village in one incident. Bill was honored to witness the Caribou Dance in being called a real Gwich'in for his warroir spirit.