Friday, April 25, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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".
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
-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.
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
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.