Watterson's Whereabouts

The Watterson's ministry adventures with ReachGlobal Crisis Response

Kendra’s Post High School Plans

The past few months have been a non-stop flurry of activity as my senior year drew to a close, I graduated, and summer plans have begun in full swing. At this stage of life, one question continues to arise: what’s next? Mom encouraged me to write something about my future plans to provide an answer and explanation, especially to those of you who we don’t see often.

Serious college searching began at the beginning of junior year. Touring campuses ranged from calm family weekend getaways to (more often) a complex interworking of logistics confusing enough to make my friends dizzy. Mom and Dad were incredibly supportive throughout the entire process, from buying plane tickets to making pro and con lists on a napkin in a McDonald’s booth, they listened and encouraged, but never pushed.

My final choice came down to two polar opposites: Bethel University in St. Paul, MN, (the private Christian school 14 hours from home) or Louisiana Techincal University in Ruston, LA (the public university four hours from home). I love Bethel’s mission and campus feel (plus that spring weather was wayyyyyyy better), but not the large amount of debt I’d be graduating with. Tech had more options and a full ride, but I wasn’t ready to give up the firm Biblical foundation that Bethel offered. After discussing things for the umpteenth time, Mom proposed a gap year, similar to what Dad did in attending Word of Life after high school. This began a whole new search and after logging hours on Google, we found Ecola Bible School. Well, Dad knew about it. And I heard the name from Mom and looked at her as if she were crazy while the TV was filled with news of the Ebola outbreak (the Lord has to have a sense of humor in his timing). The school, named after a nearby state park and not “as if E. Coli and Ebola had a child” as I have begun referring to it, is in Cannon Beach, OR, a quaint little beach community about an hour and a half west and a bit north of Portland. It’s just about smack-dab in the middle of the coast line. The school’s campus is actually a Christian conference center and is about two blocks from the beach, but also incredibly close to hiking and trails. Ecola teaches the Bible by both topic (AM class) and book (PM class). Each subject series is two weeks long with a different speaker for each. I’ll have had over 50 teachers by the end of my time there. They also stress local church and ministry partnerships, something I appreciated after so much time with a ministry that has the same values. While they define themselves as non-denominational, they mostly align themselves with Baptist theology. The maximum size for the student body is 150, providing some options while maintaining close connections. Here’s my personal kicker: I don’t know anyone there. I’ve never visited the school. I’ve never been to that part of the country. But that’s not stressing me out; I have peace about it. It’s so obvious this is the Lord’s plan because this peace is not my normal personality. My driven, type-A, “gotta know it all now” personality usually rebels against not knowing and the introvert in me desires deep connections before diving in. But none of that is here now. Simply knowing I’m following His path and His will makes stepping out of the safe boat into the unknown waters much easier.

After Ecola, I’ll be attending LA Tech. Though it is a public university, the Christian presence on campus is undeniable. When we toured, there were prayer request boxes in the bathrooms and bible study lists posted on dorm room bulletin boards. Tech has five  major campus ministry organizations, the BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry) being the largest. The BCM also has a wonderful setup for discipleship, something I hope to be able to do in applying what I’ll learn at Ecola. At Tech, I’ll be double majoring in business management and business education. I love working operations and management, which is what I do now at Chick-fil-a as a team leader and what I did on a slightly smaller scale as drum major. The education major would give me my teaching certification and I could test and earn certification in other subjects through the Praxis exam (mostly because I don’t see myself teaching high school business and keeping my sanity). I love teaching and had the unique opportunity to complete an independent study on trends and issues in education this past semester, exploring why grades are necessary, alternative grading systems, social commentaries on education’s purpose, standardized testing, and computer-based learning. The double major is about nine extra classes, which is easier to achieve thanks to Tech using the quarter system.

Thank you so much to those of you who have sent cards and gifts for graduation. I’m so grateful for your generosity and thoughtfulness. Money given first went to some big-ticket items, like a laptop, then has gone into savings towards my tuition for next year, which is around $9000 including room and food.

I’m so incredibly excited for this next step in life and cannot wait to see how the Lord will use me. While these are the plans I have now, I know His will is the most important thing and I pray I’ll be able to yield to Him rather than chasing my will. These next five years are going to be full of learning and lessons and experiences and I’m so thankful to have such an awesome God leading me through it all.


California Wild Fires


Burned out home in Cobb, California

Burned out home in Cobb, California

“It was like an out of control locomotive barreling down the mountainside.” Dave (name has been changed) struggled to hold back the tears as he recounted the words of his houseguests. Dave, a retired janitor at the elementary school in Cobb, housed two evacuees overnight at his home in Lake County, California before they were all forced to leave his home the next day as the fire grew larger and rapidly burned the dry, drought stricken grass and scrub brush of the hill country. “They came through the neighborhood with bullhorns telling us we had to leave NOW!” he shared as we sat at the Red Cross shelter at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Kelseyville, California. “Before I knew it, they ran saying, ‘We’re not going to wait for that fireball to come at us again!’ I don’t know where they are or where they went.” lamented Dave. On top of that experience Dave shared how his heart sank to hear the news that his friend Leonard was among the missing, then despair as he found out Leonard had died in the fire. “He lived in a dangerous place. I was afraid for him living in that box canyon, but how can you tell someone that where they live is dangerous?”

Like so many others, Dave is both directly and indirectly affected by the wild fire. Dave is dealing with both grief over the loss of his friend and survivor’s guilt because he can eventually go home to his house unlike those he housed before he needed to evacuate.

The valley fire in Lake County, is currently ranked as the 3rd most destructive wildfire in California’s history, as it has claimed over 1200 homes and taken as least 3 lives. Others are still missing. Lake County is the poorest county in California and has been described by some as the Appalachia of California. There are approximately 65,000 residents of the county and at least 25% of them have been displaced and are now living somewhere else.

Burned out apartment complex in Middletown, California

Burned out apartment complex in Middletown, California

Grace EFC is housing about 35 of those displaced in conjunction with the Red Cross, and the church will continue to work with the Red Cross through October 10th. The fires affected the church itself in that four or five homes of church attenders were lost, and at least 30 families were evacuated and displaced. Associate Pastor Chris Sherwood and his family had to evacuate to another church member’s home, as the fire threatened their home. “We didn’t see flames, but we saw the brooding, ominous orange, almost spiritual glow on the horizon, and we decided to go.” he said. “In our church, I think there is a lot of emotional sensitivity and trepidation. Even if you weren’t directly affected, you know people who were. I feel like I’ve experienced something traumatic, but I have people telling me I’m OK.”

As ReachGlobal Crisis Response, we have staff on the ground assessing the situation and in discussions with church leadership as to how to help them heal from the physical and emotional trauma as a church and also how best to reach out to meet the needs of the community within Lake County. Because as Pastor Chris said, “God has people’s attention right now.”

PRAY that we would have wisdom in how to move forward. GIVE, as the need is great.* Prepare to GO as we look to help meet needs of those in the church and in the community.

*You have two options on how to Give:

  1. Give to ReachGlobal’s ‘Crisis Response Account’  2170-39284
  2. Help support our family as we are part of the staff that is responding to this and other crises.  Mark checks with Watterson’s IMA 1517.

On-line donations can be made at efca.org/give Or checks can be mailed to EFCA ReachGlobal, 901 East 78th St., Minneapolis, MN 55420

We are not equipped to handle donations of clothes, household goods, or anything other than financial donations.

These Tornadoes Are Getting Personal (Life of A Missionary Wife in 2014, cont’d).

Yesterday was a “catch-up” day for me.  After traveling yet again while the kids had a school break, it felt good to make a productive dent in my ever growing “to do” list.  We had spent the previous week visiting family in Pennsylvania.  That visit included packing up many of my mother-in-law’s personal belongings while we tried to decide what to keep and what to give away.  It also included some time with my mother and a “belated” Easter dinner with my family.  Food, especially when cooked by my mother, is always a great incentive for my family to get together.  The second half of the week was spent in New Jersey.  An awesome team from Montvale, NJ came to help us there.  We all had a chance to reconnect with them, reconnect with staff there and with so many from Beacon EFC that we have grown to love.  But I came back to a house and life that needed my attention.

Then last night as I was preparing dinner for my family, Kevin received a text saying that friends of ours in Athens, AL had been hit by a tornado.  The text did say they and their house were okay.  Our hearts immediately went out to them and our prayers went up for them.  This family, along with several others, had become dear to our family after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that went through Harvest, AL and other communities near Hope Church in Madison, AL.  They were part of the Hope Church congregation that welcomed us into their lives and still continue to provide us encouragement and support in mulitple ways.  They were a part of that congregation that worked alongside of us in helping restore their community after both the April 27, 2011 and March 2, 2012 tornadoes.

April 27, 2011 damage in Harvest, AL

April 27, 2011 damage in Harvest, AL

I still remember how, as a family, we were able to join Kevin and John Horst on their initial evaluation visit to Hope Church just a day or two after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.  We entered an area with no electricity and night time curfews.  In the morning we saw amazing devastation.  As we drove over downed (and dead) high tension power lines and viewed the twisted metal that used to run those power lines into the area, we learned of closed, guarded neighborhoods and of deaths.  A day later we working side-by-side with a crew from the church to help clean-up Harvest, AL.  The kids and I were quickly educated in how tornadoes can remove the front wall of a house and leave the rest of the house, including pictures on the wall and items on a shelf, intact.

Kevin and Logan's tent while camping in Athens, AL.

Kevin and Logan’s tent while camping in Athens, AL.

Last night those memories came flooding back  to me as I learned that an area our family fondly calls “our third home” was being hit again.  Good Friday, Kevin and Logan had camped overnight and rode their dirt bikes on the property of our friends in Athens.  I shook my head thinking that Kevin had taken time to trim back trees and brush from the dirt bike trail.  Now that trail would be covered with downed trees and debris.  Our friends in Athens now have a tarped roof and messy yard.  But they are safe and have a church family ready to help them.  Our hearts sank to learn that a trailer park down the road from them had been wiped out.

As I type this, ReachGlobal Crisis Response is looking at how to help this area once again.  We are also looking at how to help a church in the Little Rock, Arkansas area.  And we are not yet sure what other churches will ask for help before this week is over.  Weather reports are calling for more severe storms in many of the same areas.  All of this while work continues in New Orleans, New Jersey, Staten Island, and Colorado with limited staff.  I’m sure that God used safety concerns and our children’s school schedules to keep us from packing up a truck with supplies last night and from starting the six to seven hour trip north.  And I’m thankful He did.  And I know He already knows how He will use ReachGlobal Crisis Response for His kingdom and His glory.  For now, I’ll continue to do what God has called me to do: supporting Kevin and the ministry from home and the office.  Kevin will continue doing what God has called him to do.  And we will both continue to lean on God for strength, clarity, and direction.

But this time, the potential response is more personal.  We now know these people.  We know the people whose property was hit and we know others who were completely spared.  Not only am I thanking God for protecting all of them through last night’s storms, but for enriching our lives through them.  And I’ll be praying for their continued safety in whatever storms happen.

Kevin’s Tribute to His Mother at Her Funeral

We meant to have this posted several weeks ago. Sorry for the delay to those who have been looking for it. This is the tribute Kevin gave to his mother at her funeral service:

What can I say about mom… she wasn’t just mom. She was and always will be a whole lot more.  Many of you knew her before I did.  I have heard many of you describe her as… an open book, unfiltered, a hoot, determined, Life of the Party.

She was always an intense person, almost always moving, rarely sitting still.  She was a doer and a “get it done now” kind of person.  Some might even call her impatient.  But the fact of the matter is she knew how to get things done.

To many of you she was the life of the party.  She was jovial, so much so that one of her cousins told me, “Her laughter rings like beautiful music in my heart and mind.”  She knew how to laugh and her laugh was contagious.  I sometimes enjoyed sitting back and watching how her laughter rippled out to those in her presence.  There were many family get-togethers where she had the whole room roaring, either by what she said or by how she reacted to what others said.

I think all of us Watterson’s will remember the Christmas dinner where someone mentioned that they were going to keep a low profile for one reason or another by traveling incognito.  That in itself was funny, but the exchange that happened after that had us roaring for many Christmas dinners to come.  When Mom asked what incognito meant, the reply was given, “It means to go in disguise.”  Mom had a puzzled look on her face and asked, “So the next time I fly on an airplane I’ll be going incognito?”  “No Debbie, in disguise, not in the skies!!”

She was an open book.  She wore her emotions on her sleeve.  There weren’t too many times when you didn’t know what she was thinking or how she was feeling.  No matter what the emotion, it was on display.  I think she was more open about her emotions with us immediate family members than with others, but maybe not.  I know that when she was mad, we knew it.  When she felt wronged or mistreated by someone, we knew it.  When she felt down and depressed, we knew it.  And when she thought we should do something a different way, we knew it.  But by the same token, when she was proud of us, we knew it.  When she was excited about our accomplishments, we knew it.

There were times though when English words were not enough to express her true emotion and feeling.  Those were the times when she just made up expressions.  I know she made them up and that they aren’t really words because my spell check didn’t know what to do, and my auto correct kept trying to change them while I was trying to write this.  Words like:

  • “Woofdy”- Used in a sentence like: isn’t that just woofdy. Meaning that the situation was bad, no good could come of such a situation such as this.
  • “Heeva Hava” – Used in a sentence like: Why must you boys be so heeva hava?Meaning that you are not more than a half a step beyond redneck. For instance: if you sand blast your pick-up truck fender panels in your basement, you might be heeva hava. Or if your mini bike catches on fire because you used cheese cloth as a replacement air filter, you might be heeva hava.

And there were other expressions like:

  •  “You Gooka-mer!” Or
  • “You’re talking like a man up a tree!”

We weren’t really familiar with those expressions either, but she was still able to communicate what she meant.

I think the reason she came up with these expressions was because her sons just about drove her out of her mind as she tried to raise us.  She was given a monumental task to carry out when our Dad died.  I know she felt overwhelmed trying to raise us without a “man in the house”…because she told us so.  She did her best to be Dad as well as Mom to us.  She put up with a lot of crap while she was trying to raise us, but she still allowed us to be who were as boys even if it drove her nuts.  I know there were times she wished we were girls so she could relate to us better…yea, she told us that too.  But she did the best that she could, and would often put us in situations where we would have a good Christian male role model.

Mom also sacrificed a lot for Kurt and me.  She put aside her desire to “find a man” and remarry until the right man came along.  I remember her having many suitors, but ironically, none of them suited.  In fact at one point she joked that “my first husband died of cancer and my second husband must have been still-born”.  She was picky about whom she would marry because not only was she looking for her next husband, she was looking for a man who would be a good father to her sons.  I’m sure there were times that we scared some eligible suitors away, but she didn’t stop looking.  It wasn’t until Kurt and I gave her the daughters she never had by marrying Julie and Babette, that she could feel comfortable finally remarrying.  She didn’t need to try to fulfill both needs with one person anymore.  She finally found her second husband, who was not still-born by the way, and married Homer after we were out of the house and starting our own families.

Her biggest concern for us was not that we would necessarily grow up be successful, but that we would grow up to love Jesus.  She taught us the Bible, took us to church, sent us to camp, made sure we went to any Wednesday night youth program that was available, all with the intention of training us up to be Men of God.

Mom loved Jesus and I know her relationship with him is what got her through so many difficult times, and why she was so joyful.  Just as David could proclaim in the book of Psalms, so Mom could say, “ The joy of the Lord is my strength”.  I wasn’t sure if that would hold out after she was diagnosed with cancer.  I have a sense that she knew cancer would eventually take her life, but she was determined to fight it and to do on her terms.  She chose to fight it without chemo, radiation or by any other means that would compromise her quality of life.  The method she chose made her feel better than she had felt in years, even better than she felt before she contracted cancer.

I was blessed to be able to spend most of the week with her while she was in the hospice facility before they sent her home.  We had some great conversation sharing memories and even talking about her future.  She still held out hope that she would get better, but had made peace with the fact that barring a major miracle, she was going to die.  But she had hope – the same hope from which she drew her strength in the other dark hours of her life years before.  Not a hope like, “I hope I win the power ball,” but rather a confidence in what comes next after life here on earth is over.

You see Mom knew Jesus.  She had a personal relationship with Him and knew that because of that relationship with Him, she was going to heaven when she finally passed away.  She shared with me her concern that some of you, her friends and family, don’t have that confidence.  She was concerned that some of you don’t have that personal relationship with Jesus like she did.  She wanted to make sure you understood how important it was that you have that relationship with Jesus, so that you can have that same hope and confidence that she and others of us here have, knowing that when we die, we will see her again and spend eternity with her and Jesus in heaven forever.

I don’t know if you realize this or not, but death was never what God intended.  Way back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were perfect beings, made in the image of God, but Adam and Eve made a fatal mistake.  That mistake wasn’t just eating an apple.  It was being disobedient to God by eating a fruit that He had specifically told them not to eat.  In their disobedience, they sinned against God.  Because they ate it, sin entered the world for the first time.  Because they sinned by disobeying God, they created a problem.  God is a perfect God, in Him there is no sin, and He cannot tolerate sin in His presence because He is perfect.  Romans 3:23 tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” That’s when death came into the world.  You see Adam and Eve were created as eternal beings, and now since God had created them as eternal beings, God sort of had a dilemma.  He had to separate them from Himself.  In essence He had to break the relationship with them.

The first half of verse 23 in Romans chapter 6 tells us that the wages of sin is death.  So since Adam and Eve were created as eternal beings.  They and all of their children down through time, (meaning you and me) would now carry the “sin gene” and we would have to pay eternally for the sins we commit.  But God in His mercy could not allow us to remain in a sinful state forever.  Sin causes us to be separated from God forever, and God doesn’t want us to be separated from Him.  God still loves us even though we aren’t perfect.  So He had to make a way for us to be able to have relationship with Him again.

So, according to Romans 5:8, God shows us that love He has for us and His desire to reconcile our relationship with Him.  The verse says, “But God shows His love for us this way; while we were sinners Christ died for us.”

The only way that reconciliation can occur is through Jesus.  We can’t earn our reconciliation, we can’t plead for it and we can’t buy it.  The only way to be reconciled is through believing and accepting that Jesus provided it for us.  Jesus being both fully God and fully man lived a perfect sinless life and became the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  He “paid our wages” for us through His death.   Hanging on a cross, He became separated from God and died for us so that we no longer need to live separated from God. When we accept that Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God and believe that, it ends our separation from God – once and for all.  That’s the other half of what Romans 6:23 tells us, “The wages of sin is death, but God’s gift to us is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Contrary to what society and other religions say, this is the only way have a relationship with God, to get to heaven and have eternal Life.

Jesus tells us this in his own words in John 14:6 when he said, “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me.” He makes it pretty clear, there is only one way.  Why would he make a claim like that if it were not true?  Once we accept these truths, we are then able to have what Jesus, in John 10:10, called “abundant life ” here on earth and eternal life with him after we leave this earth.  We were created as eternal beings and we will spend that eternity somewhere; either with God in Heaven or separated from him (that would be Hell). Heaven or Hell.  One or the other.  The choice is ours.

Death is a reminder that we are sinful creatures.  Death separates us from the ones we love and the ones who love us.  God loves us so much that He couldn’t leave us separated from Him forever.  He has provided the way.  But we have to accept it.  He won’t make us choose the path that leads to abundant and eternal life.  He leaves that in our hands.  Which way have you chosen to go?  Will you walk in His path or go your own way?  His way leads to life.  Our way leads to death and separation from God for eternity.

To me the choice is obvious.  It was to Mom and it has been for many of you here.  There are others here that mom was concerned about.  Concerned that you may have not yet chosen the path that leads to life, both abundant and eternal.  Are you sure you are on the right path?  If you don’t know for sure and you want to be sure, then we need to talk.

Kendra’s Tribute to Her Nana Debbie at the Funeral

Debbie and grandkids

Nana Debbie was one of the best grandmothers anyone could ask for. There were candy stashes left and right, favorite books saved for nap time, tea times where I would run to the staircase to “refill” the teapot, cramming the four grandkids and both grandparents into the car listening to enough sing-along Bible song cassettes to make anyone crazy. But she did it all abundantly and enthusiastically, showing her love. Some of my favorite memories are from being with her in that basement apartment.

When I was little, I’d call Nana after she got home from work. She’d ask if I wanted to come and take a nap at her place. Through the phone, I’d nod yes (I was never much of a talker). There was another point where I ran into a post on mom and dad’s bed. It was minor, but serious enough to require a trip to the ER. But Logan got to stay at Nana’s. I found this totally unfair and quickly became grumpy as we drove to the hospital.

They were all simple acts, simple memories. “Picnics” in the front lawn, complete with a picnic basket and bubbles. “Swimming” in a Kidde pool, Nana always having an extra change of clothes ready when I got wet. Standing on a step stool, stirring lemonade with the same wooden spoon every time. Sitting in the old restaurant at Dutch-way, splitting a grilled cheese, looking for Dad’s truck, coloring on the placemats.

One couldn’t help but catch onto her interesting idioms. While working on an activity in Pre-K, I became frustrated, exclaiming “for crying in a bucket!” Imagine my dismay when that wasn’t an actual phrase that people knew. Years later, I checked our dictionary of idioms, desperate to understand what she was saying, only to find nothing.

She loved us all deeply, and one couldn’t help but return the love. But even more so, she was concerned for our spiritual well-being. The ring I wear as my purity ring was her original engagement ring. But at the same time, it serves as a constant reminder for me to keep Jesus first, to love Him most. My Bible was given to me by her. She looked at our success by how much we loved and served Jesus. There wasn’t pressure, even question, to have a boyfriend, a job, to meet the world’s standards of success.

In return, that fills me with hope. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt she’s in heaven, praising Jesus. After seeing her for the last time, my Bible reading for the night included Job 19:26- 27
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.”

Nana is free from all pain and suffering, complete through God’s great love and mercy. And to me, that’s greater than any memory.

I Kissed Mom Good-bye for the Last Time Tonight.

Kevin’s “journaling” a few hours after leaving his mother’s hopice room to travel back to Louisiana:
I kissed my mom goodbye for the last time tonight. It didn’t play out like I hoped it would. I wanted to have a few minutes alone to tell her how much she means to me, how much I love her and share a few final thoughts. I wanted to tell her to say hi to Dad and Grandpa and Grandma Hershey, Grandma Watterson and Gratz. Instead I’m in a room full of family and all I can do is hug her, kiss her and say I love you all while sobbing uncontrollably. We embrace for what wasn’t long enough, but what felt like a long time. She kept saying,” It’ll be ok. It’ll be ok. This is probably the last time you’ll see me alive”, and in my heart I know it’s the truth- but I don’t want it to be.
I want her to be there reaching for the hydrogen peroxide and band aids when I wreck my bike. I want her to be there sleeping on the couch when I come home late from a date during high school. I want her to loudly announce ” and this is going to be my new daughter in law!” when I bring Babette to her 50th birthday party. I want her to proudly show off her grandkids to all of her friends. I want her to jump up out of her chair, hug me and exclaim ” you made it!” When I come through the door after a long drive in from wherever I was. I want her to be peacefully lying in the hospital bed when I quietly open the huge door to her hospice room. But none of that is going to happen anymore. The next time I see her body will be neatly dressed and primped for her final trip- but she won’t be there. Praise God she will no longer be experience the pain and disease of this world- instead she will be more alive than any of us could ever dream, running and jumping and giggling, romping in the green pastures and beside the still waters of heaven. Greeting family and friends who have gone before, singing with the angelic choirs and bowing down with the saints and elders of heaven worshipping the Lamb and saying holy holy holy is The Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come! Because of Jesus I will one day join her there, and she’ll probably run up hug me and proclaim ” you made it!” once again as soon as I walk through the pearly gates into her new home.

An Unusual “Snow” Day (The Life of a Missionary Wife in 2014 cont’d)

Most missionaries get to move to another country, learn a new language, and learn to live in and understand a new culture. The end of this week highlighted for us how we have adjusted to a different regional culture within the USA. It also highlighted how we have not totally made that adjustment. At least we didn’t have to learn a lot of new words or phrases when we moved from Pennsylvania to Louisiana to speak the language – what words and phrases we did learn could be a blog unto itself. Louisiana’s strong French heritage gives it a culture unique from any other area of the USA. But this week’s experience had more to do with weather differences. And it has to do with how this “northern gal” is still not totally “southern”.

The school calendar in Louisiana looks a little different from what we were used to in Pennsylvania. First of all school usually starts somewhere in the first full week of August instead of right before Labor Day. But it all lets out before Memorial Day instead of somewhere in early June. And of course the actual last day of school in Pennsylvania was dependant on how many snow days had to be made up after the spring vacation days were used up for that purpose. Vacations also look different. It’s unusual in Louisiana to get a three-day weekend. There are only about four a school year. We averaged one a month in Pennsylvania. And forget all of those half-days. We now only experience two a year. All of this allows Louisiana school vacations to be a week-long for major holidays. And by the way, Mardi Gras is a major holiday.

So this past week was already a little unusual in that the kids had off for Martin Luther King, Jr. day. They went back to school on Tuesday and started cramming a five-day schedule into four days. But then Friday something very unusual happened. School was cancelled for inclement weather. This was our first time in five and half years of attending public school in Louisiana to experience such a cancellation! (There was one school day it actually snowed in our first year here, but the snow started after bus runs had already started. So they never really cancelled school that time). As Kendra was getting ready for her very early bus pick-up time, she heard the magic words over the radio. A quick check on the school district website confirmed the unusual news. But the issue wasn’t snow. It was sleet and freezing rain. And even though it hadn’t started at our house yet, it was already making roads in the northern part of the parish (translate county for the rest of the nation) icy.

That brings up another school difference. The district here is the entire parish as opposed to Pennsylvania’s way of several local municipalities joining together to form one school district. Here the school district includes several high schools (most 9-12), several junior high schools (most 7-8), and many more elementary (most Pre-K to 3) and middle schools (most 4-6). Such a large district means that unusual weather in one part of the parish affects the entire school district. Usually it means if those south of I-12 have to evacuate for a hurricane, the entire school district is closed until the storm passes. When that happens, some school campuses north of I-12 become evacuation shelters. But on Friday, icy roads in the northern sections meant all of the district schools south of them had to close as well.

It turned out to be a good thing. It wasn’t long until the freezing rain and sleet was falling on us as well. And it continued off and on until after 9:00 in the evening. Even the Causeway, the bridge going over the center of Lake Pontchatrain, was closed for all but a few hours in the middle of the day. At first we were struggling with how poorly the word was getting out to us from the school district. The automated phone call reached us 18 minutes after Kendra would have needed to be at her bus stop. The emergency text message came over an hour later. We were struggling with why they took so long to use the established systems to get the word out to us. We were expecting them to handle this like we had experienced in Pennsylvania.

Then we put on our Louisiana eyes. This was the first we had experienced their need to close schools on such short notice. The original forecasts did not call for this weather coming quite this far south or east. It was a decision made that morning to close the schools. Normally they know three days in advance if schools will have to be closed for a hurricane. If you are not used to doing something, it’s hard to practice your procedures so you can make things happen smoother. I could envision administrative people scrambling to find the established check list just to make sure they didn’t miss anything. I could envision others being slowed in their ability to work through the check list because they also had to deal with a multitude of phone calls and e-mails coming in from the public and from school district staff. (Not sure if that’s what really happened, but I’ve worked in enough offices to be able to envision these possibilities). Once we stopped basing our expectations on our experiences in Pennsylvania and started thinking about what is true reality in Louisiana it was easy to be gracious. And after all, Kendra did know before she went out to the bus stop. The news media did have the information to pass on early enough. And they didn’t even need to scroll the name of every closed school at the bottom of their screen. They just named the three parishes that were closed in their listening area. Boom. Done.

So the kids and I enjoyed a very unusual bonus day at home. We wondered how the teachers would adjust after having only had a three-day week when they are used to full five-day weeks. We welcomed Kevin home that afternoon from his latest trip to New Jersey and Staten Island. We checked Facebook for local friends’ pictures of icicles and their posts of what they were experiencing with the weather. We worked on projects that we were struggling to find time for just the night before. And we kept checking to see if indeed any white flakes might start to fall as part of the mixed percipitation.

But I have to confess, we did find the evening news to be comedic. Video clips of how people were scrapping ice from their car windows and how road crews were “treating” road surfaces had us laughing out loud. Sometimes it’s hard not to let go of the life lessons well taught living so many years in Pennsylvania. There will also be a part of us strongly attached to that northern culture while we are also attached to this wonderful southern one. And it’s surprising how an unusual “snow” day can bring all of that out of us.

Our picture of Louisiana icicles.  They are on a detached garage.

Our picture of Louisiana icicles. They are on a detached garage.

Icicles on one of our vehicles.

Icicles on one of our vehicles.

Our team (Life of a Missionary Wife in 2014 cont’d)

This week several members of our team and their families gathered together for a Wedding Shower. Two of the amazing young women on the ReachGlobal Crisis Response staff are getting married. We decided to have a combined, co-ed Wedding Shower for them and their fiances. Despite the fact that the idea was proposed right before Christmas while just about everyone was traveling, the Louisiana based team jumped in and pulled it together. Decorations were simple. Everyone brought food to share. And even though there were gifts, they were not the focus. (They weren’t even opened at the shower). We focused on relationships. We ate together. We played a game where we got to know three of the married couples better. And we ended with a time of prayer over the engaged couples.

Unfortunately not all of our team was able to attend. Some were working at other response sites. Some were traveling. But the rest showed up to support these two special ladies and their future husbands. And everyone, our kids included, had a great time.

As a wife and mom, I feel blessed to be part of this unique team. Maybe not unique in a the way ReachGlobal operates, but unique in our American culture. In my last blog I shared that I had the option to decide if I didn’t want to be involved with the ministry, to be fully involved, or to find a spot somewhere in between. At the shower, the entire families showed up. It didn’t matter how involved the wife is. We all showed up. Our kids showed up. And we all enjoyed a social time with our extended family. And this is normal for our social functions.

You see, we really are family to each other. Most of us have left our home area to be involved with ReachGlobal Crisis Response. We are often in each other’s homes. We take time to help each other out. Our children all get along and are friends. (I continually thank God for that one). The young adults are mentors for our children (often unintentionally). Our team is a huge support system in our lives. Now just like no family wants to be together 100% of the time, we also need breaks from each other. And it’s very healthy for us to have good friends outside of our team. But where else could my husband go to work, that I would be so close to his co-workers and their families? Close enough that it is normal for us to intimately pray for each other?

As a wife of a missionary, I’m often amazed and thank God for placing us in this team. And when we can gather together so easily to bless two of our own, that blessing is just highlighted one more time.

Life of a Missionary Wife in 2014

Another staff member with ReachGlobal Crisis Response decided to blog every day in the month of January. This has been a challenge for her because she has a hard time finding something fresh to write about every day. However, those who read her blog are unaware of many of the “mundane” regular rhythms of her life and ministry.

This made me think of the communication we send to those on our newsletter list. We try to get a newsletter out every other month, but are happy if it happens quarterly. The newsletter content is mostly written by Kevin. He’s the one interacting with the homeowners and the volunteers on a regular basis. He’s the one who witnesses the way God works in their lives. And frankly, he’s the better writer. But do people really have an idea of what I do?

Now, if you check the history of this blog you’ll see that we are really bad about blogging. Other than some of our older newsletters being on here, there’s not much else. So no promises on how often I do this, but I’m willing to try to post with some kind of regularity.

So what does it mean to be a missionary wife with EFCA ReachGlobal? It really depends on the wife, her husband, and their family. ReachGlobal does a great job in making sure that couples have a relatively health relationship before going to the mission field. For this reason, the couple apply as a unit to work with ReachGlobal. They go through all of the screening and training together. However, by IRS standards, only the husband receives the paycheck.

ReachGlobal leaves the role of women in the organization open. So as a wife and mom I can be a 100% stay at home mom. Or I can volunteer some hours on a part-time or full-time basis. Because we live in the States, I would have the option of raising support for my own salary if I worked under a different director.

When we started I was mostly a stay at home wife and mom. I would volunteer an evening or two with the teams or a few hours to sort a shipment or to help with an administrative need. But most of my time was spent supporting my husband from home and taking care of Kendra and Logan.

For the past two years, I’ve taken a much more active role in the office. The job title you’ll find on my ministry description says “Operations Coordinator”. I work about 20 hours a week helping with some of the administrative needs of ReachGlobal Crisis Response. My focus is on our policies and procedures and how can we implement them as uniformly as possible at all response sites. Final implementation is up to each site manager and there needs to be sensitivity to our local ministry partners as well as the culture of that area. But having the needed resources available is what I focus on. I also assist in preparing agendas for the weekly staff meetings that are held corporately and at each response site.

This part-time volunteer position allows me the flexibility to still be Kendra’s and Logan’s taxi with their many after school and weekend activities, to invest in their lives, and to keep our home life as normal as possible while Kevin is either traveling to other response sites or investing his time in other ministry responsibilities that he has. It also allows me to participate in a weekly Moms In Prayer group, to teach Sunday School, and to travel as a family with Kevin when the kids are not in school.

You may wonder why I would not work elsewhere that would pay me and help our family finances. Honestly there are times that I’m feel ready to start putting out my resume and filling out applications (usually right after all the bills have just been paid). But Kevin and I felt called to serve with ReachGlobal Crisis Response as a couple. Any job that would interfere with my ability to go to where he is or to take care of our children’s needs would be more of a hardship than a blessing. It would be a distraction from where God has called me to be in this season of my life. My prayer is that when God is ready for me to have a paid job outside of the ministry, that he would reveal it to me. Until then, I am confident that I am where He wants me to be.

Florida Air Boat Ride

After the Challenge buses were delivered to the port in Miami so that they could be shipped to Haiti, Kevin and Arnold Horst were offered an air boat ride.  Ken Freia, a friend and helper in the Miami area, offered the guys a ride in the Florida marshes before they started making the trek home.  Kevin took the following video while on the airboat.

For more of the story see our newsletter from October 23, 2012 on the newsletter archive page.

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