Christine has had some long term prayers answered, by joining a gallery of a co operative artist community, The Uptown Art Gallery, with great location in the heart of Sarasota. She will be able to show her more contemporary work there, while still completing commissions and teaching iconography from her Bradenton studio.
Veterans Day and Thanksgiving are large events in Michael’s Chaplaincy work. $1500 worth of grocery gift cards were given to our local homeless mission, raised by the generosity of our elderly community. In years past turkeys were donated but now a gift card for a local grocery store is more helpful to the variety culinary traditions. Veterans day is a big event as so many residents here served in the military, mostly now in their 80s and 90s.
Michael, just came back from spending a couple of days in Fort Meyers helping the Omaha Rapid Response team clean up some hurricane Ian flooded houses and a church. Everything which got sea water on it has to be thrown away and ‘dry wall’, has to be taken out at least three feet above the water line and all the insulation removed. Then there is a wait to see if it will dry out or not.
As you can imagine this can be heart breaking, to have all your belongings rotting outside your home. The clean up is going to take a long time, to restore everything physically and for people to heal emotionally.
In situations like this, we are forced to examine ourselves and what foundations our lives stand on. There is so much to worry about. Who is going to pay for all the work that needs to get done, let alone find a contractor to do it? Will this house ever stop smelling of mold? How can we replace all the personal belongings we lost, family pictures and mementos, let alone beds and clothes.
But, the pastor of the church which I was volunteering with, was full of hope. She was telling me even though she and all of her congregation had suffered the storm surge and had a couple of feet of water in their homes, spiritually they were much stronger than they had ever been. Yes, it was exhausting, all that had to be done. She and her husband were living in a trailer as their home was being worked on. Everything was a mess, for her and for her church members.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13.
There was a man there who helped with the clean up. He was an alcoholic who was trying to get sober. He was able to stop drinking for a week or so and then he would pick up and drink again. He was sleeping rough. The church had found him a tent and the Omaha Rapid Response team had given him a cot and sleeping bag. He was living somewhere in the woods and he described how wild pigs had been smelling around outside his tent at night to me. The church was helping him with food, AA meetings and bus tickets. He had to get ID to get a job. He was hopeful, this was his chance to get his life back together.
One story I heard was, one of the flooded houses had lost an album of family photographs and it turned up hundreds of yards away when people were allowed back into the area. The mother of the family spent days searching all around the neighborhood for it and when it was returned to her she cried tragically, like someone who just loved a loved one. Deep guttural cry, because that album meant so much to her, the emotions of her losses were finally released in wailing of JOY.
May the God of Hope fill you with all Joy and peace in believing.
Another story I heard of God working. The team that drove from Nebraska, a 26 hr drive, pulling a heavy trailer were coming down of the mountains into Chattanooga, when one person in the front passenger seat said he felt odd, he felt sick, he slumped over on to the window, and then he fell forward in his seat. They were travelling fast with heavy trucks all around them with no where to pull over. The driver, Ken, reached over to try to find a pulse, but he could not. He called to a lady sitting behind and she struggled to find a pulse on him. There was no pulse, no breath and no way to try CPR.
The driver shouted to her to look again. She stretched forward but could not get a pulse, and out of desperation and fear she shouted out: ‘Jesus’. The man sat up strait and started breathing again. When they were able to pull off the highway 12 miles later, and they began to take in what had happened, a deep peace came on them realizing they had all survived a deadly situation, particularly because the man who had the attack had offered to drive at the last rest stop, not half an hour earlier. He was left in Atlanta, on their way, with a family member to get medical attention.
These are the kind of stories people hear when they are able to get out of their own lives and share in someone else’s situation. People involved in mission work, are familiar with incredible stories of God working and healing the sick. Even mundane stories of how God moves in our lives, need to be shared, because our God is the God of Hope, and that hope is needed by everyone. The Holy Spirit is integrally connected with our hope and belief, and whether we are at the start or end of our lives, it is God’s loving Spirit we seek, for power and comfort, to rightfully glorify God.
We pray that you have a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas season. We all have so much to be grateful for!
Much love and prayers, from us to you!
Michael and Christine