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Mississippi Disaster Relief Summary

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Our team without Denis Mori (no pictures availible of entire team)



Thank you for coming! This blog is to serve as a record of the personal experiences of a team of volunteers commisioned and sent by the congregation of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church. During this time, the blog you are now reading was kept by Scott Eggert as a record of the work performed on behalf of the congregation of FOPC and the devistation that was observed by the team. It is my hope that through your consumtion of this record that others would be compelled to give of their time and talents to help those who are vicitms of this disaster.


I happened to pack prior to my departure to Mississippi an old copy of Knowing God" by J.I. Packer. I was touched as we began our trip home by a quote taken from the second Chapter titled "People Who Know Their God". It states:

"The question is, can we say, simply, Honestly, not because we feel that as evangelicals we ought to, but because it is a plain matter of fact, that we have known God, and that because we have known God the unpleasantness we have had, or the pleasantness we have not had, through being Christians does not matter to us? If we really know God, this is what we would be saying, and if we are not saying it, that is a sign that we need to face ourselves more sharply with the difference between knowing God and merely knowing about him."

When held up against the travesty of those who have lost their homes, the unpleasantness we experienced in 11 days of our lives could not seem much less insignificant, however you must know that to those who we served, the significance was great.

The way in which the blog reads is from the most recent posting as first, and the oldest posting is last. In order to read the series of events in order, you will need to begin at the bottom and work your way up. Some days are records of work performed, however, some days are records of time spent touring disaster sites and conversing with victims of the hurricane along with pictures of the days events.

The objective of our team was as follows:

- Assist the local church, Orange Grove Presbyterian Church, by providing roofing services with the goal of relieving their burden and allowing them to better provide for their congregation and community.

- Serve as servants of our Almighty Lord, not as individuals, but as first Christians, secondly as an extension of the local church, and thirdly as ambassadors of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church who sent us.

- Gather information regarding the further needs of the churches, congregations, community, and surrounding areas. Seek additional opportunities for Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church to offer relief either through funding and/or the sending of relief workers.

- Create a record of the damage surveyed so as to share the pictures, and stories of the vastness of the disaster with the members of Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church.

Thank you again for taking the time to read this log. For those who kept us in their prayers and for those who gave money to the church not knowing who your money was supporting, we offer a special thank you and hope that this log provides a good account of our activities and use of your gifts. With out your prayers and offerings, the lives of those we served, and those who participated in this trip would not have been changed.

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Day 12/13- Homeward Bound?????

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We were suppose to have arrived home on November the 21st from our trip, however we experienced some travel delays. We were caused to spend the night in Atlanta and travel home the following morning via a flight through Las Vegas. We were all ready, actually anxious to get home. We each missed our loved ones and othe comfort of our homes and beds. This remains however a pailing inconveinience in comparison to the lose of the folks we were able to help in Mississippi. We arrive home safely to our loving families who ushered us to our warm homes with familar beds. Suddenly our broken fences, unkemped lawns, busy schedules, and somtimes sick families seem perhaps less indomitable.

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Day 11 - Biloxi Tour

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This morning we enjoyed a traditional Presbyterian church service at Westminster Presbyterian here in Gulf Port. Westminster has also been at the center of many service projects within the community. There projects have been made possible by a generous congregation and many volunteer groups that have come to help. At any one time they can house and manage work for as many as 150 volunteers.

After the church service we met up with Mark White from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Mark prvided us with a guided tour of the area in Biloxi where PDA is performing a great deal of work. Mark has a lot of stories of the people who live in the community, most from people he has met and shared meals with. One great story was of the family that waited out the hurricane in the attic of their home. This little home, with a little attic was the refuge for a small family of five. The water rose up to the attic. A small child that was in the attice mis-stepped and fell through the roof into the water, and behind him was a mother and infant. The father went after them. The family survived and eventually the father ended up rowing his boat from home to home saving neighbors from their attics and trees.




There were many strange sights that we saw during our tour with Mark, and he gave us many more stories. We took some pictures of some of the more spectacular pictures we could capture, though it remains immpossible to capture the vastness of the damage. One of the stories we heard was told at the sight of this picture below. This piano once found its home inside of the only shelter for the homeless on the Gulf Coast. The shelter was opperated by the Methodist church. It once was a beacon of hope in this small coastal community. The shelter housed six people during the storm, of which only 3 survived. The work of this shelter will continue, although likely at another site.


The Gulf Coast will obviously never be the same. Neither the landscape or its inhabitants will ever live down the day the Katrina took their jobs, homes, and for some their families. Many of the folks we spoke to whom are long time residents told stories of "Camille", a hurricane that swept through this same region in 1969. The residents spoke as though it was yesterday.

All in all, the observation is that the people who live here in the Gulf are rather resiliant people. They appear to be determined to pick themselves up and start their lives all over again, as though they never lost their jobs or homes.

Our tour with Mark ended and we completed our evening with dinner at a local restaurant. We returned to our housing at Handsboro Presbyterian, which though is not home for us, is a far greater accomodations than the residences of Biloxi have been left with.

We ended our eveinging with high spirits as we look forward to rejoining our families at home.

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Day 10 - Scott - We have a new boss

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Today we finished the last of the roof work that we were able to secure. It was a fantastic feeling to finish, and our client was immensly grateful for the contribution. We were able to finish the work and return barrowed equipment as well as donating most of our remaining supplies to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance over at Orange Grove Presbyterian. We know that they will put the remaining equipment and materials to good use. Tomorrow we have arranged to tour the area of Biloxi where Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is doing a great deal of work. We will again be venturing beyond a "no go" boundry. Mark White (head of the local PDA effort and former FOPC youth intern) will be acting as our tour guide. We look forward to seeing the fruits of their labor.


Also today, in a ceremony marking the end of our roofing work, Bob Hart issued his time honored tradition. Upon completion of the work during the mission he always gives his hat, a sign of his authority and accomplishment, to the worker whom he designates as the most improved or vital. On this trip his hat was passed to Ryan Kihm, our resident 19 year old stud. Ryan wore the hat with great pride. We are all proud of his contribution and his growth over the past week.

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Day 9 - Scott - More work!

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Today was another day of hard work. Our troops are showing the signs of tiring and longing to return to home. Our work out here has been a huge success and the end is in sight. We will complete our last roof tomorrow. We are going to tackle a couple of additional projects for the Handsboro church and hopfully survey some additional areas and ministries.

One item that has so far gone unnoted on the blog is the work performed by Sheila Orman. Sheila originally attended as support to make meals and perform any other anciliary duties. She has been a tremendous help to Rev. Sandra Price, our local liazon. Sheila has many years of experience in Human Resources with CSUS and has put her skills to work documenting processes and guidlines for additional teams assiting the churches from around the nation. Sheila's work will be vital to the churches success in bringing other groups down here in an orderly fashion and assuring that there is no confusion over the accomodations or even the distribution of work. God surely had other plans for her visit here. We have been excited to have her help the local church to get organized. She has also provided us with some great meals.

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Day 8 - Scott - Man Down

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We lost a good soldier today. I delivered Nick to the Airport at 12:30 this afternoon to catch a flight. I know that he will look to this when he arrives home. Thank you Nick for your service to this team and to this community in Gulf Port. Nick's presence will be missed amongst the team. I was glad to spend the morning with Nick, though we spent 2 of our hours waiting in a line at the drive through roofing supply department at Lowe's. After dropping of the materials for the job the team started later today we breached the security at the coast and drove along the coastal highway and saw some additional damage. Same apparantly was covered by the national press, but we found it rather impressive. We were able to walk right up to a floating casino that was moved by Katrina and left sitting on top of a hotel about a mile away. See the attached picture.

The team got a great jump on the home of an elderly lady whom does not atend the church. She is left with her husband who has been under hospice care in their home for over a year. This project will complete our roofing assignments. We should finish by mid-day Saturday. Upon our arrival we had agreed to complete roofing for one building and repair another. By the time we leave we will have completed 4 roofs and 1 severe patch job, much more than we imagined. Bob seems somewhat happy about his crew. We have formed a strong working bond with each other.

I have not said enough about Bob's leadership. He has been a fantastic leader on the jobsite. We truely could not have endevored this without his expertise. He has great concern for the final product, and has shown great patience with our limited skills and experience. He hs made us a capable roofing crew. He has also formed a charming bond with our youngest team member, Ryan. They often fight for shotgun.

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Day 7 - Scott - "Apocolyptic"

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"Apocolyptic"

The word for the day. We rescheduled our work project for an opportunity to spend the day with Glenda Waker (pronounced Walker). Nick met Glenda on the airplane. Glenda is woman who lives just outside of New Orleans in Slidell (North of Lake Ponchetrain) . She is lucky to have her home. She and her husband, Michael, both lost their jobs and had to flee their home. Upon meeting them, tey were ammongst the most gracious victims you could imagine meeting. They do not have work, but in addition to dealing with the lose of their jobs they house volunteers that work in New Orleans gutting homes and assist in rebuilding the Luthern Church they attended in New Orleans. We drove to their church. It is a travasty to see the damage that it sustained. However, even if the church was not damaged, there are no inhabitable buildings within a five mile radius, at least.



The sights in New Orleans are more bleak than we ever imagined. We were able to eat lunch at the "Port of Call" hamberger joint, a nice place about 5 minutes from the French Quarter. We talked with a Sherrif officer there. His estimate was the 40% of the residents of New Orleans were now able to return. Not that they have, since few have employment. The parts of the city that were not devistated were barely busy. It seemed odd to be in such a large US city and experienced so little traffic. We were introduced to many of the local sites of intrest.

After our tour of the city we made our way through more of the evacuated neighborhoods. We drove for several blocks with NO SIGN OF LIFE. It seemed like the set of a movie. "Apocolyptic". I can not think of any other word. Had you droped me in the city with out the knowledge of the disaster, my only summations would have either been world end, war, or rapture. Everything is gray, coated with the silt left from dirty water. A few items placed since the flood stick out because they lack the film, like a home we saw that was for sale? The streets are littered with the sheet rock that has been removed from home to prevent mold and cars that were abandoned and floated to rest and left alone. In many cases we witnessed piles of peoples ruined personal effects casted aside with the moldy building mateirals to be place in a landfill or burned.


Most of the homes were left with a water line that clearly shows the level of water in that neighborhood. It seems incomprehesible that this much of a city has been deserted. We made note of all of the FEMA markings. One home did show signs of a casualty. I regretted not having taken a picture, but it seems now somehow uncivilized to celebrate such a finding. We all know of the dead.

While the disaster that stuck the coast of Mississippi seems unparrellelled as a spectacle, the sight of hundreds of square miles of homes left deserted is equally as uncomprehensible. I have felt the tension that has resulted from the inbalanced attention paid to those who lost their homes from wind, and those who lost theirs to water. Having surveyed both, I would not wish either on anybody, nor is there one I would prefer. It is quite obvious that both are in GREAT NEED!

As we have spoken with people regarding need, it seems that there are several tiers of need that range in their level of immiadiacy. There does exist the need for the church to take care of their parrish. Beyond that lies the need of the church to reach out to those in the community. This has begun to happen in some cases, though not all. As a participant in relief, a giver of my own time and talents, I would love to see a more concerted effort by the church to SEEK OUT those within their parish that would have not ordinarily sought, or expected help from the church. This is of coarse a simple observation for a spectator, but it must become a broached subject as the efforts progress if the church wishes to appear relevant "after the flood".

During Nick's sermon on Sunday he mentioned the end of a movie (Volcano if you should care) where a child remarks to an officer that "everybody looks the same". Everybody was covered in soot from the disaster. This is the situation that the church is the South find themselves. I plan on making it my goal, with the assistance of our local church, to assist by consult and encouragement to move towards this end. It is also my impression and experience that it is likely our church will continue to provide aid both in forms of funding and people sending. The walls are down, the borders removed. What greater a time could there be to reach out.

Other hapenings on this day....

All said, we are still having a lot of fun. Everybody is getting along great. We could not have asked for a group more dedicated to our mission here.

We were able to end the day on a high note. We stopped by once more to offer relief in the form of coffee for our friends Joe Chandler and Specialist Jones. This was a good way to end the day.

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Day 6 - Scott - Gumbo!!!

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GUMBO!





It could not go without saying that we enjoyed a great Gumbo that was made by our friend Sandra. I do not know what was in it, don't want to. I also believe that it was made to be eaten in the dark. Sandra was a wonderful host. We sat and ate outside of her FEMA trailer. A good time was had by all. We also enjoyed this feast with her neighbors whom we completed a new roof for.

Those who know me will not fathum that I ate and enjoyed this dish!

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Day 6 - Scott

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The team pulled together for another day of hard work today. We completed the shed roof for Sandra and most of her neighbors home. Our hope is to finish the neighbor tomorrow and head off toward New Orleans with a woman that Nick met on the airplane.

Above is a picture of the men at work and also a sign showing the desparation of local employers. Many of the service industries lost their employees and the city is now flooded with traveling contractors and relief workers that have no kitchens to cook in, so they eat out. Eating out is pretty crowded.

More updates are coming from Nick.

Thank you all for your prayers and your comments.

Scott

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day 5 Nicko

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Hey everyone I guess it time that I add something to this blog. It has been an amazing trip so far, we have met so many people each of which have a story. Because of all the stories Scott, Denis and I went to Circuit City to get a digital recorder. We have not had the time to test it out yet, but rest assured we will tomorrow. We are taking a lot of pictures and video which we will try to compile and have aval. for people to see. Actually we are going to work on two roofs tomorrow both are approximately a mile and a half. One of the houses is owned by a true “Down Home Southern Lady” her name is Sandra (the above pictures are of her house and grandpa Bob falling asleep). She is one of our contacts for the trip. We got to go through her house this morning and see the damage from the surge of sea water that came in during the hurricane. Her house had over five feet of water going through it at one time. The house was literally moved inches off its foundation. The house is now totaled and will have to be bulldozed soon so that the new house can be built in its place. As a thank you for all we are doing here she is actually going to cook a bucket load of GUMBO for us tomorrow! I am very excited about this be cause I have never had true Gumbo before. We may also have a shrimp fry if there is any shrimp in the market. Not all the shrimp boats have gone back to work yet due to the hurricane.

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Day 5 - Scott

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Today we went back to work. We finished the Orange Grove Presbyterian Church. "Get 'er Done!" Bob said. We delivered! We also got a jump start on Sandra's house. Sandra has ben our liazon for our work here. We are putting a roof on her "shed" as a side project. We are also putting on a new roof for her next door neighbor, a 72 year old widow on a fixed income. We look forward to doing for her as she is working with a lot of the groups helping others. I actually spent much of the morning at the Home Depot. Again experienceing just how slow thing have become here. There is a great deal of demand for people to repair their homes. I witnessed a woman of the age that you would not expect to be purchasing "do it yourself" home imrovement supplies, but there she was purchasing her 5 gallons of joint compound. There just does not seem to be enough help to go around. Many people are forced to do low quality repar jobs theirselves in order to make their homes inhabitable for winter. It is our prayer that others will begin to take notice of the immense need for help for the residences here in Mississippi and the other areas affected by the hurricane.

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Day 4 -Scott Cont...

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Yesterday my time was limited for writing. We found that the Airport haswirless, however, apearantly it closes after the last flight, at 9:00. Go figure. It was sort of a sobering to see so many devistated homes. Many of the streets we traveled no longer had homes on them . I have attached some additional photos. Photos however can do not justice to this tragedy. We surveyed appoximately 5 milse of the coast. The huricane had a diameter of 300 miles, and brought a surge of water that reached as high as 35 feet and traveled inland several mile in some places. The area that we were able to go is actually not open to the public. We met up with a gentleman after church whom offered to give us a tour beyond the national guard stations. This tour was an exceptional pleasure and yet a horrific sight. I will let the pictures speak for the rest.



Other noteworthy events that took place on Sunday:

Nick preached at Orange Grove Presbyterian. His sermon was moving and seemed to touch the congregation. In attendance were not only members from the Orange Grove congregation but members from a Long Beach Presbyterian which was left unusable after the huricane and is also located behind the "no go zone" as we have deemed it. Also in attendance were the relief workers from P-Dat (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team). My count had attendees from the following states: California, Pennslavania, Virgina, Kansas, New Jersey, Mississippi, and even Ontario, Canada.

Some additional interesting developments are that the head of the P-DAT organization on site is Mark White. Appearantly he served as an intern at FOPC many years ago when Bill Steele was on staff. Also, the pastor from Long Beach Presbyterian once served in the Air Force as a Chaplain and was stationed at McClellan in 1977. The first Presbyterian church he ever attended was FOP. Now he is a Presbyterian minister.

Late last night Nick and Denis and I went out and stoped by the trusty national guard station to see our friend Joe Chandler. He has been paid a visit by one or both of us every night. Tonight we went and purchased them some coffee. Also pictured is Specialist Jones.


This is a Picture of Ryan Kihm. It was exciting to touch the waters of another ocean.




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Day 4- Scott

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Today we witnessed the greatest devistation we ever imagined we could have witnessed.














More to come.............................

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Day 3-Scott

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When Nick and I returned from the coffee shop we encountered a new group from Alabama. They had brought Southern Comfort in the form of food. A LOT of food. They seemed like a fun group. They are building showers for the Church and also doing some additional construction projects.

Last night Nick and I ran out at about 10:30. We were restless. We ran into a blockade not far from here and spoke with a soldier manning the station with local police. There are still areas they are not allowing access. We thanked the soldier for his service and went off in another direction. We shortly happened upon a soldier guarding another part of the disaster. Funny things was however, this gal was sitting in the back of her Hummer watching a video. As we were talking Nick asks the gal,"are you watching Purple Rain". Sure enough. She is sitting watching purple rain in her Hummer. We cruised around an surveyed some more of the damage. On our way back we stopped to take the picture at the top of the blog.

Saturday we roofed almost double what we did the day prior. Everybody is holding up well and we are obviously getting in the rhythm. We have tomorrow off. Nick is preaching at Orange Grove where we are roofing. We are also looking forward to picking up our new team member at the air port. We will be joined by Denis Mori. We should be finished with Orange Grove on Monday and move on to do a non-church community member that we are excited to help. The home owner is a 72 year old widow on fixed income and no insurance money. We are also looking at two additional roofing jobs for church members.

We are returning to Orange Grove to attend a BBQ hosted for all of the P-DAT volunteers. They have graciously invited us and the Alabama group to join in.

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Day 2

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Today we got up at 7 am ate and ran. Arriving at the church at 8:30. Orange Grove is a "tent city" site for an organization called Presbyterian Disaster Relief Team (P-Dat) for short, we determined. I was amazed at the operation they have put together. These volunteers travel to Biloxi and surounding areas and gut homes and provide other services at no cost to people who sign up with the organization. I will be looking more into their efforts prior to leaving. They seemd quite able to mobilize the various groupls arriving for aid.

Roofing went well. We finished 7.5 squares out of about 30. "Square" is "roof speak" for 100 square feet. Not bad for our rag tag bunch. We returned for warm showers and Nick and I discovered the small coffee house which has free WIFI. I like!

I ran into George and Linda Bates from the previous night. We shared some additional comments, and encouraging words. Linda commented that she had not yet thought about "after" the clean up. It was neat to have been able to remind her tht there is a "after". Disaster relief will not be the rest of their lives, thoug at times it must seem as such.

During our travels today we witness much more of the devistation. We hope to branch out in future days to check out some of the more devistated areas we are hearing about.

Nick and I are late for dinner.

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Day 1.5

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Here are some pictures from Byron

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DAY 1

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We just found a coffee shop with WIFI. I will begin with yesterday. 7 of us met the airport at 6 in the morning. Our light left at 7. With a connection in Atlanta we arrived in Gulfport at about 3:30. Already thorugh conversations we are just begining see the effects of the hurricane on the region. Our seats were spread throughout a small jet. Many of us sat with military or other involved in particular efforts of relief. I for one sat with a gentleman who serves as a Regional Director for the EPA. As you could imagine, his agency has quite the hand in studing the effect and planning for the future of the region. The gentlemans name was Byron. He happens to live here ne the region, just north in what would be considered the country here, about 12 mile from the gulf. Byron spent the hurricane in his home with 29 of his closest family and friends. While Byron's home survived the storm with minimal damage, his 2 sons and their families lost everthing they had. Byron now shares his home with 20 of his family members. Byron had his laptop with him and shared many of the pictures that he took. I was able to put these on my memory stick to share with those at our home church. Some I will post here.

When I discussed with Byron the needs of the victims, long and short term, her recounted an incident that occured in Flordia after Ivan in '04. In one of the communities of mobile homes set up by FEMA there where 11 suicides. "Counceling" he said. I can not imagine the undertaking.

All said for the first day, we were amazed at the devistation once we landed. We met up with Sandra Price whom is our primary contact with the area. She spoke of this confused conditition the people have experienced. She shared a couple of stories about times she found herself driving miles in the wrong direction. Not because she did not recognize her landscape, but because she simply was not cognative of what she was doing. The general impression is that things here are moving slowly. Not simply the relief efforts, but as a result of the shell shock those in the community are still experiencing.

We also had a chance to meet with George and Linda Bates with th local Presbytery that represents 11 local churches. Gorge and Linda live 200 miles away, but have established a temerary residence at Hansboro church. The will return home for Thanksgivins soon. George has been elected to head up the relef efforts for the entire Presbytery. They seem rather in touch with the needs and the various efforts in the area. We had an intriging discussion reguarding the future of the local church. Many of these churches will recover, and perhaps add to their rolls. However, if they have any desire to sustain that growth there must be more than disaster assistance. If the churches do not step up to meet the spiritual needs of these new attendees, they will eventually fall off and the rolls will eventually return to predisaster levels.

After George and Linda left we ended ou evening by kiling cockroaches and playing hearts.

Thanks all for your prayers for our team and for our families whom have remained at home.


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