Posted tagged ‘smelling the roses’

Nearly a Fortnight in Florida

June 30, 2015

Glass-Bottom Boat at Silver Springs, FLFriday, June 26, Rebecca and I lumbered along a route resembling the flight of a drunken crow as we drove from Winona, MS in a southeasterly direction headed for Florida. The Gospel chariot was laden down with Bonnie’s clothes (for Martha Noland in Ocala, FL), display material, literature and luggage. Picture Rebecca and me wedged in the command module of our little black space shuttle with barely enough room for ourselves. We paused en route the next two days to consume homemade tuna sandwiches that we had prepared for our lunches.

Weary from the first day’s journey, we lodged in Troy, AL at the Best Western Inn. Rain greeted us throughout the day as well as when we left the hotel for supper. The trip that day was uneventful except for a couple vehicles that seemed to want to play bumper car, but we resisted.

Saturday afternoon, we arrived at the home of our host and hostess in Jacksonville, FL where we would linger for the next two days; brother Jeff and sister Sherri White made us comfortable and fattened us up a little with good cooking. They worship with the Chaffee Road Church of Christ, which is one of my supporters and for which I was to speak Sunday morning. For Bible class, I presented my “Overview & Update” PowerPoint about World Evangelism and my labors therewith. During worship, I presented my PowerPoint “The Church of Prophecy.”

Sunday evening, we worshipped with the Riverview Church of Christ, and I gave my “Overview & Update” PowerPoint once more. Both congregations received us well, and the latter made a special financial participation with me in my mission endeavors.

Following worship, Rebecca and I traveled to the home of Bob and Martha Noland in Ocala, FL. He has served for many years as an elder and a Gospel preacher, and of course, Martha has been a valuable component, too, in their service to our Lord Jesus Christ. Just before our arrival, we received a mobile call as we were driving that Bob was having a medical crisis. When we got to their home, EMS personnel were assisting them, and finally, they placed Bob in Bob and Martha’s van for a trip to a cancer hospital an hour away in Gainesville, FL.

Rebecca and I rode along. Test after test was performed on Bob. However, after spending hours in the Emergency Room with no progress toward admitting Bob to the hospital, Rebecca and I returned to the Noland home in Ocala. We got to bed finally between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

Later in the day Monday, we gathered up the Noland’s granddaughter who had been deposited at Christian brethren and friends of the Nolands. The three of us, then, proceeded to return to the hospital in Gainesville. That evening, we returned to Ocala.

Tuesday, Rebecca and I went to a nearby Florida State Park where we rode a glass-bottom boat at the headwaters – 120 natural springs – for the Silver Springs River. Thunderstorms daily have lashed us with wind and rain; while on the boat, a ferocious storm battered land and water. Yet, beneath the surface of the river, we could see through the glass bottom of the watercraft that neither deep water nor aquatic life were the least disturbed by the turbulence above. (Incidentally, the most recent edition of the Rushmore Newsletter, which we mailed on Friday, June 19, finally arrived at residences here in Florida. I beat the mail down here. Imagine that!)

The water was crystal clear, and the depths were deceptively deeper than they appeared. We saw the bluest freshwater fish we had ever observed, plus turtles, gar and other fish. Later while walking adjacent to the river, we spied an alligator at water’s edge. We also saw monkeys, regionally appropriate birds and lizards.

So, we “played” a little – or smelled the roses somewhat. However, Rebecca and I worked as well. Finally, Tuesday evening, we completed entry of articles in a database, chronicling articles already used in The Voice of Truth International so we can distinguish them more easily from articles that have not yet been used in VOTI. We entered articles for over 300 pages encompassing three recent editions of the magazine. I also worked on Gospel Gazette Online a little plus other office work (in my mobile office – on my lap).

Saturday, Rebecca and I will travel to DeFuniak Springs in preparation for speaking all day Sunday for the Liberty Church of Christ. Between now and then, we will continue to work especially on VOTI and GGO. Monday, we will begin our return trip to Winona, MS.

Thank you for your interest in my efforts for the cause of Christ. I continue to make appointments both for stateside travel as well as overseas venues in five countries for this fall and into next year. Please pray for me, and let me know what dates you would like me to visit your congregation (mission report, preaching, Gospel meeting, etc.).

Deer Crossing Next 20 Miles!

July 18, 2013

Deer Crossing SignWe were barely inside Mesa Verde National Park when we came across a one of a kind sign – at least, Bonnie and I had never seen a sign exactly like it: “Deer Crossing Next 20 Miles.” That reminds me of a recommendation that our daughter Rebecca once made while visiting us in West Virginia a few years back when we lived there. Instead of the highway department saturating the state with signs like, “Curves Ahead Next 3 Miles,” she offered that West Virginia would be better off erecting signs at the state line advising traffic entering the state, “Curves Ahead Unless Otherwise Posted.” The “Deer Crossing Next 20 Miles” covered the length of Mesa Verde.

Bonnie & Louis RushmoreIn view of my bad knees and the effect of chemotherapy on Bonnie, we opted for a self-directed car tour of Mesa Verde. We didn’t want to crawl through tunnels, climb 60’ ladders and navigate numberless steps anyway. Still, we consumed most of the day driving through the park and stopping at most of the sites. Sometimes the stops were within sight of each other! Most of the time, we didn’t get very far from the car, though occasionally, we walked farther.

Cliff DwellingsWe observed the remains of pit houses, which were partially below the surface of the ground and would have been roofed. Bonnie and I also saw cliff dwellings as well as some other structures built above ground. In many ways, the sites reminded us of some types of dwellings we and other missionaries encounter abroad, and we imagined that the ancient homes of indigenous people in America resembled biblical era homes in Palestine.

The green tables (Mesa Verde) and other rock formations ever remind us of our Creator. In addition, everywhere we traveled this past week we could see the evidence of catastrophism in contrast to uniformitarianism. In other words, Bonnie and I recognized the handiwork of God (Psalm 19:1) in the formation and fashioning of our home planet.

Swinging in the Clouds and Galloping Geese!

July 17, 2013

Wednesday morning in Ridgway, CO greeted Bonnie and me with cloudy skies and a forecast for rain. Though we didn’t pay much attention to it, wind, rain and lightning buffeted the environs the evening and night before. “Nobody told us,” Bonnie bemoaned, “that this is the monsoon season!” Yes, that’s exactly what the TV weatherman called Colorado July weather.

Galloping Goose #1Before leaving town, we headed over to the local railroad museum. There we photographed an exact replica of Galloping Goose #1; whereas railroads of yesteryear referred to them generically as “motors,” the Rio Grande Southern nicknamed those odd trains (cross between a boxcar and a truck) in their fleet the Galloping Geese. This particular one was a small pickup truck that rode the rails delivering mail.

After refueling the rental car, we drove toward Telluride, CO. A long time before we encountered difficulties, a lighted road sign warned that the road ahead was closed. It seemed as if a sick joke, but the wording on the sign advised to take an alternative route, but there are no alternative routes! We were on the only paved highway and the only roadway that didn’t require four-wheel drive going the direction we needed to go. Eventually, we encountered the huge mudslide that had closed Colorado Highway 145 north of Telluride until 1 a.m. We experienced a delay, but we were able to pass through; the slick, red mudslide must have enveloped miles of roadway.

Telluride, CONot long after getting past the mudslide, we arrived at Mountain Village. At first, we could not find suitable parking; we paid $7 to an unmanned, cantankerous machine sentry to park so we could ride the free gondola from Mountain Village across hilltops and valleys and down a mountain into downtown Telluride. The parking fee was well worth just the experience on the series of gondolas in to town. After all, it is not every day that we get to swing through the clouds and skip on mountain tops aboard a cable-bound, swinging gondola.

Telluride, COApparently, we visited after most summer visitors had come and gone; all of the visitor maps and guides had vanished before we arrived, and we were left to wander according to our best guess to find the main thoroughfare of shops in Telluride. The entire town is consumed with real estate sales, expensive clothing stores and pricey restaurants (not necessarily fancy, just expensive). The historic mining town of bygone days was invisible amidst the joggers, hikers, bikers and the well-off clientele of the mountain golf course and sea of condominiums.

It was not at all what we had imagined, and it held little interest for us – except for Galloping Goose #4, which was on display along the main street. It was wedged angle-wise between two buildings, shrouded with short trees and with a picnic table in use at its side. Unfortunately, we were not able to get a picture of it in its entirety under those circumstances.

The second highest waterfalls in Colorado is somewhere around the town of Telluride. However, no map or guide book in hand, and with no signage, besides being on foot, we counseled ourselves that we were tired anyway and headed back toward the gondolas.

Galloping Goose #4The balance of the drive toward Cortez was uneventful compared to the harrowing ride across the top of the mountains the day before. For me personally, the brightest moment of the day was when we happened upon along our route of travel Galloping Goose #5. There it was beside the highway in Delores, CO in front of the old train depot – now a little museum. This specimen is carted by tractor-trailer various times of the year to special events where it once more takes on passengers and plies the rails. I must confess that I bought a souvenir!

Galloping Goose #4It was time to continue our day’s journey southward toward Cortez. Do you know how hard it is to find a restaurant with which you are not familiar in a part of the country with which you are not familiar – when it has changed its name! I drove in so many circles in all directions turning around and looking every which way. It’s a wonder that someone didn’t call the authorities to investigate. Finally, we found the place, but the name didn’t match the advertising, and subsequently, the menu was different, too. Nevertheless, we had a good meal before returning to our motel for the night (two nights in total, actually).

We are tired. Since we applied sunscreen to our faces and arms (we burned slightly yesterday), and we seemed to have experienced a dusty day, we feel like we have been breaded. To clean up and to slumber we must, for another day comes, we think. If it does not come, either because the earth no longer turns or though it does we do not, that will be all right, too. Each of us must ready ourselves to meet God in Judgment (Amos 4:12).

Durango to Ridgeway up US 550

July 16, 2013

Colorado Rocky MountainsTuesday morning as we drove through Durango northward, we observed that gasoline prices had jumped ten cents overnight, except for one station on the other side of the road. Since it was inconvenient to turn around, I proceeded north; that was a mistake as all other gasoline spied later in the day retailed from $3.84 to nearly $4.00 a gallon.

Colorado Rocky MountainsInitially, we feared that we would be able to see little and unable to take any pictures due to the overcast skies and low-hanging clouds. The first several pull offs to which we came were wasted on us because of poor visibility. Furthermore, the farther we drove the higher we climbed until we were literally driving in the clouds – in excess of 10,000 feet.

StagecoachHaving visited Silverton the day before via steam train, today we traveled by small rental car. We ate at the Black Bear Café and afterward strolled through some shops. To our delight, we were able to capture a working, old west stagecoach on our digital camera.

Colorado Rocky MountainsBetween periods of rain, the skies cleared considerably so that we were able to pull over from time to time (sometimes the pull offs were within sight of each other) and get some nice photographs. We visited two waterfalls, both of which were spectacular. Often, the roadway extended to the very guardrail-absent edge of a cliff dropping a thousand or more feet – punctuated with such sharp curves sometimes that the GPS directed us to turn right or left (the GPS didn’t know if we were coming or going!).

Water FallsThe second falls was in Ouray, CO, through which we passed on the way to our lodging in Ridgeway, CO. We found supper at the True Grit Café (several sites in and around Ridgeway were backdrops for the John Wayne movie True Grit). The town of Ridgeway was once the home of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, and there is a small museum dedicated to it that I hope to visit tomorrow. Its pride and joy, the Galloping Goose, though, has been removed to Telluride, CO, where we expect to be sometime tomorrow. If you don’t know about the Galloping Geese, look them up; you may find them as interesting as do I.

Colorado Rocky MountainsMy best friend (Bonnie) and I, Lord willing, will make a huge circle over the next few days this week through and around the mountains in southwest Colorado. The handiwork of Almighty God is everywhere sounding forth the existence of our Great Creator (Romans 1:20).

The Silverton Train

July 15, 2013

Silverton TrainFor our 40th wedding anniversary gift to each other, Bonnie and I rode the Silverton train today. The 9:00 a.m. train left about 9:30 a.m., but as a song says, ‘We had tickets to ride the train from yesterday, and it left on time!’ We had reserved seats on an open car with padded bench seats facing to the side, and it was the last car on the train. Most of the better pictures we snapped (and between the two of us we took 456 pics) were obtained on the three-hour ride from Durango, CO to Silverton, CO – because it rained on us for three hours on the return trip (remember, we were in a car without windows – a gondola with a roof).

Silverton TrainDurango is at about 6,000 feet, and 45 miles or so away, Silverton is at about 12,000 feet. Durango was cool with overcast skies, but Silverton was noticeably cooler. (We even spied snow on peaks hovering over the little valley occupied by the town of Silverton.) The rainy, return trip was beyond cool; it was cold!

Water TankSilverton was not as I had imagined. For the most part, it appears to be mostly a summertime town – becoming nearly a ghost town itself in the winter. That probably explains why the streets except for the highway passing through Silverton were muddy gravel lanes. Many of the buildings were old frame buildings, many needing repair.

Colorado RockiesOur return trip was initially delayed due to a broken part of some sort on the engine. After ten minutes of welding, we were off. The engine had struggled uphill all the way from Durango, but from Silverton back to Durango was all downhill. The key to the first half of the trip going to Silverton was to go fast enough to successfully negotiate the steady upward grade, whereas the key to second half of the trip back to Durango was to go slowly enough not to either jump the track or rock into natural stone walls.

Colorado RockiesBack in Durango, wet, cold, tired and sooty, we went directly to our hotel. We buffeted for supper on crackers and cheese in our room after cleaning up from the day’s outing. I have desired for years to ride the Silverton train, and I never thought that it would ever happen. Happen it did, and what made it all the better was that my best friend, my wife, my dear Bonnie and I made the journey together. A longtime ago we began a journey throughout this life together – a journey that also has become a pilgrimage of Christian service in search of a city whose builder and maker is God.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies

Sidebar to PTP 2012

August 22, 2012

Old Mill RestaurantBonnie and I love the mountains, and especially we have fallen in love with the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area. We resort to this respite from flat land and stress at least annually for a few days. Highlight for us in addition to the stellar scenery are the special eateries that we really, really like. In 2012, we added to our favorites list the Old Mill Restaurant at 175 Old Mill Avenue in Pigeon Forge. We have eaten there three times this year, and each meal was excellently prepared. The service is superior. The décor is rustic, made so from the reuse of antique barn timbers refinished to build a multi-level dining experience on the banks of the river. The prices are comparable to Cracker Barrel, another favorite of ours – also amply represented in these towns. (We also cherish Texas Roadhouse, at which we dined once during PTP.)

The Old Mill Restaurant complex says of itself:

Welcoming visitors since 1830, The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge, TN is truly The Gem of the Smokies. Now, family owned and operated, The Old Mill and The Old Mill Square complex of restaurants and specialty shops is a favorite Smoky Mountain destination for dining, shopping and learning. Visitors can still watch meal and flour being ground by the water powered granite French Burhr in the mill, or pottery being thrown or candy being made.

There are many delights in the Smokies, and the Old Mill Restaurant and companion shops qualify. Treat yourself to the finery offered there. Go see for yourself at http://www.old-mill.com/.

On the Road Again!

July 4, 2012

On the Road Again! That’s the ring tone for Bonnie’s phone, and we live it, too. Arriving back in the States Tuesday, June 12 from Guyana, South America, we have hit the road again. Thursday, Bonnie and I drove almost two hours south to Byram, MS for our semi-annual dental cleanings. Oh, that’s when Bonnie was informed that she needed to have two wisdom teeth extracted and two other teeth drilled and filled at subsequent appointments.

Saturday the 16th, we dropped Betty Choate off at the Memphis International Airport on our way to Rebecca’s home in Collierville, TN. Sister Choate was unable to persuade Delta at curbside to overlook her overweight luggage, and so as we pulled away from the curb, she was redistributing items between checked bags and her carryon bag. She was on her way to San Francisco, CA to babysit grandchildren as her son Brad and his wife went away to celebrate their anniversary.

At our own private bed and breakfast (Rebecca’s house), we were positioned for our Sunday, June 17 afternoon appointment with the East Frayser Church of Christ in the metropolitan Memphis area. We had a wonderful time with these brethren as I presented the PowerPoint Into All the World in 2011.

Back in Winona, MS, Monday through Thursday, brother Lester Grimmet and his helper Tommy made some much needed repairs on the missionary house in which we reside. Besides hundreds of disturbed wasps (and about six cans of wasp spray), they found rotten soffit and fascia plus rotted roof joist ends and porch sheeting. Replacing and repairing these items was the beginning of necessary maintenance to preserve the integrity of the structure. Roof repairs are imminent. Later, we will paint the exterior wall panels, etc. to prolong replacement of the deteriorating paperboard sheets.

New Floor TitleInside the house, Bonnie and I invested in the replacement of the kitchen flooring and sink countertop. We opted for ceramic tile for both. Already, we had painted the dark paneling and cabinets to brighten the dungeon. Of course, as long as the kitchen was inaccessible, we were forced to eat out.

New Floor Tile & Counter TopSunday morning June 24, we visited the Courtland, MS Church of Christ. For Bible class, I presented Into All the World in 2011, and for worship I preached Worshipping Almighty God Acceptably and with Godly Fear. For those of you who follow our blog, you see that I do not preach a lot of different sermons over the course of a year. I just go to different congregations and present the same material over again. Poor, poor Bonnie; she has to endure the same lessons often twice weekly for many months before I change them out for another set and repeat our circuit.

After worship, we followed a family to the next county and into the woods. We were supposed to be going to a restaurant for lunch, but I was almost certain that we were following the wrong car and that we were about to pull up into someone’s driveway. However, finally, we arrived at a local, out of the way eatery in a narrow gravel lot adjacent to a boat storage facility. Above the door for the diner was simply the word, “CATFISH.” Inside the homey setting, in the backroom, six of us surrounded a round table. Bonnie and I shared the best and the largest country fried steak we have ever eaten. Everywhere we go, one thing is for sure. Brethren know where the good food is, and they enjoy eating together.

Sunday evening, I spoke for the West President Church of Christ in Greenwood, MS. Their preacher Nathan Wright was away at camp with the youngsters from the congregation. Bonnie and the brethren heard me preach Worshipping Almighty God Acceptably and with Godly Fear. After worship, several brethren and we ate at an upscale Mexican restaurant in Greenwood near J.C. Penny. I found my new, favorite Mexican restaurant, and all Bonnie and I ate was an appetizer that we shared.

Tuesday the 26th, we were again in Byram, MS for the extraction of two of Bonnie’s wisdom teeth. By far, it took longer to get there from Winona, MS than it did for brother Andy Dulaney to remove the teeth. I had chipped a front tooth on the backside the previous Sunday, and it left an annoying bur that brother Dulaney smoothed for me.

East Side Church of ChristWednesday morning, we began a new trek to Cleveland, TN, where that evening I made my PowerPoint presentation Into All the World in 2011 to the East Side Church of Christ. We lodged that night with Rick and Fay Hinson; he is the Deacon of Missions for that congregation. We always enjoy this couple, and they make us feel right at home.

Thursday morning, we struck out aimlessly for Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. Our next appointment was also to be in Cleveland, TN on Sunday night; so, we took a couple of days to relax and work without interruption in the Smoky Mountains. The first order of business upon arriving in the area was to eat lunch at the Old Mill Restaurant. We were seated almost immediately in rustic, watermill-like building overlooking the nearby river. Not something I would choose for myself, nevertheless, I enjoyed the corn chowder with clam broth that came with the meal, and the meatloaf was exceptionally good. The prices were moderate, and the service was stellar. Bonnie and I both agree that the Old Mill Restaurant deserves a repeat visit in our future when in the area.

Cabin View of the Smoky MountainsA couple of phone calls later, we had arranged for a cabin for a couple of days outside of Gatlinburg. The paperwork required to rent this place was reminiscent of that required to buy a house! Upon arrival at our cabin getaway, we couldn’t wait to get away from it; I called the rental office and said that it was unacceptable for a number of reasons, including peeling wallpaper in the bathroom and water damage on walls and floor. Within the hour, we arrived at a second cabin, which was more to our liking. It was the most buggy cabin rental that we ever experienced, but otherwise the porch provided a pleasant view of the blue mountains. The accommodations were satisfactory. Part of the time we relaxed; some of the time we walked the main drag of Gatlinburg, TN – window shopping the curios that we mostly resisted buying. We did, though, bump into the Steve Choate family in a store into which we just happened to wander. Steve is one of Betty Choate’s sons; he lives in Searcy, AR. (Though we did not encounter them, afterward we learned that J.D. and Denise Conley from Marietta, OH were in a Gatlinburg cabin at the same time we were in that area. He is a Gospel preacher and the son-in-law of Denver Cooper; Denise is sister to our dear friend Martha Noland.

TramAfter lunch at Texas Roadhouse (we shared Road Kill and added an extra baked potato), as we were wandering about, we came to the tram that takes up to 120 passengers at a time to the top of the mountain. The fare not too steep, we boarded the standing room only vehicle and winged our way over five towers to the mountaintop. We explored some shops and bought a few trinkets, including some marble top fudge. We had indulged on some fudge the day before, too, at the Old Mill Candy Shop and found it better tasting than the more recent acquisition. Of course, the better tasting candy cost twice as much as the other; perhaps that ought to have been an indicator.

During our two-night stay in the cabin, we dispatched spiders, ants, a millipede, one scorpion and another, unidentified bug. Two wasps that stung me got away. Each time we go to the Smoky Mountains, we have stayed in a different cabin, and I suppose we will continue the practice the next time we steal away a day or two.

Mountain MusicWe also enjoyed some mountain music as we strolled the streets and alleys of Gatlinburg, TN.

Central Church of Christ (Cleveland, TN)Saturday, June 30, Bonnie and I traveled back to Cleveland, TN where I was to speak the next day for the evening service of the Central Church of Christ. First, though, we stopped at Tanger Outlets to buy me some dress shirts. Many of my shirts are decades old and in dire need of replacement. The temperature was 107 degrees! We walked, and we walked. Then, we walked some more. Finally, we found some shirts that were nearly like what I wanted and at a price I could afford. Along the way, Bonnie bought a couple pair of footwear, too.

About 5:00 p.m., we arrived at the home of Robert and Barbara Wright. They are brethren, friends and our benefactors. They lodged us and fed us to the point of bursting over the next two days. They have worked hard over the years, and they freely utilize their resources for the cause of Christ; they do a good work for the Lord.

Sunday evening, I presented Into All the World in 2011. We had some technical difficulties since my software with which I made the PowerPoint presentation is newer than what the church is using. With some trial and error behind us, we were able to present the material for the congregation. We were well received. Bonnie and I had a few moments to meet with two of the elders regarding our work in which they invest for the church there.

Monday was consumed in our return trip to Winona, MS. A flurry of phone calls between Wednesday and Monday populated our upcoming calendar for Sundays and Wednesdays. We have some long stateside trips ahead of us in July and August. Bonnie labored on the next issue of The Voice of Truth International as I steered the car homeward.

After spending all day in the office Tuesday trying to catch up on things we could not do while traveling, we left Winona, MS again in the early evening. We met Rebecca at the Collierville Church of Christ property for refreshments and to watch the Collierville city fireworks. Wednesday is the 4th of July holiday. Thursday is Rebecca’s birthday, and later that afternoon, we will pick up Betty Choate at the airport and return to Winona. Saturday, we will point the car toward the panhandle of Florida for our Sunday appointment. Appointments already scheduled for July and August will take us to the states of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. Truly, we are on the road again!

A Big, Big, Slow Circle

March 6, 2012

Ray & Charlotte WeddingtonSunday, March 4, 2012, Bonnie and I worshipped with the Pleasant Cove Church of Christ outside of McMinnville, TN. Dear friends and coworkers in the kingdom of Christ, Charlotte and Ray Weddington, introduced us to this fine congregation. Each year, Charlotte and Ray give us the royal treatment as we stay overnight with them, and they get to (or are forced to) see all of our pictures from trips abroad the previous year. For Bible class, I gave my PowerPoint presentation about our work in four countries abroad in 2011. My sermon later in the morning was Worshipping Almighty God Acceptably and with Godly Fear. Per usual, after morning worship, we were the excuse this time for brethren to enjoy a fellowship meal together; Christians don’t need much of a reason to gather and eat!

That evening, we searched out with the help of Miss GPS the Claxton (TN) Church of Christ. There, we reunited with our dear friends Audrey and Dave Amos. Once more, Bonnie had to endure my PowerPoint Into All the World in 2011. We made new friends from among brethren as well as rekindled old friendships. We left some books for the church library and introduced the congregation to The Voice of Truth International magazine.

East Tennessee School of Preaching & MissionsLater that evening, we caught up with Evelyn and Jody Apple at the night session of the East Tennessee School of Preaching & Missions Lectureship in Karns, TN (a suburb of Knoxville). Each year, the Apples kindly loan us sleeping accommodations for the duration of the lectures. Bonnie and I set up two tables of books, tracts, magazines and displays to acquaint attendees of the lectures with our stateside and foreign missions ministry. When we were not tending to the exhibits, we enjoyed some outstanding biblical lessons. We always enjoy greeting both old Christian friends and making new acquaintances from among good brethren.

CabinWith no lodging reserved, we somewhat aimlessly pointed the van toward Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. Finally, we opted for a one-bedroom cabin perched on a knob amidst pines just west of Pigeon Forge. It’s a good thing that the cabin was no higher up the mountainside, because our Town and Country, laden with literature, displays, equipment and luggage was unable to get enough traction on the gravel to climb further; I had to back down a stretch of ridge, thankfully to where I should have turned to our cabin.

There we unwound and slowed down for two nights between appointments. No Internet, but there was a hot tub. With less interruption or diversion than typical, I devoted several hours toward completing a book that I was writing; I finally finished the book days later (after returning to Winona, MS) around midnight.

Smokey Mountain StreamBy day, Bonnie and I enjoyed some unrushed time together, enjoying some meals out and doing a little shopping. As always, we did more window-shopping than made purchases. However, we did buy ourselves each a new pair of leather, moccasin slippers, and we were able to find a couple pair of dress shoes for Bonnie that didn’t fall off her feet when she walked. Small narrow feet are difficult to fit, but the strap across the instep trapped her feet and compensated for not being able to find footwear that fit better than that.

Sunday, March 11, Bonnie and I worshipped in the morning with the North Lexington (KY) Church of Christ. I spoke during worship, preaching Into All the World in 2011. The night before, we lodged with Linda and Wick Moore, as we did last year, too. Following Sunday morning worship, two of the elders and their wives treated the two of us to lunch at Cracker Barrel.

The time change for Daylight Savings Time, being in Eastern Time instead of Central Time, our 6:30 a.m. alarm made it seem like we were getting up at 4:30 a.m. All day I was dragging myself through the day; it was all I could do not to take a nap along with Bonnie as I guided the car that afternoon in the direction of home – about seven hours away. Finally, I succumbed; Bonnie took over driving for a few hours and I napped. Refreshed and going on, we arrived at our daughter’s home in Collierville, TN around 8:30 p.m. Central Time; Rebecca’s home is our bed and breakfast, overnight lodging many times as we travel. Monday, we bought groceries and other necessities before arriving back in Winona, MS.

This week, we have a newsletter to publish, an overdue oil change and inspection for the car to have done, thank you cards to send to contributors, bank deposits to make, proofing of the magazine Global Harvest that must be done, boxes for overseas shipment that need packed and unloading a tractor-trailer of books to place in the warehouse. We have appointments to make, a backlog of emails, letters and phone calls to field, yard work calling our names, preparation for attending and speaking for lectures in April in Indiana, plus miscellaneous things, too. In addition, advance preparation needs to be made for a group of 28 coming on Friday to work in the warehouse; then, of course, we will need to participate alongside of them in what they do while here.

In all over the past 10 days, Bonnie and I made a big, big, slow circle through Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. We travel by car about 3,000 miles monthly (I was 800 miles past time to change the car’s oil). These days, we are trying to attend to the car’s complaints: plugs & wires, brakes, shocks, alignment, transmission maintenance. Anytime now, it appears that we will need to change the tires and replace the ailing power steering pump. There is no telling what a car having over 130,000 miles might think that it needs next!

Burmese Venice in the Mountains

October 11, 2011

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Early Tuesday morning, Winsome, Bonnie and I arose and boarded a taxi for the hour drive back to the airport serving Mandalay. From there, it was a short trip by airplane, up over and into the mountains toward Inle Lake. It must be a rule some place that generally airports have to be an hour away from the communities that they serve, so once more, we were in a taxi for a long ride. This time, the scenery with its winding roads and descents reminded us of being back in West Virginia. We even passed a cloverleaf of railroad track and bridge scaling the mountainside.

Eventually, we arrived in our hotel, a quaint place sporting duplex bungalows. Advertised as having air conditioning, we were disappointed to find out that the units didn’t actually do much anymore other than decorate the walls and give the pretense of added value. Lodging was adequate, and at night at the altitude where we were an open, screened window plus a pedestal fan running and aimed at the bed, we were comfortable.

Bonnie and I had thought that our two-month trip abroad to Asia would be a perfect opportunity to eat less or more responsibly, do a little more walking, and possibly loose a little weight. Our thinking was that since often we do not like some of the strange foods very much, we can discipline ourselves and promote better health. What did we find in the town in which we were lodging, just two short blocks from our bungalow but a Burmese operated Italian restaurant – with the best Italian food that we have ever experienced anywhere. Throw out the diet! We ate pizzas, homemade noodles and meat sauce (with actual meat in it, unlike many places in America) and gnocchi pasta. They have two restaurants in two villages, and we ate at both of them. The food is not prepared until the order is placed, and one can watch the food preparation. The pizzas are baked in a wood-fired oven. Everything pleased our pallets!

Wednesday, October 12 was a Buddhist holiday at Inle Lake. We boarded a canoe type boat with an odd looking motor while it was still dark, and for an hour and a half we traveled in the cool morning air, first miles down a river and then the length of a long, open lake. Bonnie penned in her trip diary, “The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. as we were to meet out front at 5:00 a.m. for our trip to Inle Lake. In the early morning dark hours our motorcycle truck took us to the water’s edge where we tried to dodge mud and boarded a long boat…”

Our destination was to intercept a parade of boats, roped together, which towed three huge pagoda boats of monks and offerings of food and flowers around part of the perimeter of the lake, taking the Buddha images from one pagoda to another. These villages are on top of the lake! The streets are waterways. We had arrived at the Burmese version of Venice. Here babies learn to swim before they learn to crawl. Small children paddle themselves around the villages in dugout canoes.

It was a remarkable day with visiting numerous shops by boat and traversing unsteady planks from porch to porch. We observed floating gardens of tomatoes and other crops. Three million people live in the area, almost all of them living atop the water in wood or bamboo buildings with liquid streets. The cats we saw in the villages seemed out of place above the lake with the rest of the inhabitants. My dear wife chronicled our activities when she wrote:

…we traveled to a blacksmith shop and watched the men pound metal into a small scythe. The blacksmith shop is located in a building on the water. We also visited a weaving shop complete with spinning thread from the Lotus plant. Since it is a festival day only a few workers were present, and we did not get to see all aspects of work. We stopped by the boat building site to discover that there was too much water in the workshop, and they could not show us how they build their boats. We did see them making cigars by hand.

We visited an umbrella shop where they make the paper, hand carve the handles and make each umbrella by hand. Since these umbrellas are made from paper, I would not recommend using them in the rain, just to protect one from the sun. They showed us how their paper is made. The bark of the Mulberry tree is boiled for 8 hours. The gooey mess is then pounded. A handful of this mush is then mixed with a container of water. A tray made of screen is placed in a vat of water, and the bark mush is evenly spread on the screen. The tray is lifted from the water and flower petals and leaves are randomly pressed on top of the bark mush. This is left in the sun to dry (about 2 hours). The paper is then peeled from the screen and is ready to be attached to the wooden umbrella supports or cut into various sizes and bound into little books. Sometimes the flower petals and leaves are omitted and the dried paper is dyed before making the umbrellas. …We also visited a Silversmith, a monastery…

The fogged crested mountains, overshadowed by dense clouds in the morning commute were replaced by end of day with dark storm clouds and heavy rain. Traveling back toward our lodging, the sun and rain mix created the largest and brightest rainbow that we have ever seen anywhere. The colors were not pale, but vivid and distinctly bright. In between the coming to Inle Lake and the leaving of it, the intense Burmese sun scorched my exposed flesh and the wind on the lake whipped my features, despite wearing a ball cap. Eventually days later, my face and especially my nose peeled off.

Inle Lake was an excursion, not a teaching opportunity. We need to punctuate our trips abroad with tourist activities on occasion, at least to validate the tourist visas on which we travel. It does not hurt to experience some recreation, too, from time to time. However, the trip to Inle Lake was also a marvelous opportunity to educate ourselves more fully on Burmese culture and thinking. Among the activities to which Winsome took us was a puppet show, in what to you and me would be the attached garage of someone’s dwelling. Throughout the country – and many countries – grand things occur on a small scale, which require an adjustment of expectations and an appreciation of humble things.

One of the unique characteristics of these mountain lake villagers is that little ones and adults paddle their canoes while standing and rowing with their legs. The fishermen have a singularly different way of fishing, too, with nets stretched over bamboo, inverted trumpet-like cages, by which they trap a disturbance in the lake mud and spear the intended prey with a three pronged spear. Among the remarkable oddities were the girls and women from one tribe that sport brass rings on their necks, adding more rings year by year until they carry several pounds.

Thursday, we made the hour trek back to the airport, up the mountainous, winding roads past tremendous views. Our next destination was Yangon.

Never Too Late to Finish the Job!

September 4, 2011

Over a year after a used, dog-eared, wooden fence was erected at our parsonage dwelling, the installation is finally complete! Youth and their mentors from the Central Church of Christ in Cleveland, TN put up the transplanted fence panels at our residence for us over the span of two days. Though the available panels did not completely enclose any section of our yard, it did provide us some privacy for using our back porch area; Bonnie and I have breakfast out there often, provided it is neither too hot and humid or too cold. On either end of the yard graced by the stockade fence, it was open to all comers, especially four-legged creatures who either wanted to sleep on the porch swing, lie in the flowerbeds or leave us unwelcome presents in the grass.

Several weeks ago, Bonnie and essentially sewed together two short fence panels, one of which had been a gate, to extend the fence line some. Saturday, September 3 – Labor Day Weekend – our vacationing daughter Rebecca, Bonnie and I spent the entire day erecting two and a half more fence panels and fence posts that I purchased to finally completely enclose a portion of our yard; I don’t know how much of a holiday it proved to be for our daughter, but we greatly appreciate her help – somebody has to do all the heavy lifting! 😉 Naturally, we had to re-engineer the project on the fly, as nothing worked out exactly as I had imagined that it would; that’s par for the course for me! We have one used, bent (badly warped), eight-foot long fence post, one hinge and half a fence panel left; what does it mean when I always have parts left over?

Part of the re-engineering involved taking apart one of the landscaping timbered flowerbeds, shortening the pieces and reassembling them. In total, we reworked the landscaping timbers of three flowerbeds, two of which were infested with fire ants – unknown to us until we dug into them; there were no telltale ant mounds to warn us. Consequently, especially Bonnie, but Rebecca and I have some ugly looking fire ant bites on our extremities. Fire ants got into one of Bonnie’s gloves and up our pants legs!

Subsequently, we have planted some more flowers, added new, enriched potting soil and are planning to beautify especially what we can see from the porch swing. We now have our own little sitting garden – that is, our own if you don’t count the mosquitoes, etc. that we are trying to convince to stay off the porch. Finally, we have a fence and are back into the original human family business – gardening (think, Garden of Eden).