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Our NOMAD Trails and Tails

This is the post excerpt.

Our NOMAD adventure has begun. I think we were both at peace with the changes our lives would take. I say think because the preparations required to make this change were exhausting to say the least. When we finally drove away from our home of 12 years, there were no tears really; just a huge sigh of relief, as all the work in moving and preparing was ending. We can’t possibly thank our family and friends enough for all the support (physical and mental) and prayers. We couldn’t have done any of this without you all. Marty

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Our first project didn’t start until August 7th. We left the house on July 31st and spent some time at St. Francois State Park before heading to Pontiac, Illinois. We couldn’t help but to take a detour and take a couple of pictures in front of the Church and the flagpole dedicated to my dad and uncle. Marty20170731_154130 - Copy20170731_153943 - Copy

We had a week of camping before leaving.
Humbling; alone; that’s how I feel right now. As we arrive at our camp sight to take a respite before our departure, we pull into a very quiet state park surrounded by…. nobody, very few campers – few and far between. As we pull into our sight, a sign has been placed on our post. Welcome home Marty and Donna. How sweet, someone has gone through the trouble to make us feel loved. We have our suspicions who. As Marty prepares camp outside, I open the door to our new home to find…..A DISASTER. The floor, walls, cabinets and doors are flooded with a gallon of sweet tea, watermelon, smashed Tomatoes, and food splattered EVERYWHERE!!! Our refrigerator has opened and dumped it’s contents despite our strapping the doors closed. I run to tell Marty “Houston…we have a problem” (these are NOT the words that came to mind immediately). Marty in the middle of his own duties seems frustrated that I needed him now. I start cleaning and cleaning some more, did I mention it was sweet tea??? I then notice after scrubbing the bathroom floor (after all there’s not much difference or distance between the kitchen, entry, living , entry and bathroom area) that the bathroom door was also torn off the frame, no the entire door jam ripped out! As I finish up, I throw the cleaning rags and towels into our new washer and I can’t get it to work either!!! As I go outside to tell Marty I open the awning only to mess it up!!! Satan has surely followed us out. Leave us Satan in the name of JESUS!
Tomorrow will be better…..Donna

This was the start of the next day…Donna

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We will be here a few days – not liking it, dirt, lots of flies! Marty tells me this is the life we’ve chosen! Really I don’t remember choosing mud and flies!! We have had time alone, sharing a visit to a beautiful, peaceful winery. We have had some amazing visits with family and friends – some sweet enough to bring dinner – some even preparing it. Laughs, celebration, fun, hugs, cries……goodbyes. Donna

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What an honor to serve the Lord. He has called us to serve in a capacity that we feel very comfortable with, but truth be told it was hard to get our minds around his plan. To leave our family and friends will certainly be the hardest. We miss everyone already and we haven’t even arrived at our first mission site. Today will be the hardest. I know He is with us now, I have felt and seen his presence today – a beautiful day, the best so far this summer, several butterflies floating around (to me a sign of loved ones past that I miss too).  We will say our goodbyes to our kids and grandkids. We want to be joyous – maybe tomorrow. Right now we need to just “enjoy this”. Donna

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Well, we have departed. Bittersweet for sure. But we trust the goodness God has in store for us. We truly have to be a team now in every way. Setting up camp, organizing, planning, working , worshiping, playing and tearing down camp. We pray this will make our relationship closer and stronger. I pray we will be able to comfort, encourage and love each other through this new season in life. Anticipating the arrival of our new temporary home.

PS the dogs eagerly jumped into their kennels thinking they are going back home. SURPRISE!!! NOT!!! Donna

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We arrived in Pontiac on Saturday, the 5th of August about 2 hours later than planned. Our crew leaders – Gene and Carolyn Freeman greeted us and helped us get set up. Our first NOMAD campsite is at the 4H campground on the outskirts of Pontiac. Marty

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Pontiac reminds me a lot of Washington, MO. It’s a community that’s trying to keep some of it’s identity by maintaining a vibrant historic district – Walmart stays over by the highway and the downtown district keeps it’s charm. It’s been a great first stop for these NOMAD newbies! It has dozens of hand-painted murals on walls of buildings and of course a Pontiac automobile museum. Marty

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Project 10 – Whittier Evangelical United Methodist Church – Whittier, California

We’ve arrived in Whittier, California at our next project – Whittier Evangelical UMC. And let me tell you, it was so nerve racking to drive towing our house through LA traffic. Check out the screen on our GPS!! We got set up and met with our team. Saturday morning we attended a service for the homeless at the church. They also served them breakfast and provided them with supplies. It’s an amazing outreach for this community. There were 30 or so in attendance. Pastor Zach was a prison chaplain for 15 years and then because of personal financial struggles due to health issues, became homeless himself for a while. His life finally rebounded financially, but he and his wife maintained their connection with the homeless community and are now ministering to them. They have an incredible testimony and an unwavering passion for their ministry.

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We met with Pastor Dwight and our team on Monday and were given a long list of tasks needing to be done. The church campus and school are quite large, but the congregation is small – about 35 in attendance while we were there. The church is financially aided by leasing part of the facilities for a pre-school as well as two rental homes they own. The facility is also used by a Latino congregation for Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon worship.

Our team is small but mighty. There is only ourselves and one other couple. I’m amazed how much we have been able to accomplish. The old original chapel had a roof leak that caused a main support beam to twist. We repaired the leak and stucco and caulked and painted the repair. We’ve repaired walls, painted, fixed faucets, replaced toilets, repaired a leaking urinal handle, replaced toilet seats and toilet paper holders. We painted a large men’s restroom and a smaller rest room in the Fellowship Hall. We repainted the exterior decorative metal and window grates. We’ve installed new vanities, sinks and faucets in the school area. We did some stucco repair & tree trimming at the rental house next door. The church has a prayer garden that is visible from the sanctuary. We gave it a much needed face-lift and it really turned out cute. We also worked on a long list of items that needed addressing at a church rental property.

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Our final days consisted of community outreach. We did some plumbing repairs and painting for two widows in the church. They were very appreciative of what was accomplished. One of the ladies even gave me a much needed haircut. God is good!!

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While here, we’ve had a chance to reconnect with two of Marty’s cousins. One of them we haven’t seen in 15 years. We were surprised how much she looked like Marty’s Mom. We had a really good visit.

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Before we even arrived, we were asked by Pastor Dwight if we would be able to do a sermon the Sunday after Easter. Marty said that he had done a couple, but that I would be more qualified to do it. Well…throw me under the bus MARTY. A few days after we arrived, I asked the Pastor “now this sermon…do you want me to tell our story about how Marty & I became NOMADS”? He says “no…I want you to give your faith testimony”. I asked him “really? Just how conservative is your congregation because I don’t know if they want to hear MY story”. He assured me he wanted every detail. I went home & told Marty. He questioned it too. A few days later Marty went to talk to him and told him that I may not feel comfortable telling this church my story so he told MARTY not only did he want to hear my faith story but Marty’s too AND how we became NOMADS!!! I guess that’s what we get for asking too many questions….LOL. I have to admit, I didn’t know how we were going to pull it off, but God pulled us through it.
The church has a security person (Oscar) that lives at the facility. He and Pastor Dwight (when he could) joined us for some powerful morning devotionals. Maybe it’s because this team is so small, but our devotions have been very personal and relatable to ourselves and to people close to us. It’s just what we seem to need for the day.
The Tails have made friends with our other team members, Russ and Arbie. They have been so sweet to them & we’ve spent a lot of time together since it’s just the four of us.

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We visited the local farmers market here in uptown Whittier, which was fun. This section of Whittier is very historical & beautiful. We haven’t gone out much since things are so costly here. But we’ve caught up on paperwork and are getting ready for the next project since we’re also leaders at our next stop. We did finally get to go out with our team to dinner the final night & had a great time of fellowship. We feel like this church was definitely where we needed to be at this time. Funny how God works things out this way.

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On to our next project today. We are going to Potosi Pines Camp in the mountains near Las Vegas. We’ve been told that our last 1.5 miles will be on a washboard dirt/gravel road. Pray for us!! We will also be working at just under 6000’ altitude.

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Period 4 – VACATION!

Our vacation was just what we needed. For several reasons, we had decided to cancel our participation in the period 4 project. We had three weeks off and started our adventure by heading to Sequoia National Park. The views right before arriving at our campsite were incredible. We stayed near the south entrance of the Park in a campground that was a pretty setting with the Kaweah River running right behind it.

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The trip to Sequoia took about 5 hours from our last project in LaVerne, California. The scenery went from strange green-covered mountains, to completely bare ones, to incredible luscious hillsides of grape vineyards; orange, lemon and grapefruit orchards and almond and olive groves. Some intertwined with others. The weather conditions must be ideal here to grow such a wide variety of crops.

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We couldn’t go into the National Park right away because of snow, so we ventured into a small town called Exeter. It was very quaint, with lots of cute shops. We ate at a nice restaurant called Whistle Stop that Marty found. It was decorated with railroad memorabilia. Being a former railroad employee, it was right up his alley. Our waitress was also the owner. She took the time to talk to all her customers and asked where we were from and what we were doing in California. We told her about our work with the NOMADs. When we got ready to pay our bill and leave, she wouldn’t let us pay – no matter how much we protested. She told us she wanted to bless us. It was quite humbling to say the least. The Tails enjoyed Exeter too and loved walking around town with us.

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After the weather warmed, we drove up to the north entrance of the park. The GPS unfortunately took us up a road called ‘Hogback Road’ (SHOULD HAVE BEEN OUR FIRST CLUE!). It was fine at first – beautiful grass covered mountains with cows grazing on the mountainside like you were in the Swiss Alps or something. I decided these must be the “Happy Cows of California” they talk about in those commercials. I tried to take pictures of them, but they just looked like a black dot on the mountains. As we started our ascent up the mountains, the road became narrower and narrower, and not paved very well either. I wanted to turn around but that wasn’t happening – no place to pull off that maneuver and we’d come too far to turn back. I just prayed we would not meet another vehicle. Now just remember, we were in our truck – our 22’ long dually! Me being the passenger, meant that I was on the drop-off side of the road and that’s all I could seem to focus on. I was not enjoying God’s beautiful creation at this point. The road was so curvy with all the switchbacks and turns. You would go from one turn right into the next and after all the winding, I didn’t feel so hot. We drove over 30 miles of these roads to get to Sequoia National Park. Marty said it better be glorious when we get there – and boy was it! We had never seen anything like it. There was snow on the mountains but we were able to walk the paths to view the most incredible trees. They are enormous beyond description, and so majestic. The pictures I took just don’t give them justice! The mountains were just as amazing! The next day we went to the park through the south entrance and saw “THE BIGGEST TREE IN THE WORLD”. Finally, a picture that we had someone take of us, may give you an idea of the size of these incredible trees.

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KEEP IN MIND, WE’RE STANDING 15′-20′ IN FRONT OF THE TREE

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We left Sequoia after a week and headed to Menifee, California, just north of Temecula – supposedly one of the richest wine countries in the US. The wineries were plentiful – over 40 and most were enormous – but, incredibly expensive. The tastings ranged from $12-$36. A typical bottle of wine ranged from $28-$95 and a glass of wine was normally $15.
We ventured out into Historic Old Town Temecula – a very nice area with lots of restaurants and shops. A fun day for sure. We scoped out our next RV park that we would be heading to in a few days – Pechanga RV Resort. Now this is my kind of camping. We actually will have pretty grass and no dirt there. We also went back to the foot doctor to pick up my orthotics and have them fitted. By the way my foot is improving just from taking a break from work.

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Our third week into the vacation and we’ve moved to Pechanga to get ready for our visitors – yes visitors!!! Our friends, Laura & Rich came to spend several days with us and it was just what we needed! These same friends have visited us through other parts of the country too – Illinois, Tennessee and now California!! We had so much fun we didn’t want them to leave. We visited wineries (had a coupon of course), went to a comedy club and took time out for a movie night to see ‘I CAN ONLY IMAGINE’. It was great. We hung out, went out to eat and played games. We hated to see them go. It lifted our spirits and our hearts. The Tails were glad to see people they knew too.

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After our guests left, we went back to visit a couple more wineries and then eventually set out for our next project. As leaders of this project, we had to go early to set up for the team. Summer didn’t want to leave. The Tails loved that lawn and all the walks, plus getting to hang out with us all day.

We spent Saturday visiting our friends Aja and Pat. They have been such a blessing to our lives in so many ways. It was great reconnecting with them and getting to see their home in Laguna Beach. Wow! It was amazing. We had seen pictures of their home, but this was our first visit. The house was on a cliff over-looking the ocean. The rear of the home was mostly glass and the breathtaking view should be on a post card. We had a wonderful visit and lunch at a nice restaurant.
We went to Easter service here at Whittier UMC and our vacation comes to an end. Back to reality tomorrow for us and the Tails!

Project 9 – La Verne United Methodist Church – La Verne, California

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Our first California project is in La Verne; a charming community 30 miles east of Los Angeles. We are working at La Verne United Methodist Church. The church has a notable history. The wedding scene from the Dustin Hoffman movie “The Graduate” was filmed here. If you’ve seen the movie, you may remember a then, young Dustin Hoffman running up the stairs to the loft of the church, banging on the glass and yelling in an attempt to stop the wedding. Well, guess what? I sanded and refinished the stair handrail that Dustin Hoffman touched as he went running up the stairs to the loft!! Exciting, huh? My little claim to fame as Marty put it. Here is the YouTube link to the movie clip if you’re interested:

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The church congregation is very diverse. The Pastor and his family are Korean and the membership includes Polynesian, Korean, African American and Latino members. They have a large youth presence in the church which is exciting to see.
We are parking our rigs (apparently this is the correct NOMAD terminology for ‘your RV’) at another site which is supported by the Methodist Church. We’re about 2 miles away from the church at an amazing facility called David and Margaret Youth and Family Services. They host NOMAD teams that are working at other facilities and they have NOMAD projects at their facility as well. They have so many programs here it’s unreal. They started out with foster care, kids that had drug problems or mental or emotional issues that don’t ever get adopted. They ventured out to help kids that were victims of sex trafficking and provide emergency housing. They care for kids beyond foster care age. They try to get them ready for life; training them for jobs. They actually have a culinary program with a cafe on site for training as well as a retail store that is also used for job training. The profit from the businesses helps fund the facility. They have several group homes here. It’s a beautiful facility that does so much good. There is a memory garden here with inscribed bricks and benches that I just loved.

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Our team here is amazing; 4 couples and again we are all full timers. You know you’re having fun when you spend so much time laughing. Not that we aren’t working hard, but we just immediately felt very comfortable together.

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This church has been feeding us lunch every work day. It’s often like a luau – all this food laid out everywhere! After lunch we’re so full we just want to find a pillow and a place to lay down and take a nap.

I finally had to break down and go to a podiatrist while here. After X-rays and tests I was told I have neuropathy in both feet, plantar fasciitis in my left foot and bone spurs in both as well. I was given exercises and he taped my foot. During my second visit, I was given a cortisone injection in my heel and fitted for orthotics. He told me no more flip flops or going barefoot anymore!!! I loved to go barefoot, but it’s not a problem anymore because it’s too painful to walk without shoes. Man do I feel old!

The tails are so happy because there is grass here!!! We’re parked on a parking lot and they have access to a mulched flower bed filled with lavender bushes. They smell so good when they come in. Summer doesn’t like the mulch to walk in because she sees grass in the distance and wants to be there. There are huge, green lawn areas that we walk them in and they can run like the wind.

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It’s strange to me to see all the palm trees and then to see snow on the mountains in the background. The snow didn’t last long, only a few days.

Our work here involves painting the exterior education buildings and Fellowship Hall. We are replacing and creating a replica of an outdoor pergola (which has the same shape as the church roof line) where a lot of weddings take place. This pergola job has been extremely difficult. We’ve done exterior repairs on the parsonage, installed toilets and AC units and replaced damaged guttering. We’ve done some plumbing jobs and some electrical repairs and installed a new hot water heater at the church. Marty headed up the concrete job. He was an equal opportunity employer (Paige couldn’t resist trying her hand at jackhammering). We removed some broken concrete and poured and finished new. We painted, and of course… painted some more.

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NOT EVERYONE PAINTS WITH A BRUSH

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SUCCESS

Our last day here was International Women’s Day, so we women took advantage of it while the men were assembling the pergola. We just sat and supervised. Our supervision was not well received by the men.

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We are going to miss this group terribly. It’s been so much fun and the church has been absolutely wonderful to us! We hate to leave but we’ve made our commitments for future projects. Hopefully, we’ll meet up with them again.

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We have scoped out our next project in Whittier, CA. We are leading this project and had to go check out an electrical issue on the circuit the RV’s – I mean rigs – connect to. We met with the pastor and checked out parking and the projects that the church wants to accomplish. We will have a small team of 4 for this job and are looking forward to it since we’ve worked with the other couple before and really enjoyed our time together.

We are hitting the road soon, but this time to take a much needed break. We are staying in California while on break and can’t wait.

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Project 8 – Faith United Methodist Church – Phoenix, Arizona

Our 2nd project of the year is in Phoenix, AZ. The area we are staying/working at is near the end of the line for the metro rail transit system. That may be the reason for the large homeless population that is nearby – that and the warm Phoenix weather in the winter. Many of the homeless are younger. We aren’t used to seeing so many in need and it’s a bit overwhelming to witness day in and day out. We are camping and working at Faith United Methodist Church and the homeless are among us. We have come out of the church to find them sleeping in the rocks next to one of the campers with their head resting on a stone curb. They have even knocked on our door asking for help. It’s unsettling to watch so many, as they push their worldly possessions around in grocery carts, suitcases and backpacks. Where do you even begin to help so many lost soles? On a lighter note, we were told that one homeless man set up his home inside a block wall that surrounds the A.C. units, tarped over the top, hooked into the A.C., ran a hose over to have running water AND then was renting it out to other homeless people!!! Wonder what he did before he was on the streets? Ingenious!!

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The church campus is a large complex with a small congregation that has dwindled over the years. An older congregation for sure, but they are working to have a big impact on the neighboring community. They have a Sidewalk Sunday School program that reaches out to children in the community. They have a truck that looks similar to a food truck that they work the ministry from.

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They are also part of a ministry called Family Promise, which is a program partnering with other church’s in the community. The ministry works to help intervene in the lives of the homeless that are truly committed to turning their lives around. They house and feed them for a period of time and work to get them job interviews. They help them by doing their laundry and providing them clothes for the job interviews.

There is also a ministry called The Lura Turner home. They also work from inside the Faith UMC complex. It’s a group home for developmentally challenged adults.

Our team is small this time – just us, one other couple and a single man. Once again, we are all meeting each other for the first time. We are all full timers – none of us owning a home other than the ones we tow or drive. We haven’t spent a lot of leisure time together other than a NOMAD’s winter gathering here in Phoenix and going out to dinner once. We all have, for the most part, been busy visiting with friends or family elsewhere. We met up with other NOMADs that we’ve worked with before that are also working in the Phoenix area. We also met with two of my brothers and their wives – one from Tucson and one from Alaska. My brother from Alaska had recently purchased a motor home to do some traveling. We’ve had a lot of fun and laughs with them. We spent most of a Saturday afternoon at a park with everyone and the Tails got to run on some real grass for a change instead of dirt, rocks and sand.

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I know I’ve mentioned before how getting a haircut while on the road can be challenging to say the least – especially for women. Well this time was no different. I put it off too long and was looking like Justin Bieber. Marty being the frugal person he is, wanted to just go to Great Clips. So, I looked at the reviews of the local GC and it looked ok except it said not to let the man who worked there cut your hair. He supposedly didn’t do a good job, but that a lady named Lei was wonderful. Sooooo, we go and I notice right away that the man was working and I became anxious hoping he wouldn’t finish with his customer before Lei did so I could be her next customer (sorry Marty). Praise God – I was lucky enough to get Lei. She was of Asian descent and perhaps that seemed appropriate because when I left there I looked like a little Asian girl – my haircut was a short bangs cut – straight across!! Marty got a haircut from the guy and his looked pretty good. I guess that’s what I get. We came to the conclusion a week later that we both pretty much got the same haircut!!! YOU CAN SEE THE SIMILARITIES….RIGHT?

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YOU CAN SEE IT…..RIGHT?

While in Phoenix, we were blessed to revisit Sedona, AZ, about two hours to the north. What a breathtaking part of God’s creation. The landscapes are amazing. We drove several miles up Oak Creek Canyon towards Flagstaff which had a snowstorm the day before. Sedona has a neat shopping district in the lower section with really cute shops and fountains. There was even a beautiful little chapel. What a relaxing, fun day. Thank you Lord for a considerate, patient husband who walked around with the Tails just hanging out in the courtyards sitting & waiting on benches while I browsed the shops.

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Our work this time has been very physical; ripping up carpets, cove moulding and scraping, scraping, scraping the hardened carpet glue. Did I mention scraping? We then laid an interlocking vinyl floating floor in 4 rooms and a powder room. We did some touch up painting and repainted the powder room. We’ve also painted two large men’s and women’s bathrooms. We’ve replaced faucets and shut off valves; installed some new electrical outlets and repaired others. We ripped up carpet in the fellowship hall entry, scraped up the glue and buffed the painted concrete floor that was underneath. We put down cove moulding and painted and installed new louvered doors. To be honest I’m glad it’s over. I’ve struggled through my continued sinus infection from Christmas and now have plantar fascitis in my left foot. Working on the concrete floors have made it worse I’m sure. It’s tough getting old! Could use some healing prayers & prayers for Marty as well since he’s had to take care of me….I sometimes get crabby and he’s already tired too from the days work.

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We head off tomorrow for Southern California, just east of L.A.
The Tails are ready! And so are we! Praying for a pleasant uneventful trip.

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Project 7 – St. John’s United Methodist Church – Tucson, AZ

 

Our project at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Tucson AZ is just awesome. It’s a church family that is in obvious need of our help and our team, which is larger than most (11 members) is outstanding. The church is small and was built in the 1930s. Its early membership was largely service veterans and their families. There is a VA hospital and care facility within a couple of blocks of the church. The area is now largely Latino and poor. Most all the homes are in disrepair with fenced yards and bars covering the windows of the homes, businesses and sadly the church as well.

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The church is in need of an ADA compliant ramp and Marty has agreed to take the lead. They want the main portion of the ramp and landing to be concrete with short wooden decking ramps into the church and Fellowship Hall. It’s a big undertaking – nearly 30’ long and will require 3 cubic yards of concrete that will have to be wheel barreled in. Marty and I are building forms and removing a couple of sections of existing sidewalk. We will have help pouring the concrete and building/painting the short decks and railings.

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A big part of what we are doing is to improve handicapped access. We’re replacing doors and widening doorways in the sanctuary and classrooms.

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Another big project is redoing the children’s Sunday School classroom. We’re replacing windows and flooring; adding electrical outlets and painting. We’re also painting the Pastor’s office, stripping the tile floors in the bathrooms and hallways and more painting. Oh, and we’ve added about 20’ of sidewalk that we will have to mix about 30 bags of concrete to pour.

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One of the church members is an incredible artist who is a disabled vet. They are hoping to have him paint a mural in their newly remodeled children’s Sunday School Class room. His name is Mac and he’s been working with our team.

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"Mac"
“Mac”

I had the incredible blessing of seeing and reconnecting with my brother and his family. We haven’t seen each other in nearly 10 years. We’re hoping to spend a lot more time together before we leave Arizona. We both agreed that we hadn’t changed a bit!

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Some of the team members have come down with the flu including me. I missed a couple of days work and spent two days in bed.

Seems we’re all back to work and mostly over our sicknesses. It’s our last week and still have many things that we need to complete. We’re installing the flooring in the children’s Sunday School classroom and finishing the railings and decking on the ramp. Unfortunately they damaged a water line digging holes for the posts, They apparently don’t bury water lines very deep in Arizona – who would have guessed? But as Nomads we have to be flexible, right? We have 1 man and 4 women installing the floor today. I think he has turned his hearing aid off and to be honest, I don’t blame him. The Pastor keeps coming in to check on him. I really think he’s praying for the poor guy!

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We’ve had fun going out with fellow NOMADS; with our family and doing our own sightseeing at some National Parks. God’s amazing creation is everywhere for us to enjoy! We visited a cute little artsy town south of Tucson and have gone out several times for some great Mexican food. It always amazes us how we can meet new people (our team) and become such good friends so quickly. Sharing our faith and beliefs each morning during devotions I’m sure is a big part of it.

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The weather has turned much colder in the last couple of days, down to the freezing mark the last two nights. By noon it’s back in the 60’s though. No wonder everyone’s sick! Next week in Phoenix it’s supposed to be in the 80’s.

The Tails have been very bored this last 3 weeks. There’s not a good place for them to go for walks or runs. They seem to be catching up on their rest. We hope our next project will be better accommodations for them even though we’ve had a lot of fun.

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Off to our next adventure in Phoenix. Even though it’s a short trip we still have to pack our home up to hit the road. Praying for travel mercies and a drama free trip!

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Christmas Break – No Place Like Home

SO good to be home again! We were able to reconnect with almost everyone while back in Missouri. It was a very good time away, but busy and COLD!!! Along with friends and family, we had doctor, dentist, accountant and other appointments to keep.
Our time with family was good. We spent lots of time together, staying with Justin and family after the weather turned so cold. Staying in the camper after Christmas day wasn’t possible. Even though Marty had taken all precautions to prevent freezing, we woke up Christmas morning with one hot water line frozen – time to depart! Thank God we have a family that lovingly provided a place for us to stay. It was all good – providing us quality time together. We enjoyed celebrating Christmas morning with them. We received this really cool gift from Megan & Justin; a continuous playing picture frame that they can upload us new photos of them and all the Grandbabies with a phone app – Love it!!

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The Tails are worn out from being around all the activities too. They also got to reconnect with their cousin Frankie.

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On the road again! Our Christmas break was over before we knew it! As we’re now driving on these Arkansas roads, we feel like we’re bouncing down the road and getting REALLY bad fuel mileage to boot. We’re trying to reach Texarkana before sundown. Our moods are somber; a range of emotions filling us today. We intentionally left early before Megan and the grandkids got up. Too hard to say goodbye again. As hard as it is to go again, we feel led to continue on and know God had a new adventure awaiting us. Right now we just want to have a drama free trip and arrive safely.

We made it to Texarkana last night and stayed in a RV park. Not one on TripAdvisor’s top 10 list for sure, but we were just parking and sleeping for the most part. The only reason I’m bringing this up is I need to remind myself to never complain. Today we drove past dozens of gravel lots with RVs in them. A lot of the Texas’s RV parks we saw leave a lot to be desired. I kept commenting that surely our next overnight stay won’t be that bad – right? Well we pull up to our second night RV park and – not so bad. They had a check in office, propane and WiFi available – but still just a gravel lot which the dogs don’t care for. But as I’m walking Summer I realize that on one side we have a busy highway; another side is working oil rigs. But the topper is that we are right next to the dump!!!!! There’s a wooden fence – but the dump??? Marty says he used a coupon for the RV site!!

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Our 3rd day on the road and we’re hoping to get to New Mexico this time. Praying for traveling mercies once again. Note to self…not coming back to this place for vacation next year! Our day of travel has been pretty uneventful except for Marty deciding to quickly exit to this incredibly disgusting truck stop so that he can save 20 cents a gallon. Not a Flying J for sure! Now we’ve driven ALL the way through northern Texas; just not seeing the attraction, at least from the road.

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The topper of this particular journey is when we pull off the highway to stay at a KOA in Lordsburg, NM. We pulled onto the street the GPS tells us is the road to the KOA and my heart just sank. I had just been saying that maybe tonight for a break, we can venture out into town for dinner……NOT!!!! This was the absolute sketchiest part of town. As we drove down that street of run down trash filled yards and dilapidated trailers, I just wanted to cry. We pulled into a decent camp fenced off from the reality on the other side…. no venturing out tonight. The sunset was spectacular though, Thank you Father God – needed that.

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We’re on the last stretch of highway heading into Tucson, AZ. We should arrive by noon and I can’t wait. We arrived safely – thank the Lord. We are in tight parking to say the least. But it will be fine, the Tails can’t run anyway, there are sand burrs everywhere. We had to go out and purchase a rug for the dogs to potty on outside. They are obliging. Hopefully we haven’t created a monster problem.

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Project 6 – Crystal River United Methodist Church – Crystal River, Florida

We are in our final project of the year already! We’ve been working with our new team members in Crystal River, Florida at Crystal River UMC. This facility is beautiful! The Church itself is rather large and they have about 165 active members. There is also a Chapel on the grounds that was built in 1902 and moved to it’s current location in 2002. It’s used mostly for weddings and baptisms. It has about 6 pews on each side and is soooooo cute. It reminds me of the church that Marty and I got married in over 40 years ago and shares the same name – Bethel. It looks like I’ll be hand painting a new chapel sign.

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We were originally told we would be doing community outreach and storm repairs in the surrounding area but instead are doing repairs and apdates here at the church itself. Again, we have to be flexible, but are disappointed that no community work is available.

We are camping on the Church property about ¼ mile north of the Church itself. We worked on the laundry hut in the campground. It is used by NOMAD campers and by the Thrift Store volunteers cleaning donated items that will be sold. It will also be used as our meeting place in the future. We painted and made cabinet fronts from scratch and installed them.  Marty has worked in the old chapel on the HVAC system. He also put up a block retaining wall behind the outdoor service area. We have painted everything that could possibly hold still in this campground yellow! Every post, sign, parking stop, you name it, it’s now YELLOW!!! Most of us have helped dig and cover up trenches, run underground conduit and pull electrical cable. We’re all pretty exhausted!

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This church has a live nativity/walk to Bethlehem event every year and guess what we Nomads are doing? We are helping build Bethlehem! It’s a huge undertaking but in the end it is so cool. They have it at night and it’s lit up with torches and lights. People are dressed in period costumes and you are taken around by “Joseph” the tour guide. We will also be helping take down Bethlehem when it’s over.

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The Thrift Store I mentioned earlier is quite busy. They are open Wednesday thru Saturday each week and some of our team have worked there as well helping out. I co-hosted a Christmas Party for our team, complete with invitations (bought at the thrift store), decorations (also thrift store), and we decided to have a rob your neighbor gift exchange, with the condition that you had to buy your exchange gift at the thrift store! The exchange gifts that appeared went from pinatas to a singing squirrel! We had a lot of fun and laughs!

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The little town of Crystal River has a village shopping district that’s very cute. They had “Grinchmas” last weekend. The whole town is decorated with Grinch theme items and the locals dress up in Grinch story costumes. They also all gather round and light the town Christmas tree. What fun!!!!

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We’ve enjoyed going to church together with our team and our daily devotions are always great. We’ve heard personal faith stories and inspiring readings.

Summer, one of our ‘Tails’, gave us quite a scare while in Crystal River. We came home from an outing and she was yelping in pain and was struggling just to move. We took her to an urgent vet facility and it appeared as though she had some sort of back injury. When we took her in we thought we may have to put her down; she was that bad. We both were an emotional mess. But after the examination we were told that it may not be that bad. She was put on a couple of medications and sent home. The next day we had to take her back – she seemed worse – and wouldn’t eat or drink. She had to have an IV for dehydration and an appetite stimulant. Thank God for guiding us to this vet who was so compassionate and knowledgeable. After a lot of prayers, medications and keeping her immobile for a few days, Summer was miraculously back to her old self.

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God’s beauty is everywhere and this place is certainly no exception. We got to witness an amazing sunset on the beach – beautiful, peaceful and calming. It’s great to just relax and enjoy the sites. We also went to a manatee wildlife reserve, but no manatees were out the day we were there.

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We traveled across the state to see Marty’s cousin Susan who we hadn’t seen in several years. We got to meet her friend Wayne and his son Evan. We went out to eat at a beach-side restaurant and enjoyed some fresh seafood and watching the waves. We had a great visit and of course revisited childhood memories.

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I have to say it’s hard to even get this blog together this time because we can’t seem to focus on anything but going back to Missouri for Christmas! Seems like this camping trip is never ending – LOL. Can’t wait to see everyone, especially Justin and Megan and the grandkids!!!

We were asked again about being leaders for NOMADS. We weren’t looking for that position – we just wanted to just be team members at least for a while. But we trust God’s plan for us and have accepted the leadership position and will complete our training before we leave Florida. Who knows where God’s going to lead us next.

Our days here at Crystal River are coming to an end. We will be traveling back to Hillsboro for Christmas. Hopefully the trip will be uneventful and we will get to see everyone soon.

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Merry Christmas to you and yours. Blessings on this Christmas Season.

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