Thursday, February 26, 2009

Upcoming Mission Trips - Are You Interested?

What a busy year for mission trips! Some of these are open - let me know if you're interested in any of them!

January - spent 8 days in Jamaica, working at the Falmouth Medical Clinic. Great trip - great weather - great people. Learned a lot about the nursing profession, as well as pharmacy. Learned a great deal about the culture in Jamaica, as well. I even ate ox tail for the first time. That was interesting.

February - spent a few days in Greensburg, Ks, working in residents' homes recovering from the May 2007 tornado. Again, great trip - and surprisingly, great weather. One day, it was 77 degrees - that's unheard of in Kansas in February! Construction trips are always a learning experience for me - I am now pretty competent in sheet rocking, mudding, and painting...things I never knew how to do very well before my immersion in mission trips. Now I just need to master plumbing and electrical work! Ha!

March - we'll be spending a few days up at Camp Wilderness in Lawson, MO, on the Family Mission Trip that our church offers. My kids love this mission trip - besides having fun, we try to teach the kids the importance of reaching out to assist others - and giving back. This year, I heard our project may include building tree houses - that will be a new one! Each year, it's hard to drag our kids away from this when it's time to go home. I'm going to leave them this year...seriously. Who needs kids?!

May - Galveston, here we come! Dates are May 9-16th. Now, this is one of two trips that I'm in charge of this year. I'm hoping to have between 25-30 people going down to Texas to assist in the recovery after Hurricane Ike. I've been working with the United Methodist Conference Coordinator in Texas, on getting lodging and paperwork taken care of. I am VERY excited about this trip - I can't wait to get back to the island and reconnect with some of the people I met when I was there last September after Ike.... We have room for more people - let me know if you want to go!

June - Okay, no mission trip this month for me, as Mike and I will be going to Europe for two weeks to celebrate our 10th anniversary. So - I'm planning excursions to Venice, Rome, Cannes, Florence, Greece - woo hoo! Just got our air fare booked yesterday - hotel is booked - so, I think we're almost all set. Now, I just need to brush up on my Italian....yeah, right. Spanish is hard enough for me. Heck, ENGLISH is hard enough for me.

July - Guatemala, for the 7th time. Trip dates are July 3 - 12th...and it's filling up. Won't take more than 18 people on this trip - and even 18 people is rather large, for the conditions that we face while there. Again, this will be an opportunity to see people in Guatemala that I only get to see once a year - and that's exciting! We'll be working in a new village this year - a much smaller village - working on a water project. This is the 2nd trip I'm leading this year, and it takes a lot of work for it all to come together. But, I love it! Wouldn't change a thing

August, September, October - well, I imagine I'll be busy with Red Cross and hurricanes...although I can always pray that it's a slow season and the U.S. doesn't get hit with any major hurricanes this year. Even so, I usually leave those months open, just in case I'm needed somewhere.

That's far...but if you hear of any more trips, let me know! I can always be persuaded! Especially to warm weather places, like Jamaica or Hawaii! (Speaking of Hawaii - I'd still like to put a trip together for 2010 - if you're reading this, Dwayne, let me know!)

Deep-sea fishing in Hawaii last year

Be sure to do YOUR part today to change the world - one day at a time, one action at a time...look around for a mission trip to get involved with; they really are life-changing.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eight Minutes of Hell

I just returned from a short mission trip to Greensburg, KS.

If you remember, Greensburg, KS was changed forever the evening of May 4, 2007 – when an F5 tornado leveled over 95% of the town and killing 11 people. The tornado was almost 2 miles in width and traveled for nearly 22 miles. It hit at 9:45 pm – and when it was over – it had all but obliterated Greensburg.

One thing it didn’t obliterate was the spirit and resiliency of the townspeople. The town got together shortly after the storm and vowed to rebuild – and not only rebuild – but rebuild better. The town is rebuilding as a “green” town – and I saw some amazing progress during my visit there.

Houses are going back up – businesses are re-opening – and there’s groundbreaking on the new hospital and the school. Volunteers are still coming to the town; in fact, while we were there, there was a youth group from Manhattan – as in New York City!

My first project involved painting a bedroom in the house of a resident named Mike. Mike told me his story one day of when the tornado hit. He remembers that the sirens went off about 20 minutes before the storm struck. His family huddled in the basement; Mike had one arm wrapped around a plumbing pipe, and the other arm was holding on to one of his kids for dear life. The tornado struck – he said the sounds and noises were deafening, similar to a “jet engine” flying directly overhead. Then – an incredible, dead silence. The family looked at each other in amazement, wondering if it was over – but their ears were still popping from the air pressure. So the decision was made to stay in the basement just a little longer – wise decision. The tornado wasn’t over yet – this storm was so big, it had an “eye” – and once the eye passed over, the back edge of the storm hit. All-in-all, the tornado lasted for 8 minutes – which probably seemed like an eternity to Mike and his family.

When they dug themselves out of the rubble and debris, they saw an incredible site – the entire town was gone. Just gone. Including their house.

Our group - including me! - working on the wall in Mike's house

Mike has rebuilt, though. The work is coming along slowly – most of it being done by volunteer labor, such as myself and fellow church members. The family is living in the house as it goes up around them – the dust, the noise, the mess – it would drive a sane person crazy. But Mike is philosophical about it all – and just grateful to be alive. After what he and his family has been through, a little chaos and confusion isn’t going to bother him.

We worked on some other houses while we were there – all in various stages of completion; all coming back strong after the storm. When you talk with the local residents, you pick up on their hope for the future – their determination to not let this tragedy beat them – but you also pick up on an underlying weariness – a sigh for how things used to be, for both their own families and for the town as a whole.

Another view of Mike's wall - this shows you the perspective

As God reminded Moses, “…the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” When God comes to us, no matter where, we are on holy ground.

God has promised that the Spirit is with us at all times and in all places. God is certainly in Greensburg, KS, as I saw for myself on this trip. God bless Greensburg, the residents, and all of the volunteers who are standing on holy ground.

Be sure to do YOUR part to save the world – one action at a time, one mission trip at a time.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

4 to Survive...12 to Thrive

So, this Friday is "Free Hug" day...I grew up with the old, it takes "four to survive and twelve to thrive" mantra on hugs....are you surviving? Or are you thriving? How many hugs did you get today? How many hugs did you GIVE today?

Do you part this Friday and pass the love...and watch this video - it's pretty amazing!

Be sure to do YOUR part today to change the world - one hug at a time.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Really Happened on the Hudson

A friend of mine (thanks, Dwayne) sent me this - and I just found it very touching...and so true...that I wanted to post it and share it. For the passengers and crew on that plane, they KNOW this is what really happened on the Hudson.


Thursday, February 5, 2009


If somebody complains to you that nobody ever listens to what he says, don't respond.

Stop, Drop & Go Low

I went to lunch today with some girlfriends.... We had a great time, swapping stories and swapping jokes...laughter is always good food for the soul.

During the course of the lunch, one of the girls mentioned that her uncle had been in an apartment fire this past Tuesday. He managed to escape with some minor injuries - smoke inhalation, irritation to the eyes - but he did lose his cat in the fire. She mentioned that after he had escaped, he went back in the burning apartment to attempt to save his wallet. I sat there, in disbelief - he could have done permanent damage to his lungs - or even been killed - all in an attempt to save a few pieces of plastic and a few dollar bills. Please, people- don't do that. Don't ever go back in. It's just not worth it.

She mentioned that the American Red Cross did not show up to assist him, which surprised her. There could be a couple of reasons for this, which I wanted to talk about here.

The Red Cross shows up at a fire after being contacted by the local fire department. We don't have scanners in our home, telling us that there's a fire going on - we're at the mercy of the firemen at the scene. In Kansas City alone, firefighters respond to nearly 60,000 requests - or 164 calls a day - on average. That's a lot of calls. After they have done what they need to do - saving lives, and extinguishing the fire - they will then ascertain whether we need to be called - or not. In this girl's uncle's case, he went to a local hospital for observation immediately after the fire. The Red Cross doesn't get called if the victims are at the hospital. That's because part of our job is talking with the victims - obtaining information - and if they're in the hospital, we're not going to go there. We respond to fires if there are no injuries.

Hannah also mentioned that during the course of her uncle's escape from the fire, he had said that his eyes 'shut' during the escape, leaving him blinded. This is a normal automatic reaction from our eyes in a fire...the eyes will literally close to protect you from the smoke, and you often can't get them open again. It's an involuntary defense mechanism. This is important to know - because this stresses the importance of knowing your fire escape route EVEN if you cannot SEE it! We often assume we'll be able to "see" our way out of a fire - and this is not always true.

Families need to practice, practice and practice their escape routes with their children - everyone needs to know it blindfolded. Seriously. Another thing - your children are taught at an early age that if they're on fire themselves, they're to do the "Stop, Drop and Roll" method to extinguish the flames. Well, if they are in a burning building and need to escape - teach them the "Stop, Drop and Go Low" method of escape. Drop to the floor to prevent as much smoke from damaging your lungs as possible, and crawl out as low to the floor as possible. Smoke rises - the best air will be close to the floor. Smoke is by far the biggest killer in a fire - firefighters rarely see a burned body. Toxic smoke from a smoldering fire can kill you in your sleep before flames are even visible.

Noise is the other thing most people do not expect in a fire. Fires are loud. In general, noise dramatically increases stress, and stress makes it harder to think and make decisions. Hence, the importance of practice.

Fires grow exponentially. Every 90 seconds, a fire roughly doubles in size. Flashovers, when the flammable smoke in the air ignites, thereby igniting everything in the room, usually occurs 5-8 minutes after the flames appear. At that point, the environment can no longer support human life.

Hannah's uncle was very lucky. He managed to feel his way out and survive...but not everyone does. Please, take the time to practice a fire escape route with your family. Turn off all the lights and practice in the dark. Have the children practice "Stop, drop and Go Low" - crawling out - so they remember to "drop and go low" to escape. Don't ever go back in for anything if you've escaped a fire. It's not worth it.

Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - have a fire drill in the next week with your family or your co-workers... it could save a life one day.


Monday, February 2, 2009

I Parked Under a Tree

Do you believe in prayer?

I know that I do. I know that I've had several instances in my life where I personally witnessed the power of prayer.

One such incident occurred this past September while I was in Alexandria, Louisiana.

I was in Alexandria with the American Red Cross - I had driven the ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) down from Kansas City in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav. I, along with several other volunteers from all over the country, had been getting food & supplies delivered to various shelters in the Alexandria area - before the storm hit.

On Monday, September 1, (Labor Day), the hurricane was due to hit. That morning, the skies had darkened, and the rain was increasing in intensity. Initial predictions had the hurricane hitting around 8:00 pm that night - so we were working frantically that morning, trying to get as much done before we had to hunker down and take cover. Unfortunately, the storm was coming in faster than anticipated - and this almost led to a major disaster for me.

It was 11:30 am - it's now raining, it's getting windy, and it's getting dark. We had been told that morning that we would work until 2:30 p.m. or so and would then be "released" to drive back to our shelter and hunker down. We were also told, that under NO circumstances were we to park our trucks under any trees. Makes sense - don't park vehicles under trees in a hurricane. Duh.

I returned from a run and parked my truck, waiting for further was only 11:30, and I knew I'd be working until 2:30, right? Wrong. I run into headquarters, only to be told that we needed to leave IMMEDIATELY and take shelter - NOW. No time to move our trucks - our trucks were to stay put at headquarters, and we were to jump in the rental cars and take cover. The storm was getting closer by the second.

Now - this presented a problem. Guess where I had parked the truck? Yup - under a tree. But it was only supposed to be parked there for a minute!! I parked it, thinking I would run in, get my next assignment, and then move it - how was I supposed to know it was now parked for the duration of the storm??!! And the driver of our rental car wasn't about to give me 2 minutes to go move it - he was anxious to make the 30-minute drive to our shelter so we could hunker down. He's yelling at me in the rain, "Let's go - NOW! Leave the truck!"

Yikes. I gave the truck one last look as I ran to the rental's parked under a HUGE tree. I said a prayer as I ran to the rental car - "Please, oh please God - please protect my truck....please, oh, please." Seriously - I would be in BIG trouble with the Red Cross if something happened to that truck.

A photo of my ERV

That entire night, during the height of the storm, I worried about that truck. I could hardly sleep, listening to the wind, the rain, and the trees falling around our shelter - because all I could think about was the truck...and that big giant tree...hovering over it, menacingly. What was I going to find in the morning? I was almost sick at the thought.

The next day, we got the all-clear from the authorities around noon that it was okay to get out on the roads. I hopped into the back seat of the rental car, and we made the 30-minute drive back to headquarters. I was still praying - over and over - for the safety of my truck.

We pull into headquarters - and I am so nervous, that I can't look. I cover my eyes - and I hear my co-workers in the car exclaim, "Oh MY GOD!" As we drive by my truck - I truck....and the tree....and the tree is down. Oh no. Oh NO! I also see a giant group of volunteers, surrounding my truck - staring at a most incredible sight. I jump out of the car, run up - and witness a miracle.

The tree had indeed fallen down - it had split into part of the tree fell in FRONT of my truck....and the other part of the tree fell BEHIND my truck. Not one branch....not one limb...heck, not even a leaf...has fallen on my truck. You've heard of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea? This was Sherri's ERV and the parting of the giant tree. Seriously.

As I walked up - the crowd parted...and someone noticed me, standing there in shock. And he said, "Isn't this your truck?" I mumbled, " is." And he said, shaking his head, "You must live one charmed life."

And I replied, "No...I just believe in the power of prayer."

I have no pictures of this. I would never want the big bosses with Red Cross to see just how close that tree was to my truck. I don't want to cause any heart attacks or anything. Sorry.

But - thanks, God. I DO believe in the power of prayer.