On the morning of December 30th all the people at WOTC for the Big Feed were still at the training center. It seemed only moments later and everyone had had breakfast, rental vans had been returned and the groups and all their vehicles had gone. Len, Karen and we, plus the SOWER couple who had phoned during the Big Feed and arranged with Ben to arrive early helped with the clean-up a bit and then everyone kinda disappeared to go collapse.
Early that evening Juanita's sister, NInabeth Goins, and her husband, Gary, arrived from Houston. We drove to their hotel to meet them and went to a nearby Quizno's to eat. After that we drove them to the training center and gave them a bit of a tour and visited together before returning them to their hotel.
At five the next morning I drove to the local Walmart. After the recent Christmas shopping season with full parking lots for most of the day the parking lot looked eerily empty. There was even a parking spot near the door! I quickly parked and strode over to the door. At that time of morning it was locked. I walked the breadth of the building to the door in use. There was no crowd inside and I had the shoe department to myself as I selected a pair of velcro sneakers to replace my worn out ones and a pair of dupliCrocs or whatever they call Croc knock-offs. Then it was to the grocery department to select various varieties of canned beans, meat, sauces, tomatoes and super secret ingredients for my second annual enttry in the Great Chili Cook-Off.
Back at the rig I lined up the cans and packages of ingredients in order of importance and started opening them and adding the contents to the crock pot until it was brimming, stirred the pot and put on the lid, neglecting only one critical step, more about that later. I did remember to ask Leonard, our neighhbouring SOWER to take the crock pot of chili to the evening's festivities if plans with the in-laws ended up not including us returning in time.
Then it was wash the truck, shower, change and head off to meet the in-laws at Hampton Inn of Harlingen . The Hampton Inn has a wonderful breakfast buffet and an even more wonderful policy of providing free breakfast to family of guests. We ate and visited.
Then we hit the road to adventure. Well, actually we schlepped off in the truck to gawk at the sights like a bunch of geezers. But first a detour. I couldn't summon forth a clear memory of plugging in the crock pot and I try to honour if not trust both my memories and my non memories and it seemed like a good non memory to act on. Good thing. There was no way the chili would have got hot with the plug lying on the counter a few feet away from the outlet.
We did a driveby tour of the WOTC staff motel and stopped by the WOTC warehouse and toured around inside that and then drove off to McAllen to locate as best we could the childhood home of a friend of their son to take an as-it-is-now picture. The search results were inconclusive, but we took a picture of the house it might have been and the next door parking lot where it might have stood depending on how one processed the information provided. Then we drove to an orchard we knew of just in time to chat with the last remaining employee while she waited for her ride in the empty parking lot in front of the locked building.
By then wouldn't you know it and it was time for lunch or would be by the time we returned to Harlingen and it was. We ate far too much food for the money at Chapita's and then drove to South Padre Island.
We splurged and paid the toll for the beach loop road at the south end of the island and stopped at the UTPA Coastal Studies Lab where we enjoyed the free displays and tanks of native species of fish and other sea creatures. It is hard to tell when playing with an octopus whether it is really playing with you or just moving randomly in it's own little world. They are said to be smart. Maybe that is a reason not to eat them. Actually the rubbery texture is reason enough for me so that philosophical dilemna doesn't arise. It is easy to resist temptation when you aren't much tempted in the first place. Real temptation is a greater challenge, of course. Challenging in terms of not feeding it or acting on it. When I've got it licked I won't let you know because I'll be dead, but maybe once in awhile I might offer some helpful hiints if it ever comes to be a point of victory during life but if it does that then I will be dealing with the temptation to be prideful which is easier for some to fall into than others but we all have our faults even if it were only a propensity for writing and speaking run-on sentences which when you are speaking them you eventually se the eyes galze over and a awhile after noticing that you stop talking however with writing there is just no feedback at all unless you put a traffic counter on your site which is one reason not to, reminding me of the Garrison Keillorstory of the young man who spend every day for months broadcasting from a campus radio station that was off the air but he didn't know it but I digress.
After the octopus and other delights we proceeded back to the truck and drove north to the end of the pavement and on the way back stopped at the kite flying beach north of the convention center and some of us got out and braved the wind to walk briefly on the shore. I flew my kite, but couldn't evoke any interest from any of the others in flying it or the other one that lives under the backseat of the truck.
Port Isabel is the town at the mainland end of the bridge to South Padre Island we did a driveby of the lighthouse that survived the civil war efforts to destroy it. Then we bought some ice cream from a little store that uses its profits to support an orphanage on Matamoros and watched the sunset.
The consensus was to skip the Annual Great Chili Cookoff & Fireworks Fellowship and we decided to see "Fireproof" at the local dollar cinema. They had seen it before and we had the DVD on order for when it was released later in January,but it was still worth seeing and a pleasant, thought provoking experience.
After dropping them off at the hotel we headed home and got there shortly before ten. Nobody was left of the celebration and we were in bed and asleep by shortly after ten ourselves. Midnight could take care of clicking over without us.
Early the next morning we all met for the first breakfast buffet of the year and ate and visited for a while before it was time for Gary and Ninabeth to head home. I heard that day that my chili had tied for second place. Discretion prevents me from inquiring if there were more than 3 entries.
The OldCityCemeteryMuseum is a free museum. It is primarily concerned with telling about the original BrownsvilleCemetery, the people in it and some of the stories surrounding their death. It also deals with the differing burial practices of the cultural groups in Brownsville. Worth every penny and worth the time it takes to go through.
The HistoricBrownsvilleMuseum has displays on the history of the Brownsville and Matamoros area from first settlement through present day and covers the area's role in various wars (Mexican - American , Civil War and both World Wars) and area battles as well as the commercial and development history of that area of South Texas area.
There was a seasonal display of many different miniature Nativity scenes made from many materials including rock, wood, ceramic and metal.
In a separate building on the grounds is a restored locomotive from one of the first railroads in the area.
Worth it's two buck entry fee and good for a couple hours
We did a driveby of a couple of old houses that are part of the museum system, but elected to save these for a future day.
Prep for Medfest and Pastors' Conference
Early in January, before the January SOWER project started, Juanita and I joined a van load of WOTC staff members to do some preparation at the base camp near Aldama. Also accompanying the group was a SOWER, Maurie, who had phoned Ben during the Big Feed to come early, ahead of the January SOWER project at WOTC.
We had been at Aldama before but this time was to help prepare for Medfest on January 15th - 19th and for a pastors' conference (last year's) in April. Juanita helped set up the pharmacy and Maurie and I helped layout and set up the framework for two new buildings: a kitchen and a shower building.
January SOWER Project at WOTC
We had a pleasant rest from being GL's (Group Leaders) during the January project. Jim and Judy Macleod capably led two other couples, a single and us. Most of the work done was on the motel which houses WOTC staff. It also houses SOWERS when there are more rigs than spaces for rigs at the training center.
Work included exterior painting at the motel, replacing a number of light fixtures and plumbing, door, cabinetry and sheetrock repair. SOWERS also assisted with Medfest and with construction of facilities for the upcoming pastors' conference in Aldama.
Each year for about fourteen years the Way of the Cross has held a medical outreach in Mexico usually at their Aldama base camp. This year there were a number of medical people and many others for a total of around seventy people. There were four medical doctors including the WOTC staff physician Leo Yoder, plus a chiropractor and a dentist. There were a number of nurses including the WOTC staff nurse, Martha Kroger but mostly there were a whole bunch of lay people willing to do anything to help make the event a success.
Juanita and I rode down with a vanload of WOTC staff a day ahead of the other teams. When we got there Juanita helped Leo and Martha set up the pharmacy and clinic spaces. I worked with Theresa, another staff member to prepare the new kitchen building to receive wall tin and screening.
The next day we did more of the same on the kitchen and shower buildings enlisting the help of a couple of early show translators to use up or cut to length the lumber we had. A list was prepared for what would be needed for building the roof structures. That afternoon the teams showed up and everybody pitched in to carry on getting ready for the next day. Then it was time for supper and devotions. A few hardy souls stayed up late but most everybody hit the bunks pretty early.
The following day began with breakfast and devotions. A couple of groups left in vans to do outreach in a couple of villages each.
People from the surrounding countryside began arriving. Everyone arriving on site were given half of a numbered strip ticket for the free raffles occurring throughout the day. Those who needed medical attention registered and were given a slip of paper to indicate which type of treatment they needed then they lined up at the front of the clinic building.
The medical group started to work. Juanita and Marilyn, another SOWER, held the fort at the clinic entry door, making sure the information was filled in on the forms and that the people had the right slips of paper to see the right people for the treatment they needed. In addition to the medical and dental examinations and treatment the doctors shared the gospel message with each patient. Over 700 hundred patients received attention.
Byron and Phillip set up the carnival games which were manned by staff people from Christo Es La Repeustra (Christ is the Answer) We had worked them with in Victoria in December.
Then the rest of us under Byron and Phillip's direction helped set up some tents to cover the stage and for registration and food lines for the future barbacoa. The local people continued to arrive. The construction people went back to construction work where we built trusses and assembled and hoisted them in place.
The next day was more of the same as the first day. with carnival games, outreach and clinic. One task we construction people started on was cutting up a dressed out carcass of a cow. We had knives and a hatchet, but that wasn't enough so ended up trying a saws-all which didn't do very well with the blade it had so we brought the heavy artillery - a Skillsaw. Boy, did that make short work of the rib cage. Of course we lost a few of the squeamish to the intense odor de dental office and the spray of blood and bone chips. My only regret was nobody got a picture of me wielding the Skilsaw! Juanita took a staged shot when we were just starting, but it shows a tentative pose knife in hand and not the enthusiastic demolition that was going on twenty minutes later. The meat was cut up and placed with spices in square two gallon or so tin cans and the can tops covered with foil plus the original lid rolled back down. The twenty or so cans were buried in a pit of coals. True ground beef. :-)
Then it was back to building and putting on trusses and supports for roof tin with whoever was available from other activities.
Sunday's message was in Ezekiel and on using the "tempered mortar" of God's Word to build and mend a spiritual wall in a person's life. Isaiah and myself were the masons while Ben preached. At one point I 'retired' and the person we had been building a wall around started helping Isiah build a wall around a young child. Excellent sermon if a bit messy (we used real mortar and blocks on the dining room floor!). Everyone went off to do clinincs, outreaches and carnival. A couple of people cleaned up the mess from the walls and then moved on to construction work.
The big attraction for the afternoon in addition to the barbacoa was the horse race. Not, technically a race, but rather a timed competition around some barrels with picking up a glass of water at one end and returning with it. Time was added for hitting the barrels or spilling the water from th glass. Prize was a boom box, but the bigger prize was bragging rights for the next year so quite a few local horsemen showed up to compete.
With darkness things wound down and we banged the last few sheets of tin that were going to get done in place by the rays of the fading sunset. All that remained was the tin on one end of the shower building to allow for getting tanks in and one side of the roof of the same building. In the predawn hours the next day we left with a couple of people that needed to make a connection at the airport. The rest followed a few hours later.
That evening back in Harlingen the doctors took the staff out for their traditional dinner while Juanita and I went out with Tony, Brenda and Emily Miller. They left the following morning for Tony's new position as a pastor in the Midwest. I can't imagine how the ministry will manage without the work ethic and calm spiritual direction of Tony and Brenda, but God has a habit of raising up replacements and helping the remnant grow into their increased responsibilities.
Ezekial Benjamin Srochenski
The arriving vans of people coming down from the States for Medfest brought news of a new grandchild - Ezekial Benjamin Srochenski, born to Rebekah and Nick at 10:59 P.M. January 14th, 2009 after two hours of labour and many weeks of bed rest. Birth weight was 5 pounds seven ounces and length was 19 inches.
We borrowed a cell phone and went up the mountain looking for a reception hot spot at the appointed time to receive a call from the proud parents. We ended up on top of the mountain in Don and Ginger Smith's living room and had a nice visit in between playing telephone tag with Canada.
Juanita showed commendable restraint by waiting a week before flying north to make the mandatory grandmotherly inspection.
Confederate Air Force
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) began its life with a single P-51 Mustang in 1957 in the Rio GrandeValley. It was originally named the Confederate Air Force. Over time for political correctness and other reasons its name evolved into the Commemorative Air Force. It has the world's largest collection of operational WW2 military aircraft and now has its main base in Midland, Texas.
one of the satellite CAF museums. It is located in a hanger on the south end of the Brownsville airport.
The good camera traveled north to take baby pictures so there is not much to illustrate this section other than a picture of my feet. I suppose that is one of the hazards of not having a display screen on a digital camera, but it had the positive result of convincing me not to use the same camera for the Nicaraguan trip and purchase the cheapest full feature digital camera I could find.
If a picture is worth a thousand words then the half dozen or so pictures that were taken but didn’t work out should be replaced with.... But take heart gentle reader I won't do that to you.
The tour of the museum starts with a ten minute video about the history of the museum and many shots of the old planes in present day operation. Then there are a number of displays about PanAm flights operating out Brownsville and many displays of military aircraft from Germany, Japan and the United States as well as displays of uniforms, bombs, survival gear, etc. In addition to the display area there is a hanger with some ground vehicles (staff cars and jeeps) and several military trainer aircraft of different vintages.
The big event is the annual air show when many old military airplanes fly in for static and flight displays including making some smoke and flames with bombing demonstrations. That is the best time to see the most aircraft without going to the main museum in Midland, Texas. In 2009 the Brownsville CAF "Air Fiesta" is scheduled for March 14 & 15th. Tickets purchased at the museum are a bargain over tickets at the gate.
All in all it was an interesting way to spend a couple of hours.
Church Service in Reynosa
One Sunday while Juanita was away visiting Ezekial and other family members in Edmonton I joined a missionary, Arland Strong, and went to a church service in Reynosa.
We had been there a few years ago and it is always interesting to see the same people, plus some new people and the ongoing physical work that has been accomplished on the buildings.
Everybody sings hymns together and then the various age groups break off and only the adults remain for the main sermon. At the end of the sermon/study time the groups return to the sanctuary. The adults recite the Bible verse that they learned during the sermon. Each of the other age groups goes to the front and recites, as a group, the verse they learned in their class.
Trip to Nicaragua
While Juanita was in Canada, Paul had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua and tag along with the WOTC director and a few others while they started the in-country work for this summer's Nicaragua Crusades and Pastors' Conference.