Saturday, December 31, 2016

Home

After a month in Central America, my family and I arrived back in the United States on the afternoon of December 29, 2016.  It was good to be home in the United States once again, even though the Miami airport into which we flew still featured English as occasional tongue of a minute minority.  Deciphering the accent of the rental car agent in Miami was almost as difficult as communicating with Guatemalans: at least you expected them to speak Spanish.  The heavily accented "English" was a challenge indeed.

In fact, our arrival back in United States presented us with a long sequence of events, the consequences of which still affect our lives.  The wait for a rental car in Miami was almost as long as the flight from Guatemala City.  And they didn't give give us a drink, snack, or seat like the airline did.  We were finally able to get a rental car and drive across the peninsula to the Gulf side where our trailer awaited us in North Port.

On the way across Florida, we stopped by a Sprint store to try to get Sarah's cell phone working again.  That was when we discovered that someone had stolen our credit card information and used it for fraudulent purchases in Michigan during our absence.  The credit card company, sensing something was not right, then canceled the cell phone payment causing us to be overdue.  The service was cut off due to a lack of payment.

After a long trip across Florida complete with its bad news, we finally arrived in North Port where our trailer was parked.  A Russian speaking church rents this church's facility from them, and although the midweek service was complete, choir practice was ongoing when we arrived.  It usually goes until 10:00 pm, we were told.  We would have to wait until they were gone to set up our trailer so that we could finally get to bed.  No problemo -- we would just get the trailer all ready to move so that as soon as the last note was dying off, we would chase everyone out of the parking lot and park the trailer where all the choir members' cars were currently parked.  While attempting to hook up the truck and trailer, we discovered that the trailer battery was, after a full month of being unplugged from any type of power source, DEAD.  The trailer jacks refused to budge in any direction due to the lack of power.  This necessitated a frenzied search for the extension cords in the darkened bays, barked orders at small minions to "hold the flashlight where I can see," and a good deal of scrabbling around in small spaces.  Finally the appropriate cords were found, outlets located, and the jacks received enough power to attach to the truck.  Still, the Russians sang on, oblivious to the drama outside.  In the end, I jumped the gun and asked the Russians to move 15 minutes early.  We finally got to bed around 11:00 that night.

When we finally did get the trailer set up, everyone began unpacking their bags.  We found that our children had apparently decided that their cheap souvenirs were more important than the clothing they took with them to Guatemala.  This was deduced by the large number of articles left behind.  The news was received rather mildly, probably due to the fact that we were numb with fatigue.  We patted the children on the head, gave them candy, and sent them to bed, congratulating them on the fact that they hadn't exceeded the airline's  luggage weight limits.

Now, as we leave 2016 behind, and look forward to 2017, we have so many things for which to be grateful.  The Lord kept us safe in our travels, and blessed us with good health and several ministry opportunities.  We made new friends, and had many new experiences.  We are grateful for everyday things that we tend to take for granted here in the states - hot, running water, drinkable water, washing machines, traffic patterns and good roads, to name a few!

We are still experiencing a bit of reverse culture shock as we adjust to life in the States again (I keep answering people in Spanish when they ask me a question), and we are really looking forward to hearing church services in our own language again. Thank you all for your prayers for us regarding this trip.  God had His hand of blessing and protection upon us, and we thank Him for this amazing opportunity to minister in a foreign country.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Fall Rush

The busy fall schedule is on us now.  The Lord has opened many doors for us this fall and we are eagerly looking forward to seeing lives changed as a result of the Word of God reaching them.

With respect to our family, we endured a period of time in July and August during which we had to be out of our trailer to have some warranty work done as well as some body work due to two blown tires.  We were in a prophet's chamber graciously provided to us by the Cloverleaf Baptist Church of Mobile, AL.  We are grateful that we are back in the trailer now and everything is working well.

There is an addition to our website that might be easy to miss at first glance.  We now have not only 2016's itinerary but also 2017's available to view.  Of course, the following year is not as full as this year's, but it is available as it stands so that those interested can plan.  For those pastors who are trying to plan their calendars for the next year, we hope to be able to aid in this planning.

School is progressing about a month ahead of normal schedule so that we can be all done by the time we head to Guatemala in late November.  The Lord is bringing in funds on a weekly basis for our trip to Central America.  Our passports are bought, the tickets are purchased, and we are looking forward to our time.  Sarah has turned the inside of the trailer into a large craft area, making and selling all kinds of homemade items.  See her Facebook page or follow her on Instagram @rvmamacrow for pictures of her latest.  For my part, I don't know if I actually want you to visit those pages or not.  The more orders she receives, the longer I have to trip over the sewing machine and iron cords on a regular basis.  Nevertheless the proceeds are helping us tremendously along with the items we sell on our table--CD's, books, and so forth.

We are most grateful for the souls that have been saved recently.  A man named Hollis was the latest to trust Christ.  He came to Christ last Sunday morning.  He was born in Trinidad but brought up in New York City where he joined a gang after he was orphaned.  The evidence of God's conviction over sin was evident Sunday morning.  He told the pastor at the front of the auditorium, "I'm lost!  I need to be saved." If you like, you can find a picture of Hollis as well as others who have been saved in our meetings on my Instagram account @crowing617.

Thank you all for all your prayers for us.  It is wonderful to see the Lord working on a regular basis, and we rejoice to be in His service.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Waiting

As the schedule for 2016 began to fill and we got to know our trailer, there grew a list of warranty items that needed to be addressed.  This is always a difficult thing because it means that we have to move out of the trailer and take it to a repair facility that is swamped with other units in the same situation as our own.  In late June, two tire blowouts within 50 miles of each other on I-10 in the desert did some additional damage to the trailer that was to be repaired as well.

Because all the RV repair facilities are so busy this time of year, we scheduled an appointment over a month in advance in order to insure that the work would get done.  The day after our meeting closed in Semmes, AL, we moved out of the trailer into a local church prophet's chamber and took our home to the shop.  That is when the waiting began.

RV repairs can be counted on to cost more than originally thought and take longer than originally expected.  As I write this, we have been out of the trailer for over a week, and the unit is still not ready to go.  The reasons are somewhat complex.

Essentially, there are two veins of repairs that need to be accomplished.  The first, and faster, vein involves warranty work.  Any repairs need to be reported to the manufacturer who then authorizes them to be made so that we can remain happy costumers.  AFter a week of having the trailer in the shop, most of these repairs are complete; but there are still parts on order which have not yet arrived.

The second vein involves the tire blowout and the insurance company.  Every one of these blowouts does enough damage to usually measure in the thousands of dollars, depending on exactly how the tire blows.  We had a good (if there can be such a thing) and a bad blowout on either side of the unit.  Insurance has to receive the claim from the RV repair facility, review the claim, approve the claim, and communicate back to the shop the green light to do the work.  In automobile cases, the insurance company usually does this very quickly because they assume that you need to have your car.  In the case of RV's, they take much longer because the damage in question occurred to a "recreational" vehicle, after all.  We have had RV claims go on for months.

Another dynamic that we deal with is the obtaining of parts for the unit.  The parts do not sit in a warehouse ready to be picked up and installed.  They have to be fabricated at the manufacturer and then shipped to the repair facility.  In our case, we are told that the parts can be here within a week and a half to two weeks.  The hope is that in that time, the insurance company will approve the repair and the unit can get finally fixed.

And so we wait.  The hope is that everything will be done before we have to get going again with our fall schedule, a schedule that starts August 7.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Apart Into a Desert Place

This past week closed yet another camp at the Gila Christian Ranch in Silver City, New Mexico.  Technically, it is not desert, only semi-arid, but it is a place where people can come away from the influences of the world and focus on the things of God.

This year, both juniors and teens were combined in camp so as to save the driving burden on commuting churches.  All four of my children were campers, two in junior camp and two in teen camp, while Sarah worked 14-16 hours a day in the kitchen.  The Lord blessed and several campers were saved.

Many of the campers had little background in church, and no help whatsoever from home.  It was sad to see the effects on both teens and juniors who had to witness the adults who are supposed to guide them act wickedly, especially in the area of morals.  It comes as no surprise that these kids really struggle.  When we lovingly instructed them at camp, many responded positively and opened their hearts to the Word of God.

As the Gospel went forth, several campers, both juniors and teens, were saved.  Others made life-changing decisions of surrender, while others understood purity for the first time and pledged to keep themselves pure.  Also encouraging was evidence of past camp decisions that are still guiding the lives of some of these young people, some of whom have no help outside of the local church and camp.

There are some that decry the entire idea of camp, asserting that decisions made there are temporary.  While it is certainly possible to make a decision that does not last, it is also true that lives are changed forever as a result of one person hearing the Word of God in a camp setting.  Just as children made decisions to do right in Bible times, so young people today are hearing God's Word and are choosing to do what it says.

Thank you so much for your prayers for our ministry.  The time of extended meetings is over for a couple of weeks, the scheduling calling for isolated Sundays instead.  Our next full meeting is not until July 10-13, 2016.  May God bless you all and give you all a fruit for your labor as you serve Him in your area of His harvest.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Isles Wait

Isaiah prophesied that isles would wait for the Law of God.  As I reflect on my recent trip to the Philippines, I am reminded of this truth.  My ministry there was definitely to receptive hearts as I preached and taught for nearly two and a half weeks.  If my math is correct, I ministered to 13 different churches while I was there, some by preaching in them directly and others by virtue of their coming to another place to hear me preach.  God blessed His Word in a great way during the time.

Below are some pictures with a little information about each.  Many of the churches were not photographed individually because one week consisted of my preaching and teaching in a music camp.  I spoke up to four times a day during camp, a schedule that left very little time for picture taking.


This is the Hillcrest Baptist Church of Angeles City.  They hosted me for a four day meeting in which several other churches participated.  I made the mistake of taking this picture on American, rather than Filipino, time.  By the time I got up to preach, the auditorium was full.


Two churches planted out of Hillcrest are Ambassador Fundamental Baptist Church here,

and the New and Living Way Baptist Church here.

 Then in Imus, Cavite, there was the Bethany Bible Baptist Church.



I got no pictures of camp to speak of, nor did I get pictures of many of the other churches except for this one, the Calvary Baptist Church, notable because it was the only church I preached in with air conditioning.

All in all, the Lord gave me a wonderful time of ministry among these dear people.  One of the most gratifying aspects of the trip was the tender hearts of people to hear the Word of God.  Their universal plea to me was that I come back and preach and teach more.  We are seeking the Lord’s will about next year and how to proceed.

Now, from the steamy countryside of the Philippines, I have migrated to the Sonoran Desert where I sit in a trailer struggling to keep cool while the temperature outside is 109.  Next week, we flee to higher ground to camp in NM from where we will begin to travel east again.  Thank you so much for your prayers.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Trailer Luck

The spring schedule is now in full swing.  We are now firmly ensconced in our new trailer (woohoo!) and on the road for the next several months.  We are rejoicing in the blessing of our new trailer and the relative ease of living in it after being in such close quarters for most of last year. While we were extremely grateful for the “little trailer” as we affectionately called it, having six people in a 29’ camper for the better part of nine months was a little taxing at times.  Especially when several of those people are not the neatest roommates.  However, we all survived and were practically dancing with joy when our new trailer finally made it into our driveway last December.  We all have a little space to ourselves, now, and best of all, we are back to a 12-gallon water heater once again (the little trailer had a 6-gallon tank, and I took WAY too many cold showers last year)!  We are all happy campers about that particular feature.

This week, we began our first extended time in the new trailer.  Heading out of Mississippi, we stopped in Jackson, the state capital, where we met a pastor and stayed overnight in his church parking lot.  He took us on a small tour of Jackson, which was saddening to say the least.  The city’s infrastructure is collapsing, and the people who live there have very little means of supporting themselves.  Hence, many turn to a life of crime.  I don’t remember the last time I have seen so many buildings with fences, windows with bars, and parking lots surrounded by razor wire.  It was a teensy bit scary, to be honest.  Jackson is the fourth most violent city in America, ranking fourth in the number of murders per capita in the country.  It is a dark place in need of the light of the Gospel. Pray that God would send laborers into this very needy field!

As we pulled out of Jackson this morning, we headed west.  it wasn’t long before we needed to fuel the truck.  Paul pulled off on an exit that advertised fuel, and began driving in search of the promised gas station.  It was nowhere to be found.  You must understand that pulling a fifth wheel through an unknown area, looking for fuel has to be one of the most stressful situations.  The streets wind and curve, the lanes narrow, and the chances that you will get stuck in a small parking lot trying to turn around increase the further you go.  After we decided that the fuel sign was just a cruel hoax, doubtless an attempt to lure unsuspecting motorists into the labyrinthine innards of the city, where they can be mugged, we spotted a large (this is good) parking lot in which we could easily turn around.  Things were looking up, in spite of the Great Fuel Hoax.  We turned around and pulled onto the street, heading back toward the interstate.  The truck seemed to be struggling up the hill, and with dread in his voice, Paul pulled to the side of the road and asked me to get out and see if the trailer brakes were locked up.  Sure enough, they were. 

I must insert a small bit of trailer trivia here.  Fifth wheels are designed with an emergency cable that runs from the trailer hitch to the hitch pin in the back of the truck.  The purpose of this cord is, in the event that your trailer becomes disconnected from your truck (very bad luck), the trailer brakes immediately lock, which keeps the trailer from careening into anything at a high rate of speed.  Apparently careening into objects at a low rate of speed is far superior, in the minds of the trailer manufacturers, provided one is not rear-ended by a tractor and trailer speeding up from behind.
In a strange and weird twist of trailer luck (this is usually bad luck, for the record), the emergency trailer brake cord had gotten pinched in the hitch and pulled the emergency pin out of the trailer.  To make things worse, we could not get it out!  We were finally able to get the brakes unlocked by plugging in the pin, but we could not make any turns without pulling the pin out again.  Paul pulled along the road until we could get partially in a parking lot, and we had to detach the trailer in order to release the pressure on the hitch enough to get the cord out from between the hitch and the base.  No one stopped to help, but perhaps they were a little nervous when they saw two people on the side of the road, one with a roll of duct tape in his hand, and his companion wielding a small crowbar. Thank the Lord we were able to remedy the situation with very little loss of time.  And, yes, duct tape, once again, really did save the day.

After this little incident, we had another one that actually did some damage to the trailer.  Thanks to a clueless motorist, who instead of allowing us to merge onto the highway lane (I say lane because there was only one due to alleged construction), sped up and blocked our entrance, forcing us to run over a very substantial construction cone/tower.  This striped ziggurat flew under the truck and hit the front panel of the trailer right next to the landing gear, crunching the fiberglass and crumpling the metal trim.  There was nothing to be done, so we drove onward, ruing the day that Cracker Jacks started issuing driver’s licenses. 


All told, it was a fairly good day, in spite of all the difficulties. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s services.  Pray for the family.  We are dealing with sore throats, sniffles, and general malaise due to not feeling well this week.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Of Blowouts and Tunnels

Victory Baptist Church.  For forty years, a lighthouse of truth and Baptist witness to the South Carolina low country.  As its address on Parris Island Gateway would suggest, the church has had a ministry to United States Marines, either active duty or retired, for many years.  For their fortieth anniversary celebration, Pastor Chuck Rice decided to invite two former pastors and Evangelist Paul Crow as guest speakers.  It is impossible for me to speak for the two former pastors.  As for me, my trip to even get settled in at Victory Baptist Church was filled with a little more drama than usual.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: leave south Florida on Friday morning and get in to Beaufort, South Carolina a day early.  A chance for everyone to catch their breath before charging headlong into the next meeting could only be a good thing.  As we headed up I-95 north of Savanna, Georgia, however, we heard a sudden pop and the truck seemed to lose power.  Sarah was able to look in her mirror and saw the tread of one of our brand new tires (purchased earlier this year) come flying off.  We had suffered a blowout.  Not to worry, there was a brand new spare on the back bumper.  There are worse things in this world than changing a flat on the side of the Interstate in the dark with spectators flying past at 70-plus miles per hour while your children contemplate playing chicken.

Still, we arrived safely at Victory Baptist Church after 8:00 Friday night.  Everything was set up and ready to go.  Everything except for one thing.  In our haste to get to South Carolina, we had failed to dump our sewage tanks.  The next morning after some inquiries, we decided to dump the black water straight into the church septic system.  That meant unhooking everything and backing the trailer through a small gate.  Everything about the dumping process was pretty seamless.  No spilled water on the church ground, everything going where it needed to go, no leaky black water hoses—it was perfect.  We then maneuvered the trailer back into the parking space.  Not a problem.

Everything was in place, when I began to jack the trailer up off the truck hitch.  (We are in a borrowed unit right now that is a bumper pull, not a fifth wheel.)  Now the tongue was high enough so that it barely cleared the hitch.  As I walked away from the hitch to go to the cab of the truck and pull it out, a terrible noise sounded behind me.  The trailer had shifted and the tongue had come off the blocks where I had left the jack.  The jack had buried itself in the soft, sandy dirt.  Sarah had been in the trailer, and the sudden jolt gave her quite a fright.

In the end, a bottle jack saved the day and got the trailer back to straight and level.  More importantly, God had spared me from what might have been a dangerous accident.  A 10,000-lb trailer jolting and careening around can be dangerous.  God protected us.

The only other incident that happened was that my children decided to begin a subterranean project of tunneling under the church fellowship hall.  Happily, we discovered the project before too much progress had been made and the workers decided to fill the holes back in.  Hopefully, no one will notice at the big celebration tomorrow.  I know now why we usually make it a policy to arrive at the church on Saturday night.

We look forward to the upcoming meeting with Pastor Rice and Victory Baptist Church.  Thank you all so much for your prayers.