Summer Fun: June – Part 4

Before I officially start my Part 4 post, I forgot to include a couple of pictures with the Part 3 post (click here for Part 3 post).  The day we went to Grant’s Farm was the day before Father’s Day.  On our way home, we stopped by my parents house just outside of St. Louis and took my dad out for supper. Here’s a picture of my 83 year old dad.  He looks really good, doesn’t he?  I am so blessed that both my parents are having 80-something birthdays this year!

LOVE YOU FOREVER, DADDY!!!

LOVE YOU FOREVER, DADDY!!!

Another photo I forgot to include with Part 3 was this one.  Jackson bought this get-up with his Naughty Nickels (I’ll explain those after the grand kids come to visit later this month – that’s a real teaser!).  Anyway, I asked him if I could take his picture, and he said sure.  I suggested we go over to the fireplace.  He struck this post ALL ON HIS OWN!!  Lol!  Such personality!

This little guy is always coming up with the mot unique things!  :)

This little guy is always coming up with the most unique things! 🙂

NOW, on to Part 4:

As I said at the end of the Part 3 post, the grand kids really worked hard on one special project the week they were here with us.  My grand kids and their parents live in Moore, Oklahoma.  Most of you are probably aware of the EF 5 tornado that ripped through Moore on May 20th this year.  Fortunately it missed our son’s home, and they were all safe in a friend’s storm shelter.  However, many people were not so lucky.

Pictures just can’t portray the actual devastation and destruction a tornado of this magnitude can wreak on a community.  Since I was familiar with the area and the subdivisions of homes that were demolished, my heart just ached when I saw it in person.  You just can’t even imagine it’s impact on you until you see it in person!

The subdivision surrounding Plaza Towers Elem. School.

The subdivision surrounding Plaza Towers Elem. School.

Plaza Towers Elem. School site and memorial.

Plaza Towers Elem. School site and memorial.

Another subdivision.

View looking southwest from the teacher’s parking lot at Plaza Towers Elem. School (the direction from which the tornado came).

Another subdivision nearby my son's home.

Another subdivision nearby my son’s home.

THIS IS GOING TO SOUND LIKE I’M GETTING OFF TRACK, BUT PLEASE KEEP READING.  The adults on my side of the family decided many years ago to stop exchanging gifts at Christmas.  Instead we wanted to put our money together to help others who are struggling to make a memorable Christmas for their family or just going through tough times financially.  Each year my sisters and I take turns finding a family in our area to “adopt” either by purchasing gifts for the children from a list supplied by the parents or giving them the cash to use as they see fit because the situation warrants this to be the best way we can help.  In the past we have helped a single mom and her son, children of a family whose mom was going through very difficult health problems, a family who lost everything in a freaky flash flood, a family with several foster children, and a family whose 3 year old was diagnosed with cancer.  There are others, but I can’t remember them all.

After the Moore tornado hit so close to our son’s home, my sisters and I were talking about how we wish we could help, but we all lived so far away.  One of my sisters suggested that we give our “Christmas gift” to a family in Moore now instead of waiting until Christmas.  We all agreed, so I asked my son and his wife to help us find someone who really needed our help.

HANG IN THERE WITH ME; I’M GETTING TO THE PART WHERE MY GRAND KIDS COME INTO THIS STORY.

I collected the money from each family member.  One night I was on Facebook and decided to tell my FB friends about what my family was doing.  I invited anyone who wanted to help by contributing to our little fund to get in touch with me.  I also found out that Copelin’s Office and School Supply in Norman, OK, was setting up a fund for the teachers of the two schools that were completely destroyed.  These teachers lost all their personal school supplies.  I was assured by the owner that all money donated would go directly to the teachers who lost everything.  I also put on FB that I was collecting money to take to Copelin’s for the teacher’s fund.  In addition I posted that if any of my teacher friends had some “gently used” school supplies they no longer needed, I would be glad to take them to Moore when I took the grand kids home.  I would see to it that some teacher who lost everything would get those school supplies.  I also posted a link on FB to Copelin’s website if anyone wanted to go online and make a direct donation to the fund.

ENTER THE GRAND KIDS:

One day the week my grand kids were at our house, they overheard me talking with a friend about the school supplies and money I had been collecting to take to storm victims.  All three grand kids are very sensitive about this topic; they have seen the devastation and have friends who lost everything or whose houses sustained a lot of damage.  They even had another Navy family live with them for several days after the storm because their house was badly damaged and the husband was out on deployment (my son is in the Navy and flies on the E-6B Mercury aircraft with the TACAMO VQ squadrons out of Tinker Air Force Base).

The oldest grand child said that she wished there was something they could do to help raise some money to help tornado victims.  I asked them all if they wanted to have a lemonade stand to try to raise some money.  They all said, “Yes!”  I hadn’t really thought this through and began wondering what, where, and how we would do this.  My husband said we could set up our lemonade stand in front of the bank where he works.  All I needed to do was buy the supplies, make a sign, and set up the stand.  Once again, I used social networking and  posted on FB about the lemonade stand my grandkids were having to help raise money for storm victims in their hometown.  What did we ever do before social media when we wanted to “get the word out” about things that were happening?

We decided we would sell lemonade on Friday that week.  We set up the stand in front of the bank from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  It was hot (no shade on the bank parking lot!), but the grandkids really enjoyed pouring the lemonade for the people who stopped by and talking with them.  Here we are in front of the bank right after we finished setting up.

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I kept busy making batches of lemonade and the grandkids worked hard.  Many people stopped and bought lemonade, and they usually gave more than the asking price.  Some people specifically stopped by because they saw my posts on FB and just wanted to make a donation.  As the money came in, the grandkids got really excited because they thought that looked like A LOT of money.  I told them that we would just have to wait and see how much we made after we paid Papa back the money he gave us to start with.  I didn’t want them to get their hopes up too high.

Meanwhile Mike’s wife, Jennifer, had been asking friends in Moore if they knew of anyone who lost everything in the tornado and did not have any insurance.  Jennifer’s friend, who is a Physician’s Assistant in Moore, said one of their receptionists lost everything when her apartment was completely destroyed.  She didn’t have any renter’s insurance.  The receptionist is a single mom with two children; one in high school and one who attended Plaza Towers Elementary where seven children were killed.  Fortunately her child came out of the school with only cuts and bruises.  She was living with a friend until she could save enough money to buy appliances so she could rent another place.  Now we had our family to “adopt.”  I began letting all my friends on FB know about this family we were adopting.

I am so proud of my friends and the community I live in.  The lemonade stand made $298.00 all by itself!  I also had donations from a couple of churches in town as well as from many individuals.  Some specifically wanted their contribution to go to the “adopted” family and others wanted their money to go to the teachers’ fund at Copelin’s.  I had donations come from various other communities as well, and even one donation from one of my old high school friends.   By the time I took the kids home to Moore, I had $2,525.00 to give to the family.  That should definitely help our young mom purchase appliances!

My husband’s cousin teaches in a school somewhere around Seattle, Washington.  It was close to the end of their school year, and she was telling her students about my son who lives in Moore and my posts on FB to raise money to help tornado victims.  Her students wanted to help raise some money, too.  They chose to help by having a coin drive and to donate the money to the teacher’s fund.  After their PTA saw how much the students raised, they voted to match that amount.  That school sent a check to Copelin’s for a little over $360.00  Total donations for the teachers’ fund was a little over $500.00 just because of a few little posts on FB!  In addition, I took several boxes of school supplies donated by my teacher friends.  I retired from teaching a year ago and had given away almost all of my personal school supplies, but I still had 4 boxes of paperback books (3rd-5th grade reading level) from my classroom library that I had purchased over the years with my own money.  I immediately knew those boxes were going to Moore!  Jennifer had a couple of friends that teach at the destroyed schools, and they took everything I brought.

My daughter-in-law and I could hardly wait to present our “adopted” family with our early Christmas gift.  When we got to the doctor’s office where she worked, she was at the front desk (she didn’t know either of us).  Jennifer told her we were there to see Nikki (the PA) and we sat in the waiting room.  When Nikki was free she came and got us and took us to the break room.  Then she went to get Jamie.  When Jamie saw us in the break room, she had a perplexed look on her face.  I tried to speak, but I got all choked up.  Jennifer immediately spoke up and BEAUTIFULLY explained everything.  Jamie cried, and we all cried.  This young mom was SO grateful and SO thankful.  She hugged us several times.  We talked a little while and she shared stories of her experience, sentimental things (photos, etc.) they found and could salvage as they dug around in the rubble, and other tornado stories.  We took a couple of pictures, and she gave me permission to use the pictures on my FB page (and blog) to let the people who contributed see who received our gift.

L to R;  Jennifer, (daughter-in-law), Jamie (gift recipient), and me.

L to R; Jennifer, (daughter-in-law), Jamie (gift recipient), and me.

My simple words here cannot adequately describe this young mom’s joy, excitement, gratitude, and thankfulness.  My grand kids learned a valuable lesson about hard work and helping others, and they saw complete strangers care enough to want to help, too.  It was a fantastic blessing to participate in this endeavor with my grand kids, with the people in my community, and with my FB friends to do a little something to help a few people who had lost so much.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP:  You can go to Copelin’s Office and School Supply’s website and make a donation to the fund for the teachers of Briarwood Elem. and Plaza Towers Elem. Schools who lost all their personal school supplies.  Click HERE and scroll down the page; click on where it says “Donations for Briarwood & Plaza Towers Teachers.”  Thank you!  May God bless your generosity!

Amazing Belarus – 2013 (Part 3)

[To read about the beginning of my trip to Belarus see Amazing Belarus – 2013 (Part 1) by clicking here.]

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Part 3: Final post about Belarus

It was FINALLY here – Monday – our first day of classes! Each of us would teach four two-hour classes each day. Our schedule was pretty hectic. Breakfast was at 8:00 a.m. followed by a staff meeting at 8:30. We had a short devotional and prayer time at the end of every staff meeting. Last minute class preparations could be made at 9:00 or 9:15 depending on how long staff meetings lasted (I avoided this as much as I could!).

Morning staff meetings at breakfast.

Morning staff meetings at breakfast.

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Our first class session started at 9:30 a.m. and concluded at 11:30. Then we had a short break (to revise lesson plans if things didn’t work out as planned) and lunch. Session 2 started at 1:30 and ended at 3:30 followed by another break which included an early supper. Our last two sessions were back-to-back. Session 3 was from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. followed by Session 4 from 7:15 – 9:15 p.m. (or was it 7:30 – 9:30? How quickly I forget things now! Lol!). Most evenings the last session was followed by a short staff meeting before bed time.

Each session started in the worship center with a 15 minute time of singing songs and fun activities such as guessing which baby picture was which teacher or trying to guess some little-known fact about one of the teachers. The students guessed very few of the questions correctly, but learning more about each other was a lot of fun for all of us. After the opening we would take our students to our classrooms and teach English for about an hour and a half. We didn’t teach English grammar, sentence structure, or rules. We taught conversational English – how we would say certain words and phrases in the United States. In the Advanced classes I would present a situation or scenario, vocabulary, and American phrases or idioms. Then the students would get in pairs or groups and discuss or role play the situation using the vocabulary, phrases, and idioms. I would listen to them speaking and correct them when they didn’t say something correctly or like we say it in the United States. Watching and listening to my students and how they would work out a problem (or whatever the scenario was) was quite fascinating to me. After the hour and a half class, we would return to the worship center for a 15 minute closing which was similar to the opening. We followed this routine each day, Monday through Friday.

Thursday was the day that we would share our “stories” with the students. In the opening time before each class session, our pastor shared his story (testimony). He told how each of the teachers also had a story, and if students wanted to know their teacher’s story, all they had to do was to ask us when they got to class. We are not allowed to say “Jesus” in Belarus unless we have been “approved” with a special “preacher’s” visa. Therefore, all of us would be using the words “my friend” every time we would normally say “Jesus.” I was very nervous about this part of the trip because I haven’t shared my testimony very many times. I knew God would give me the words when the time came, and He certainly did.

Friday our pastor shared the gospel during the opening 15 minutes and told of Jesus’ love for all people. Friday’s classes were very special. Never, in my wildest imagination, did I ever think I could get so “close” with a group of people in such a short five-day time period. I had planned to give all my students a very small gift on Friday. It wasn’t anything special but God gave me a message to go along with the small gift. I gave each student a heart-shaped SweetTart sucker. I told them that this sucker represented a couple of things. The heart shape represented the love of my “friend” for me and for each of them and the love I had for each of them through my friend. I explained that this kind of candy has a sweet taste but also a tart, or sour, taste. I explained that the sour part of the candy represented the trials and hard times that we all go through during our lifetimes, but the sweet part represents the love, comfort, and peace that my “friend” will give them during those trials and hard times. They all smiled as I explained this, and I think they understood quite well. Friday was also the day that the students received their certificate for completing the class. We took a lot of pictures to remember our time together.

Here are just a few of the pictures.

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Our pastor and leader for the week with some of my students.

Our pastor and leader for the week with some of my students.

The teachers for the week.

The teachers for the week.

Here are some statistics from the week: We interviewed 935 students and placed 789 in classes. On Friday morning we had 641 students in attendance to hear the gospel (some students would have to miss a class occasionally because of work). Of those students attending on Friday, 437 marked on their sheets that they would be interested in more information about Jesus, and 302 marked that they had asked Jesus into their life. PRAISE THE LORD!!

Each of my classes had gotten together without me knowing it and purchased gifts for me. Belarus is known for their chocolates and I received several boxes of chocolates which were very delicious. I ate some before I left Belarus, of course, as well as on the way home! I shared the rest of my chocolates with everybody when I got home. I also received a straw doll in traditional Belarussian dress, a woven straw basket, a beautifully carved wooden box filled with small candies, a traditional Belarussian Domovoi doll (Domovoi is a home’s “guardian” that takes care of your family and home), and a very special book about Belarus. Here are a few pictures of the gifts I received.

Straw doll representing traditional Belarus.

Straw doll representing traditional Belarus.

Domovoi - seen as the home's guardian to take care of your family and home.

Domovoi – seen as the home’s guardian to take care of your family and home.

A beautifully woven straw basket,

A beautifully woven straw basket.

Look at the woven details!

Look at the woven details!

I have these two together on my living room shelf.  Don't they look good together?

I have these two together on my living room shelf. Don’t they look good together?

The book about Belarus.  It has beautiful pictures, but I can't read a word in it. :)  Maybe some day I'll be able to read a few words.

The book about Belarus. It has beautiful pictures, but I can’t read a word in it. 🙂 Maybe some day I’ll be able to read a few words.

This is a gorgeous carved wooden box.  The picture doesn't do it justice.  You can't begin to see all the fine details!

This is a gorgeous carved wooden box. The picture doesn’t do it justice. You can’t begin to see all the fine details!

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The inside of the box.  I am keeping all my little "keepsakes" from Belarus in this box.

The inside of the box. I am keeping all my little “keepsakes” from Belarus in this box.

These gifts from my students in Belarus mean a lot to me, but I will always cherish the new friends I have made the most. I hope to be able to go back to Belarus next year, and maybe I’ll get to see some of my new friends again, as well as make some additional Belarussian friends!

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