Monday, May 6, 2013

West Virginia! #38 aka 10 left!

West Virginia! Would I be dating myself if I sang, "Country road, take me home to the place I belong. West Virginia, mountain mama." Or maybe I would be dating my elementary school choir teacher-that seems to be more likely.
Anyways, let me tell you about one of the most beautiful states I have been to, West Virginia! We arrived in Charleston on a Thursday evening. It was a ridiculous venture. For whatever reason, it always takes us longer in the van to get everywhere. It doesn't really make sense to me because we go the speed limit, so it shouldn't take us much longer than the gps says. We usually stop at the state sign to get a picture and then at the visitors center for no more than 10 minutes, if they have one. Yet, every time, it takes us forever to get places. An estimated 3 hour drive will usually take us 4.5 or 5, which is plain absurd. The longer the estimated time, the longer we take. Where that extra time goes, I have no idea. Leaving DC, the GPS said it should take 5 hours to get to Charleston and we were determined to do it in 5! Or at least no more than 6. We left right around noon, stopped at the state sign, visitors center, and once to use the restroom. You wanna know how long it took us? Go ahead, ask me. I'll wait.                                         Ready for this? It took us NINE hours! We didn't get into Charleston until 9 pm!!! Like I said, I don't know where the time goes, but it goes somewhere. So that was pretty much it for that day. We found a WalMart and knocked out.
Friday morning was business time. Marc had been complaining for quite a few days about the state of the van, and it was pretty messy. Its not that I didn't try to keep it clean because I did, but it was just very cluttered. I'm not sure why, but it seems like we don't have very much space to work if we lived in a van or something. :) Well we easily accumulate more than we have room for so we keep stuff on top of the dresser or collected in a box on the ground, but it was just becoming too much so we spend a good 3 hours cleaning it out. We went through every drawer and every "cabinet" and every box. We cleared the floor and the top of the dressers. We took stuff to Goodwill, we mailed books home. (Lord knows I can't bring myself to get rid of books. In ten years, you'll see me on Hoarders. I'll probably die in an earthquake because my books will bury me and nobody will be able to find me. But that's beside the point.) So the van was clean. Praise the Lord, mostly because I didn't have to hear Marc complain anymore after that.
What we did next requires a bit of backstory. When we were in New Jersey walking on the beach after Hurricane Sandy, I had the great fortune to find an iPhone! Of course it was junky beyond belief but growing up poor makes you treasure little finds like that because it's exciting! So my excitement wore off but Marc's remained. He said that we could turn it in to RadioShack and they would give us money for it. I was not optimistic because it was all rusty and a couple days later, our friend took it apart so not only was it rusty and gross looking, but now the back didn't really go on. Marc kept this dumb phone for months before remembering to take it in and when he finally did, they gave him close to $60 for it! Store credit of course, but I expected nothing so that was fantastic! He had wanted to start a podcast so he got a legit headphone set with a mic to one day soon start it. That was in Mississippi, which was back in early March and he never opened it. Lately, he's been trying to narrow his interests to figure out what he wants to do when we get home, and podcasting seemed pretty low on the list, so he decided to return the headphones. This brings us to present-we went to RadioShack to return the $40 dollar headphones. As you know (if you regularly read my blog), our laptop charger was out of commission. One day it just stopped working for no apparent reason so we needed a new one. If you are unfamiliar, they run a standard $100 pretty much wherever you get them. We knew we needed one soon, but we also knew the $40 headphones weren't going to cover the cost and $60 is a lot for us to spend on anything, especially something that we can't eat or put in our gas tank. So we took the headphones back. The receipt said that the last day for returns was 2 weeks prior to when we were there. Sucky. But because we hadn't opened them, they took them back no problem. We didn't even have to grovel! So they added to the refund of 40 something dollars to the $6 that was still on our RS gift card and we walked around just looking at what we might want. Lo and behold, one laptop charger was on sale....for $37.99. Can you believe it!? I mean, I shouldn't be surprised anymore at how God takes care of us, but He still astonishes me. Here is something that is not an essential. Very helpful, yes, but it's not a basic need and yet He provides for us anyways. What a great God.
From there, it was still mid afternoon and we had time before the statehouse closed, so we headed downtown. One of our favorite parts is taking the tour of the statehouses. A lot of times they tell us all the same information-what kind of stone the floors & columns are made of, how many millions of years old the fossil prints in them are & how they got a discount because of the flaws, how much the chandeliers weigh, etc. Sadly for us, there was no tour being given, but we grabbed a self guided tour pamphlet and I pretended like I knew something. (People tell me I'm good at that.) That didn't last very long because, really, all statehouses look alike. Rotunda with statues, senate, congress, sometimes a Supreme Court. This one was left unfinished, furnishing wise. There were almost no statues and very little artwork, but I liked the simpleness of it.
Afterwards, we walked around outside. There was a war memorial that we looked at and just as we were walking up, a street kid came up from the other side with his dog, Reptar. We got to talking and he shared that he didn't exactly believe in God, but that he did believe in something. He wasn't sure what, he just believes in being a good person and not trying to push what you believe on others. Also, he was opposed to anybody telling anybody else that what they believe is wrong. Basically, he's a relativist. He didn't care to know what happened after you die and thought that if there was anything than being a good person would merit him favor. When it came to the question of morality, it was obvious that his ideas didn't hold up to logic. He said that it would be wrong for someone to steal from him so I asked, "But what if, according to the thief, it's right? You said there is no absolute truth." He said, "I see what you're getting at, but I think that people should still do what's good." Yet when I asked him, "Who decides what's good and what isn't?", he basically responded that he does. We talked to him for a few minutes more, asked if he needed anything, and headed on our way.
Let me tell you something about Charleston. Nobody lives there! As beautiful a place as it is, it's probably only that way because there are so few people. I know here and there we talk about not being able to find people, but we really had it rough here. Let me break it down like this-Wyoming was the worst place we've been, people wise. Nobody lives there! And it's so spread out that the people who do live there don't ever come out or congregate in public. The population there was 60,096. Compare that to my hometown of Moreno Valley, which has 197,838 (all numbers as of July 2011). Well, Charleston has a whopping 51,177.  Almost 10,000 less than the hardest place we've been so far! Thankfully, it wasn't as hard to find people here but it also wasn't very easy. We walked around the mall for a bit but it didn't seem like a very good place to be, so instead we parked downtown and walked around there. Again, it was harder for us to find anyone or to seize opportunity. As it got later, we got back in the van and drove around. We wound up at a book store called Books-A-Million to kill time before bed time. Marc & I went our separate ways-me to gardening (because I'm becoming Martha Stewart apparently) and him to film-making. About 20 minutes later, I thought it odd that he had not come to find me yet, but I seized the opportunity to read. Shortly after, I heard this loud laugh come from the opposite side of the store and figured it out. He had found a friend-not uncommon. Finally, when the store was about to close, I put my book down and went to find him. I rounded the corner and wasn't surprised to find him talking, but I was surprised to find him talking to a biker! Not that it was bad or anything, but I don't think I've ever seen him talk to one before. Marc introduced me to his new friend, Jammer, on the way out. He seemed like a nice guy and Marc seemed to really like him as well.
On Saturday, after waking up and having our studies, we headed down to a park that we had seen while driving by. It wasn't very big but we were running out of options. Marc practiced his guitar for a bit and I read a book on church history then tried to figure out this stupid, diabolical Sudoku (that I'm still stuck on). As we got up to leave, disappointed at the lack of people once again, this guy happened to be walking by. Marc stopped him and they got to talking. He said that he believes in God, but doesn't like going to church because he feels judged there. He asked Marc questions like, "Do you have to be baptized to go to heaven?" and other things like that, but mostly they talked about walking the Christian life. Marc offered to baptize him there in the river, but he said he wasn't ready. That would have been a cool story! But seeds were planted and that is our job.
With no ideas on where to go, we went back to Books-A-Million where Marc made more friends. There was a couple there that he got to share a bit with, but they had to go so it didn't go too far. We read for a little while and then went to meet up with our new friend, Jammer. He treated us to dinner at a place called Dwight's. It was a cute little diner and our waitress was great. At one point, she was behind us in the kitchen, and someone yelled to her, "If you have time to lean, you have time to clean," to which she replied firmly, sarcastically, and promptly, "I get paid $2.50 an hour!" I'm assuming she didn't clean, but she was hilarious! We spent probably 3 hours there talking to Jammer. He told us stories, we shared stories with him. It's amazing to see how God really has his hand in everything. He's retired military and he has devoted his life to ministry-he rides with bikers. He's been doing it so long, that he's gained the respect and love of unsaved bikers and he uses the times he hangs out with them to minister to them, pray for them, and just be a light. It really is fantastic. I'm so glad to have met him.
Sunday was definitely an interesting day. In the morning we went to church at a place called Bible Center. It was a nondenominational church and it was nice, but I probably wouldn't attend there if I lived in Charleston. There was nothing wrong with it, it just seemed a bit milky. Afterwards, we went to Jammer's house and he let us shower. Thank the Lord!  Afterwards, we went with him to a small biker church that meets in the basement of the Salvation Army. The people we met there were awesome as well. Afterwards, Jammer treated us to lunch and I got to see my favorite waitress again!
Then, this is where the day gets interesting, we went to a biker clubhouse, a world that not many non bikers get to see inside of. We were privileged to be the guests of Jammer, a guy who they all love and respect. I'm not really sure if there's things about it I'm not supposed to say so out of respect I won't say much. This I will say-I was super nervous! I was going into a world that I knew nothing about. There seemed to be a lot of rules but Jammer assured us that we would be fine, and we were! Although we stuck out like a sore thumb, we met some really great guys who, even as unbelievers, cared about what we were doing and watching out for us. They reassured us to be careful more than once and to watch out out there. We even got to spend a good chunk of time talking to the President, which is a big deal because he's always "guarded". They did end up letting us take a couple of pictures but I'm not allowed to put them online, so when I get home and finish my scrapbook, you're welcome to look through and see a few of the awesome guys that we met! So anyways, that was our experience in the biker clubhouse! The 2 guys we were able to spend time talking to left us with these parting words: "Don't trust anybody." It was a bit of a somber realization that that is the best thing they have to tell us because that seems to be a lesson they wish they would have learned early on.
We were probably only there for 30-45 minutes, it was more for the experience and to get an inside peek into Jammer's world and what he does. Praise the Lord that he has "wheels on the ground" (pun intended) in such a seemingly unreached community. Please pray for his ministry if you get the chance. 
After we left him, it was pretty well evening but we stopped at a local park to see if any opportunity might arise. As expected, not very much, but we hung out for a while, hoping. Just as we went to leave, I got in the van then as Marc was about to get in, he gave me the look of, "I should go talk to that guy. Should I?" So I waved at him as if to say go ahead. They talked for just a couple minutes and from what I understand, he just changed the topic anytime spiritual matters came up.  So that was that. 
The next day, we were meeting up with some friends from Ohio. They were our 16th state, back in June 2012 and while we were there we made friends with this awesome family, the Rogers. Again, if you've read my blog here or there, you've probably seen me plug them. They are in the process of adopting internationally from Ethiopia. It's been a long process and at this point they are just waiting for the company to call them and say, "OK!" That, and they have to finish raising the money. So far they have about $18,000 of the necessary $35,000ish, so they are over half way but still have a ways to go! If you would like to read more about them or their adoption or see how you can help, check out their blog. Oh yeah, do you like coffee? Cause if you do, they have a coffee fundraiser! All you have to do is buy coffee and the company kicks them down with money! How easy is that! You drink coffee anyways! So there it is, my shameless plug that occurs every 5 or 10 blogs. Also, (sorry I know you thought I was done) I have an Etsy shop ( where I crochet things and 100% of the money that comes in from that goes to them. There isn't much on it now but I take requests. I can make baby booties, scarves, beanies of all sizes, heart shaped potholders, flowers, giraffe stuffed animals. Basically, if you can get me a pattern, I can make it. That is all. Plug over.
So we went to see them! We met up halfway to Columbus and had a picnic and walked on some nature trails (one trail, really) and then ended up deciding that a couple of hours wasn't enough. So we followed them home to Columbus and stayed a couple of nights. The freedom of being a vagabond. :)
Ok, the Kentucky blog will be coming up in the next few days. Stay tuned.
Oh, and enjoy these pictures, courtesy of my new laptop charger, courtesy of God. :)
woot woot

it's funny that they had this picture cut out in the visitors center, almost like forshadowing!

the drive there was gorgeous! 

We've officially gotten tired of less than delicious food,
(and we had a gift card) so we got a half dozen eggs and
busted out the stove:



our awesome friend, Jammer

I LOVE this family

 KK's photobomb!

I cannot say this more empatically-

We took the kids for their first fro yo experience.

I think they loved it. :) 

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