Veggie Oil Ratings

So I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but a while back we added a segment on the left hand column of our website called “currently running our RVs on vegetable oil from . . . ”  Next to the name of the restaurant we pumped the grease from is a number in parentheses.  Tim and I have a rating system we use when discussing grease.  Usually when we pull up behind a restaurant to look in the grease bin, only one of us gets out to look inside.  When the lone scout returns the discussion usually goes a little something like this: “It looks like around a 7, about 50 gallons.  Do you want to go in and ask or do you want me to?”  Our rating system goes as follows:

1 – straight fat, usually makes Tim dry heave

2 – some grease, some fat, probably smells terrible and stays with you for a while

3 – possibly garbage or something else (we saw a dead bird in one grease bin)

4 – some grease, but a fatty sludge floating in it as well

5 – this is the lowest rating that we actually use.  A 5 is not fatty, but very dark.  The managers of these restaurants get the most out of their grease, but hey, it still drives.

6 – slightly lighter, and no fat

7 – an amber color, looks a little closer to what fuel should look like

8 – similar to a nice pale ale, but I wouldn’t drink it

9 – we call a “9” — Qdoba grease.  This stuff looks like honey, and drives just as smooth

10 – SVO or straight vegetable oil — we’ve never gotten this stuff for free.

Not all nationwide chains have the same rating.  For example, we looked in Sonic grease bins a dozen times and didn’t want anything to do with it, but the Sonic in Rock Springs, WY, was an 8.  One nationwide chain has continually recieved the same low rating – Outback Steakhouse.  Take it from us, beware of the bloomin’ onion.

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Recharging

So we spent 5 days at a friend’s house in Sparta, MI, just outside of Grand Rapids.  It was a great time of vacationing and recharge for all of us.  I think we all had some good time of sleeping, watching football, eating, reading, having quiet time with Jesus, fishing, and playing on all the fun toys they had.  Thank you Hendriksens for the fellowship, fun and generosity!

During this time the Lord reminded me of many things and I thought I should share.

Why are we doing this?  Because we love Jesus and we want more of Him.  Because we want to share the Gospel and the Hope that transformed our own lives.  Because we want our lives and our character to be a reflection of the One that saved us from ourselves.  Because we want to give God an opportunity to work out more kinks in our relationship with Him and with others.  Because we have

What are we learning?  That God provides.  That God can put 4 completely different people together and teach them to love one another.  That prayer works!  That the less you have, the more you can be thankful for!  That God is a God of diversity.  The only thing we have to give is the Jesus who lives in us and works through us.  That working with the homeless, the poor, and the needy reminds us of where our Hope comes from.  That walking with the homeless is like walking in Jesus’ shoes.  That living in an intentional community allows for accountability, fellowship, diversity and growth (and there’s not much of a chance that any of us will go back to living on our own).  That “ministry” is not formal, it is your life and how you choose to let Jesus use you.

There is a whole lot more we could say about why we are out here or what we are learning.  I think we would all agree that we could all come back after a year of traveling and still be in the same place as when we left.  It is all about what you are willing to give and receive, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Thank you all for following us to this point!  On to Cleveland, Ohio!

Seren for MSM

Reba Place

Jenn and I had the awesome opportunity to stay at Reba Place Intentional Christian Community for the last week and a half. I have never felt more welcome by so many different families and individuals than as I did at Reba.

 Reba Place Church

Reba Place is an intentional Christian community located in Evanston, IL just north of Chicago. The community was started in 1957 by three individauls who wanted to share life together and live out Acts 2:44-45. Now they have grown to around 100 people who intereact within their community. To learn more visit www.rebaplacefellowship.org

Staying at Reba,  Jenn and I almost never ate alone. We were always invited over to a new house for meals. Thank you Reba for teaching us how a Christian community can work and reach out to its neighborhood.

Jesus People USA

The Coulombes had a great time at Jesus People USA last week!

We were welcomed by Anna, the gal in charge of hospitality of volunteers and guests, and directed to our humble abode that our family would be living in for the next 7 days.

We then took a couple days to settle in and get adjusted to the new schedule and new surroundings.  They provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for all the residents, guests, and volunteers.  What a treat!  Having our own apartment AND being served each meal was like vacation to us!

During last week we “did life” with Jesus People.  Each day was filled with meeting new people, eating with everyone in the cafeteria, participating in the food bag program at the shelter, watching the kids all play together on the playground, figuring out the bus system, visiting some of the Chicago city parks, doing laundry in the basement of JPUSA late at night, and joining everyone for church on Sunday.

One of the biggest things that stood out to us was the diversity of JPUSA.  The top three levels of the building was an assisted living community that Jesus People took care of and lived with.  A group of students had just been welcomed to start the Project 12 program that is an intensive discipleship program for newcomers.  Then there are all the folks who have made the commitment to live there and call it “home”.  Many of them had been there for 10+ years, raising their families there and taking part in the common work that supports the financial burdens of the community.  All these people consisted of whites, blacks, goths, punks, travelers, children, young families, elderly, jocks, artists, musicians, hippies, and even a pirate who greeted Andy with “Ahoy!”.  It was a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God.

Honestly, our time at Jesus People was a place that ministered to us.  We were blessed by their gracious hospitality and welcoming spirits.  We left knowing that we had made friends and kindred spirits.  We were encouraged by their stories and what the Lord had taught them through living in a community of believers.  They had experienced ups and downs, times of passion, times of complacency, change, division, mistakes made within their community, joy, heartache, and many, many times of working through differences.  Someone made a statement that really summed it up, “You either come and learn or you realize you are not ready and leave.”  Community is not easy but can bring more joy than you could ever experience on your own.

Serenity for Mustard Seed Ministries

Helping out at Cornerstone Community Outreach

We had a great time helping out at Jesus People’s homeless shelter and food bank.  They have a food bag program on Wednesdays and let folks go through and fill their sacks with lots of packaged foods, some produce, some meats, and possibly some eggs, cheese and milk.  Random grocery stores and other food businesses have offered to give some of the items that they cannot sell anymore but are still perfectly good.  I was amazed at the amount of food that was brought in.  We handed out water and juice with the kids giving us the extra help we needed.  The director of the shelter was walking around prior to opening telling everyone how much of each product should be given out to each person saying, “we’re trying to feed the entire neighborhood here people!”  And it seemed like we did, over 275 people walked through in two hours.  It was chaotic, and at times stressful, but underneath the chaos we met Ira who had been volunteering at Cornerstone Community Outreach for the past two years helping with the food bag program.  She is over 70 and still wants to serve others.

I was even able to carry the bags of groceries back to a lady’s apartment named Nancy, she lived about 10 blocks away.  She had been through some rough times, but was out of the shelter and now lived in a halfway house for homeless folks.  She needed help because she just had surgery to repair the ACL ligament in her knee and to repair the cornia in her right eye.  She was on crutches and needed some help.  At first Nancy was hesitant to speak with me, but eventually she started to tell her story and talk a little more about her issues and problems.  She simply needed someone to listen to her talk about her struggles.  I carried the bags all the way to her apartment and she walked me back downstairs, thanking me profusely and talking about how Jesus was with her — the funny thing, I never said anything about Jesus — until then.  I was then able to talk to her about her walk with God, where she went to church, if she had Jesus in her heart, she did by the way.  All of this started by simply listening.

Andy for Mustard Seed Ministries

The Big Buster Fiasco

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news from Illinois, it is raining in Chicago.  Day and night, night and day it is raining.  Here is a picture of the flooding.

So we needed somewhere to park Big Buster because we were headed to Jesus People USA for a week, and there isn’t much RV parking in downtown Chicago.  We were offered a place to park by a guy who is part of Reba Place Fellowship and owns a vacant lot in Evanston.  He showed us were it was and then drove off.  The whole place was washed over in mud, so you couldn’t tell where the asphalt ended and where the dirt started.  I tried to keep it as close to the right as possible, but about 30 ft. in were branches from a tree that I had to avoid.  As I steered left we began to sink.  We got all the way up to our axle and storage containers along the entire driver side.  The view from the back had us tilted almost to where it looked like it would just tip over.  I spent 2 hours digging out the entire driver side so that when the tow truck pulled us out they didn’t scrape the undercarriage.  The tow company had to get the “extra-duty” truck, but they got it out. No damage.

I was thinking as I helplessly looked at the back of the RV tilting to one side: What if the earth swallowed up Big Buster? What if this was the end of our trip?  His answer: I would point you in a different direction, I would bless you in a different way, the world would not end, and in some ways, it might end up being better, because you would have a story to tell. Big Buster (unfortunately) will be destroyed by moths and rust, our God is much bigger than that box I was putting Him in.  The Lord rushed in and gave me a sense of peace and almost tranquility about the situation.  God is good – ALL THE TIME!

This is what Serenity and the kids did while I was digging.

And although the Lord didn’t take away Big Buster, we still have a story.

Andy for Mustard Seed Ministries

Chicago

We’ve had a wild start to Chicago!  Finding places for our rvs has proven to be difficult but I think we are both finally situated in Evanston, just north of Chicago.  We have been staying with the folks at Reba Place (an intention Christian community) and they have been very hospitable to us!

The plan for this week is a little different than normal, in that the Fidanzos will be staying here in Evanston with Reba Place while the Coulombes head down to Jesus People USA to stay for the week.  Both places are intentional Christian communities and both places pool their money together to redistribute to all who are in need.  You can check out their websites to get a better idea of who they are and why they do what they do.  They are very “Kingdom-minded” and choose to live this way because of what the Lord has shown them through community and living out the Gospel.

We are looking forward to giving updates!

Pictures of Big Buster’s fiasco soon to come!