Traveling in an RV is different than traveling in a minivan.
There, now that we cleared that up, we can move on. You realize that you can turn your mind on auto-pilot when you are driving a regular car/truck. Not so much when driving the RV.
We were blessed to rent an RV from a very kind couple on the east coast of FL. They were kind enough to entrust their motorhome to our family for a greater purpose. We are on a mission.
This Patch Tour started off with a couple of goals in mind. First, we wanted to inspire orphan care networks across the US and multiply our efforts to train 500 churches by 2020 (we started at 220). We set out to accomplish that by providing custom orphan care strategies through these training events across the US.
For the past eight years, we’ve been working hard to get the necessary resources to churches in order to have a flourishing, intentional foster care and global orphan care ministry. Orphan care is SO much more than just fostering and adoption. It’s more than just visiting orphans in another country or in your hometown. If you could spend eight hours with me (like some brave advocates around the country do), you would see that the Church is the answer to the orphan crisis on so many different levels. 100% of the church can be engaged in some way.
When we left for Atlanta on August 7th, we did so knowing that we would not return home until November 10th. That’s a daunting thought, especially in a 26 ft. RV. Yes, our house in FL is pretty small, but you have to really like the people you are with when you will live together for three months in a 26 ft. home. Fortunately for our family, we like to be around each other and haven’t gone completely over the sanity edge….yet. I realize there is plenty of time for that to happen.
The first stop on the Tour was a trip to my parent’s house. This overnight stop would allow us to start out slow and steady (with a home-cooked meal, bed and shower!) Then next day, we left Atlanta with a BANG. A lightning show. A big thunderstorm slowed us down just a bit, but thankfully, like Noah and his family entering the ark, the skies waited to open up until we were all loaded up, in the RV, ready to head to Knoxville, TN for our first training. My parents were gracious hosts, a trend that we would begin to appreciate as we began our travels across the US.
Can you imagine leaving your home for three months in an RV and only having one night reserved? Yep. That’s how we roll.
We decided the best bet in Knoxville would be to ask to stay at the church where I would be training the next morning. They were gracious to allow us to do that. As we pulled up to the church in the beautiful mountains of Tennessee that evening, our kids shot off of the RV like calves released from the stall and started catching all the fireflies that lit up the beautiful hillside. I wish you could have heard the explosion of joy that came from them as they darted from place to place, trying to catch just one. Simply being in a new place with such basic things like catching fireflies is one of the many reasons we have been excited about this ministry journey with our family. (We obviously homeschool. That is how we are able to pull this Tour off – stay tuned for the “Adventure Kids” as they report on the day off education excursions and tell some incredible stories along the way).
Of course, when new to RV’ing, there has to be some surprises along the way. You just hope that they are minimal. One such incident happened the night before my first training. At about 2am, as we are sleeping peacefully in the parking lot of this church, an ear-piercing, loud beep begins to sound. Roused out of our sleep, we notice that the CO2 alarm was going off. Being new to the RV thing, our initial assumption was that our RV was filling up with CO2 and that in a matter of moments, we were about to all drift off into a sleepy dream state. Then we remembered our training! Because we were able to walk through many of the “scenarios” that were bound to happen on the trip with the RV owners and with our friend, Lori, at home, we were able to fix the problem in minutes instead of hours. Mark one win down for the Gillis’!
Kristen Miller of KAFCAM was our amazing host in Knoxville. She did such a knockout job pulling together churches in the area for this training. She and her organization have such a passion to make a difference in the Knoxville area. What’s great about this meeting is that we already have a wonderful orphan care network in KAFCAM to point churches to. Our training always enhances those local partnerships.
And our hope is that we can help make that network stronger by providing valuable resources, custom strategies, and unique insights to these church advocate leaders. Great things are ahead for these amazing advocates!
We stayed at our first state park in Kentucky. Of course, we pulled up later in the day which makes the best of places look creepy. Fortunately, we were by a lake, a dam, and there was a wicked storm on the way. OK, so it may have caught us by surprise a bit.
Have you ever been in an RV in a storm? Rain drops sound like they are a foot in diameter and they ping like on a tin roof. It’s really pretty cool to listen to….unless it is accompanied by heavy wind and close lightning.
Throughout the night, we kept checking our storm app to see if we were going to be flooded. Indeed there was flooding in the area since it just kept raining. But we agreed that we should be OK since we are in a low-lying area next to a lake and a dam. He, he.
We figured we would be alright to go to sleep after checking the radar a hundred times and seeing no imminent danger of tornadoes or flash flooding in our immediate area.
Then the power went out. Well…that’s a a new one.
What to do now? Since we were at a state park, we decided to call it in. The fine people that answered at the power company asked where I was calling from. I told them and they had no idea where it was…..a state park…their state. That should be a given, right? Now I began to feel like we were in the Twilight Zone. So, I stayed up about an hour trying to walk whoever was on the other end of the line through the process of finding our campground. Again, fortunate for us, they got the power back on two hours later and called to wake us up and tell us (!%$*).
At this point, I was starting to understand the pattern. Whenever I had a big speaking engagement the following day, I would be given every road bump to totally frustrate and exhaust me before I actually got to the event. Understanding that there was a very spiritual side to all of this, I began to quietly ask God to stretch out His protective hand over us as we traveled, to bring a calm during the storms (and interruptions) of life.
He has done just that. We trust Him with every twist, every turn.
We got up to travel about 30 minutes to meet with Darren Washausen and the Orphan Care Alliance of Kentucky. When he and I spoke on the phone weeks prior, we both were wondering how this would work. They are working with the Governor, Focus on the Family, CAFO and others to make a tremendous difference in their state. They are knocking it out of the park. I began to wonder myself if this was going to be beneficial for them since they had SO many resources at their disposal and a number of great scheduled events already.
As I began the training with Darren and his staff, I began to sense that there were definitely areas that our ministry could add value to theirs. We kind of all realized during the meeting that there were certain insights that would be of great value to their ministry. I must tell you that it felt really good to know that we could be a part of serving and helping the Orphan Care Alliance of Kentucky reach more churches in order to serve more vulnerable children and families. I came out of this meeting imagining the impact that this Kingdom-minded meeting would produce across Kentucky and Indiana. Now we have a strong relationship with a like-minded ministry partner.
When no one cares who gets the credit, so much more is accomplished!
More updates on the way soon! Thank you to our Tour Sponsors and everyone who has given to this ministry to allow us to bring this vital orphan care training to churches in communities across the US.
Thank you for following our journey! Can’t wait to share our next post….
“These blogs are being written in record time during this Tour, so I apologize for any mistakes ahead of time!”