Part 7 Final Installation
I had no idea that 2005 would include two more water-related disasters that would further shape my heart. August 2005 brought Hurricane Katrina to the New Orleans area. We’re two hundred miles west and had no wind or rain. However, thousands of evacuees flooded our area.
Dry Creek Camp had a history of providing ministry to hurricane evacuees, normally from the Cameron (La) coast. The year before we’d had our first our first New Orleans guests. (Hurricane Ivan)
Katrina brought these city folks back with hundreds of their friends and family. We had about 400 evacuees comprised of a Black church, a Hispanic church, and a combination of folks from all walks and backgrounds. We expected them to be with us for three to four days.
Then the levees broke. Our camp had a decision to make. Do we turn these folks out and continue our normal patterns of retreats and events? Our staff and board felt strongly that we must and should minister to these folks. We named our evacuation center “The City of Hope” and set up a town council and full-time evacuation ministry. It’s unbelievable what happened over the next three weeks.
We laugh that the evacuees would still be there if Hurricane Rita hadn’t come. This bad little sister of Katrina hit SW Louisiana hard in late September. We made the tough decision to keep our evacuees and rode out the storm together. (I wouldn’t do that again.) We were left without water and electricity for weeks so our evacuees began scattering to the four winds.
Of course, I had to write a book. It’s called Hearts across the Water and details these three 2005 disasters and the untold heartwarming stories from them.
2006 continued to be a year of growth at the Camp. However, I began to sense a release from my responsibilities as manager. A comment from a coworker and close friend troubled me, “Curt, when you’re out speaking, we wonder if you’re promoting Dry Creek Camp or Curt Iles.”
I sought God’s will and felt a tugging from the Holy Spirit that I’d completed my assignment. To stay longer would prevent God from continuing the work He was doing at the camp
I had a wonderful young assistant, Todd Burnaman, whom I’d mentored to lead the camp. He’d shown he was ready, so I stepped aside.
I felt led to pursue speaking and writing full time. DeDe prayed with me and we made a conscious decision to make this step. It wasn’t the smartest financial decision. I was too young for either of my retirements and for the first time in my life I’d not have a steady check.
However, we felt God leading and that is all that matters.
I now speak about one hundred times a year at everything from churches, schools, civic clubs, prisons, and mission trips. I’ve just finished my tenth book and my catalog now includes short stories, three historical fiction novels, and a childrens book. I write to glorify God and believe in the statement of the great reformer Luther, “If you want to change your world, pick up a pen.”
During these last six years, DeDe and I have traveled together on three African trips: Ethiopia, South Africa, and Liberia. In each setting, we’ve worked closely with IMB personnel, Baptist groups, and native pastors. Additionally, we seek to minister in all areas of Acts 1:8 ministry. We’ve worked with refugees in Fort Worth, churches in the Black Hills, South Dakota area, as well as connecting with ongoing New Orleans’ works.
I’ve made two recent trips to Rwanda/Democratic Congo. War torn eastern Congo is an area that gripped my heart and which I feel closely connected to. I sense the great needs of Africa as well as see what God is doing there. I’m excited that our church is actively seeking a partnership with an unengaged people group.
My greatest ministry location is the community where I’ve always lived. I know the people, ‘language’ and culture. I seek to be involved in activities where I can minister to local folks. My most satisfying area is through my association with Dry Creek Cemetery. I am vice president of the board and my job is helping families select their burial places. It is humbling to walk beside folks in their time of grief. This has led to my involvement in about 15-20 funerals per year as either the preacher or eulogist. Many of these opportunities are to non-church families.
All three of our sons are now married and all are serving the Lord. They’ve blessed us with five wonderful grandchildren. DeDe and I have been blessed with a special marriage. Our personalities are diverse but our goals mesh. I can truly say I’ve never loved her more in these thirty-two years of officially sharing life. We’ve gone through every high and low of living and come out stronger.
As I close this narrative, I must voice one of my biggest concerns: how does this leading towards two years of overseas service match with the momentum of my growing writing ministry? Here is where I stand: we feel led to pursue this opportunity of serving as Masters/ISC missionaries. It’s been on our hearts for years and we’re going to move forward until God closes the door.
If he doesn’t, we’ll be on the field. I like what my literary agent said on this, “If you feel God leading, you’d better go. I won’t lie that two years away isn’t ideal, but you can write and blog wherever you are.”
I’m excited to see how this whole thing is going to work out.
I firmly believe in this statement, “With God, the best is always yet to come.”
I’m uncomfortable reading over this. However, I strongly feel God’s leading to share it publically. May it encourage some fellow struggler, remind young men and women of God’s faithfulness. That is my hope and prayer.