God bless this camper home
Susan Scales said she will never forget the images she saw on her television as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfolded along the Gulf Coast in 2005.
I sat and watched on TV everything that was happening there, and I don't know, it changed me," the San Leon resident said.
Her husband, Monty, was equally touched.
So when their church in Bloomington, Ind., asked for volunteers to help with relief efforts, Susan and Monty knew they had to go.
What they didn't know is how much that experience would change their lives. The Scaleses have made on-site disaster relief management a full-time mission. They travel the country in a camper, their home now, and work with volunteers to rebuild lives.
Last fall, they were named RVers of the Year by the Good Sam Club, a national association for recreational vehicle owners based in Englewood, Colo.
The association featured the Scaleses in its January issue of Highways, a magazine with a circulation of nearly 1 million.
The award came as a shock, Monty said, but he and Susan appreciate the chance to encourage others to serve.
If we have the opportunity through this to impact others, it's worth it," he said, adding there's something transforming about recognizing a need and stepping out on faith to meet it. It was an honor."
The RVers award honors someone who not only gives to the RV community, but to the community in general, Good Sam Club membership advisor Sue Bray said.
The club suggested five candidates for the award in 2009 and invited its members to select one for recognition.
Bray said she's in awe of the lengths the Scaleses have gone to so they can help others.
It's amazing," she said. They saw Hurricane Katrina on TV, like we all did, and instead of just sitting there and being horrified or sending a check, they got up and decided to so something."
The Scaleses' initial effort with their church involved a short visit to Pascagoula, Miss., which was devastated by Katrina.
There were so many people who needed help and so many who wanted to help, but no central figure to lead," Susan said.
The Scaleses, who both had worked in the construction industry, returned to their church with a proposal to stay long-term in Mississippi and coordinate relief and reconstruction efforts.
With the church membership's blessings, Susan and Monty left their jobs and committed to one year of service.
Susan's brother loaned them a 144-square foot camper, and a church member gave them a pick-up truck for hauling it.
The Scaleses settled in Mississippi in January 2006, and began their on-the-job training. You have people coming in for help and teams there to volunteer, and you just figure it out," Susan said.
Over time, the couple felt led by God to officially become missionaries. They completed missionary training in Alabama and later were licensed and ordained.
Since serving in Mississippi, Monty and Susan have responded to requests for help from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, an Indiana community struck by flooding and San Leon, where they continue to serve Hurricane Ike survivors. They also have purchased a 27-foot-camper.
Susan said they expect to be in San Leon for quite some time. We're here for long-term recovery on the construction end," she said.
We've been in 50 some homes (for repairs) since Ike hit, and 20 are going up now. We've put a lot of people back in their homes, but there are so many who need it."
Jesus Christ said the second greatest commandment from God is loving one's neighbor as much as oneself, Monty said.
I always wondered, what if you don't love yourself," Monty said.
I've learned if we forget about ourselves and take care of others, God takes care of the rest. I think I've found someone I like."
Susan said she remembers one woman stepping off a bus and adjusting her wig.
She said, I told my doctor I'm missing my chemotherapy for one week because I came here to help.'
"I tell people, 'You come here and volunteer for one week, and it will change you.' "
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