Trip to Tennessee

You can ask people who know me and they will tell you that I will speak of how proud I am to be a Tennessee hillbilly. I grew up in those beautiful mountains of East Tennessee. Opportunities to return home always recharge me and fill me with bittersweet memories of friends and place that I don't often get to visit. But this past week my family and I were able to return home for a short time. We traveled through Kingsport down to Dayton to visit friends from my former parish. I spent Wednesday with the JROTC at Rhea Central Highschool to say thank you for their phenomenal support for my work in Kirkuk during my deployment. They where instrumental in the collecting and mailing of thousands of cases of Little Debbie cakes to my deployed location for the troops and airmen manning the Airbase.

I spoke with all five classes showing them some picture of the places and people in Kirkuk and then spoke of the general mission and the work of chaplains in a deployed location. I truly enjoyed my time with them. There are some very sharp young people there, many of whom are planning to enter military service this summer and fall. I believe our military will benefit from having them.

I want to thank M&T for having us down. It was truly great to see old friends. I am very proud of Little T who is giving success a whole new definition. This young man is blowing college away and already is developing a reputation with certain government leadership as someone worth listening to and depending upon.

I stopped by and saw my friend Kevin at his cafe Jacob Meyers Deli. It was great when I left over two years ago. It has only gotten better. They have now installed a great cappuccino machine. I truly urge that if you pass through Dayton, to enjoy this stop downtown as one of the highlights that Dayton has to offer. It was sad though to see how Dayton seems to be in a time of downsizing. Many local businesses have closed up including our favorite place for dinner at the Western Sizzler. But word has it that TVA is bringing in lots of folks so property values are starting to rise and I suspect businesses will be coming back if so. Spring City has changed a great deal and is looking great. I am also proud of the work that Manny has down with the local YMCA. It is looking great too.

I think that one of the highlights of the trip was to visit with the Engel family. I was honored to do a baptism for one of the children in the family. I presented them with coins from Andrews AFB where I am stationed. I presented the couple who were most instrumental in starting the collection of Little Debbie cakes for Kirkuk with a flag flown during one of our medivacs from Kirkuk to Ballad. It was a special moment and bittersweet for I find that I truly miss these people. They were a blessing to my ministry in Rhea County, continued to bless my ministry in Kiruk, and are a true blessing to all they work with and who call them friends. I wish I could always have parishes filled with Christian servants like these.

Passing back through Tennessee, I spent a day with my mother taking a few hours to run an old mountain trail that I used to run in college. I miss that too. I'm still a bit stiff and sore. Being 40 isn't like being 30. Who knew?

We also made sure to hit the Super Walmart while in town. We have shopping in DC, but the stores are usually trashed and it is very difficult to find tasteful items that are not hanging damaged on the rack. Plus people are just rude to one another here. So we took advantage of good old fashioned southern shopping and laid in the clothes and some other things for the kids. All in all a good trip to the store.