There were some downright fun parts about our Katrina trip. Steve (aka. Thor), my coworker wrote a good piece for the company newsletter that has been republished on Julie’s blog (my other coworker who was on the trip)
Read Thor’s Random Employee Story of the Month, its mostly about the fun we had while driving to and fro in Mississippi.
Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that you spend with your family. But not this year for me, I spent it with a bunch of people that I wouldn’t have known if it were not for this trip.
If ya’ll have been paying attention then you already know that this trip was over Thanksgiving break. Of course that meant Thanksgiving Day as well. Our fith full day down on the Gulf Coast was Thanksgiving. It had always been a question as to what exactly we were going to do that day. It was decided that we would’t work a full day, but we were so excited about finishing our projects that there was no way we were giong to take the whole day off. We started the day by heading over to the next town, Long Beach, MS. That town was so bad off that you had to have a special pass to get in. We somehow managed to scrounge one up, and went to a church that was practically dead before the storm, but the hurricane destroyed the inside and it doesn’t look like the congregation was even big enough to make it worth rebuilding. But another group was down there trying to rebuild it, praying with a “If we build it they will come” mentality. Around noon we were headed back to Pass Christian. On the way back we saw a cross in the clouds, that was a nice reminder on Thanksgiving day. Not long after we got back to the church 80 Thanksgiving meals were delivered in styrophome “to go” boxes. It was tasty. After we finished that we made a quick turnaround to get out to our job sites. We went back to the Alicia St house we had been working on, we were hoping to get it done so we could do one more house before we left town on Saturday. So we all worked quickly to get most of tht done. A few stayed back to spray bleach to kill the mildew while the rest of us went to start on another house.
By how we were all tired not just from working a hard half day, but after five days of work, I know I was starting to drag and can only imagine that others were too. Someone from Steve Thorson’s group had heard about a fire station the next town up that was serving thanksgiving. While the official plan was just to eat at God’s Katrina Kitchen, our group, Steve’s group and Dr. Olsen’s group were willing to give it a try. And why not, we had heard that there were going to be lots of pies. Keith and Michelle also joined us. So we head there. Now this fire station was considerably smaller than God’s Katrina Kitchen, so I got out of the van and asked if they had room for 21. They assured us they did and would not let us entertain thoughts otherwise. It turns out they really did, because besides us, only a family of four showed up. As we were walking in, they started moving everything around, they had pushed a bunch of tables together so that we would all sit at one big table. They ditched their plan to serve buffet style and instead set the food, in large aluminum cooking trays, in front of us. This group serving was made up of students from Lancaster Bible College, who had met up with a congregation from Maryland and had teamed up with the fire department. Those from up north had travled down with the primary goal of serving Thanksgiving Dinner. The bunch of amateur waiters and waitresses did a great job. The smile on their faces as they got us more tea and instisting that we had not had enough pie yet, really rejuvinated me. They were interested in all our stories and it seems like everyone found something in common with someone in our group. It was also one of the best tasting thanksgivings I had had, the sweep potatoes and stuffing we’re particularly delicious. It was so nice to be served after a week of serving other. That thanksgiving dinner, with what a week earlier would have been 20 strangeers really rejuvenated me and I could have worked for another week. And I count that as my best Thanksgiving yet.
On monday, the students from the trip shared a little bit about the trip in Chapel at Asbury College. A lot of good stories, prayers and fashion.
Caroline, one of the girls in my group, shared about two people, Keith & Michelle, we met while down there. She sums up their story very well. If you have six minutes and some speakers, take a listen.
Our first full day in Mississippi was Sunday. We needed to get the trip off on the right foot and since half of us were staying at a church there was no way we could pass up on the service.
Our home base for the entire week was The First United Methodist Church of Pass Christian. All the girls from our group were staying there. A great guy by the name of Mike Zimmerman had come down from the Mercy Center in North Carolina to lead, and most of all organize, a variety of projects for the stream of groups that would be helping in Pass Christian. Now this was a small church to start with, but luckily the Lord spared it from the worst of the storm. It had only two feet of water inside during the hurricane, and that may sound like a lot but compared to everywhere else that was the least amount of water I heard about. All of the walls, including the interior ones, were made of cinderblock, so besides having the carpeting pulled up, half the pews and everything in the extra rooms destroyed, it was a working church. But because there are so few people who are living in Pass Christian, now the already small church only had a handful of parishioners showing up for sunday services. So it was about a dozen locals and 80 of us from Wilmore on sunday morning.
And it really got to me. Seeing the locals who had been through so much, having virtually everything they owed destroyed, still there praising God, its was truly something and brought a tear to my eye. The songs were good, and there were ones I had sung so many times before, but I saw them in a new light. “On God the solid rock I stand”, has such a literal meaning and makes Matthew 7:24-27 more than a parable. “It is well with my soul” cause it sure ain’t well with my house. To believe that “great is thy faithfulness” when you look outside and couldn’t really object to a non-believer thinking “how can God be good if He let this happen?” Truly amazing and reminded me of a similar reaction I had this past Easter. Commonplace songs breaking through the monotony of routine.
Thursday morning, being Thanksgiving, we had another service. It was in the next town over, Long Beach, were the destruction was even worse. To illustrate my point, we drove by a sign for a “Kangaroo” (how the sign was still there I don’t know) but someone in my van asked what’s a Kangaroo? It was destroyed so bad we couldn’t even tell it was a gas station.
After the service we were ready to get started. There is something about meeting the people who’s town you are going to be helping. It pushed me over the edge and not made me willing to “just take it easy before tomorrow”.
As for the work on sunday (which the trip was not about, something you’ll hear more about later)? The one time I needed the measuring tape I brought, I didn’t have it with me. I built some shelves at a distribution center and got eaten alive but what we would soon dub “F’ing Gnats”. Did anyone knew gnats bite? Well I sure didn’t, but I did end up finding the big dipper on my arm.