Work Days One and Two

Marcel’s House (Michael Petris)

Today started out with a bang as our entire group experiencing an old fashioned New Orleans mass. It was delightful. the service was short but full of life with singing and  love. After mass we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then set off for the work sight. We were met by a mold infested mess of a house that looked utterly overwhelming. The owner of the shambolic house was the most joyful man I have ever met. Always smiling and always laughing, he inspired us to work on. Just like eating an elephant, we cleared that house one bite at a time. It was truly amazing seeing the teamwork and hard work of my fellow missionaries. Aside from the sweltering heat and the oppressive humidity, it was a great day, and I am looking forward to fixing up this amazing man’s house.

Leo’s House (Garrett Olson)

After spending the greater part of the day at Leo’s house, I have learned how to decipher the deepest of Creole accents. Aside from this, my heart was warmed knowing that what we were doing was helping someone who needed it. This man, Leo, is a great guy. Veteran, grandpa, and all around knowledgeable guy. Joe and I spent the day tarring his roof. Cecilia said she could see the heat waves coming off of the shingles. It was hard, detailed sweaty work. I accidentally stepped into all of the tar and left many foot prints on the roof (I guess you could say I left my mark). This made it very confusing and difficult to see where we had tarred the roof. The reason why we were tarring the roof is because the overhang for the porch leaked. Eventually at around 3:00, a torrent of rain fell upon us. The test had begun. I checked the roof: status: not leaking. However, 30 minutes later with denser rain, it started to dribble. This discovery was disheartening yet important. We had toiled and sweated and were basically tarred and weathered and beat by the end. Yet our objective hadn’t been achieved. Despite this frustrating problem, I know that through working and working and working, that leak will go away. This taught me that despite working hard and being disappointed, success will happen. It just takes time.

Day 2 (Joe Burroughs)

At Leo’s house there was a lot of work to do involving patching his roof so that rain wouldn’t leak through it. There was also a lot of fire damage on his back porch from a fire bomb that someone through at his house intending to burn it down. Garret and I spent about half of the day re-tarring the roof to stop the leakage and then we also got some work done reinforcing the support beams on his porch that were damaged in the fire. Cece and Shelby worked with Liz (one of the CMT workers) on painting the deck a fresh coat of white paint. After a few hours of hot, humid work, everyone sat down for lunch and enjoyed some fried chicken and beans made by our amazing host Leo. The whole day was a lot of hard work but now Leo’s house looks really great, and to us it is worth it. To be able to give back to Leo who builds other people’s houses was a blessing. Simply getting to know him was a sacrament in itself.

Nick – from a Youth Minister’s perspective:

Perspective is an interesting thing. For most of, if not all of the students on this trip, Hurricane Katrina is almost strictly a history lesson, or something that adults talk about when we want to age ourselves (essentially, this was in black and white to them.)

From the locals perspective, it is THE metric for how everyday life is, even today. Since we’ve dropped our bags off in our dormitories four days ago, every local we’ve run into frames everything around when Katrina happened, whether it was “Man, this neighborhood before Katrina was incredible,” or “Yeah, I really liked my wife – she passed away right before Katrina hit us – I really loved her.”

Prior to this preparing for this mission trip, my perspective of Katrina was that of a high school student who: knew that it rained a lot, that it destroyed people’s homes, that Lil Wayne put out a song about it, and that one time Kanye West said that one crazy thing.

Since we’ve touched down, I’ve been able to empathize on a level that I didn’t think was possible. One of the great things about being in the South, and specifically New Orleans is how rich the Faith life is here – even if it’s just the undertones of the culture and how people address one another. In Seattle, we’re very familiar with “Seattle Freeze.” Keep your head down, nod when you begrudgingly make eye contact, but otherwise keep everything (including your Faith) to yourself. The past few days have been the most opposite end of the spectrum that I have ever encountered. Strangers openly address each other as “sir and ma’am,” offer up prayer intentions for one another, and have no trouble wearing their faith on their sleeve, not just because times are hard or they need the prayers, but it’s because of who they are.

Over the last three days on our work site, I’ve witnessed God’s grace in ways that I would have never felt them if I just stayed local and didn’t leave the comfortable suburbs I reside in.

There is a sense of content and sincere gratitude simply for waking up in the morning and having food on the table, even if there are parts of the yard still covered in seashells from a flooding that (for our teens at least) was a lifetime ago.

I pray this city and it’s citizen’s experience a quicker recovery than they are currently experiencing (12 years and counting is a long wait to get your home and life back). It’s beyond encouraging to see those with few material goods have some of the most faith-rich lives of anyone I have ever met.

Also worth mentioning: our kids are as good as it gets. I could not be more proud of a group of teenagers who have humbled themselves for a greater cause – even if they only know it in black and white. 😉

 

Day 3 (Joe Burroughs)

At Leo’s house there was a lot of work to do involving patching his roof so that rain wouldn’t leak through it. There was also a lot of fire damage on his back porch from a fire bomb that someone through at his house intending to burn it down. Garret and I spent about half of the day re-tarring the roof to stop the leakage and then we also got some work done reinforcing the support beams on his porch that were damaged in the fire. Cece and Shelby worked with Liz (one of the CMT workers) on painting the deck a fresh coat of white paint. After a few hours of hot, humid work, everyone sat down for lunch and enjoyed some fried chicken and beans made by our amazing host Leo. The whole day was a lot of hard work but now Leo’s house looks really great, and to us it is worth it. To be able to give back to Leo who builds other people’s houses was a blessing. Simply getting to know him was a sacrament in itself.

 

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