Saturday, June 30, 2007
On Wednesday night I went as usual to reset our cards. Melissa again smiled, and asked about our day to which I replied that it was our last day. Her voice took on a little bit of a sad note as she said "Are y'all leaving us tomorrow?" I said that we were headed out to New Orleans in the morning and then on the plane for home. Melissa stated that she too was leaving the next day to go home to Memphis. When I said that it sounded like fun, she gave me a funny little smile and said "Well, the reason I'm going home isn't for fun." As we talked a little more Melissa revealed that she was going home because she has breast cancer. Her surgery is on Monday. My immediate reaction was to tell Melissa that our whole group would be praying for her. Little was I to know that God have something even more powerful in mind.
Yo Momma and other ladies in the church have been knitting prayer shawls for people for the last couple of years. They start knitting the shawls, not knowing who they may be given too. Yo Momma had brought a prayer shawl along with her to work on, with the intentions of giving it to one of our team members, but she wasn't quite sure that it was the right shawl for this team member. But Thursday morning, as our team gathered for the last group meeting, Yo Momma brought the shawl intending for the team to pray over it before we left. As we were sharing prayer requests for the day I told the group about Melissa's coming operation. From across the room Yo Momma caught my eye and mouthed the words "This shawl is for Melissa". We immediately gathered around the shawl, each holding a part of the shawl and prayed for Melissa.
Soon after our group meeting broke up Melissa walked past our room. We quickly called her in. I looked her in the eye and started to cry. I shared that we had prayed for her that morning and about the prayer shawl ministry. We all started crying as we pulled out the shawl, telling her that we had prayed over it and hoped that it would bring her comfort and hope as she went through surgery and recovery. Melissa kept saying over and over "Thank you so much, thank you so much." It was at that moment that I knew that God had planned this from the beginning. That we were supposed to be a witness of God's love, compassion and peace to this one person. Melissa's hugs spoke of the relief of knowing she was not alone in her journey. Her watery smile was a testimony God's timing, not our own.
On Monday, Melissa will be undergoing surgery. Would you pray for her? Pray for the surgeons and for her family as they support her in this scary time. Also pray that Melissa will feel the love of God every time she wraps up in her prayer shawl, that she will remember that a group of Californians are praying for her and hope to meet up with her again someday, whether that be in Mississippi or someplace even more spectacular.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Someone asked me today if I was glad to be home. I had to stop and think about it for a minute. While it's nice to be in my own space again, I can't honestly say that I'm glad to be home. While I appreciate my home, my thoughts are with those who have been living in FEMA trailers (think a medium size fifth wheel trailer) for almost two years, cramming their families into this small space. I think of the families who haven't sat down around a dinner table since Katrina simply because there isn't room. We did good work but there is still so much to do. The last thing Miss E said to us as we left her home was "Come visit us in December, we should be in our home by then." I pray that they are.Someone else asked me today what God had taught me on this trip. I think that the biggest reminder I had was that no matter what their exterior looks like, people are all the same on the inside. They desire to be loved, honored, respected and heard. While we did a lot of work, the most important work came when we stopped work and started listening to the homeowners. Really listening. I may not have accomplished all that I wanted to on the house but God accomplished a lot through the time I took to listen, laugh, ask questions and really hear the heart of Miss E, the homeowner I worked with. She said at one time, "Most volunteer groups don't want me to come around while they are working, I think I make them nervous, but you all are different, you don't mind that I come around, I don't make you nervous." I quickly corrected saying, "Oh, I don't mind you coming around and talking but you do make me nervous, but only because I want to do a good job for you." By the end of the week I could tell that we had renewed her faith in volunteers. That they care not only for the job they are doing but for her as a person as well. I pray for the volunteers that come after us, that they would take the time to do their jobs well, that they too would sit and listen to the stories and share in the lives of the people of Pearlington, no matter how nervous they may get.
One of the biggest lessons that I was taught, though, was that we weren't just there for the people of Pearlington. God worked through us everywhere we went. From the people we met in restaurants to people we sat next to in church to the people we met at the Motel 6. God had a plan and a purpose for every interaction we had. Tomorrow or I will post about my interaction with one of those people. It was probably the most heart piercing moment for me and the best God moment of the trip.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Our jobs were done and done well. Ben, our general foreman, wants us to stay around another two weeks. The home owners would appreciate us sticking around another couple of weeks as well. There have been points when we have felt like there was so much to do, other times when we've felt like we weren't making any progress at all. All in all, the projects that we accomplished were done with love, care and the utmost perfection. I, personally, have spent the last two days on my knees laying vinyl tiles, matching up corners. I have a whole new appreciation for Uncle R and his hardwood floor laying job. Even with knee pads, my knees hurt!
It's hard to think about leaving, not knowing when we will return. As tired as I am, I feel a little guilty about getting on the plane and heading for my home when there are people still living in FEMA trailers, with their homes only partially done. But to home we will return tomorrow.
There will be more posts to come in the next few days, probably not tomorrow :) There are stories that need to be told, factoids that need to be heard and feelings that need to be shared. Thank you for your prayers this week, for your encouraging comments and support. God is good, all the time.
We have a big day in New Orleans planned tomorrow before we fly home. We'd appreciate, one more time, your prayers for safety in travel. Dallas/Ft. Worth is having some weather issues, so our flights have the potential of being delayed. It's always something!
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The second night one guy yelled from the pool (which is right across from our room) "What I want to know is how y'all are going to sleep in that room tonight!?" There are a lot of workers staying here, though I think we are the only volunteer group. So every night the balconies are filled with workers watching the coming and goings. I'm sure they are a little confused about what we're doing here, but no one has asked yet.
The general manager and night clerk are always asking about our days, calling us "baby" and "darlin'". It's a southern thang. Tonight, as we are meeting, a guy walked by the window and stopped, counting all of us in the room. Then wrote "I love you" in exhaled breath on the window (in between drags on his cigarette). Random.
We're in the middle of a meeting but I thought that was fun enough to post for now. We'll post about our day later! :)
Monday, June 25, 2007
We've accomplished a lot today. We're almost done with our projects at one house, yippee!! There is another house to take it's place, which is so great. Floors have been finished in one house and floors will start going in another tomorrow. Walls, doors, trim and exterior of homes have all been painted. Toilets will be installed at another place and a stove and refrigerator have been installed at the last house. It's so great to see things happening. We're all a little bummed that there are only two days left.
Here's a few things that made today funny. You'll have to ask us when we get home for explanations.
- Bill's re-enactment of his car's reaction to lightening.
- Kanda's "stomping" on Zach's head.
- The gigantic grasshopper.
- Gail's sweat sheet rock (yuck)
- Zach losing his earphones in a gallon of paint.
- Brittany coming out of the water closet
- Just working with Norm.
Sorry, no new pictures tonight, our internet minutes are about to run out. But we do ask for these prayers:
For strength to finish out the week, help with frustration, to finish the most needed work and energy in the midst of heat and humidity.
We are also thinking of and praying for all the people in South Lake Tahoe who have lost their homes in the fire. Please pray as well. It's kind of personal for me, Lil' Bro lives there and The Dad is there right now too.
Thanks for your comments! It is so nice to hear from our family and friends. Keep them coming!
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
As we drove into and around Pearlington, I was struck with the sudden realization that things are starting to look better. Homes are going up. There seems to be less debris along the roads. And while these are good signs, I got a little sad. Pearlington has come to mean a great deal to me. I will be sad, although joyful, when the work here is finished.
On to the day's work. We met up with Ben T. who's helping co-ordinate us this week. We split into teams of three today. One group went to Ms. P's house and spent the day putting up siding and beginning to put down ceramic tile floor. After being scammed out of money Ms. P has been waiting for a year for someone to come and help her with her shell of a house. The boys below were all-too willing to climb scaffolding in the hot sun to put up siding! Another group worked at D's house digging trenches, laying floors, fixing pipes. The third group went to Miss E's house to paint. Debbie was our sprayer and she wore the fruits of her labor. Check out her picture below. It feels good to be doing things to help people get into their homes.
Tonight as we shared about our day several things came up that it would be great for you to be praying for. I'll list them and be done for the night. My pillow is calling my name and 6am comes mighty early! Thanks for praying, for commenting and for being our support system. We couldn't do this with out you.
Prayers for Today:
- For confidence as we tackle jobs that we don't necessarily have the skills for and patience for our skilled teachers.
- For rest, hydration and continued camaraderie amongst the team.
- That we will be continually in communion with God as we seek to follow God's plans, not our own.
- For joy in our journey, when the day gets long, bodies get weary and frustration looms.
We're getting ready to head out on our first day of work. Haven't heard from our work co-ordinator yet, but I know where to find our contact person here! Hopefully everything goes according to plan...which seeing as how I don't really have a plan that will be interesting. :)
Please pray today for the team as we begin our first day. Pray that we will acclimate to the weather quickly, that we stay hydrated and cheerful! And pray for the people that we will be meeting up with, that God would be speaking to their hearts through our work.
We'd love to hear from you while we're away, so feel free to leave a comment on the blog. You don't have to sign-up or anything! Just helps to know that y'all are thinking about us!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
There are a couple of things that we would appreciate prayer for in the coming days so I'm just going to list some things and call it a night.
- Please pray for a safe journey for the 15 of us flying tomorrow and for our safe arrival at the Motel in Slidell.
- It seems small, but I would also appreciate prayer for the process of renting the vehicles. We've always had some kind of issue with that and it gets annoying after awhile.
- Pray for Lynn, who is under doctors orders to not come to Pearlington with us. Pray that she will have time to rest and heal. We'll miss her a lot!
- And finally, pray for team unity. That's going to be a big one all week. We can do great things as individuals or fabulously amazing things as a team.
That's all! I'm off to sleep...well after I pack one last bag.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Friday was concert night. I love going to concerts especially with Fun Aunt and Cutie Cousin and especially country concerts. Friday it was The Wreckers and Keith Urban. Good stuff.
Saturday my parents and I drove 7+ hours round trip to celebrate with a long time family friend as she got married for the first time (she's in the over 50 crowd). It was such a special ceremony and pretty fun to sit with my mom, dad and brother shedding tears of joy as our friend married the man of her dreams. Good, good stuff.
Sunday's worship service was jam packed but it was so fulfilling. I assisted the Pastor in an infant dedication for Little Boy and then had the honor of being commissioned with our Pearlington Team for our upcoming trip (1 day away!). It was an extra special service as old friends from out of town were there, college students were home and people I love were sitting in the pews. Very cool worship service and pretty darn good stuff.
Sunday night it was dinner by the beach with Yo Momma and The Dad celebrating Fathers Day. More good stuff.
Today spending the day with youth at the beach, though super cold, was super fun. No bad attitudes and lots of laughter. That's good stuff.
And tonight opening the mail and receiving the grade from my class, an A thank you very much, that is good stuff. Sometimes being busy pays off.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
It hasn't helped that I've been feeling "pretty, kinda, yucky" as my friend the Train Guy would say. I spent yesterday at home, in bed, in-between sprints to the bathroom. It was not a great day. I feel much better today but not 100 percent. I hope whatever is in my system gets out fast. I cannot be sick in Mississippi.
The good news is that my team keeps bringing in the money. Our goal for the trip was to raise $11,000.00. As of Monday we hit that goal and now we're $1,000.00 over! YES! That means we get to buy stuff for peoples homes. And money keeps coming in, which is a huge bonus! I'm very proud of this team of people. Very, very proud.
Five days til Mississippi. Time to start packing my bags.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
I'm not sure what I'm expecting out of this trip. I'm praying for a team that works together, for projects that keep us busy, for projects to get done! It would be personally satisfying to see someone move into a completed home. But it's not about me or what I want. This is about the people who live in Pearlington, who lost their homes, their belongings and maybe their livelihoods, in a horrific storm. This trip isn't me, it isn't about our team, it's about us being used by God to help people, to bring hope and to love people. One nail at a time, one family at a time, one moment at a time.
Another part of the trip is to remind people our community that New Orleans wasn't the only area effected by Hurricane Katrina. Having lived through the Loma Prieta Earthquake, I know the frustration that goes along with having your town destroyed and yet not getting the recognition or understanding it deserves because a big city also suffered damages. Every time I hear someone refer to the Loma Prieta Quake as the "San Francisco Quake" I want to scream. The same thing happens when I hear the damage Hurricane Katrina caused to the Gulf Coast centralized to New Orleans. I've driven along the coast of Mississippi, I've seen a part of the destruction, this wasn't just New Orleans Hurricane. It's really important that we remember that.
12 days and counting. I'm starting to get anxious.
Sunday, June 3, 2007
The 30+ kids aren't coming all at one time anymore. I've struggled through a couple of years of single digits with one of the groups. We haven't been able to fill two houseboats and the winter camps have been sparser. If I limited my definition of success to numbers, I would probably say that I was failing in ministry. Thank goodness God has been working on my definitions.
For me today success looks like three amazing students standing before a congregation sharing their hearts. Success comes through the sounds of a student writing, recording, producing and distributing his third CD (which I got to be a back-up singer on...dreams DO come true!). Success comes when students are excited to hang out at a church picnic, playing silly games and laughing alongside the young and older. Success comes with current and former students wanting you to come and play baseball in the park, no matter how slow you run or bad you throw or that you can't catch. Success is measured by the notes that cover my office door saying "Thanks". Success comes in the quiet moments when a student shares their story. Success comes in the form of hugs, smiles and laughter as well as pain, sorrow and grief.
It's easy in Youth Ministry to think that success comes with numbers, but really it's so much more and oh, so simple. Really, success comes when you hear a student say "I love Jesus and Jesus loves me". It doesn't get much better than that.