In the 3 1/2 years that we've been coming to Pearlington, our team has made some significant connections with people. Different team members speak of different people with love and care. Ms. Sandra, Ms. Yvette, Sam, Ms. Pauline, Ben, Tom, Dave, the Dawseys, Ms. Ana, and the yellow house...oh wait the yellow house isn't a person, sorry. ;)
When we made the move to staying in the Motel 6 and then to rental homes we wound up going to Wal Mart a lot...A LOT! Like every night. Not being a Wal Mart fan, I would appreciate shopping somewhere else, but alas somewhere else is not to be had in Waveland, Mississippi. It's Wal Mart or nothing.
Wal Mart has the power to suck every bit of energy out of my body. It's just too overwhelming. I can got to Target, Costco or any number of places and be fine, but after a long day of working, no matter how awake I feel, the minute I walk in those doors my energy just runs dry.
It was on the trip in April that I began to look around the store and wonder if I was going to run into someone that we knew. My mind remembers faces pretty well. I can't always remember their names, but I tend not to forget faces too easily. On Saturday night, as we were checking out, an employee walked past me and I instantly knew it was Britney, Ms. Yvette's daughter. And then as we headed out the exit I looked at a little girl with her family and realized it was the Dawsey's. Since they didn't really know me, I didn't say anything but just tucked the encounter away.
This is trip we've tried to eliminate nightly Wal Mart runs to varying degrees of success. We stayed away on Sunday and wound up there on Monday night again. This time a little earlier in the evening. As Jolynn and I wandered through the store, getting the things on our list, a couple walked past me. I saw the man's face and knew instantly who it was. We made eye contact and he kept walking. Why would he know who I was, I'm supposed to be in California. As Jolynn and I made our way to the water aisle, he showed up again. This time I jumped on the opportunity. I walked up to him and said, "Are you in your house yet?" He looked at me with that polite smile one gets on their face when they are looking at someone they don't recognize and said, "Yes".
"Good," I said, "it's about time." He looked at me for a second and I could see the light bulb go off. His smile got wide and he started to laugh "Shoot! I didn't even recognize you!". He enveloped me into a hug that felt so good. A hug of a friend. We stood and talked for what felt like a long time and probably was only about 10 minutes. He called to his wife and had her come back to see me...she hadn't spent as much time with our group so that look of recognition didn't come until she saw my vest that said California on it. Ahhhh...the California group. We parted ways in Wal Mart with one last hug...a hug of a friend, of a brother who had shared a week with us, helping his neighbors and forging friendships that led to a reunion in Wal Mart.
As I walked away, I was overwhelmed with the blessings of the work we are doing and have done in Mississippi. We have made friends that aren't afraid to welcome us with hugs when we are reunited, with whom we can share in the joy of finally being in their homes and through whom God speaks and says "Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done."
BTW, the friends I met in Wal Mart were Dave and Tami Wake...they had moved into their home only 4 days before...4 years and 3 months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home. That's why we keep doing this.