There is no one word for the time I spent in Missouri last week. It was good and hard at the same time. I was glad to be there and wanted to be anywhere else. In the midst of a group of people, I found myself struggling with issues that I did NOT expect to show up. I felt like I was the most unhelpful person on the trip. That's just not me. But there is it. A tough and great trip all at the same time.
Joplin, as a town, was tough. There is a lot of Meth use, a lot of need (poverty, abuse, etc.) and a lot of -ism, as in racism and sexism. The night we arrived the Pastor at the church we stayed in, told us a little about the neighborhood in which the church is located and my heart got heavier and heavier. A tornado ripping apart this town only added to the challenges the town faces every day. I was extremely excited to see how present this church was in the midst of their community, though. They aren't just a building in the midst of homes, they are reaching out to their community. That was very impressive.
The work was, well, volunteer work. With 12 relief trip experiences, this one wasn't much different. We had eager volunteers, not enough supplies, not enough work to keep them all busy and not enough tools or leaders. The youth did an amazing job, despite the lack of tools and the many moments of just standing around.
My group worked on what was eventually dubbed "the urine house" the first two days. They had been forewarned in our training to not make a big deal out of smells, so when we walked into the house, they were very stoic. Our site leader kept apologizing and opening windows. One by one the youth quietly and unobtrusively walked out of the house. It was awesome.
We ripped out trim, door frames and windowsills in preparation for the next group to come along and start rehabbing the house. The goal was to remodel this home (with 5 bedrooms), sell it and use the proceeds to build homes for the elderly and disabled in the area. The organization we worked for, Home Sweet Homes, has a goal of building 25 homes for elderly or disabled people who lost their homes in the tornado. All I can say is there is a lot of work to be done on this house.
Another of our groups was doing the same thing at a house down the road. We joined them for the part of the last three days of the trip. The group, Home Sweet Homes, had also acquired an old warehouse that they want to convert into volunteer housing as well as store all the donated materials. In between working on the job site, we also got to unload materials into the warehouse and follow a very rickety trailer all around town. Oh the stories I could tell! The best line I heard all week came from the organizations leader as he backed that trailer into the guide wires leading to a power pole "Oh, it's okay, the power company owns it." Enough said.
More to come...
(I tried to include pictures but Blogger was having a bit of a fit.)