It's been a couple of weeks since we returned from our mission trip to New Orleans. The many images of this trip are stilll fresh in my mind and will be for a long time. Yes' the Downtown area, The French Quarter, Garden District and other neighborhoods are in great shape, but there are still areas of devastation. It's been over three years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and in some locations it looks like nothing much has been done.
I saw first hand of how sections of the city have been destroyed and how many people have lost everything they own. I can understand why people still have not come back to there homes. The State and Federal Government have let the people down. It's going to take years! Unfortunately it usually takes a tragedy to open people's eyes. Fortunately, that's not the case here at St. Michael's. I am very proud of all the people that went on this Mission Trip. Their dedication their hard work and their determination were amazing! It was a blessing to become even closer to these very special people.
I worked in a small two bed room home along with Lorraine and Joanna. Everything about the house was destroyed except for the cinder block foundation. The owner of the home had paid some contractors to do the work but they took the money and ran. The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana has an organization that helps rebuild homes that were damaged and also people who were ripped off and therefore further delayed in getting back into their homes.
When we first arrived at the home, we didn't know what we were going to do. We were greeted by three young adults around 21 years old. There was Kelly from Texas, Gerard from Rhode Island and Molly from Los Angeles. They had all taken some time off from college to help with the disaster relief. Molly was in charge of this job site. Other volunteers working on this home were a couple in their late fifties from the Buffalo area and a man around thirty all the way from Holland. Working with volunteers from all over the country and even around the world gives me hope and joy. It shows me that people really care for each other and this is the world that God wants.
The exterior of the home was all done with a new roof and new siding by previous volunteers. Molly gave us some instructions on what we would be doing for the week. Our job was to plaster and sand the interior walls that had just been sheet rocked. Molly had one request, that we would be respectful and discreet about taking pictures of the house and the owner if she showed up.
The work got very tedious and boring as the week went on. About midday on Wednesday, the front door open, and there stood an elderly black woman in a long, bright colorful dress. We all stopped working and stood there covered in plaster dust. Molly greeted the woman and assisted her with walking around the house. As she passed everyone, she reached out and gave us all a hug and a kiss. When she was finished, her lips and face were covered in white dust. She didn't care. She was so happy and thankful. It was so special to actually meet the woman who would be living in this house that we had been working on. This was my highlight of the week! To me, that moment made the whole trip worthwhile.
It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Thank you to the whole parish for your support. I hope we get the opportunity to do it again.