Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mission Trip Sunday

“Greetings to you from the Diocese of Louisiana. As you know, for the past three and a half years, we have been called into new and uncharted territory after Hurricane Katrina turned our lives upside down. Episcopal Relief & Development gave us grants to set up the Office of Disaster Response soon after that, and the Episcopal Church has become a leader and a trusted voice in the recovery. Our team of 25 staff does everything from gutting and rebuilding homes to organizing thousands of volunteers who continue to visit the Gulf Coast.”

These are words from Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Diocese of Louisiana and it pretty much sums up the work of the Episcopal Church down there. I have always been proud to be an Episcopalian but never more so then when I was in New Orleans. I saw first hand the impact the church is making there, not only by caring for the residents but also in providing support and work opportunities for the volunteers who come to assist. Some of the programs we were involved in such as the Rebuild Program and the Beacon of Hope are managed at the diocesan level but others are run by individual congregations throughout the city. All these programs rely on donations of time, talent, and treasure.

This was first evident at our arrival at the parish of St. Andrew’s which provides housing for different volunteer groups each week throughout the year. Not only did they put us up in their parish hall and make us welcome at Sunday services, they also invited us to Super Bowl parties at the homes of parishioners. Although St. Andrew’s is an active relatively well off parish much like St. Michael’s, they are still feeling the effects of losing one third of their parish family who have yet to return since Katrina.

For two days we helped at the Mobile Loaves and Fishes which is run out of Trinity Church. This program feeds over 2000 people a month 6 days a week bringing lunches to not only the homeless and needy but also to the many volunteers helping to rebuild homes. In addition Trinity provides pastoral counseling to those throughout the city who are trying to deal with the devastation of their lives. We also spent two evenings at the Dragon Café, a Monday Lunch type program run out of St. George’s church which feeds 150 poor and homeless as well as volunteers who may not have kitchen facilities where they are staying. This program gives people a chance to “relax, share a story” and be together in fellowship.

One evening we all went to the parish of St. Anna’s where we enjoyed a worship service, simple meal, and jazz by local musicians. This is a weekly event at St. Anna’s which also provides at the same time a clinic for medical and social assistance.

Archdeacon McManis of Louisiana says “We ask for your prayers as this will be a long journey as we serve Christ by serving those in need among us”. The journey has been and will continue to be long but thanks to the work of the church, there is still much hope and joy in New Orleans. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me”. Thank you St. Michael’s for serving Christ through helping our neighbors in need.

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