Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 1 - Gumbo Ya Ya & MIR NOLA

Day 1 - Gumbo - a little bit of everything blended together to make something wonderfully new and unique. Known as a yummy stew and a blend of cultures.

Gumbo is so New Orleans - both past and present. And it is a great way to describe the state of mind for this absolutely unique and beautiful city which is rich in both culture and complexity.

Today we had a true orientation to New Orleans. Most of us started the day by walking around the corner to the Christ Church Cathedral to be warmly greeted curbside by both the priest and vestry greeter! The service included amazing music that was preformed by a multi-generational choir and a brief but stirring sermon by the cathedral dean. We were all impressed by the many outreach programs the cathedral is actively involved the Haitian Relief effort, Heifer International and local food pantries. During announcements the priest spoke eloquently and sympathetically about Haiti. We were all moved by his compassion and understanding of the Haitian people. We were warmly greeted during announcements and coffee hour. Many parishioners made sure to thank us and everyone who is supporting our being here for the ongoing support we are providing to New Orleans.

During the afternoon we took a 3+ hour van tour of the city historical sites as well as the surrounding areas. We saw a little bit of everything - dress clad men celebrating the Saints' entry in the Super Bowl to the direct impact of Katrina upon the neighborhoods of New Orleans.

Gumbo ya ya - everyone talking and no one listening. To me it is empty house lots where people want to rebuild and move back home but can't because of existing laws and regulations that keep them from being able to do so.

We got to see the wonderful work that Habitat for Humanity is doing. They have committed to building 2,500 homes in New Orleans. Also, we got to see the wonderful work that Brad Pitt is doing through Making It Right for New Orleans. Through his foundation, he is building "green" homes in the 9th Ward.

Our tour guides lost their homes to the Katrina floods along with all of their belongings. They shared with us their stories and told of those who not as lucky. The impact of these stories, make us want to get started in helping even more.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Changes Changes and we haven't even left yet!

Well it's the Wednesday before we are leaving and believe it or not many things have changed since I last wrote 2 weeks ago! We are not staying at Chalstrom House (St. Andrew's parish hall) which we just found out about yesterday. Instead we will be staying at the Urban Ministry Center which is a former bed and breakfast on the edge of the Garden District. Our church plans may be changing too since we won't be right next door to St. Andrew's but there are many Episcopal churches in the area to choose from (Christ Cathedral, Trinity, St. George's to name a few).

Our plans to go to St. Anna's for worship, dinner, some jazz, and to make a donation to the food pantry are also in flux! Apparently jazz is on a hiatus until after Easter and the food pantry is inactive for some unknown reason. We are still planning on going for worship and dinner as it stands now. We may have to find somewhere else for music and also to make our donation to those in need - the two feeding ministries that we will be working at rely on donations to keep going so those are possibilites - stay tuned!

The group is now comprised of more new members than those who went last year. Nine of the fifteen are going for the first time, including one youth. The additional feeding ministries that we had hoped for fell through so now most of us will be working at the Beacon of Hope doing painting, yard work,etc. We have four members now working at Rebuild which just moved their warehouse we found out today! A number of people will also be working at a nursery (the plant kind).

It has been somewhat challenging as the trip leader (alias Elisha or Superman) but everyone in the group has been very patient dealing with all the changes. Many thanks to everyone in the parish and to all our supporters for all your support both spiritually and financially. You will truly be with us every step of the way. I hope you got to hear the terrific Mission Moments the past 3 Sundays from Barb Phinney, Anne Aylward, and Mary Truslow. Special thanks to Sam, Sheila, Heather, Vicki, and the Outreach Commission for always being there for advise, support, and assistance. Please keep us in your prayers as we journey off into the unknown (more so every day it seems!) and stay tuned to the blog!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NOLA 2010 - It's getting close!


It's hard to believe that the mission trip for 2010 is almost here - we have been thinking about it since we returned last Feb and now it is almost a reality. There have been some ups and downs but things are coming together and it should be another great trip. Fourteen of us will be boarding the plane on Saturday January 30 and returning on Saturday February 6 (one will be driving - thanks Anne for bringing our sleeping bags down again!) About half of us went last year and half are going for the first time. The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana is setting us up with our work assignments as well as our housing. Most of the group is interested in working with the St. Paul Homecoming Center which does landscaping, yard work and painting, helping residents finish up the work around their homes. The next biggest group will be working in the feeding ministries (similar to the Monday lunch program and the food pantry) since the need for food is always great and there are a few hardy souls who will be doing construction, rebuilding homes for the residents who 4 1/2 years later are still displaced.

In addition to working hard for the 5 weekdays we are there, we are also planning on attending church Sunday morning at St. Andrew's Episcopal church in whose parish hall we will be staying. That afternoon we will be taking a tour of the city to see what has changed since we were there last. We also plan to attend church Wed night at St. Anna's, have a simple dinner there to listen to some local jazz musicians, and make our donation to their food pantry which was closed last year due to no food.

Although only 15 of us are boarding the plane the entire parish of St. Michael's as well as our family and friends are coming too - without your support both spiritually and financially this trip would not be possible. Thank you so much, please keep us in your prayers, and check the blog daily to find out what we are up to! (You can access it through the St. Michael's website).

Judy Rice