Reflecting on Biloxi

March 20, 2007

It’s been a little over 48 hours since I returned from my Spring break mission trip to Biloxi, Mississippi, and I am still riding the wave of emotions that come from the experience.

Some quick, basic facts: there were 24 of us, many from His House Christian Fellowship, who went down to rebuild. We took Michigan Tech vans (two of them), and had 6 drivers who rotated their driving shifts. It took 28 hours to get down to Biloxi, and 26 to return. We worked with Samaritan’s Purse, who were a first responder to the site.

First, I should explain the region and its current condition. To those of you who think that the Gulf Coast has been rebuilt to some level of normalcy in the past year and a half, you couldn’t be more wrong. The coastal cities affected by the hurricanes of 2005 (not just Katrina) are in varying degrees of demolition and reconstruction. On the way to Biloxi, there were dozens of coastal hotels, absolutely ripped apart with no demolition or renovation underway. In the trees, debris and litter was strewn about; from rugs to bikes to engines to clothes.

The high-rise hotels seemed to be going up at a reasonable rate, which is indeed a good thing. However, the casinos are going up at much more rapid rate, which is indeed a bad thing. Yes, the casinos are a way to bring in income and jobs, but these should NEVER be your main source of tourism and taxes (Vegas as exception). There are so many people living in poverty in the region, and casinos capitalize on their misfortune. What little money the folks do have is squandered away on impossible odds and flashy lights. Children are literally sleeping on the benches while their parents are inside, trading their meager income for disappointment. What the city and region really needs to do is bring back the things that made the area better: the shoreline restaraunts, the charter fishing industry, the entertainment piers, and the beach life. Those seem to be on the backburner for now, but that Hard Rock Casino sure is going up fast.

But the folks there remain, living on whatever ends they can. Many of them have been in FEMA trailers for upwards of a year, while their house stood battered and beaten with no work being done to rebuild. There are places in the city where people live in a communal setting in tents, and there are countless homeless, living out of their backpack.

Our mission was straightforward: go into the city and rebuild houses for folks, while showing them God’s love. We started out with this:

And ended up with this:

In between those two, there was a whole bunch of this:

And this:

And this:

And somehow, there was also this:

We left some marks on the place, in hopes of inspiring the next crew to come in, as well as the homeowners themselves.


The main point of the week.


Take a look at this building, and then take a look at the church a little bit down. Same elevation for all intents and purposes. During the surge, the church was completely destroyed, while the cafeteria (pictured here) sheltered all of the church staff. As they prayed, the surge diverted itself away from the building. Not a drop of water got in to the cafeteria! Everything else in the area was slammed. Entire casino barges were lifted out of the water, over the trees, and landed thousands of yards inland. Yet the building and the workers inside were unscathed.

There were also all the Powerades and Cokes you could drink.

Some pictures of the main bridge (I-90) as it’s being reconstructed. It’s been a year and a half since the hurricane hit, remember.

New bridge.

Old bridge

.

3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. -Romans 5:3-5

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