Hands and Feet

January 8, 2008

I’m back. With 4 of the 6 legs of my vacation travels done, I’m looking forward to the last 1200 miles that face me in the next week. First 750 are the only ones I don’t much care for, though it shouldn’t be that bad. The last 450 are up to Houghton, and that is a drive I could do in my sleep now. Unfortunately, if the weather keeps up we won’t have any snow on the ground for the way up. It’s not really that unusual, there has always been a post-Christmas/pre-Winter Carnival melt, but now everybody is global-warming minded so they conjure up ideas of a failing planet when it happens anymore. Be good stewards of what you are given, and that includes our earth.

Joe has been found, alive and (presumably) well. That is all I know. There was a phone call from him saying so, but he wasn’t back at the church we stayed at, and none of us volunteers were told what happened. Thank you all for your prayers.

Let’s start off where this mission trip began; the trip down. It was long and slow, due to my car’s issues. I finally diagnosed the problem for good: a ripped up CV boot which led to a jacked up CV joint. Essentially, the bearings in the joint cannot move freely due to a lack of grease and probably some grit and dirt that has found its way into the assembly. My car is in the shop now, and I hope it will be done by noon tomorrow so I can load it up after dinner. Anyway, Missouri to Arkansas was pretty nice driving, as was most of Mississippi. Ended up at my grandparents’ house and chatted with them until I couldn’t stay awake and had to go to bed.

Missouri fog:

Busted CV boot:

Kiln, MS is proud of their son, Brett Favre:

Gotta say, the Kiln, Mississippi Packers are a new team to me!

The devastation is just as bad today as it was two years ago it seems. There is no media coverage of this. Folks assume the Gulf Coast has rebuilt. Folks are wrong.

Slide-off homes seemed to be a popular housing style here. Anything but those FEMA trailers…

We were all sitting after dinner during our whole group sharing time and someone brought up the FEMA trailers. Specifically the fact that outside of town, in a field, lay 200 or so brand new trailers, rotting in disuse. The head guy said very firmly “Don’t EVER talk about that.” Folks aren’t happy about the fact that there are homeless, and they could be in these trailers.

We toured the coast some more, took in the intensity of pain and despair, and at the same time the thriving lack of hope evident in bare lots.

I really wanted to get a picture of it, but couldn’t because my camera has a battery life of about 40 pictures and I am a rapidfire photographer; there was a house reduced to just a few walls, and a trailer that appeared to have fallen in to disarray and disrepair. Outside the trailer, on a sign the size of a Buick: “We survived Katrina but not FEMA.” There are a lot of emotions swirling here. To try to put a finger on the general mindset of the community would be difficult and heart-wrenching, but it is one of anger, confusion, despair and desire for hope.

Remember how long ago this occurred?

There is one thing that is being rebuilt with steady pace…

Sure, they bring in some jobs and activity, but it’s not what these people need. We’ve heard tales of people losing what little money they had left because they thought that the only way out of their situation was to hit it big. It disgusts me. 

So what did we do all week? Finish work. The kind of boring stuff that unions have their apprentices do. We painted baseboards and doors and touched up walls and ceilings. We installed sinks and hot water heaters. Put in an oven, a microwave, a dishwasher and a fridge. And we ran the sewer connection out to the hookup.  Our typical day was pretty humbling.

  • 5am (for me, 5:30-45am) – Wake up, get cleaned up a little
  • 6am – Breakfast, followed by packing a sack lunch, and finishing getting stuff together for the day
  • 7am – Head outside to the equipment trailer, grab drinks and ice, and pray
  • 7:30ish am -Head to the site
  • 7:45 – Pray and start working
  • 10am – “Union” break for 15 minutes or so, then back to work
  • Noon – Lunch for about 30 minutes, then back to work
  • 2pm – “Union” break for 15 minutes or so, then back to work
  • 3-5pm (depending on scheduling/materials situation) – Start cleaning up site and head home
  • 6pm – Dinner
  • 7pm – If I didn’t take a shower right after getting back from the site, I took one right after dinner
  • 8pm – Our group had our devotional. I led it on Wednesday, and I think I mad some good points.
  • 9:30pm – Sleep. Typically, I delayed this till about 10:30pm to talk to folks

The house we were assigned to was in the 4ft flood zone, so it was up on stilts. Since a 4 foot stilt is a very awkward level, forcing you to stoop down to get under it, it was jacked up to about 6.5 feet. These stilt houses are amazing. There’s so much storage space underneath, and should you ever have a plumbing problem it is very easy to get at.

You know Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I have often found myself wanting to be on that show as a laborer. It seemed so satisfying to be able to provide such an amazing house and see those unbelieving reactions by the owner to how this is so spectacular. Of course it is, it’s a gigantic house with 80+ flatscreen TVs.

I found something infinitely more satisfying. Mrs. G (not gonna post her name, don’t think that’s appropriate) is an amazingly kind woman with all sorts of troubles that have been thrown her way. Her son is an alcoholic, reminds me very much of my uncles, and he is also a very nice person underneath. But I am pretty sure that he adds to her worries and problems sometimes. During the week we had a chance to talk to them both quite a bit. Mrs. G (guess it would really be Miss G, oh well) was so grateful for everything we were doing for her. She understood why we were doing this: To show the love of God. Her son did not understand. He asked us at least twice why we were doing all this, and he didn’t see how we could love them enough to essentially donate an entire house and its construction to them. There was noticeable improvement in him over the course of the week. The resident Samaritan’s Purse worker said that he could count the number of times he had seen the son sober on one hand, and the week I was there he was sober(ish) for 3 days.

On Thursday Mrs. G came in to see how her house was coming along. She stood there amazed. It’s nothing fancy or big. It’s just a house to you and me, and one that a lot of folks might not even consider if they were looking to buy a house in the area. But there she stood, mouth agape, on the verge of either crying or laughing with joy. And then she saw the kitchen area. We pointed out her new dishwasher and she could not believe it. She had never had one before. Then she saw her sink. The kitchen sink is very similar to the one we have in our house in Houghton, but it is much nicer with the finish on it, and it is big. Mrs. G started talking about how she could do all her pots and pans in there and was happy about it, and then we pointed out she had a dishwasher to do that and she became even more giddy.

She called us angels.

I find it interesting that she called us angels. Last time we were in Biloxi working for SP our homeowner, who didn’t much seem spiritual at all to me, called us angels. As did the owner in the other house we were working on. We’ve been called angels in Mexico working with the poor there.

I find it interesting.

Saturday we worked some more, but the afternoon was a chance to witness to the son. He took us fishing on a canal out near the gulf.  We caught some mullet and some blue crab, and even some fiddler crabs. It was my first time casting a net. It seems appropriate that this is what we were doing that day.

That’s a fiddler crab in his hands, by the way.

Our housing was at the Bayou Talla Church, which was ever hospitable and great hosts. Their children’s room was sweet

(Creepy Jesus wants you! [I really wanted to fix his eyes, figured it wasn’t appropriate]).

There were some really cool places that we visited as well.

On the trip home it was foggy for about 4 hours of the trip.

The fact that my airbag light is perpetually on does not soothe my mind much.

The key to my long drives is mild discomfort that remains constant. Typically achieved by funky foot placement.

Though this time it was mainly the gnat and mosquito bites that were getting me.

I count over 25 on my left arm and 10 or so on my right.

Then there was Memphis. Traffic came to a stop. Still not sure what the exact incident was, but it looked like a semi tried to go under and overpass that was too low. I counted 3 full fire trucks and 8 police cars, and numerous other emergency vehicles.

But in the end, it turned out to be a decent trip home. The sunset was amazing. The pictures of said sunset were blurry.

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One Response to “Hands and Feet”

  1. judyb Says:

    I want to thank you and all of your friends for doing sooo much to help the spirits of the good folks who’ve lost so much. And thank you for keeping the still-devastated area in the open. As you said, too many people things are just “hunky-dory” down here.
    They aren’t and won’t be for a loooooong time.
    Thanks again.


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