Monday, August 31, 2009

The long overdue: Part 2

I left off by telling you about Wednesday night at "the wall". On Thursday (Ethan's birthday) I helped worked with a team on fixing up Charles's house. We were laying down grout on top of tile that another group had put down. It's not too tough of a job, but you are bending over on your hands and knees crawling all around the a house with no air south July!

About half way through the morning I started feeling really sick. I went out in back where Philip was hanging drywall in the pool house with another group to let him know that I wasn't feeling well. He encouraged me to take a break and drink some water. When I returned to the main house MaryAnn asked me if I was feeling okay. Don't you hate it when people do that? Of course I started crying! I think the emotions of the night before, coupled with not being with my little one on his birthday, and possibly a touch of dehydration just sent me over the edge! After MaryAnn and the other women there hurried to find a fan for me to sit in front of, a bottle of Gatorade, and a bandanna to cool my neck off I felt much better.

For the rest of that day I took it easy. Jon Ragsdale was in our group the first summer we went down and so I played electrician's helper for the rest of the day. It was still hot and humid, but I wasn't bending over, or crawling on the floor so I felt a lot better.

The neatest part of this day was that while we were working, one of Charles's neighbors stopped by to talk to Charles. Charles wasn't there, but what the Slidell pastor had "warned" us about was true with this man. The pastor had said on the first night of orientation, "Everyone down here is sick of hearing about Katrina! They don't want to hear any more about the storm, no more storm stories.....but, if you have a few minutes, they would LOVE to tell you their story!" He proceeded to tell us how he had stayed for Katrina because he felt like he could be of help to anyone else who stayed behind. He was especially concerned about an elderly couple who had decided to stay who lived next door. To make a long story short: He and his wife ended up riding the storm out in his attic with those neighbors who probably would have died if he would not have been there.

Why did he stay?
One of the most enlightening topics he addressed was the difficulty in deciding when to ride out a storm, and when to leave. When questioned by a woman on my team he explained all of the preparations that have to go into deciding to leave your home. Just a few of them include: boarding up your windows, finding a place to go, taking off of work, moving your boat or cars,.... He estimated that it would cost him at least $1,000-$2,000 to decide to leave his home if another hurricane looked like it was headed for St. Bernard parish. The decision to leave or to stay is further complicated by the fact that there are usually 2 - 4 storms that come develop or come ashore in the Gulf each year. He went further to say that he probably would ride out future storms just so he could be of help to others who had to stay behind.

When Katrina (and then Rita) hit Louisiana and Philip and I were here, one of the most frustrating things for me was to talk to people who had never lived in Louisiana (or anywhere along the gulf coast) or never experienced a Hurricane. They would ask the same questions that my team members asked to Charles's neighbor. "Why doesn't everyone just leave?" I remember several times explaining the number of residents of New Orleans that probably don't own or have access to vehicles. Even if they had vehicles, most of them have no place to go, no extra gas money to get there, and no money to stay in a hotel if the shelters are full. Even if they had those things the path of a storm is never guaranteed and so you could pack up and leave all for nothing. It was so great to have a south Louisiana resident put it so clearly to people that have never had to live through a Hurricane. For the first time they had to put themselves in the storm victims' shoes and realize that the decision is not a simple one.


On Friday I worked back at Carpenter's House with Jon and Philip trying to install an exhaust fan in the "blazing hot" kitchen. It was considered a holiday that day so Charles wanted us out of town as soon as we could be. Other team members helped serve lunch and then we packed up to go on a tour of the lower 9th ward.

The first year we were there was the summer after the storm, so not even 11 months had gone by. Philip did take a tour of the lower 9 then and had said that it was terrible. There were no cars or people anywhere. Just destroyed house after destroyed house. Still standing, but unlivable. This trip was different in a lot of ways. In the lower 9th ward there are some new houses, some cars, and some construction crews, but mostly there are blank foundations and over-grown lots. It was good to see that some progress is still being made, but most of all it was sad to think that each square of concrete that is bare represents a family....


One of my family members commented after we were back in Knoxville that she was proud of us for giving up our time to go down and help out in New Orleans. My reply was an honest one. I am not proud of us for giving up our time! Our time is God's time. Whoever sold us the lie that success at a career is success in life had a good line going, but it just isn't so. This life is God's gift to me and I need to use it as he desires! Philip and I (because of this trip and because of Crazy Love) have recommitted to supporting more missionaries financially, but also supporting God's work with our time and energy. Since we have gotten back to Knoxville Philip has already gotten to help out a local church with his dry-walling skills. I don't say this to brag, but to emphasize that God has places to serve all over this country and we are going to continue to serve wherever we see the opportunity.

I think that is all for now. If I think of anything else I want to share (that Philip hasn't shared already) I will post it later!

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