*Note to reader: I write this without reading Philip's testimony. I apologize if there are any overlaps*
So we just got back late Wednesday night from Louisiana. We went there for a mission trip and then we stayed at Philip's mom's house for Ethan's 2nd birthday party.
This mission trip was sort of a repeat of one we did three summers ago. The first summer after Katrina our church sent two teams down to Slidell, LA to help with the reconstruction. That summer Philip and I went down together and actually met my sister Danielle there and the three of us served for a week doing basic construction on houses destroyed by the storm. I learned a lot that summer including to always except gifts from others with grace. The last day we were there my team received gifts from the homeowner who's house we were working on. If we would have refused these gifts we would have been showing her that we thought too much of ourselves to accept gifts from her. Not only would we have been showing our own pride, but it would have been a terrible put down for the homeowner. This was not the only thing I learned that summer, but I have been reminded of it often.
Every year since that first summer some folks from that very first trip have gone down to continue to help with reconstruction. Slidell is now completely rebuilt and because of the ministry that was started at Faith Bible Church for the Katrina relief the chruch is now able to continue to help those in need. During the last two summers our church group has also partnered with another ministry called Carpenter's House. Carpenter's House is a community center located in the lower 9th ward of New Orleans that seeks to shed light in a place of much darkness. Charles and his wife Judy serve free lunches four days a week from the Carpenter's House and the also serve dinner once a week down at "the Wall" near the French Quarter. They also give away free clothes, toys, and books anyone who comes in. What is so neat about thier place is that every inch of wall space is practically covered in scripture. Thier attitude of sharing God's love with those who need it is amazing.
Now my week this summer started with doing some drywall mudding at a man's house in Lacombe, LA. During the first day Tim showed us how to mud the drywall, but during the work I began to be filled with doubt. I don't know how to mud drywall! Tim was very nice, and never said I was doing bad work, but I could tell that my work and his were not the same at all! I also started to doubt that what I was doing was very important, or helping out anyone very much. I was "only" doing mudding, not anything really "important". Then somewhere during the afternoon I thought, "I'm doing this only for Jesus, not for me, not for my glory, but for His!" It occured to me that I couldn't remember the last time I had done anything for Jesus only. For the rest of that day and the next when I thought I wasn't doing much good, I just reminded myself that I was doing it all for Jesus, and he would take my work and use it for his glory.
On the second day of work we got to meet the homeowner and hear his story. It was neat to hear him recount how amazed his friends were that people from out of town had been travelling down to Louisiana to work on this house for free. Even amazing to him was that volunteers would tell him thank you at the end of a long week. It was neat to hear him praise God for sending workers to help him get moved back into his house.
The next day I was on the kitchen crew for the Carpenter's house making a redfish and shrimp court bouillion (pronounced "cou-beeon"), rice and green beans. I worked with some other ladies and the chef there (Lewis), peeling shrimp, chopping vegetables and making rice. We had to bake cakes for the dinner that night too, and Carpenter's house doesn't have A/C, so the kitchen was screamin' hot! Just to walk outside for a while felt good. After Lewis left for the day to run some errands Charles came in and informed me that we would need twice as much court bouillion as Lewis had made and probably three times as much rice! Lewis had kind of left me in charge since Philip has made a court bouillion before and I knew what it was suppose to taste like. That being said, I didn't know how to double the recipe that Lewis had made! He hadn't used a cook book, he had just thrown things together to make a wonderful tasting stew.
Nevertheless we had over 100 homeless people to feed that night and Charles knew that what we had so far was not going to cut it. The ladies and I started chopping more vegetables and opening all the cans of tomatoes that we could find. Charles poured what we had so far into a pot that was at least three times as big and we started adding everything in. We added more redfish and brought the stew up to a simmer again. Well, after a call to my Mawmaw and a little bit of corn starch we had something that was still tasty and would definitely be a good hot meal for anyone who needed one.
Our experience down by the sea wall was one that I will never forget. I had asked another volunteer at the Carpenter's house earlier that day if there would be any children coming that night for dinner. She replied that in the three years they had been feeding the homeless that there had never been any children and only a few woman. After that comment I was taken aback at the end of the evening when a mom with a stroller and a toddler walked up to the truck where we were handing out dinner. After making sure that Charles and Judy knew she was there I walked off to the wall to have a good cry. It is easy to forget how easy we have it in life, and to only focus on the negative. Jessica and her boys drastically shifted my focus and I was reminded how truly grateful I should be for just having a roof over my heads and clothes on my back.
After I composed myself I headed back over to talk to Jessica and her boys. They are 2 and 1 years old and so cute! Judy made sure to get her information and Charles told us on Friday that they had already found a place for them to stay. I think of her and her boys and pray for her often.
To be continued....