June 5th bright and early we departed for New Orleans. We are with a group, TEAMeffort, to help with recovery following Hurrican Katrina. We hope to post pictures and thoughts about the trip as we go through the week.
Going on the trip are: Annie, Sadie, Abby, Madison, Roger, Robert, Todd, Adam, Walter, Martin, Pierce, Mandy, Ed and Karen.
We arrived safely and have had a chance to meet some of the other groups and have met the staff. In worship we were challenged to think about Peter having the courage to step out of the boat when Jesus said "Come." (Matthew 14:22-33).
The youth will be writing the following, I have told them I am not editing the content. That is my disclaimer...
Today some of us woke up bright and early for a brisk jog in the crisp dry cool air of New Orleans. It was 6:45 and the air wasn’t really crisp, dry, or cool, but nonetheless Me (Walter), Roger, Todd, Adam, Mr. Tyson, Annie, and Madison got our sweat on and ran many many miles. Anyway, after that we had breakfast and headed to our first worksite. We drove past overgrown houses covered in ivy and neglected houses, but there were some pretty old houses there too! We rolled up and piled out all ready to work, but it took awhile after we knocked for the person to show up… I don’t know it was weird, but in the mean time we got to know some very fun neighbors! I think we interrupted some sort of argument, but they were very friendly. Two ladies named Debra and Diane lived there, and Debra’s son Lionel who assiduously offered us water. Diane was very friendly and showed us her 8 week old kittens (halo and angel), which were absolutely adorable, though their mother wasn’t quite (she was some alley-cat jaguar looking thing named Willow). I heard an interesting story from Debra about her other son having to move to San Antonio after Katrina and it was interesting how the effects of Katrina are still being felt there. All the abandoned houses were very poignant, and though a lot of us don’t think about Hurricane Katrina, it is still very real to the community. Anyway, the house we were supposed to work on was surrounded by some sort of white powder (I thought it was dried paint) and it actually ended up being lye! The thing with lye is that it is also known as sodium hydroxide which is a very strong base and poisonous! They put it to keep away the fleas, but we had to bounce due to safety concerns. Consequently it was a chill morning, and while our poor counselors were scrambling to find work for us, we kicked back and enjoyed lunch. Around noon we found a gig at another house where we were to sand down parts of the wall to prepare for painting. This time there wasn’t any poison covering the house except for some poison ivy apparently, and we worked our tails off. It was oppressively hot in the masks we had to wear and were dripping with sweat, but we did a great job sanding all the walls. We had a blast and got to know one another better, as well as our leader people Kara and Sarah. It was kind of funny that Kara wasn’t much older than me, Sadie, and Abby, but they were a good time. We ended nice and early and made an extended run to Walmart to get the necessities (soccer ball, grape kool-aid, earplugs for the loud snorers from San Franciso, Sadie’s amazing bouncy ball, and a coconut). We had a lovely dinner delivered from Papa Johns followed by a TEAMeffort (the people who are running this) service which was pretty good. It was contemporary, so that was a change of pace but whatever. Anyway here I am writing way too much about the day so Sadie won’t have much to say, and we are all pretty pooped but safe and mostly intact.
About an hour ago, when Walter started writing, he was told by some Conroe boys that in a couple of years they will remember his name to buy his famous book. It goes without saying that I was beyond nervous to follow this up and coming talent, so I will keep it short. Today I did two very exciting things. One began with a failed attempt to start out the mission trip with good old mission work. I sat down to wait for a job, and was greeted by white powder that not only covered the entirety of the front yard and stairs, but the back as well. This powder was diagnosed by the one and only Dr. Tyson and he pointed out that working around it could only end in burning skin and regret. On leaving that site we dabbled with the locals who were trying to give us their baby kittens. From far away they were the cutest things I had ever seen. But up close it was apparent that they were probably carrying ring worm and other weird cat illnesses. Only some of us touched the cats. Then we were quickly rushed away by the responsible adults (like Mandy Hill) and moved on to our real project of prepping dry wall for painting. This was awesome, of course, but the true fun was after the reviving showers and van ride to Walmart. To make a long story short, we bought a coconut, opened it, played with it, ate it, and had a blast (it had always been my dream to do this!) So over all the day was great!
Today I woke up at six thirty in the morning and ran. We ran all the way to a tall bridge, and back to eat breakfast. As soon as eight thirty rolled around, it was off the work site where we spent all of the morning putting mud where the last group forgot to put it on the drywall, and sanding down the rough areas even more. This might not seem like a huge feat, but the last group that was here cut quite a few corners with the drywall, and we had to spend most of our time fixing their mistakes. Everybody seemed to be doing something different. The jobs ranged from patching bad areas, to sanding, to cutting the edges off of the walls where drywall stuck out, to screwing in screws that stuck out. Once we finished and swept the walls and ceiling, we cracked open the primer and got to work priming. It was amazing, with all of us together, we primed two full rooms in just one hour. What was really amazing to me today was when the lady at the sno-cone store thanked us for the work we had done, even though she didn’t own the home, know the homeowner, and she wouldn’t even profit from the home we were fixing up.
I felt much more refreshed this morning, which is probably because I wore earplugs to block out the bed-rattling snores from the guy in the bunk next to me and I actually got some sleep. We grabbed some breakfast and headed out to our site to start working. The house we’re working on is small and yellow. On the inside it’s not finished at all, and we spent a majority of the morning sanding down spackling that the previous group left on the wall. After lunch back at the church we continued sanding and even started priming the walls of a few of the rooms. It started raining around 2 PM and one of the rolls of thunder was so loud that it set off car alarms all around us.
After a long day, we headed to Van’s snowball stand, the New Orleans version of snow cones, and very good. We went to the park nearby to the church after that and played catch with some of the neighborhood kids, Alvin, Johnny, and Kenji. We tossed the ball around for about an hour and then we had to go back to the church and get ready for bed.
Hello Austin! Today wasn’t nearly as rainy as the past two days so it was a little less humid but also quite sunny and hot. We finished putting on the primer on the house and in the process we sang beautiful songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Star Spangled Banner”. I personally took the liberty of singing the extra high soprano and I’m sure the neighbors appreciated it immensely given that the windows were open. Other than that we got a lot of work done and finished putting the primer on. However, we all got paint on ourselves and it was quite painful to take out of our hair! We got back to the church at around 4:30 and enjoyed playing soccer and bananagrams while we waited for dinner. After dinner a small group of us went over to the park across the street and kicked the ball around with some of the local kids; MJ, Kenji, Alfred and Kenny. We all enjoyed meeting each other as we shared stories, laughed, and ran around with the ball. We eventually had to leave the park to come back to the church for a service that was comprised of many songs we didn’t know, funny skits and a testimony from one of the brave staff members. Now, at the end of the day, I can definitely say I feel accomplished and excited about the new friends I’ve made who I plan to see at the park again tomorrow! Hope everything’s going well back in Austin!
This morning Annie and I went on a two-mile run at 6:30. Although we were super sore, we thought it was much easier than the first time that we went on a run in the 100% humidity! (Not really) At the work site, we finished putting the primer on the walls and ceilings while Mandy sanded the closet so much she ended up looking 76 years old! She was literally covered in white dust! During all of the painting, I enjoyed Martin and Walter singing songs in different languages in very high, exaggerated voices which was VERY pleasant to the ears. Then before chapel, we went down to the park for a second time to meet up with these little boys who we’ve met before: Kenji, Alfred, MJ, and Kenny. They were the cutest kids in the world! As we had to leave for chapel, the kids were sad but they also asked us when we would be back tomorrow. We happily agreed to come back as soon and as long as we could! I really fell that we made a difference in the boys’ lives for some reason. They seemed to look up to us like they have known us for a long time. At chapel, we watched a funny skit, hear a great testimony from one of the counselors, laughed at people who sat on the toilet, and watched the best you tube video ever: Baby monkey riding backwards on a pig! I cant wait to go explore the French Quarter tomorrow! The thing I think I will miss the most is the little boys from the park though and I can’t wait to see them again!
Today was my favorite day of the whole trip. We started off working at the house that has been our project for a week. When we got there the work that was left behind was less that stellar, so when we got there we had to spend a whole day working on their work. As I saw today the entire place had changed, from sheet rock to almost fully painted. This made me feel as if I actually made a huge difference in this person’s life and that they will live in a house that I helped build.
After that, we took a shower and then headed deep into downtown New Orleans, we hit the French Quarter and while we walked towards lunch got to walk down Bourbon Street, which didn’t exactly inspire holiness and purity, it felt more like 6th street. Afterwards that “enlightening” walk we ate lunch and I had my first experience with crawfish, I was glad it was a positive one. After lunch, we walked down Bourbon Street again on our way to the square. At Jackson Square we walked around it until we met a street performer, who played the trumpet and was very friendly as we approached him. We also encountered a person who had spray-painted himself red, he also had attached horns to his head, our group dubbed him “Devil-Dude,” and we steered clear of him for the rest of the trip. We then headed to the Katrina Museum. The museum was interesting and I learned a lot about Katrina and the causes and effects of hurricanes. After that wonderful adventure we headed for Café Du Monde in which our table ordered Beignets which were given several descriptions “Amazing,” “Incredible,” “Funnel-Cake on Steroids,” (that last one was supposed to be positive). Afterwards we headed to the Tysons’ relatives house in which glory was won on the foosball table and many dishes of delicious jambalaya were eaten. Their family was extremely nice and I enjoyed being at their house. After the drive home we headed into chapel.
This chapel was different to say the least. Today one of the Counselors, Josh, really shook our faith, he told us about a different side of Christianity, one in which there is heaven and hell. I was not that shaken, but I did feel something. I didn’t realize how much that had affected us until we got outside. There we were asked to pray and write down something that you could improve on in god. That got me thinking, but then I looked around. Our youth group was shaken; I saw level headed and easy-going people brought to tears. That showed me the power of God. I sat down and prayed, hard, for the first time in god knows how long. Then after I had finished praying I meditated on the week and I realized that I was glad to come here.
Vires Per Amor
I am covered in paint right now. It’s not as bad as it was when I walked off the worksite at lunchtime today (I got a chance to shower before we headed to the French Quarter), but I keep finding splotches of paint in my hair and on the back of my legs. It’s a lovely shade of eggshell, at least (the color the homeowner chose to paint her walls)!
The house looks so much better than when we started! The group before us had spackled the drywall to cover the seams and screws, but hadn’t smoothed it out before they let it dry. That meant we had to go back with sandpaper and eliminate the bumps left in the spackle from the previous volunteers, and it was a bit frustrating to have to correct their sloppy work before starting our own. Some of us (namely Mandy and Walter) ended up looking like they had aged twenty years after working on the house, as the dust from sanding the spackle collected in their hair and turned it white. But today, after days spent sanding and re-spackling, then painting primer, we left the house with about two-thirds of the walls covered in a final layer of paint.
I fly home tomorrow morning with Roger, so we’ll miss the swamp tour (unfortunately). But I was proud to leave the house and worksite ready for the next group, so they can easily finish what we spent this week starting.