Friday, April 07, 2006

Aint no Redwoods in Mississippi

Imagine sitting in a back yard. Imagine sitting in a deaf man's back yard. Imagine sitting in a deaf man's back yard in Mississippi. Imagine sitting in a deaf man's back yard in MS inside a white FEMA trailer. Imagine sitting in a deaf man's back yard in MS in a FEMA trailer with 8 seminary students - oh what a trip it was to the south!

Keith and I spent his "reading week" traveling to Long Beach MS to help with hurricane relief through a First United Methodist church there, so overwhelmed with devastation that theyve hired a full time relief coordinator who works over time. Long Beach is about an hour from New Orleans- hit by the same hurricane and facing the same tragedies along with all other cities that lie along the Gulf Coast.

Aside from the biting gnats and giant cochroaches, the trip was good. It was humbling to see humanity in a state of desperation, but encouraging to see the perserverance and hope therein. I was also humbled by the deep faith and sacrificial love expressed in service by those on my team. My dry soul was watered- even in a dry and weary land.

We restored the fence of a deaf man who needed it to get a new hearing dog that he'd lost in THE storm. We did yard work for a new mother who'd recently undergone c-section and shortly thereafter found herself confined to a wheel chair due to scoliosis. We cleaned up a community park, still littered with debris 7 months later. We spent time in a wildlife reserve...I'd love to say we helped clean it up, but it was so full of fallen trees and roof shingles, little could be done without giant forklifts and plows. We tried to plant some pines...we also tried to plant Redwoods until someone told us those dont grow in MS :) But, regardless, it is impossible to plant any trees in soil made of sand, tar, and roof.

The destruction is one of those things you just have to see for yourself. You've got a good 10 years to get down there before they run out of need for outside help. Dont get me wrong though, this people aren't giving up by any means. Once again, you think you're going to do ministry but you actually get ministered TO.

Some things I didn't realize:
-THe daily battle isn't so much against nature or debris, but against corrupt insurance agencies who are offering NO compensation for lost houses
-Chiquita banana trucks and semis of a certain chicken company were also destroyed in the storm and left yards covered in raw chicken and rotten fruit that these corps were not picking up
- Mexican immigrants have been doing most of the roof repairs
- People dont believe life will ever be "normal" again, but rather that they can only return to a "new normal"
- Tragedy is more difficult to deal with when there is no tangible thing or person to blame it on...blaming the ocean doesn't do much good...
- Beaches are still off limits due to debris and polluted water
- FEMA means Federal Emergency Management Agency. BFE means Basic Flood Elevation level.
- Even Taco Bell can look like hell :) when hit by a hurricane...not to mention a Walmart that was completely gutted (though it deserved it)

It was a journey.