Tuesday, October 18, 2005

There and Back Again

Well, we got back from Mississippi at about 7:30 AM on Saturday morning. It's a mess down there, but we were able to help a few people and see what we're really up against. It's going to be a _long_ time before life gets back to "normal" for anyone down there. We spent most of our time working in Nicholson, MS. The MapQuest map that I linked to doesn't really show it, but it's right next to the MS/LA border (that's the Pearl River). We were staying about an hour away in Saucier (pronounced "sew-shure"). We stayed with a couple whose nephew's wife was on our team. They're caring for her 100-year-old mother, so they're not able to get out to help people much, but they saw this as their way of helping with the relief effort. Let me tell you, they fed us _well_. We all probably gained weight, even though we were doing hard work all week. And we each had beds to sleep in (most of us didn't even have to share!)!

We drove down (in the rain) Friday night and got there Saturday evening. Sunday morning we made our first trip to FBC, Nicholson in order to worship with them during their morning service. Afterwards we had lunch with the pastor and his family, unloaded the food we'd brough for their food bank, then had a planning meeting with some church members for our Thursday night block party.

On Monday, the pastor was driving all over creation to teach at a seminary, so we were on our own (with some direction from him). We helped an older couple pull all of the furniture out of their house. They'd evacuated to Baton Rouge or someplace during the storm and hadn't come home for a while, so they didn't realize that their roof had sustained some damage and was leaking into their house. By the time they came back, all of their furniture, rugs, drapes, etc. were ruined. We also re-tarped their roof.

Tha didn't take us nearly as long as we'd expected, so we went over to the local elementary school. The principal was a member of FBCN, so we knew before we came what some of their needs were. In their county, all students are required to wear school uniforms. However, many of the displaced students don't have uniforms, so we brought some extra uniforms from our church's school for some of their students to use. When we stopped by to drop them off, we noticed that the roof of one of their portable classrooms needed some help, so we offered to re-tarp it. While a few of us did that, the rest of the group went over to the Pastor's house to remove the debris from his yard.

The next day, we went to the home of another elderly couple. It had been their home for over 50 years. They hadn't sustained a lot of roof damage, but it had taken two weeks for them to be able to get to their door due to all of the downed trees, so their carpets had picked up a lot of moisture. Their insurance company told them to go ahead and remove the old carpet, but to hang onto their furniture for the time being. So we spent the first day moving furniture around and pulling up carpets. While we were there, we heard stories about how beautiful the yard was since the gentleman was a gardener/landscaper, so we took the next day to try to return their yard to some semblance of order.

That day was the most heartbreaking for me. That couple had spent over 50 years cultivating their yard and now that they should be able to just sit back and enjoy it, it's practically gone. Don't get me wrong, they still have a few bushes and flowers, etc., but even the lady of the house realizes that, while it _will_ grow back, it's not going to do it in their lifetimes.

They'll make it through, but....well....I just can't imagine working so hard all those years to have it taken away like that.

On Thursday, we mostly just got ready for our block party, but we did spend the morning vising down closer to the shore in Waveland, MS. We went all the way down Nicholson Ave. to the coast. For several blocks from the coast, the houses were just completely leveled. For a few blocks beyond that, they were destroyed, although still mostly there. We were told that the storm surge was approximately 50 ft deep there at the coast, so even the tall palms and pines that were there were completely underwater for a time. The water reached in about 10 miles from the coast. Understand though that, unlike New Orleans where the water was trapped, this water receeded almost immediately after the storm passed...taking much with it.

Not at all to belittle the people from Waveland's tragedy, but it seems to me that they'll have it easier in many ways than folks in places like Nicholson. See, their homes are gone. All of their belongings are gone. They just have to accept that, bulldoze the debris, and start over. The people in places like Nicholson are going to spend the next several years dealing with insurance to fix roofs and remove trees and replace furniture and belongings and remove mold. The task is so overwhelming.

So we did the only thing left for us to do. We spent Thursday evening providing a needed distraction. We rented a moonbounce with a slide and provided live music and free hot dogs for a couple of hours. The people were so appreciative, the parents especially. They got to watch their kids _play_ for a few hours without thinking about the storm or their monumental task to rebuild. They didn't have to think about being evicted due to their trailer park's sewage system backing up. They didn't have to think about the clean-up process.

With that done, we drove home after one last wonderful lunch with our hosts, arriving back at FBC Laurel (MD, not MS!) at about 7:30 AM on Saturday. We're all still tired and still sorting through our own thoughts and responses to what we saw.

I _can_ say that the team that came together at the last possible minute was definitely Providential in its planning. We got along together so well and just enjoyed each others' company. But we're all glad to be home.

1 comment:

Nelson Turner said...

Melissa, Thanks for your insight on the destruction and dispare from the storm. The TV news reports are good, but I feel I have a better understanding of the situation from your posting. I'm proud of you for your missionary zeal and heart to serve the Lord. Dad