They day began with some bagels, cereal, and fruit…and ended with powdered sugar.
Most of the team spent the afternoon in the Lakefront area of New Orleans. This area was also destroyed. 90% of the homes had to be completely gutted do the waters that rushed through the broken levees. Today was the day we worked with John. John is a firefighter for the city of New Orleans. He did not leave, he stayed…he worked…he saved lives. After 2 years he was finally ready to begin working on his home. Everything had to be taken out. Drywall, wiring, flooring, nails…. everything…right down to the bare skeleton of the home.
It was this day that many of us remember clearer than any other. Esther learned what a screw driver was (the tool not the drink), people took turns using the sledgehammer, and John said the words that caused pause in our hearts. “Everything else is replaceable, but you have no idea how hard it is to loose all of your pictures.” John’s story is similar to that of many people in New Orleans. It’s not the furniture or the electronics or even the books…it’s the pictures, the family recipes, and the note cards from family members that have passed on. Those are the things that are irreplaceable.
While most of the team toiled at John’s, Aaron Clarke and I went back out to East New Orleans to help a family move. Eric, Jennifer and their two boys are originally from Ohio but after several trips down to New Orleans they felt that God was calling them to minister to the city. It was amazing to hear the faith of this couple that knew that this is exactly where God wanted them to be. I admire people who are willing to go and move to the Big Easy. It’s not an easy transition…the work is an uphill battle…but the people are beautiful and the need is great.
When we finally reunited we all chipped in to help Eric and Jennifer finish moving…it was exhausting. The physical, mental,
and emotional toll began to show. When you are around that much destruction you can’t help but be affected. In the Lakefront area all one had to do is look in any direction and see the waterline that stands as a grim reminder of the thousands of pictures, recipes, and family heirlooms lost…but as one of my friends pointed out…butterflies still fly and the green grass grows.
In the midst of all that is monochromatic my friend told me that she saw a butterfly and it was a reminder to her (and me) that God was in fact working. That things are being done. That God was using the Church in a way unseen in America before. That all was not lost and in fact there was hope.
After cleaning up and eating some awesome food about nine of us went down to The Quarter. It was a reprieve…a distraction to all that had gone on in the day. We laughed, people watched, smelled Bourbon St. (which smells like an odd mix of day old alcohol and vomit…mmmm) and finally we ended up at Cafe Du Monde.
For those of you that don’t know Café Du Monde is the place to be. It serves beignets and Café Au Lait…and that’s about it. I have a tradition; if I go to Café Du Monde someone is going to get powdered sugar thrown at them. You see beignets are basically French donuts and they are covered in powdered sugar. As we chatted about the city and the drunk fellow behind Tim who was acting like Napoleon…I slowly began to sprinkle powdered sugar on peoples backs. Everyone caught on and as Gnigel stared on with glee I threw an entire beignet at Rachel. The great thing was she wasn’t expecting it. She thought I was going to chuck it at Aaron…I guess you had to be there but trust me when I say she had murder in her eyes.
We finally returned home and crashed. Knowing that the next day held new challenges, but being certain that for that day, December 28th, we offered hope, joy, and help to a family dedicating themselves to the future of New Orleans…and to a firefighter who still fights for the heart of this city that he loves…the city that he would not abandon…the city that is his home…New Orleans.
Part III coming tomorrow…