We got to start late this day. Not that we slept in…you see we found out quickly that Cheryl gets up at like 4:28 in the morning. She was our rooster as she made coffee and put out the breakfast goodies.
The plan for this day was simple…go work some more on the offices of BBC, and then around 2 we would head downtown to feed some people who were homeless. We would then clean up, get some dinner, watch a special on Hurricane Katrina and go to sleep.
Like clock work everyone dived in to their respective projects. We had some Popeye’s chicken for lunch (yummo) and then we tried to get as much done as we could before our 2 o clock departure for the downtown area. I found myself agitated that early afternoon and for the life of me I could not figure out why. As we went to McDonald’s to buy 100 double cheeseburgers I found myself becoming increasingly overwhelmed with everything. For 3 days I had been working and leading and I don’t know if I allowed myself a time to feel…anything. Leanne and the baby had arrived late the 28th and when they arrived I think reality finally began to catch up with me.
As a few of us waited in the van for the rest of the group Jessica told me she couldn’t look at the water lines anymore. I couldn’t tell her at the time…but neither could I. I knew I needed to face whatever was going on inside of me, I knew I needed to pray, but at that moment…at that point I just didn’t know how. I decided as the group gave out the cheeseburgers and prayed with people, then I would go and run to the store to get some supplies we needed. I dropped them off and away I went…running away…trying my hardest to not deal with the turmoil that lied just below the surface.
I went to three different stores…and all of them were still closed. As I drove around downtown my mind played images in my head. Images of when we would hold worship services for those without a home. Images of kids playing in the street. Images of life. But the pictures my mind saw were far different then the ones my eyes currently beheld.
I pulled over and parked and as I began to weep for the city, for what it used to be, for what it is now, for what it could be…I saw Charity Hospital. Before the storm it was the premier trauma center in the Gulf South. After Katrina hit they were literally forced to slide people down the stairs because the elevators did not work. The morgue overflowing, the stench of death and decay everywhere, and everyone was trapped…for days. This was a place of healing, of hope and for a few days in August and September it became a prison. Now it stands as an empty sentry overlooking the city.
The picture of that vacant hospital made me nauseous and quickly a flood of emotion hit me. It was as if all the things that I had spent two years pushing down came rushing to the surface with a fury that could not be stopped. Feelings of guilt, anger, pain, jealousy, selfishness, confusion, despair, frustration…so many thoughts rushing through my mind like a torrent. I sat in that van and all I could see was that hospital…that stupid hospital…and I realized that I had reached my breaking point.
The team came back and I sucked it all back in…
and the rain began to fall.
As the team was cleaning up, Leanne and the baby came over, and I had to go outside…I couldn’t let people see me like this. I let the cold rain hit my face wishing that it would numb the pain. Hoping that it could take away all of the anguish and confusion. I wanted to go back to LA and forget this place. I wanted to forget the city, the need, the pain, it was just too much…I thought I could handle it but apparently I was wrong…at least that’s what I told myself.
Then God gave me a word…hope.
I was hope. We were hope. And we needed to be able to offer that hope to the people who needed it the most. That was why we came. I shared with the team the realities of pain in New Orleans. The truth of the struggle that so many were coping with. I shared with them the fact that we were hope and we needed to offer that hope . That we needed to be people of hope…because those around us need it now more than ever. We came to work, we came to help, to make an impact…but above all other things God brought us to give hope to the people of New Orleans.
The 29th was a day of…understanding…it was a day of brokenness and of beauty. By the end of it I was exhausted…but tomorrow was another day, and it would be a day of celebration.
Part IV coming soon.