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Katrina Relief- Week 2
October 15, 2005 --- (47 days after the storm)

Hi Y'all,
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.  I'm doing well.  I'm now at the end of week two, which makes me an experienced old-timer on this operation.  In looking at my last email, it seems that mostly I talked about the destruction.  So I will try to branch out a bit in this one. 

The first week was difficult.  Being exposed to the extreme need and destruction, and realizing that there is very little you can do to alleviate the suffering is an intensely emotional experience.  And yet in the face of it the response is to shut down.  The first time I toured the destruction along the coast, I didn't feel any emotion, it was too much.  And then I saw a "The Episcopal Church Welcomes you" sign that had been found in the rubble and propped up against a tent that was standing in for a ruined church, and tears finally came to my eyes.  Then I saw a sign propped up against a foundation that used to be a house and it said "Where R U?"  So when I was dealing with that, all I could really do was tell you about the destruction. 

This week was much better.  I learned how to do my job.  Which involved a steep learning curve of how the red cross operates, what’s happened here, and what's happening now.  And then the geography of my two counties, where the red cross sites are, where the county sites are, and who to talk to, who to go to for info. And then the scary local politics.  There are plenty of the old fashion "good old boy" politicians around here, and I have to work with them.  So I got a lot of that down in the first week, and made some friends (three of whom, I found out later, are Episcopalians! What are the odds?).  

So last Saturday, after I emailed you, I went to the Gautier Mullet Festival (the fish not the hairdo).  It was the first sign of normal community, the first happy thing I'd seen.  They had a bounce house and people were smiling.  Seeing that helped get me out of the down place I was in.  Then I went to church at Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian on Sunday.  And even though their church was destroyed, it was just a normal service with normal Episcopalians.  At first I thought the lessons were too perfect, they must not be going by the lectionary, Psalm 23, something in Isaiah about a storm and a city being destroyed, and the Philippians reading "I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (I might not have quoted that right).  Anyway, it was great, and the priest talked about how everything can be (and has been) taken away from us, our homes our things, even our lives, but we can continue in Christ.  By listening to the announcements it was clear that the Church was pulling together.  They were tracking down parishioners in other states, coordinating debris removal, and having social functions.  And they had been receiving help from all across the country, for which they were very thankful.  It was beyond wonderful to see the community existing, and singing joyfully, surrounded by rubble. Just about the worst thing possible happened to their community, yet they went on. What have we to fear?  God is truly all we need! 

Since then, a deep and joyful peace has been growing in me. I have been recognizing God in the people around me and situations I find myself in.  Especially in the little challenges I face every day, I see God there.  And I realize, God was always there teaching me, I am only just recognizing it now.  I'm like a bowling ball going down the lane, and God is the bumpers, keeping me out of the gutter when I stray. 

If I feel like I'm not making a difference, I get just enough confirmation from someone, or a task where I can see the result.  If I get overly pleased with myself, I get a challenge that I can't fix.  I feel God teaching me, "come to me first, rely on me alone".

I feel comfortable here, and at "home" even though I have no home.  I love staying in the big warehouse with the rest of the volunteers.  There are 1,500 volunteers staying in 3 bays of a giant warehouse. They had Cajun night last night and had a band.  And tomorrow is square dancing.  I'm writing a skit right now which I hope to get a group together to perform.  It's just a silly thing that makes fun of us volunteers and the organizational system we work in.  I'm not sure it would make sense out of context, but I'm having fun writing it at least.  

Thank you again for your prayers.  God is moving in my life, and I feel so supported and uplifted by my community back home! 
I love you all, and can't wait to see you again,
love and peace,
Tent outside the ruins of Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Chritian Mississippi