|Hurricane Katrina Relief- Week 5|
|November 12, 2005 --- (75 days after the storm)
I'm back on the Gulf Coast, but this time with Lutheran/Episcopal Disaster Response at a place called Camp Coast Care (website: www.campcoastcare.com). This camp houses and feeds 150+ volunteer workers, runs a free medical clinic that serves 120+ people a day, runs a distribution center for free food, clothing, supplies, and furniture that serves 2,000+ people a day, and sends out volunteer workers with tools and supplies to complete work orders on people's homes which include, debris removal, yard clean up, and gutting of flood damaged homes. It is an amazing effort, I haven't seen anything else so well organized and orchestrated in this area. It costs $2,000 per day to keep this camp running. It is funded by both the Lutheran and Episcopal disaster organizations, and contributions from individuals (so some of your ERD dollars probably came this way). If you are at all feeling called to come help in this region, I highly recommend coming here. All you have to do is pay for transportation to get here, they will pick you up at the airport. You can sign up online. It's like a mission camp for adults. There are people of all ages and physical abilities here, so don't let that stop you.
Now that I've advertised, I'll tell you a little about my experience. I've told you about the tremendous devastation in previous emails. Being home for a couple weeks gave me some perspective on how much has been accomplished here, but how much is still left to do. More debris is picked up every day, and more businesses come back online. Schools are functioning again, and some people are coming back. But as time grinds forward with so much loss, so much left to do, and no end in sight, despair, hopelessness, and exhaustion build in the community. This feeling is infectious, and even relief workers are subject to it.
My experience with the other volunteers here in the last three days has taught me that our purpose here, as Christians, is not only to help with the physical labor, but also to bring joy and hope to people, which is really more important. It's about treating people like they are as important as they are, paying attention to them, caring about them, asking questions and really listening to the answers. It's about working side by side to clear the debris out of their homes, with smiles and laughter, but also respecting what has been lost, and talking to them about it. It's about telling them how privileged you are to be able to help them, how glad you are to be there.
The other volunteers have modeled this to me, and I have seen people's whole aspect change because of it. They can go from downtrodden to grateful, even joyful. But what they don't realize is they give us as much as we give them. They teach us about humility, and graciousness, and perseverance, and community, and love.
Such is the power of Love... the restorative power of God's Grace. The more time I spend here on the Gulf Coast, the more I realize how few possessions are really necessary for living a joyful life. God has lessons waiting for all of us in the work God is calling us to do. Whatever it is, however impossible it may seem, God is there.
Thank you all for your prayers and your love,
|A house in Gulfport, Mississippi, just outside the surge zone|
|Volunteers at Camp Coast Care, gather to worship|