Since coming home, I have taken time to rest, to run, see two movies with my family, and post photos on my FaceBook page. I have also spent some time thinking about the trip and how it has affected me personally.
Our last Friday in Mississippi started with clean-up. Let's just say that when 64 people are occupying a facility for 7 days, lots of trash is generated, not to mention the state of bathrooms! So everyone spent time cleaning all the sleeping and bathroom areas, leaving them cleaner than they were when we first arrived. I was very proud of the youth who really stepped up to the task. Then we walked the property, picking up any trash that they could find. Lakeshore Baptist showed us such hospitality; it is only fitting that we demonstrate our appreciation by leaving them with a clean facility for the next crew who comes.
We loaded up the minivans and cargo vans (I got the job of loading the cargo vans), and made our first stop: the Super Walmart (and a gas station). Everyone had the chance to pick up a few snacks for the train ride and then head for the New Orleans train station. The van trip was filled with laughter, music, and a certain excitement about heading 'home'.
We boarded the train around 12:30pm and found out that we did not have enough seats in our train car (even though that meant we had more legroom). So four adults had to sit in the adjoining car. The good news was that our train car was right next to the Lounge and Dining car! I think we had youth playing and hanging out in the Lounge Car for the entire 19-hour trip. It was truly the 'party train'.
We arrived at Union Station on time which was nice. And it did not take nearly as long as in years past to get our checked baggage. And with that, the Mission Trip was over (well, after we took Sue Cromer home, that is).
This morning, I was thinking about everything I experienced during the past week and trying to put it into words. So many people have forgotten about the Gulf Coast. FEMA and the government have left. It seems that the average person thinks everything has been rebuilt, or, that those still suffering are somehow to blame for their plight.
After talking with the pastor of Lakeshore, members of St. George Episcopal Church in New Orleans, and the staffers at Habitat for Humanity, several messages come across loud and clear.
- Katrina was huge! It is almost impossible to imagine the severity of its impact
- Churches and support groups can make a major difference in LA and MS
- Volunteers bring a sense of Hope and Connection to the communities they serve
- The Spirit of God is at work in the Gulf Coast, healing and keeping Love and Hope alive in the hearts of those who live there
Jesus calls us to respond to those in need. In Matt 25:31-40, Jesus tells us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and welcome the stranger. 5 years ago, the youth and adults of the Diocese of Chicago have committed themselves to respond to the statement "What Would Jesus Do" with actions rather than words.
I am thankful that our young people have such passion for fulfilling God's commandment to Love One Another, and to bring their gifts of time and talent to the Gulf Coast. With God's help, we will continue to make a difference.