The past few days in New Orleans have been quite an eye opening experience for me and my fellow Wabash classmates. Today has personally been the most impactful, starting with an ordinary trip to the Home Depot. While we were purchasing some supplies for the house we are repairing, Ja Bo and I encountered a very interesting man. This extremely energetic man turned around and noticed that we had a cart full of building supplies, as he had. He then flashed us the biggest smile and started proclaiming the love of Jesus and said “gain the world, lose your soul.” This simple statement really stuck out to me because as we drive past the down town area, there are many fancy, expensive cars with wealthy people in them. What is noticeable in the mass majority of these people is that they all seem to share the same dull, plain, and bored look on their faces. After meeting and hearing the story of Pastor Washington and his wife, I was astonished to learn that they literally lost everything after Katrina. After helping these fine people move into their new house today, we learned that tonight will be the first time in nearly four years that they will sleep in their own bed. The aspect worth noting here is that Pastor and his wife are one of the happiest couples that I have ever met in my entire life. They praise God each and every new day for His love and grace and all that He has blessed them with. I think we all can learn from the testimony of Pastors life.
The weather has continued to be kind to us as the temperature stayed in the low 80s and the rain stayed away. The guys who were working on roofs placing shingles may have suffered a bit from sunburn but as I came out of Eddy’s house, working placing floor joists and laying flooring, the sun was a welcome sight.
This evening as we walked from the Westside Mission dormitory to the small sanctuary of the church the sky was ablaze with the red sunset. The jet streaks and clouds streaked the s
ky. It was an end to a beautiful day, one in which several of our work groups could look back on our work and see some jobs coming to completion. Pastor Washington and his wife were able to stay in their house for the first time in over three years as a group of Wabash men moved their furniture across the street from the house where they had been living back to their own home as it was finally finished, thanks to the work of another group of Wabash men these past three days.
8:00 A.M. Having driven from Westside Mission, we unload all five buses outside a very plain-looking house. All five work groups grab the tools and supplies they will need for the day’s work from the back of a big yellow van. 10 minutes later, having accrued all the necessities, we are instructed by Pastor Washington to join hands and form a circle. He begins the same prayer he prays every day. It begins “Once Mornin’ Again Lord.” As he continues with his prayer of thanksgiving, I can’t help but look around. I see a vacant lot across the street, an abandoned house next door and 50 Wabash Men holding hands united in one common goal; helping those who cannot do so for themselves. “Once Mornin’ Again Lord” I don’t even listen to the other words of the prayer. My mind is fascinated by that phrase. “Once Mornin’ Again Lord” It has been nearly three years since Katrina, and yet there is so much left to do. It’s easy to forget that we’re not working on just a house. It’s more than lumber, nails, and chalk-lines. We’re working on someone’s home. A family hasn’t been home for three years. “Once Mornin’ Again Lord” As I stand in the circle I forget about papers, summer plans, reading I have yet to do and just realize that I have the unique opportunity to help these people. AMEN. Once morning again lord I say, “Amen.”
The week started with a 15-hour drive. We left the campus for New Orleans at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning to help rebuild the areas damaged by Katri
na. My job is to climb up and down the roof to find broken shingles and replace them with new ones. In the mornings, the roof is slippery and hard to stand on. Actually, I almost slid down the roof once. In the afternoons, the sun gets high and the shingles become extremely hot. After three days on the roof, I am completely sun burnt although I have been putting on sunscreen twice a day. The job is fun for most of the time. The best part is lying on the roof during breaks and enjoying gentle breezes. One tricky thing about the roofing is to keep the tools from falling. My co-workers and I probably dropped more than 10 different tools in past three days, including hammers, shingles and a box of nails and luckily have not hit anyone yet. So, next time you walked under a roof, watch out when you hear “heads up”!
I have always gone into my experiences throughout life with preconceived notions and a certain understanding of what to expect. I never could have anticipated what I have already experienced in these first three days here in New Orleans.
I am finding it hard to convey the feelings I felt on this trip, so I am going to call on the help of my favorite musician (and many others for that matter): “The Lord works in a strange way.” This statement is especially true for this trip. I came into this experience expecting to apply my experiences throughout life to help build homes for the less fortunate. I could not have accounted for the life changing experiences that would come along with the physical work. Brother Vance and company have made this the single most influential experience of my life and in that way I feel like the Lord truly does work in a strange way. The attitude of those in the Lower 9th Ward is incredibly encouraging and has touched each and every one of us on this trip in a different way. Everything I have done and heard on this trip will always hold a very special place in my heart. Thanks to everyone who has made it possible.