Wow! Where did the week go? It seems like the alarm was just ringing to wake us up for our first work day and now the final work bell has rung for the week. We were fortunate to have a warm sunny day as it allowed us to do a lot of painting. We broke into many small teams today that found Susan filling nail holes with putty, Matthew, Patrick and one of our site supervisors, Ali, grouting tiles in the kitchen, Hannah, Nathan and Avery painting baseboards and Mike, Teresa, Keith, Tish, Jen and Larry painting door frames and windowsills throughout the house. Our team has been fantastic! We worked so well together all week and together we accomplished a lot. At a wrap up session this afternoon with Caitlyn, our volunteer coordinator, we shared our feelings about things we liked about the week and if we had any ideas for how SBP could improve the way they work. We said we continued to be impressed with the quality of the Saint Bernard Project site supervisors, especially those at both the Sullen Place and Piety Drive sites that we worked at this week, who have watched over us, guided us, taught us and supported us as we learned new skills. We also commented on the fact there is still so much to do. There are still homes that haven’t been touched and dead power lines still hang down to the ground from utility poles even though it has been 11 years since the storm.
We said our final goodbyes to the SBP team and headed back to our home base in Slidell. We stopped at a popular local spot for a local treat – snowballs! No – not the kind we left behind in New Hampshire, but, a local favorite of shredded ice and your choice of flavoring mixed in. It is so popular, that the small stand we were at even had a drive though lane for their customers. They take their snowballs seriously! While we were sitting there enjoying our treat, a woman came up and started talking with us to find out more about our mission there, as she had noticed the signs on our cars showing that we were a mission team from St. John’s in Dover New Hampshire. We told her about our work with SBP and she told us some stories about her life during Katrina and the area, just over the Mississippi border, that her and her husband live in now. One of the most striking and memorable comments she made was that they currently still live in a flood zone, and that after hurricane Isaac, they had seven feet of water in their home. It was at that point, she said, that they decided they were not going to be bitter but that they were going to get better. They were determined not to let this latest loss overwhelm them and had faith they would recover. Once again, the community came together to help each other out.
If there’s one lasting impression that we all take away from here is that the sense of community and pride in their culture is a very dominant force in the lives of the people here. The people here remain open and warm and treat strangers like family. With a community like that, it is no wonder why so many members of the mission team keep coming back year after year.
We had our final dinner, as a team, made up of some wonderful ribs, a meatloaf, salad and carrots. After the kitchen was tidied up from dinner we held our evening devotions. We talked about the story from Luke 6 about building your home on a solid foundation and how that not only related to the flooding after Katrina but also to how that relates to following Jesus. We closed with a story from John 14 with Jesus comforting his disciples as he prepared for his own death. As we all prepare to leave Slidell and head back home on Sunday, we know that Jesus will be with us as we go and will be with us always.