Day one “on the job” in Louisiana has come and gone! Seven tired folks have arrived back home at the Bolian’s “Tree House.”
We began the day at the SBP main offices in New Orleans, where we heard the story once again of the hurricane, it’s affects, and the progress toward rebuilding. We heard the “Katrina Story” (everyone down here has one) or a woman named Julia, who was “Welcomed Home” last week. Her home was finished, and she was able to move back to New Orleans once again. It was a moving story.
Our team was assigned to the Home of Mr. Watson, on Tennessee Street in the Lower Ninth Ward. This is the first time in quite a few years that we’ve actually worked in the Ninth Ward – the most heavily damaged area of the city – as it’s the lowest part of the city.
There are two AmeriCorp Volunteers at our site. Tanner is from Idaho, and has spent the last several years with volunteer organizations in Cambodia and Korea. He came back to the states, and joined SBP in February. Mikey is from Dorchester, MA, and came to SBP after having worked on five volunteer teams, himself. Previously he taught second grade students in public school – has been with SBP for seventeen months — and will return to teaching fifth, sixth and seventh graders in the fall.
The house we’re working on is a three bedroom, three bath house that Mr. Watson started rebuilding himself, with monies he was granted from a state program called “Welcome Home.” Once he ran out of money, the home stood vacant for several years, until he was accepted into the SBP program. Our task has been to start the “mudding” of the sheetrock that was installed by volunteer teams last week. We’re mudding screwholes, seams, corners, etc. It is slow, detail work, but rewarding. We’re looking forward to meeting Mr. Watson, as we’re told he has stopped a couple of times a week in previous weeks, to thank the volunteers. He was married nine days ago, and this home will provide a wonderful home for the two of them. By the way, this is the home that Mr. Watson’s father built, and which he grew up in.
At our orientation meeting this morning, we met other teams that were here to work this week – from a Catholic High School in Alberta, Canada; from a United Church of Christ congregation in Boulder, Colorado; and . . . another team that we didn’t meet!! Part of the Alberta, Canada team is working at the same house that we’re working on. (Under the category of “It’s a small world,” the pastor of the Boulder, Colorado Church used to serve a church in Rockland, Maine, when Mark was the Methodist pastor in Camden, Maine [just north of Rockland].)
It has been most twelve years since Hurricane Katrina caused such devastation in this area – and beyond. We have been able to see significant improvement over the years, and it’s interesting to see how “parental” we feel about the progress – feeling good for the folks here; bragging about what we know they’ve accomplished; and sensing their pride at restoring this special place of theirs.
It’s also humbling to think about how our team fits into the bigger picture of volunteers who continue to come here to offer themselves. I think we were told at the orientation this morning that the volunteers gave two and a half million dollars worth of labor toward the cause in 2016, alone, through SBP. Thanks be to God for the people who have heard God’s call to service, and have responded positively. And thanks be to God for the programs – SBP and others – that have coordinated so much work. Imagine what God has done through the ages – on work teams, in soup kitchens, advocating for the poor in legislatures, in hospitals and nursing homes, in schools, etc. It is a blessing to be a small part of what God is doing to bring about God’s reign.
It’s just about supper time, so we’ll close this. Greetings from all the team members – Patrick, Tish, Sammi, Michaela, Nate, Keith and Mark. Keep the home fires burning.