The sun rose on our small volunteer house in New Orleans, and no one in our group knew what wonderful experiences the day would bring us.
Today the group got up at the bright and early time of 7am. We packed everything up and headed over to the Uptown UMCOR Station for an orientation. We were there the same time as a group from Iowa who were also in New Orleans helping with the recovery/rebuilding process. It's great for me to see people from other parts of the country (not just the South). It really gives a sense of hope to the people of New Orleans, and lets them know that they are not being forgotten!
After orientation, we headed over to our house which was located in the outskirts of Uptown New Orleans. We met the homeowner there and she was a very nice woman. I was only able to speak with her for a few minutes as there was much work to be done! Everyone suited up and entered the house. It was similar to a house I had gutted when I came here in January. All of the furniture had been removed and most of everything else had been taken out as well, with the exception of bathtubs, water heads, sinks, drywall, cealings, floors, and a few wall decorations here and there. Tearing down the walls was the fun part, but there was a lot of other work to be done as well. We had to clear out everything we had ripped down and place it in designated areas near the curb. We got quite a bit done, but tomorrow we will need to do a lot more clean-up jobs and make sure all the nails are out of the studs. I'm hoping that with this trip, people will look past the difficulty and unpleasant-ness of the work and realize that we are helping people in a way that they may not be able to help themselves.
It's neat for me to see the city's progress, since I grew up coming to New Orleans at least once a year. Katrina was hard for my relatives, and it was hard for me to witness it. I knew right away I wanted to get down here as soon as I could to help as much as I could. I've been down several times, but it's great to come down with people from Hamline and hear everyone's opinions and views about the city, the progess, and the work being done.
After the work at the site, we got ready to head down to the Ninth Ward to a place called Goin' Home. It was almost like a soup kitchen, where people from the community can come and have meals. The establishment is a non-profit organization run by donations. Volunteers work with them and help out around the community. We ate dinner there, and it was a great chance to meet people from the community. It was a bit uncomfortable to be there, because it seemed like the meals were made for the members of the community surrounding it, and for the volunteers with the organization, but not just for any volunteers. The workers there told us that we were welcome, but implied that it wasn't exactly appropriate we were there. As uncomfortable as it was, it was still a good experience.
Katie, Steph, and I sat down at a table with a student named Rob who was filming the other man at our table, who called himself Chance. He lived in the Ninth Ward pre-Katrina, and had lost his house. He mentioned that he was living on the streets and went to Goin' Home every night he could for a meal. He was a very friendly man, and was very eager to tell us that no matter what, good things will happen to those who walk with Christ. Chance was a strong Christian and prayed with us and for us several times throughout our short visit and I could see the kindness in his heart. He told us about how he had struggled with drugs and alcohol in the past, but that now he was staying away from it, and that he could only do that with the help of the Lord.
The time came for us to leave Goin' Home, and we said goodbye to Chance, right after he prayed for us again. He asked us to keep him in our prayers, and we assured him we would.
I am hoping that we can meet more great people like Chance later on this trip, and I hope that we will show the people of New Orleans that we have not forgotten about them, and that the community here and the community of Hamline University is no longer two separate entities, but one big family.