The Second Eclectic

Technology changes how we relate to God and each other

After the Storm

Here is an email I sent out following my trip to Mississippi to help evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.

Just like that I'm back from the South. Thanks to all who prayed for our trip to help the Hurricane Victims.

Down there, Hurricane Katrina is simply referred to as The Storm. I heard stories from numerous evacuees, many vowing to return only to visit. Many were already planning for a new start in a new place. Some planned to stay in Brookhaven, Mississippi, where we were working.

Our work consisted mainly of three things. Our team spent 2 full days preparing a trailer park as transitional housing for evacuees. This meant, repairing and installing new water and septic pipes and electrical posts. The Lord provided skilled volunteers in our group and another group we connected with to accomplish all of this. We had a wonderful opportunity to work with "Good Old Boys": Mississippi natives in their 70s who talked as much as they worked, and worked as slow as their Southern drawl lingered. Our last evening there they treated us to true Southern cooking, a buffet including fried catfish--you could still see the fins!

Our team split into various factions to work elsewhere as well. I worked with another team clearing debris from yards. Brookhaven (home of the 2004 4A state football champs!--I got a t-shirt) is about 130 miles north of New Orleans on I-55. So, it was not the most devastated of areas, but winds still reached 80+ mph. Trees in sandy soil were uprooted, while other, more well-rooted trees were snapped like toothpicks about 10-15 feet from the base. Mostly we raked leaves and picked up branches, but at one house we chainsaw-cleared a tree from a driveway, leaving the stump as a reminder.

And yet another team help prepare and serve the 3 square meals that each day's 100 or so evacuees required.

Our last day saw the first family of four recieve keys to their very own new home--a Dutchman camper. They had previously lived in St. Bernard's Parrish in the southeast part of New Orleans. Their extended family all lived in the area as well. That meant that they had nowhere to go when the storm annihilated all of their homes. They were very thankful, then, to have this new place to call their own. We had an open house party and prayed for them.

You can read more about our trip here.

And while the media reminds you of all the miscommunication, poor prevention measures, government screw ups, and sensational tragedies, let me offer a few things I witnessed.

Sunday morning before heading home, I drove with 5 others farther south to see the storm's devastation. We drove down I-59 toward New Orleans. As we drove farther and farther toward ground zero, trees turned into logs, and those left standing were embarrassingly naked. Whole subdivisions look as though they were erected on landfills, garbage and layers of mud in the yards and on the streets--remains of life after life after life.

Further south, truck stops have become campgrounds. But, these are not homeless people, these are volunteers from around the country. I saw police cars from Chicago. Work crews from Missouri. Driving on US Route 90, parts of the asphalt roads had washed out, leaving an older road exposed. Home after home had only concrete stilts as their grave markers. Those that remained had insurance claim numbers spray painted on their garage doors. Beside them red X's marked the home as searched, with letters and numbers indicating the search party and vital stats. Black X's meant that fatalities had been found their, but I saw none of those.

The devestation became so extensive and overwhelming that in the 2 hours I was there, I quickly become accustomed to such unnatural sights--overturned boats blocking roads, clothing hanging in trees, homes without shingles, and others you would mistake for new construction. I had to distance myself from such overwhelming and widespread chaos in order to witness it at all.

Yet signs of hope were evident. Travelling home, I saw police from NYPD, Pennsylvania, Illinois. We passed a number of Fire Truck caravans from throughout Illinois. We passed a convoy of at least 15 utilities trucks from Michigan. I met Red Cross volunteers from Detroit, Virginia, and Connecticut. And in all, the evacuees had positive outlooks and fair perspectives on the events of the last 3 weeks. This tragedy is not without hope as the nightly news would let you believe. Many have lost everything, but they have what cannot be rebuilt, rebought, or recovered: their lives.