Thursday, March 02, 2006

Reporting Back: Mississippi

I've been mostly absent blogging this week - I'm still trying to catch up, after returning from my trip to Mississippi last week, and beginning Lent this week. But I wanted to write something about my week in Mississippi - it's hard to process, but important to share, I think. So here are some random thoughts:

* People who used to live in reasonably-sized homes are now living in campers (this is what the FEMA trailers are.) I could do this for a week, or even maybe a month. But sixth months? I cannot imagine.

*Our team was divided into two groups - half of us worked on rebuilding homes that had been cleaned out already - these were our skilled workers, who could work on electricity and plumbing and finishing and other things I most definitely cannot do. The rest of us were on clean-up/sanitizing crews, which were really demolition crews. Anywhere two feet above the water level and below in houses had to be torn out to the studs. The black mold growing was everywhere. One house we worked on had to be torn out except the ceiling. These houses have not been touched since late August.

*One women, whose home was extremely damaged by the hurricane, but whose home is now in the rebuild stage, commented on how hard it was to have people come in to clean-up and sanitize. She knew they were there helping, but as they threw away her broken and destroyed possessions, she would follow behind and pick things up, wanting to save broken lamps, etc., the only things she had to hold onto. She urged volunteer workers to have compassion for such behavior, for trying to hold on to any piece of life-before possible.

*There was noticeable difference in how the hurricane impacted/continues to impact people from different socio-economic backgrounds. Better-built houses obviously fared better - other homes were already weak before sitting in water. Those with resources can rebuild more quickly, and others have to wait longer for help to come. The long term effects of this disparity in the overall recovery and rebuilding of the communities will be interesting to watch unfold, important.

*If you have a week, volunteer! I definitely suggest working with CORE - Christians Organized for Relief Efforts on the grounds of St. Paul UMC in Ocean Springs. They have tents to stay on, and serve three meals a day, at a cost of $60 for your stay (typically a week) - and this is not required, but suggested for those who are able. They have tools, a shower truck (really nice!), work advisors, devotional time, etc. I found the leadership to be more theologically conservative than I am, but that, I thought, was hardly at issue for our purposes. I wouldn't want to live in the tents for long, but it was certainly comfortable for a week. And they have a wireless network - what more could one want? Plus, St. Paul has its doors open from 6am to 10pm for workers to get inside and relax. Their hospitality to the base camp is truly amazing.
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