Out of chaos, hope

    Humbling. That’s the short answer regarding my trip to Mississippi. Twelve of us with willing hands and willing hearts journeyed to Gulfport to help with reconstruction. In the end, we all gained more than we gave.

    The devastation was beyond what I had imagined. We began seeing downed trees and demolished signs around Hattiesburg, which is about 70 miles inland. On the coast, the destruction went on for miles and miles. It looked as though it had happened yesterday. Empty foundations, piles of debris and abandoned businesses were everywhere. And blue tarps. Our assignment for the week was to replace one of those blue tarps with a real roof.

    We connected with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), which has six camps in the hurricane area. Most motel accommodations are either gone or occupied by area residents. I felt fortunate to be housed in a corrugated plastic hut in a church yard, which is so much more than homeless people had after Katrina struck. PDA fed us, and paired us up with a group of enthusiastic college students from Coe College in Iowa. The worksites are screened, making sure that the rehabilitation is performed for residents wanting to stay in their homes, not for developers or speculators. Yes, there are bad stories. The house we worked on had no FEMA money available for it, because someone else had claimed the address before the owner was able to. So the owner had salvaged leftover shingles and scrap lumber for it.

    The house itself was very tired, located in an old part of town. It needed more than a new roof. But someone was willing to live in it if they could avoid getting rained on. Faith entered in at this point and judgment needed to fall away. We hammered, sawed, carried away debris, got sweaty, bug-bit and tired. And along the way we were blessed and thanked by residents who were determined to rebuild.

    By the end of the week, we had accomplished something we had thought impossible at the beginning. What is one roof in the face of what remains to be done? But this is how it is done – one day at a time, one roof at a time, with willing hands and willing hearts.

    For more stories visit: http://coe-katrina-mission.blogspot.com

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