Spring Break in Pearlington

April 14, 2008

Holy Week was unusually early this year and as such it overlapped with Spring Break for many colleges. Nine college students from the Twin Cities along with 4 not so recent college grads from BBC decided to spend this week in Pearlington, continuing the work many had started before us to help rebuild homes and lives after the devastation of Katrina. After circuitous travel we all met, some for the first time, on Monday morning in Pearlington to be assigned to our work project(s) for the week. The most common reaction from the team was if it has been two and a half years since the storm, why are things still in such need of repair and reconstruction?  Like many newcomers to a situation, the questions seem short and easy but the answers are more lengthy and complicated. This situation brought to mind the central message of another ministry I love, “Putting the Last First.”

Monday morning of a new week brings a host of new, enthusiastic volunteers, which can be taxing for the small staff at the recovery center. An Illinois middle school group of 100 had arrived to help, teenagers that is, and they took priority as we patiently waited for them to get outfitted with tools and equipment and instructions for their jobs. This delay afforded us a time to get to know each other and in retrospect provided a good bonding base for the time we would all spend together in the week ahead. Our team of 13 was assigned to help a family of 4 (Mom, Dad and 2 teen age sons) who were living/camping in their house for the past 18 months.  Their house was uninhabitable when they returned to Pearlington, 6 months after their evacuation from the storm.  After a time in a FEMA trailer, don’t get them started on this, they built out their car port (24’ by 24’) and moved into it and started the process of rebuilding their house.  Internally the house was destroyed, requiring all the sheetrock, insulation, flooring, plumbing and electrical to be torn out and rebuilt. The home exterior was a combination of brick and siding.  A new roof had been completed but the soffit, fascia, siding and brick repair needed major work.  Although they have made good progress, the family was very tired of “camping indoors”, living in a construction zone, the constant reminder of how much is yet to be done and the continual disruption to their lives.

We were greeted by a very surprised and grateful family.  We got to work quickly and spent the next few days installing ceramic tile in a number of rooms, installing soffit and fascia all around the exterior as well as some brick repair and replacing siding where necessary.  The family quickly joined in the work and helped us as needed in between their jobs and school responsibilities. It was especially good to hear their stories of the past months and to share a bit with them about us and why we had come.  The crawfish season had just begun so the family hosted a huge dinner including crawfish, corn on the cob, potatoes and plenty of vegetables.  We were clearly novices in the art of proper crawfish consumption but it made for many laughs.  They thoroughly enjoyed “giving back” to us and it was a special time for them to show their gratitude.  As we left at the end of the week, we were given a letter from the Mom that was very touching.  As we read her sharing her heart and the impact we had made in their lives we were left by the thought that you simply can’t out give the Lord.  When you serve Him, he gives back so much more.  All in all a great trip, a number of new friendships were made and we trust God was glorified through the wonderful work of His body here on earth.

(This post written by T. Lehn, member of the latest team to Pearlington)

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