Gulf Trip Spring 2009
 
The work is not done! Friday, April 3, 2009
The work is not done!
 



    Three years ago, I first found myself in Pearlington, MS. Six months after Katrina, I worked with a team from this church who were doing demolition on flooded, damaged homes. We met amazing people with amazing stories. I had to wait a year before I could make it back, but the town that seemed forgotten never stopped tugging at my heart. I have been back every six months for the past two years and plan to continue until the work is done there. These people have become family to me and I can not give up on family.

    The people of this town have come to think of these Brunswick Teams as family as well. As family, they have expectations of us. Ken, Lester, Kitty, Henrietta, Lee, Rev. Rawls – they all asked the same thing of us…tell the stories. Make sure people know that there is still work to be done.

THE WORK IN PEARLINGTON AND ALONG THE GULF COAST IS NOT DONE.
DO YOU HEAR ME? IT IS NOT DONE!!!

    I saw a new Pearlington on this trip. My friends there are tired, so very tired. Imagine the everyday things that we find to be so annoying…car trouble, an appliance that goes on the fritz, the cost of a dental procedure and compound that with the aftermath of the largest single disaster in U.S. history. My friends are sad, so very sad. Imagine working your whole life to set up a wonderful retirement and have it all be washed away. Imagine fighting to get back on your feet and get back into your home and having to consider moving away for work. Now before you think that perhaps all of our work is for naught and my friends might do well to just move on, I must remind you of one mitigating factor. God. Yes, God is in this place. Nearly all of the work that has been done in Pearlington has been done by faith based volunteers. On Thursday night, when neighbors are invited to the Volunteer Village for dinner, the homeowners all spoke to the faithfulness of God. He holds them up. He carries us there.  God has not forgotten Pearlington. They can’t leave and we can’t forget for that reason. He remembers each loss, each ache. When one hundred people, people from all over, huddle together at a bible study to lay hands on the pastor of a local church, God smiles. This is what he wants from us. This is why he created us…to worship him by loving one another in his name. Knowing that to be true, how can you sit idly by? Maybe you can not travel with us to the Gulf Coast, but you can spread the word that this place exists. You can tell your family and friends that nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore, there are people who are still waiting for that hand to pull them up. If you tell twenty people and two decide to join a team, you will have made your contribution.  You will be loving someone in God’s name and He will smile. Please help us. Please help them.

Gifts that we give Thursday, April 2, 2009
Gifts that we give
 



"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."    Eccl 9:10 (NIV)

As my day began with a scripture reading, on the phone with someone back in NY, the Lord began blessing me with reminders of His presence.
Our routine was that first my friend would read a devotional from his book and then I would read the related scripture. We would ask the Lord in prayer to guide us throughout and then begin the day. As he read the Friday, April 3rd message from his devotional, it brought tears to my eyes.
A woman from Mississippi wrote with a prayer focus for Disaster-Relief Volunteers and it spoke of us. Specifically referring to Hurricane Katrina volunteers from all over the U.S, her story was about after following a long illness at home, she was finally able to support the volunteer effort by participating in her church's mission of washing the linen for the volunteer workers to use. How she worked, as we try to...serving the Lord through each step. Although not traveling far from home or doing backbreaking work, she served within the body of Christ with what she had to give.
 Last year, I served mostly in the kitchen and always with others, as my disability prevented anything more. It gave me an opportunity to serve and to witness to others and to listen to Pearlingtons' stories of being and feeling forgotten...and their stories of gratefulness to us and faithfulness to God. What a blessing it was, but this year was very different for me.
I served much more physically this time.  I was able to do tasks for homeowners that I could only do by the grace of God.  Work that truly tested my disability was a much needed message from our wonderful Lord. As God showed me what I am capable of when abiding in Him, I tried to do things as if I was doing it directly for Him. I was shown many opportunities where He could use me as a servant to share His love for Pearlington residents and for us all.  Hearing the homeowners' stories was still a much needed part, but God reminded me of something that Mother Teresa once said:
 "There are no great acts, only small ones done with great love."

Much is still needed for these beautiful children of God in Pearlington. But, the people there continue to feel God's unconditional love through the service we provide to them. I personally go each time with one expectation: to assure the folks of Mississippi that although they feel forgotten, the Lord has not forsaken them; and that it is truly my privilege to be a part of this rebuilding effort...that of their space and His world.

-Lori Stockwell

Sheds, Stuff and Salvation Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Sheds, Stuff and Salvation
 



    We worked on a shed. Not such a big deal, lots of us have sheds. Lee's shed on the other hand was different. Half the roof was missing and what was there was rotted. One side had no walls or roof and the other side was rotted half way up the walls.We replaced the walls, the missing roof and finished the shingling. We outfitted the interior with heavy duty 2X4 shelves. All this constuction was not the different part.The different part was that Lee needed this shed to have a place to store his "stuff" so his house could be worked on. Three and a half years and he was finally going to be able to work on his house.  You see Lee is a collector, he collects glass: old, new, antique, beautiful, some broken, but all of it is his. He and his family could not work on their home because this collection of "stuff" was in the way. Hence the building of the shed.

     Before we left the worksite, Lee gave me two very precious gifts. The first was a 3" tall vase made in occupied Japan. The second was a reminder that sometimes our "stuff" keeps us from getting into the home where we belong. It makes me wonder, is there "stuff" keeping me from getting into my Father's home, and how long am I going to hold on to it?

-Kathleen Claydon

Lesters House Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Lesters House
 



As this is my third trip to Pearlington, I've learned not to have any expectations of what duties will be assigned to me. What I have come to expect is that I will learn many things here like new skills and the stories of the homeowners. My assignment this week has been at the home of Lester. Although it has been over three and a half years since Hurricane Katrina, PDA began work on Lesters house four weeks ago. Lester has spent the last few years working on the homes of family, friends and neighbors. Now it is his turn.

Not only was Lesters home nearly submerged in water after the storm, but about five weeks after the hurricane one side of his house was destroyed by an arson fire. Lester had been able to restore most of the inside of his home. The task before him was raising the house. Most homes rebuilt after Katrina are being built on piers. Just a few short weeks ago, as Lesters house was being raised, it fell off the jacks causing much inside damage to the previously repaired walls and damage to the plumbing underneath his home.

Over the past few days, Lester has invited us into his home and has given us a glimpse into his life. Not only were there several from Brunswick working on Lesters house, but four of his neighbors were working there too. Working side by side with others has offered me several opportunities to learn new skill sets and hear the many stories being told.

Things I learned at Lesters house:

  • I like using power tools.
  • The people of Pearlington still need to share their story.
  • Fifteen yards of sand is a lot of sand.
  • The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is far from over.
  • Building balustrades is not as difficult as it looks.
  • The people of Pearlington are some of the most welcoming people I know.
  • I now know how to rough in plumbing and install soil pipe. (I actually prefer to install the new soil pipe then to remove the old soil pipe.)
  • Neighbor helping neighbor is seen on every street in Pearlington.
  • I know the difference between the purple PVC primer and the PVC cement and I know how to use them.
  • The emotional stress of the storm is now beginning to take its toll. These people are tired.
  • Brunswick Church sent a great team that teaches each other. Those new skills have been utilized to help others. Yet one more meaning to each one, teach one.
  • Listening is just, if not more, important than rebuilding.

 As the team was packing up to go back to the PDA camp for the evening, Lester gave us our work assignments for the following morning. Lester was expecting us at 8:30 in the morning. He informed us that the coffee would be ready as he invited us to see the photos that were taken just days after the storm. We are eager to return tomorrow morning and sit with our new friend as he shares more of his story.

In His Service,

Susan

They Keep Coming Back Monday, March 30, 2009
They Keep Coming Back
 



Today has been a day of recurring themes.

We started with a devotional of the story of Hosea and Gomer. God called Hosea to find Gomer and marry her, and he did. Gomer left and went back to her life as a prostitute. Hosea found her, and bought her back from an auction. Hosea kept coming back. This is a perfect example of unfailing love and redemption, and it was a perfect way to set the tone for our day.

Right before lunch, we stopped out to visit an old friend from our last trip. A great man named Ken. We pulled into his driveway. I stepped out of the car, He looked up and said Hi Dave! I was completely floored. This man has had thousands of people work with him, yet he still knew who I was and remembered me by name. Ken went on to talk about how the volunteers keep coming back, and how we show so much love for the people of Pearlington and the town itself. We take our vacations and we keep coming back from every corner of the country and many parts of the world. We show them love, because it is what God is calling us to do.

After lunch we went back to our jobsite, and had a very productive afternoon. As the day wrapped up, the homeowner came back and began to talk. The stories this man told brought me to my knees. He was one of the many who rode the storm out. And many people owe their lives to his heroic actions. He will never claim to be a hero, but he is. After the storm, he left and enrolled his son in a school in a different state. After a year, he also came back. Back to the town that was his home, and to his friends. He has, and is enduring a great deal of hardship to be here, but he loves this town.

Every homeowner I talk to, whether they are new friends or old, stresses the same point.

WE NEED YOU TO KEEP COMING BACK!! The work here is not done. Katrina is no longer in the news. Every time I mention that I am on my way to Mississippi people ask oh, isnt that place cleaned up yet? The gulf coast is like Gomer not in actions, but in the fact that it is overlooked and discarded. Many people dont see what draws a certain few of us here. Come! See you for yourself! You will never be the same again. The simple selfless action of giving your time will affect you in ways that can not be explained. To see unfailing love in action will bring you to your knees, break your heart, and lift you to heights you never experienced.

Dave Jenkins

A beautiful day... Sunday, March 29, 2009
A beautiful day...
 



It couldn't have been a more perfect day to start our work in Pearlington. It was our team's morning to make breakfast. Kathleen & co. whipped up some stellar breakfast burritos for the extended crew with chow call at 7 a.m. as the daylight was just starting to break through the trees. It was a crisp morning and we had to have the heaters on overnight, but it quickly warmed as the morning progressed.

We left the camp site around 8:30 and headed to our destinations for the day. Kathleen, Todd, John, Linda, and Joe headed just a couple houses down the street to re-roof a large storage shed for a couple named Lee and Phyllis. Lee was gracious enough to help us for most of the day. He is a chatty fellow with lots of stories to share. We tore the old roofing off to expose a partially rotted roofing system, which had to be somewhat replaced and reinforced before it could be re-roofed. This process took most of the day in itself. Lee had this old medicine cabinet mounted in the shed for storage and a bird had made a nest with eggs in it. At one point the bird flew out and had a close encounter with Kathleen. She was so startled she cried out and I practically fell off my ladder right next to her! By the end of the day we had re-shingled a good portion of the roof. We hope to quickly finish the shingles tomorrow morning before expected t'storms hit. 

The other team, consisting of Dave, Dave, Sue, Lisa, and Colleen were assigned to another home in the village, occupied by Lester and his son Lawrence. The poor fellow's home had been previously jacked up and fell off the jack off-kilter which caused a lot of damage. It has since been put up on stilts but there is much other damage to fix. The team built a ballistrade (railing) for the deck stairway up two flights of stairs. They also moved 64 3-ft square boxes from under the house which had been used to jack the house up.

Bill went out doing "reconnisance" work making a supply list from other sites that need work done. He primarily assessed the situations to devise some of the listings. 

By midday it was in the 70's and just perfect. Breezy, not buggy. We had lunch at the First Missionary Baptist Church, which is the usual daily locale for the teams. This was a festive get-together and couple other teams from the area stopped in to eat as well.

The afternoon blew by all to quickly as most gorgeous days do. Everyone was pretty wiped out by 5pm. Being the first day, this is not all that surprising. The Ohio team made a great dinner and Joe led the evening devotional with an exerpt reading from C.S. Lewis. 

All-in-all, we couldn't have asked for a better day. Productive. Injury-free. New friends. Praise God.

Supposed to be a fair amount of storminess Tuesday. Pray that the rain holds off until later in the day. Until then - 

SDG-

John

He knows who we are Saturday, March 28, 2009
He knows who we are
 



"Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." Psalm 107:8-9
As we started our Sunday, we knew we wanted to go to church, so we ended up at Lagniappe Presbyterian Church in Bay St. Louis. I for one, am thankful that we were in that house. The church service style was familiar. It started with music and prayer concerns. The pastor took the concerns and brought them all to our God. Someone in our group asked for prayers for our team and for the people displaced in a fire in Albany. This is how he asked for prayer -"I ask that the fire in Albany be a blessing like Hurricane Katrina was to the people along the Gulf." A novel concept.
The pastor said, that we are living in the Island of Misfit Toys. We are all broken. We are the wagon with square wheels, the cowboy that is riding the ostrich and God accepts us as we are. It is not the building, not the worship style, not how polished we are.
It is that we are who He made us to be.

- Dave Paige

Waiting Friday, March 27, 2009
Waiting
 



It is 4:00pm EDT and we are somewhere between Albany and Atlanta at about 30,000 feet.  The trip has begun.  Over the last week, I have been been preparing for this trip-- been packing; giving my co-workers, and parents my the emergency contact info; and maintaining some degree of denial of where I would be in next few days.  I've been prayed over no less than 4 times at several worship services, and small group gatherings.  We are finally on our way.  At this point, there is nothing to do but wait and see what will happen over the next week -- something we have already has some practice at, and it looks like we will continue to do so over the next few hours.  Two members of our team -- Bill and Lori -- are already at the New Orleans Airport -- they were on an earlier flight, and it looks like they will have a long time to wait for us to get there to join them.  At ALB, our flight was delayed, and our connection is at 4:10 -- a flight we have certainly missed at this point.  Whatever happens, I'm sure we will get there eventually.

I am hoping that this trip will turn into a growing experience for me and for the whole team.  I am hoping that God will use this trip to break some deep-seated issues that I have been struggling with for much of my lifetime.  At the very least, this will be a time of change from my normal weekly routine, and maybe the short term changes to that routine on this trip will result in some long-term changes.  I pray for the strength and focus to do the work we will be doing; and also the willingness to place the people we will meet and work with ahead of the construction tasks that need to be done.  As I anticipate the week ahead, I am looking forward for a chance to bless those in Pearlington, and at the same time be blessed by the experience.

Update We finally arrived at MSY at 9:07, and made it to camp at 11:00.

-Joe Fritz

A Familiar Calling, A Familiar Path Thursday, March 26, 2009
A Familiar Calling, A Familiar Path
 



Traveling for some is ridden with anxiety. It always amazes me, in spite of my packing-procrastination, that I feel so calm before I leave for Pearlington. The calm just reminds me that serving God by serving His people is absolutely the right thing to do. While this service can take a multitude of forms, for me over the last three years, it has been the Gulf Coast Recovery Mission. I am so grateful to God for putting it on my heart and so very thankful to those people who support our work there. The generosity of others is exactly what finds me able to make this journey, as I am currently between jobs. I appreciate the special obligation I feel. My efforts will be the efforts of the many people who have helped to send me to Pearlington. I promise I will represent you to the best of my abilities.

I have been heard repeating the message, "This is our fifth trip to Pearlington." in recent weeks. I assure you this is not bragging on my part. Truly, I say it out loud as a reminder to myself of God's faithfulness. There have been some calls to serve elsewhere. The storms in the fall have created need along the Texas Coast. Flooding and fires have devastated other parts of this country. Famine and hostilities have opened up mission fields all across the globe. However, for me, Pearlington is the place I have to serve. The need is still great and is evolving as we move away from Katrina. Drug trade and corruption have taken hold of some parts of the Gulf Coast. Economic despair is not new to this area. Still, God calls us to go.To the local, the sight of the "blue shirts" working on a house is a sign of hope. We keep coming. From Georgia and Pennsylvania, California and from Brunswick, NY. We keep coming. God has a plan for us there. He is faithful to those who have suffered everyday since Hurricane Katrina covered them in 19' of water. He is faithful to each volunteer who toils, returning home a little bit closer to Him each time. He is faithful to the generous who lift their team up and send them to do His work. Like the flowers that grew up through a pile of discarded tires on a Pearlington street, God is present and His love can take root especially in the toughest of environments. Praise God!

Please pray with us that we may be able to represent God's faithfulness to each person that we meet. May we be examples of His love and adequately convey His commitment to His children. May we greet each day with an open heart and an open mind, that He may work in each one of us. Amen.

"Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings." Psalm 36:5-7 NLT.

Your Spring 2009 Gulf Coast Recovery Mission Team

Colleen Lais, Dave Jenkins, Susan Paige, David Paige, Lori Stockwell, Kathleen Claydon, Joe Fritz, John Heiser, Bill Baker, Linda Thompson and Todd Hvizdak.

Please follow our journey all week on this blog.

-Colleen Lais