Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 3 – Wednesday, Oct.4, 2006

Disclaimer: as if the fact that this is a personal blog doesn’t make it obvious, the opinions expressed here are solely mine, not my 11:00 church’s, not the members of my Katrina Mission team, and not the Relief Organization that ran the show. This became important, oh, about yesterday.

Before I left to go on this mission trip, I had more than a few people tell me “You’re going to have so much fun.” I don’t know why they think this would be fun. A mission trip on a whitewater rafting expedition would be fun. This is necessary, to be sure, and somebody has to do it, because anybody can write a check to these relief organizations to fund the work, and that’s still important. But people are needed to gut these houses. And fun isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe it.

Slept better tonight. The air mattress is God’s gift to Katrina relief workers. Just $9.99 at your local Walgreens.

I take a pair of scissors to my jeans, and wear a tank top underneath the cotton suit. It’s supposed to be 91 degrees today, but strangely enough, we don’t feel it as much as I thought we would. I have a much better day than yesterday. Whether that’s because I’m used to the work by now, or my wardrobe, or we’re pulling out the insulation so it’s not as hot inside the house, or the breeze that’s coming through, but I’m definitely cooler.

We draw nicknames on our Pyrex suits, to make it easier to identify ourselves to each other while working in the house, since the cotton suits and helmets make us look pretty much like amorphous blobs. I’m Grumpy, of course.

Before I left to come here, I was wrestling with a cough. No fever, no aches or chills, no runny noses, just a cough. It either showed up from the monster allergy attack I had after my housesitting gig or from hanging around in close proximity with other coughers. This results in me very rarely being able to get more than ten words out at a time, without sputtering into coughing spasms. Constant movement seems to keep it at bay. So does the respirator we all have to wear while doing the gut outs. So I’m actually glad for the work.

It’s more of the same work. Pulling out nails, sweeping up slats and insulation stuff. Taking water breaks, taking potty breaks at the Burger King (where nobody bats an eye at the four girls soaked in sweat running in to use the restroom and out again), back to work. Here’s lunch, back to work. Here come the chaplains, they talk about delivering diapers and water to the food bank place, and they pray for us. Back to work.

It occurs to me that I’m not praying my personal prayers or doing my daily devotions like I do back in Los Angeles. There’s just not enough time. Lights come on in the gymnasium at 6:00am, breakfast is served at 6:30am. You’re constantly surrounded by people with little chance to sneak off and talk to God by yourself until lights out at the end of the day at 9:30pm. And by then, you’re too tired to do anything other than to send up a weak Thank you that I didn’t inhale mold and die with a frothing mouth, God.

The Blue Shirt chaplains pray every two seconds for everything that crosses their path, be it us, a neighbor, or a stray street worker, like these folk. To these people, it’s not enough that you believe in God, you also have to “know Jesus.” This strikes me as a no win game. “Do you believe in God?” “Yes.” “And do you know Jesus?” “Yeppers.” “But do you REALLY know Jesus?” I don’t think you’d be able to give an answer to these folks that would satisfy them, because what they really wanna do is talk to YOU about what Jesus has done for THEM, and how THEIR Jesus can do wonderful things for YOU.

I wonder why believing in God isn’t enough.

I wonder out loud to my crew if praying as much as the chaplains do somehow doesn’t dilute everything. That prayer begins to become rote, loses its special-ness. Like if you ate Godiva every day, (“You’d be happy and content for the rest of your life,” chirps T-Roller) you’d forget that Godiva is as good as it is, because it’s all you know.

But at the same time, as much as the chaplains make me squirrrrrrrrm, there’s a part of me that envies them. They seem to have a solid connection with God. Whether it’s real, honest and true, or something they’re magnifying for appearances’ sake, I’ll never know. But I’d love to have that kind of solid connection. I wouldn’t be braying it at the top of my lungs and forcing it into every conversation I have like these chaplains do. But it would be nifty keen cool to possess that kind of confidence.

After work, and despite the fact we’re so soaked with sweat we could squeeze Native Chick’s ponytail and water the bushes with it, we decide that we’re gonna stop by the daiquiri shack on the way home. I think we’re all getting a little bit tired of “being in community” with the rest of the Relief Organization teams.

We kick back with a round of various daiquiris, and the air conditioning forces us to stand on the deck outside. It’s actually nice in the afternoon sun. Giggly sits on the railing and starts waving at the cars that honk at her. “People are so friendly here!” (heh) We tell her to make like a Blue Shirt chaplain and scream “DoyouknowJesusChristas yourpersonalLordandSavior!?” at every car. Needless to say, nobody pulls over.

Tonight when we’re doing “share time” I feel like someone from our group should go up and say something. We’re all a bunch of reluctant cowards, so I get up there and say we had a pretty uneventful day at the gut-outs, but what I can do is talk about some of the outreach things we do in Los Angeles. I tell them all about Homeless Karaoke (well documented on this blog here, here and here ), and they all think it’s the neatest thing. Of course they do, they’re all grandparents, and Homeless Karaoke sounds just like something they think people from Hollywood would do. None of them have ever heard about The Electric Slide, and they think that too, is something nifty keen and fun, and maybe they should do it down the street when they’re evangelizing to people on the block. You can Electric Slide for JESUS! Yeah, right.

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