Thursday, October 12, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 4– Thursday, Oct.5, 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 is now a tired disclaimer, but I’m paranoid.

My body absolutely rebels at the cooked breakfast this morning. All the heavy Southern food, yummers as it is, is officially taking its toll on my stomach. No eggs, no biscuits, just a bowl of cereal and glass of milk for me please. And the standard explanation to which ever of the Blue Shirt chaplains I’m sitting with that no, I don’t put milk in my cereal, I don’t like soggy cereal, and it all mixes in my stomach anyway, so it’s no big deal.

I start falling asleep at the table during the morning devotionals. It’s embarrassing, but the speaker - another New Orleans native who’s a fireman, goes on for SO LONG about how he “got saved” when he was 12, and his dad was an alcoholic, and he prayed every day for him and 20 years later his dad “got saved” so praise Jesus, Hallelujah. Getting saved is very important to these people. And it’s not that I dismiss their stories, they obviously have meaning for them. But it’s not something I have experience with, or can relate to, or WANT to relate to. So I end up falling asleep and feeling very foolish. Trust me, people, I know how this make me look like a mega-bitch.

We’re off to a new house today, it’s a few streets up from Miss Ida’s house. This is Brett and Liz’s house - a couple in their mid 30s. They have five kids from previous marriages, and are expecting their first child together in February. They evacuated to Tennessee the Sunday before the hurricane hit. The Blue Shirt chaplains would be disappointed at the lack of exciting I Barely Survived Katrina stories we’ve been hearing from people. And it’s a little ghoulish to want to talk to someone who paddled through their kitchen in 6 feet of water as their refrigerator slammed up against their front door. I guess it’s the entertainment culture we live in, plus the fact that many of us work in the entertainment industry, and recognize the importance of a good story.

We missed Brett’s house the first time because we couldn’t see the numbers on the house for all the choked up weeds in the front yard. We’re also told there’s a wasp nest inside the house, and immediately Doc Brown wants to pray a group prayer of protection. Which we do. Seems a little wonky, but in all seriousness, there have been SO many opportunities for any one of us to step on a nail while tromping through trash piles, or clock each other in the head, or to get overheated, dehydrated. And nothing has ever happened (or will, hopefully.) So you can’t help but think maybe God’s watching out for us in the most mundane ways. Maybe that’s how God works for us non-Evangelicals. We don’t get visions, we get no nails in our shoes.

No nicknames on our Tyrex suits today, we forgot the Sharpie. Oops.

This house is a lot of work. A LOT of work. We have to clear out all the crap in the garage, and there’s a sink and cabinet countertop back there. There’s the most random crap like dirty DVD cases and DVDs (Ghost Ship, Minority Report.) broken junk, junk, and weeds.

After we clear that out, we tackle the front rooms of the house. Fearless Leader finds stuff in the closet that appears to not have been touched by mold, or rain, or anything. A box of pictures, a pillow that says Honey. A Mickey Mouse head bank. It’s like finding the Titanic on the bottom of the ocean floor. Buried treasure! Yay! Something they will be happy to have!

But the rest of the house is moldy. Water marks that go up to about 5’10. It’s not plaster (except for the ceiling), so the water and mold make the drywall very easy to punch through, as T-Rock demonstrates to Giggly. She immediately seizes on it, and does her Tai Bo workout on the wall, making Giggly Feet Sized Holes in the wall.

I was punching up the ceiling with a sledgehammer. There’s something interesting about it raining down plaster and insulation directly on you, and you know you’re safe because you’re covered in protective clothing, mask, gloves, helmet, etc.

But I got that whole ceiling and the plaster off the walls. I’m pretty excited about it, because it’s hard to point to something in this house and say “Yeah, I did that. Me. By myself.” There’s so many hands helping you out, as soon as I make a plaster pile of debris on the floor, someone else comes up behind me to whisk it away. And yes, you want as many hands as possible to help you out. But the peculiar downside for me is thinking all this work would get done if I wasn’t there. It wouldn’t get done if NONE of us were there. But it’s hard to think my contribution to this mission is absolutely indispensable.

And during our share time after dinner tonight, we have ANOTHER long testimonial. I’m dying here, I really am.

Tonight’s speaker is again, very sincere, very plain spoken, there is no doubt that he’s a man after Jesus’s own heart. But he tells a very long story about being accused of child molestation by his ex wife, and how he got that thrown out of court, only to be dragged into court for kidnapping and molestation charges when his ex wife called Crimestoppers on a rash of different child molestations. And he spent a few nights in jail until his lawyer could come get him out, and he’s praying with a nun and then he gets a vision of Jesus walking through the bars of his cell. A vision! Yay vision!

And Jesus gets him through the next phase, because something like 7 cases of child molestations are levied against him, and they’re all thrown out of court because he’s innocent. And through it all, our hero is reading the Bible. Always, always reading the Bible. I tried reading the Bible last night, and it was a slog to go through. I’m so going to hell for saying that, by the way. I couldn’t focus, it wasn’t doing anything for me. You’d think if there was something I’m supposed to be getting out of this, that God would point me to it a little bit harder. I’m not asking for words to be magically highlighted in the Bible. But maybe point me to the right page?

But I’m starting to think that the main reason we’re here is not so we learn anything, but so all the other people here learn that it’s not always about prayer circles and visions and testimonies. That you can still be a Christian without all that stuff. You may not be as earnest, you may not be burning with a spiritual fire. But you still count to God. I think. I hope. I really really hope that’s what it is.


Midlife Virgin said...

"You may not be as earnest, you may not be burning with a spiritual fire. But you still count to God. I think. I hope. I really really hope that’s what it is."

I think that's the best thing you could learn. It's what I think, too.

Anonymous said...

There's a phrase I heard when I was going to church in Malibu (of all places)..."The Christian Ghetto." Meaning "a bunch of Christians who are surrounded by other Christians, thereby eliminating exposure and interaction with the outside world."

It's a dangerous place, the Christian Ghetto. I think your presence on this mission trip is exposing some people who are stuck in the Christian Ghetto to people outside the ghetto.

It's a good thing.

One thing I'm curious about...are the different groups interacting at all? Are those in the ghetto getting to know you? Are they finding out that a sarcastic and dry woman can still have a strong Christian heart?

Man, I hope so!