Saturday, October 14, 2006

Katrina Country Mission Trip Day 6 – Saturday, Oct.7, 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 the last Katrina post! Yay! Yay! No pictures! My camera battery ran out on the last day!

Since we’re not working today, we don’t have to get up when they turn the lights on, so we continue to sleep through the breakfast call, and the singing, and the TESTIMONIES. T-Rock is the only one who hears today’s testimony, and he’s too tired spacey to remember the exact details, but reports it’s pretty much the same as everyone else’s, sob story followed by a breakdown, followed by a solemn “Jesus Heals!” finale.

Because we’ve got an afternoon flight back to L.A., we can’t really squeeze in another day of work, even if it’s a half day, so we go back to the Quarter (parking ON Bourbon street this time, by Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on the east end. This is just crazy, folks. You have no idea.) We go down to Café Du Monde, and get the beignets with the powdered sugar that gets everywhere, but it’s all good.

Native Chick directs our van through the Garden District to a college restaurant called Cooter Brown’s for lunch.

Everyone eats family style, and the guy we sit next to is happy and grateful and thanks us for doing the work we’re doing in Gentilly. He tries to persuade us to come with him to Tipitina's tonight, where we’ll get the love back tenfold. But we’ve got a flight out.

And it’s just another example of the famous Southern hospitality. These people are just so NICE. Later on, when we’re driving back to the Quarter, we’re circling around a spot on Royal Street, and this woman is leaving her spot, and says she’ll wait to move until Fearless Leader brings the car back around. She’s so nice, and is even nicer when she hears we’ve been doing gutouts in Gentilly. “Thank ya’ll so much for helping us rebuild.” She says in a great Southern drawl. And that’s how these people are. They ask you about your day, they ask you where’re you from, whatcha doing. And they genuinely seem to care, as opposed to to say, Disneyworld, where you can tell they’re asking you because they probably have their boss in the corner watching them, making sure they ask in the official five minutes of polite question time. As opposed to say, where I’m from in Alabama, where they’re pleasant, but not nice. New Orleans folk are just NICE.

Compare that to our first experience off the plane in LAX, where Native Chick’s husband is giving us a ride home, and as we’re trying to load the suitcases into his car, a cop walks up, cites him for expired tags, and the fact that he’s parked in a white zone. “This whole airport is a white zone!” we grumble. But it does no good, he gets a ticket anyway, which makes me feel awful. Welcome back to Los Angeles.

So I did it. Answered the call. Gutted out some houses in New Orleans. They could’ve done it without me. But I went anyway. I still feel like I’m the exact same person before I left and when I came back. No earthshattering realizations. I didn’t get to handle a chainsaw (apparently, you only get to do that when you’re clearing out downed trees. Rats.) But I did drink a Hand Grenade, so it all evens out.

Maybe this was all seed planting, and the metaphorical fruits will sprout later. I did deepen my friendship with Native Chick (cleaning three disgusting bathrooms will do that to ya.) I made a new friend with Giggly. We’re all in the same Home Group through church, so I see us going on many adventures to come.

Dear Blue Shirt Chaplains.

My name is Amy The Writer. This is my testimony. It’s not as spectacular as yours. There are no visions of Jesus walking through jail cells, or converting alcoholic family members. There are plenty of breakdowns, places where I’ve hit rock bottom and cried out to God for help. If it had happened to you, you’d get bright lights, or overwhelming feelings of peace, or a timely phone call from a friend. I get silence. But I keep going.

I’ve always believed in God. I’ve always believed in JesusChristasmypersonalLordandSavior. Sometimes I get mighty pissed off and bitch His Almighty ears off, but I never stop believing. Without the visions. Without the bright lights. Without the overwhelming feelings of peace.

I believe. I believe without proof (other than the material needs being met factors, which are huge, don’t get me wrong.) I’m a Functional Depressive who believes in a God who, for reasons known only to Him, refuses to take away my pain. It’s a pretty hollow way to live, and it takes more strength than you think. Personally, I don’t think you could do it, because I don’t think you’d understand how your soothing faux-Eucalyptus words of “Do you know how Jesus Christ has helped ME in my life” don’t fill the hole inside me.

And maybe it just takes time. I don’t think it’s an accident that I never saw a Blue Shirt who wasn’t under 50 years old. Maybe the more you live, the more you learn, and maybe I’m in for a earthshattering vision where Jesus steps into my kitchen and does a few tequila shots with me when I'm 49 years old, which would be pretty awesome.

This is my testimony. It’s not earthshattering. No dramatic conversations. No visions. A very mean and petty part of me says I’ve got more faith than you, since I’m doing it without all that stuff.

But there’s room in God’s kingdom for us both. For your obnoxious sidewalk strolling Bible pushing ways, and for my online blogging bitchery. God can use all of us in our own unique ways for His purposes. But forgive me if I stay on the other side of the cafeteria in Heaven from you. It’s how I roll.


Amy The Writer

Coda. On Sunday, Oct.8th, and true to form for me when returning from any God approved adventure (see Alpha Retreat, church retreats, Act One Screenwriting Month) I did indeed fall into a dark night of the soul, where I’m crying, shaking on the bed, and calling out to God for help. Though I didn’t get a vision, I did get a timely phone call from a friend (so maybe it’s baby steps.) I babbled and bared the icky parts of my soul for an hour, and made him swear to silence that we would never mention this again. This is a personal shout out to him. Thank you, Xavier. But you’re still not allowed to mention it ever again.

Folks, that was a week’s worth of blogging, so what do you say we give me a small break, and pick back up on Friday the 20th? Many thanks, I love you all. God loves you too, and would probably give you a vision before He gives it to me, ha ha ha.


Midlife Virgin said...

I was very moved by your Dear Blueshirts letter. I think your quiet, consistent, bitchy, real, personal belief is more real and more precious than the people who stand up and scream their belief. I think the personal, quiet, questioning belief touches more people and reaches more hearts than any other. That quiet faith is what will eventually lead you to YOUR own understanding and connection with God so don't let the Blueshirts beat that out of you. You'll find eventually what gifts you brought back from New Orleans, whether you want to or not.

Anonymous said...

I never really thought of it this way, but I guess I'm also a "Functional Depressive who believes in a God who, for reasons known only to Him, refuses to take away my pain." Maybe that's why I relate to you so well...

Thank you. I admire you a lot (not in the "ax-weilding stalker" way but more in the "I wish I could be as honest in my struggles as you" way.)

Stephaine - yes, that's spelled right said...

Boy do I love this stuff. Great work by the way. Can't wait to hear about your trip. We should get together when you're rested and catch up. I'm glad you had the opportunity to go. I wish I could've gone with you.