[Proud mom's note: I asked 14YOD to write this as we remember those whose lives were touched by Hurricane Katrina.] Two years ago today [8/29], Hurricane Katrina hit the Southeast. One month ago this past Tuesday, I got back from a mission trip in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where there is still damage.I was in Bay St. Louis with the junior high of my youth group, and this mission trip was different from any other we had ever been on. The regular set-up for Group Work Camps Foundation is this. All the youth groups stay in a high school, sleep on the floor of the classrooms, eat in the cafeteria, and have worship services in the gymnasium. The first night that you are there, Sunday, you meet your crew of four or five youth and one or two adults, who you will be working with for the rest of the week. There isn’t anyone from your youth group in there, so you don’t know anyone at the beginning of the week. You are staying in an impoverished community, and you and your crew are assigned someone’s house to repair. This is your resident. Most of the time, you are painting, caulking window frames, boarding up parts of houses that are falling apart. There are bigger things that you do too, like building wheel chair ramps, re-shingling rooftops.
Now that you know what we were expecting, you can feel a little sympathy for us when we saw where we were. We pulled up to an emptied lumberyard with
When we first arrived. See? You can’t even tell that we’re faking it!
about 10 or 12 doublewide trailers. In our trailer alone, there were 44 girls with plywood bunkbeds that were stacked right up against each other. They had obviously been built very recently and not sanded. We had a lot of splinters. A local church in Bay St. Louis had set up this little “trailer park” for a place for people coming on mission trips, not necessarily with Group, to stay in. They had a little area made for us to do our worship service and eat. When we finally accepted that this was it, I kid you not, there were tears shed from girls in our youth group. We were the highest maintenance people there by far, and we were the only ones from Alabama. We thought that was rather ironic. Hey, at least we know we’re spoiled.
We were not doing what we had expected as far as work goes. They had four weeks of youth groups already working on these places. The house my crew was working on had been built from the ground up about a month before we came. We were installing doors, carrying shingles, putting up drywall for ceilings, climbing up on ladders and nailing in any rafters left to be put up. It was even hotter there than it had been a year ago when we went to Monroe, Louisiana and by far hotter than two years ago when we were in Lexington, North Carolina. The work, for my crew at least, was harder than it had ever been for the only
two of us that had been to a Group Work Camp before. This is the house my crew worked on for most of the week.
If I see another Tyvek Homewrap, I think I might scream!
Now don’t worry about our pitiful girls. We ended up being alright. We weren’t being complete pains in the neck. We understood that, hello? You’re on a mission trip! You don’t complain about staying in a trailer. Nearly everyone we were helping was still in a trailer they had been living in for two years. Still, we really just wanted to be back in a classroom sleeping on the floor, with no one but our own youth group. You may think this is very unsocial, but it’s because of our sleeping habits. We tried very hard, but still kept a few people from the other youth groups from the peaceful slumber that they wished they’d had the next day. I think that on average, we had a total of probably 32 hours of sleep that week. That’s a normal amount for three nights, not six.
It was mind-blowing to see the devastation that still exists in Bay St. Louis. They got hurricane damage probably just as badly as New Orleans if not worse. There used to be a house next-door to the one we were building. All that was left standing was the frame, one or two doors, and two sets of stairs. It looks like a playground when you just take a glance.
After we left, the Lagniappe (Lan-yapp) (the name of the “church” center where we were staying) staff was still there, and more youth groups were coming for a few weeks after that. The Lagniappe staff finished any houses that the youth didn’t have time to finish, but most houses were finished by the work campers themselves.
The damage and destruction is unreal, even when you’re there. Katrina is not over. The after quakes are still rumbling. It’s hard to comprehend the devastation that occurred in Louisiana and Mississippi, especially if you haven’t seen it yourself, but it’s something everyone needs to know about so that we can all do our part to help.