Mississippi Mission Trip June 25 –July 2, 2006
Twenty-seven brave and determined souls headed for Kiln, Mississippi from Westminster Presbyterian Church, Albany New York to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita in their process of recovery. We were graciously allowed to stay in the Dedeaux Center run by Catholic Charities to assist hurricane victims in the immediate area. For me it was the hardest that I have worked in one week in quite some time. The emotional stress of wanting to help as many families as possible in the time we had added to the dynamic of the week. We did help nine different families — some more than others. We did everything from general clean up, brush removal, sheet rocking and painting to plumbing a garden shed to be used as a house, roofing a house, raising and leveling a trailer and building kitchen cabinet doors. We even managed an afternoon adventure to the French Quarter and boat ride on the Mississippi.
One of the moving experiences of the week was the assistance we received from people we met as we worked. We needed house jacks to raise a trailer for Terry Jones. The Kennedy’s also needed to raise their trailer and were going to purchase jacks—they loaned us the jacks to use at Terry’s. Terry’s trailer needed a new roof and he knew of a local church that would help when he was ready. Miss Mae’s house needed a new roof and this local church loaned us the lift to raise the shingles to the roof and the nail guns to apply the shingles. The minister even brought the shingles to Miss Mae’s with his truck and trailer. When we were unable to finish the roof before we left he helped one of our crew who stayed to see that it was done. We even met one of the Kennedy children working at a local convenience store where we were buying juice for our parched workers. This connectedness and willingness to assist each other was heartening.
From my experiences of traveling in the war-torn countries of both Bosnia and Afghanistan, I felt I was in familiar and uncomfortable territory. The difference was that this was my own country. Here, almost a year after the devastation, there were areas where it seemed that nothing had been done. The task of rebuilding the lives of the residents of this part of the country has just begun! What has been done so far has just scratched the surface! This is surprising to me in that we live in one of the richest country of the world and the rebuilding seems just as slow as in Afghanistan. My heart goes out to these people of the Gulf Coast who are working so hard to piece their lives together after loosing almost everything that they had spent years building or that had been left them by their ancestors.