Pascagoula, Mississippi. If I had to describe it in three words, they would be… looting, destruction, and HOT!!! The temperature reached over 105 degrees by 10:00 a.m. I was there to build houses for Hurricane Katrina victims. I had expected the city to be doing much better, seeing as how it was over a year since the tragedy happened, but it seemed everything was still in disarray.
The top of each house was covered in a tarp as blue as a Pepsi can. The crime and suicide rates had gone up due to the mass destruction. People were being looted out of any possession they had left.
The conditions we lived in while we were down there were appalling. Over 100 boys slept in a gymnasium on air mattresses, cots, or the floor. The boys only had four showers, and one toilet. The girls slept in a smaller part of the gymnasium and part of a local church; they also had four showers, but had two toilets. But for some reason none of us cared. We were all there to serve, not for a luxurious Caribbean cruise.
I had gone with several people from my church, but we soon met up with the army of a district Eastern Kentucky had sent. We were assigned more jobs than others, seeing as how we brought over fifty people from our district alone. We were not all in one group due to the crowding of a single work site, so we split into two teams and worked on separate jobs. I worked on a roofing job, and a siding job.
On the first day we all went to a roofing job, trying to be the first that summer to finish a roof in one day. We went to work; several people taking down shingles on the roof and many more taking them to a junk pile by the road. By 10:00 that morning the temperature had reached over 100 degrees and would continue to rise. We were all searching the heavens for a cloud that would come and block out the sun for a couple of seconds to offer some relief, but our wishes were never granted. But we pressed on, and started putting new shingles up by 1:00 p.m. We fell short by an hour and had to pack up and wait for tomorrow to finish up. The next day we put up the rest of the shingling which finally finished the roofing job.
Later that day, we went to a house that had excessive amounts of termite damage. We had to take what was left of the original side, and put plywood up to support the siding we were about to hang. After a while we were asking what else we could do, from then on it became an extreme makeover, I was even waiting for Ty Pennington to start screaming through a megaphone. We mowed their yard; painted their front porch and back patio, cleared their yards of trash, as well as some minor landscaping.
Even though we worked eight to nine hours daily we all still anticipated the church services every evening. It was very encouraging to see how many people gave up part of their summer to come help people they have never even met. The services always began with songs from the preacher, Brian White; he got us all up dancing, praising, and having a great time in the Lord. He shared some stories from his life that made us laugh all the way through the sermon but at the end he made us think about what he said. Don’t get me wrong, they were great services, but they weren’t the same conventional services with just a different sermon. We sang fast pace songs and went around the Sanctuary meeting people from different places, all in the first few minutes of the service!
My favorite part of the service came toward the end. Close to the end of the services, we got to pray for our family and friends at the alter. While many people were praying, I felt that it was only me and God. I was pouring my heart and soul to Someone that already knew what I was going to say before I could even start talking, and would give me a perfect answer every time I asked for one. When I started praying it felt like I was alone but once I got going I felt as if all my friends were praying with me, helping me push through.
The most uplifting part of the whole trip was when someone from my church found how much God had helped her, and realized what she should do next. I had finished praying for my father when I looked up to see her deep in prayer beside me. I had never expected for her to be there, because she had never drawn attention to herself in in the previous services. By looking at her I could see how happy she was to be there and how she didn’t want to leave until she was finished and had an answer. Before I knew it she was praying with our youth leader, Angie, and got saved. All her friends gathered around her and embraced her into the family. She was overcome with emotion, and could hardly stand. I was so privileged to be there with her and to be able to talk to her. She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and I was able to build a friendship with her.
When I think back on these events I can’t help but thank God for the opportunity to come at the last minute, when someone had backed out. It changed my life and let me see it isn’t all about me, I can help others, too. I’ve become able to spread compassion towards others and be able to help them in their time of need. If I could do it all again I would do it in a heartbeat. I couldn’t ask for a more blessed experience to reach out to others in the name of God. For I wish to be a sheep, and I wait to hear those words, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
And who knows I might have been entertaining angels…
- Title: 109 degrees
- Artist: Maximum the Zinc
This is a prose piece about a mission trip to Mississippi when we went to build houses for the victims of Hurricane Katrina...
Sorry for the length, but is a good read...
- Date: 12/07/2008
- Tags: degrees