Saturday, October 29, 2005

Is this the most random?

I’m not sure but today could top my list of most random days spent on this tiny spinning ball of blue. I was brought in to be the transitional camp manager of Gautier (go-Shay), MS. It’s a PDA “Volunteer Village”, technically the first village to be up and running after Katrina hit. The former camp manager was a tad on the militant side and apparently the higher ups had enough…so I got to be part of a coup of sorts (government sponsored of course). It’s interested being inserted into a highly tense and dynamic situation. Some folks are smiling from ear to ear and eagerly shaking my hand. Others are scratching their heads trying to figure out what has happened. And some are plain mad and immediately start making phone calls to whoever the most influential person they know is.

Along with trying to smooth out fractured relationships, near the top of my priority list was to get a handle on the “paperwork”. Anyone who has ever come into contact with me might know a bit about my organizational style. To say that I have a system would be overstating the facts. I have no system…or at least I have no discipline in keeping to my systems. Every so often I go through the motions of driving to Office Depot and buying a new sure fire organizational system that is sure to put me on the right track, veering off the path that leads to destruction – missed appointments, double booking, missed birthdays---sorry to those who have fallen victim. It’s a lot like a new year’s resolution but with better intensions and less heart. Within about 2 weeks the day planner, palm pilot, MS Office software, wall calendar, whatever, is collecting dust sitting in the back seat of my car, next to the empty chai paper cup and on top of last week’s Sunday funnies and an apple core.

But I digress… So I’m going through probably 400 pieces of paper, most of which are work requests of folks who have had their homes and lives turned upside down in about 7 hours – 7 weeks ago. My solution? A brand new spread sheet, of course! I spent a few hours inputting the data and finding out the names and addresses of those who we need TO DO and those who are DONE. I was overwhelmed by the number of DONEs the volunteers of this camp had done. These weren’t numbers or addresses but they were Al and Helen Larson of Pascagoula, Carlos Hernandez of Gautier and Alice Bennett of Gautier. About 100 of them…DONE. It’s a good feeling that I wish the former camp manager had the opportunity to go through and tell me stories of each person he or his team of volunteers had the privilege of serving.

So, have I mentioned in the past few days that this is all volunteers who are coming in from around the country? In camp, right now, there’s a group from Oakland and Orange County, CA and Northern Alabama. Coming in tomorrow are some guys from Texas (bringing their chainsaws to massacre some broken trees no less) and some folks from Newark, NJ. Did I mention that these are all just regular folks that want to help out? Do you want to help out for a few days? Come!!! You too can come. You need very little skill to drag heaps of drywall and soggy insulation in large plastic bins to the side of the road. Get a first hand experience down here… tell your own stories of the people you’ve helped! And if not, think about donating some $. Councilman Bill Stallworth, of Biloxi, estimates that to rebuild a house in East Biloxi it will cost $30-35,000 in materials alone. They are counting on volunteers to come through to hang the wallboard, install counters and paint walls, etc. Have any extra nails or drywall in your garage? Drive it down here! Or earmark a donation to go toward supplies.

I’m now stepping off my soapbox for the night. Good night and may God sustain us all until we meet again!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hard to believe

Today I went down to Long Beach and Pass Christian. Both towns are located on the beach, mostly retirement communities and both have been annihilated. The ONLY thing standing for several blocks are the trees and an occasional house structure. I took a picture of myself sitting in one of those bolted down chairs that they have "inside" McDonalds, except the only thing left of MickyDs is the chairs and the concert slab...and the frame of the McDonalds sign.

John Robinson, who is one of the heads of PDA is here and toured that area yesterday. During this past year he has also spent considerable time in the Tsunami devastated areas of Indonesia and Sri Lanka. His comment, upon reflecting on the damage that he saw here was that this area is no more pulverized than the Tsunami EXCEPT that these folks had 2+ days warning to get out. The Tsunami came without a blink...I can't imagine what the carnage would have been like if not for the days of warning and preparation.

In the midst I need to remember the beauty and not only focus on the carnage. I hope you can take time today to see the beauty...a sunset or sunrise, drive by the beach, go surfing, take a bike ride...get out and enjoy God's creation.

Tomorrow I'm heading over to the PDA camp in Gautier, MS to be the temporary camp manager for the weekend. I should be back to Orange Grove on Monday.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I had the opportunity this morning to sit in on a meeting at the OXFAM headquarters of all of the heads of local and relief organizations who are interested in working together in East Biloxi. OXFAM has taken the point on the organization and communication in the relief effort. The range of organizations is from FEMA to Islamic Disaster Relief to Catholic Charities to NAACP and PDA. Granted there were probably a dozen or more agencies not represented but the feel of the meeting was very cooperative. Discussion centered around how to get temporary contractors licenses, guidelines on electricians and plumbers and a plan on when the area of the city will start rebuilding...about 10 days from now.

5000 structures were destroyed in E. Biloxi, most of those were houses. This number does not reflect the number of houses that are uninhabitable...that number is much greater.

This morning I had to scrape the ice off my car window and when I turned the car on, the outside temperature gage read 38. Most of the tenants in the houses are staying in tents, on the ground. There is a need for more tents, cots, sleeping bags and winter jackets. Not totally surprising, Bechtel, who is the primary contractor FEMA is using to deliver and install the trailers, has delivered a bunch of trailers that are technically uninhabitable because the sewer, water and electric has yet to be connected. In one case, the sewer was hooked up to flow into the sink drain...that makes for a pretty gross mistake.

People are getting bye yet I've certainly seen signs of stress in the locals I met when I was here a week ago. Depression is starting to set in with some as the feeling of being unable to control their surroundings continues to drag on.

Hope for a broken world...hope in brokenness...hope everywhere must continue to be infused into each situation. As I write this, I'm keenly aware that folks on the Gulf coast do not hold the keys to hopelessness...2 million people in Pakistan are homeless as winter sets in... Winters in the Kashmir region are slightly more severe than the winters in Mississippi.

Please do what you can to help...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Back to Normal?

I'm at the Internet Coffee shop in Gulfport and sitting across from me is a guy studying, a bride-to-be talking with a potential weding photographer, and three older men shooting the breeze - talking about the amount of dammage done to each of their houses. Life is beginning to return to normal but normal has been redifined. There is no more "normal". Normal has changed and most likely, normal on the Gulf coast will never be normal again.

I took the pictures of the boats as I was driving to the coffee shop...As I looked up the waterway, I saw probably another 30 boats up on the shore or capsized.

Meanwhile at Camp Orange Grove, we are between groups. Apparently today is the first day since the camp started that no volunteer groups have been there. It gives me a chance to get oriented and the two men I'm working with, Mark and Dan "The Grump", an opportunity to catch their breath. Mark counted up that there have been over 2000 volunteer days of work already done in this area through PDA. Much of the work done could be contracted out for $10 an hour per person. That's the going rate down here. That adds up to about $160,000 worth of work being done by folks who want to lend a hand and love their neighbor. I hope God is pleased...Good things are going on both physically and in our hearts.

Ta Ta For Now!

Monday, October 24, 2005

New Orleans

I'll be honnest, landing in the Louie Armstrong International Airport was a bit of a jaring experience. After seeing the TV coverage of it being used as a hospital, it's a strange experience to be walking to the baggage area and recognizing different signs of the chaos that dominated the area a few weeks back.

I drove I-10 right past the Superdome, by University hospital, by the French an ancient looking cemetary with huge amounts of dammage. Strange in deed. The sunsets still can't be beat!

Above, the Westbound span of I-10 is missing in parts... a familiar look down here.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Heading South!

As my last post said, I'm headed south tomorrow (Monday) at 6AM, landing in New Orelans then driving east to Gulfport, MS to help coordinate all of the volunteers coming in from across the United States through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance ( My home church, Carmel Presbyterian Church ( given me a great gift in SENDING me as a representative of the church down to Mississippi for the next month.

I'm happy to report that as of last week, God's church is doing what it was created to do...bring out of chaos, hope.
I just finished up a conversation with Janis Duncan and we were talking about the larger picture of what if going on in the South. The hurricane unvieled quite a bit of the social ills that continue to plague this country. What I noticed last time I was down in Biloxi was the sheer amount of ordinary church people who chose to leave their life of comfort for a time and walk as Jesus walked, bring aid, compassion, love and hope to those without. I wonder how these acts of compassion will influence the church in America AND the larger history of America...
To view some beautiful acts of compassion check out the web site for Compassion Central
( You don't have to donate but scroll down and read about all of the impacting works this organization is doing... It really is a miracle...

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Change of plans

So... did I mention that I'm going back to Mississippi on Monday....for a month to help coordinate the relief effort down there? It's absolutely nutty!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Out of Chaos, Hope in Biloxi

I'm not sure how to rightly convey what has been experienced by me and 25 of my friends from the high school group here at CPC so I'm going to go with pictures and stories...

Dianna is no more than 20. She works at the local Food Tiger a few blocks from where she lives with her grandma, Uncle who is missing a leg, several cousins, and a miriad of other extended family. Dianna is also 2 months pregnant.
In total there are 8 people living in a house that our
team entered wearing protective gear.

We took down the walls while they were still living in the house. On the second day of the job, Rebecca, a CHS student, and I opened up the kitchen cabinates and started clearing out the pots and pans that were full of flood water which had been sitting for 6 weeks. The smell was revolting. Then we doused everything with as much bleach as we could muster. At one point we needed to use an axe to cut a hole in the cabinates to let the water drain out. Rebecca swung the axe and sludge splattered all over the both of us. I wasn't sure if Rebecca was laughing or going to throw up since we had masks on...that kind of summerized our entire trip. Getting super dirty, working really hard, having tons of differing emotions flowing into and out of us, and in the end smiling and laughing and being thankful that we could make a difference.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Goin' to the Missippi Mudd

Do you remember the song that most of us learned at girl scout camp...
"Well the sun goes down and the moon comes up, people gather round and we all begin to shout. Hey, hey uncle dud, it's a treat to put your feet in the mississippi mud, it's a treat to stick you feet in the mississippi mud...mud, mud, mud, mud, mud...mississippi mud, yeah!"

Anyone? Anyone? Well I'm taking 26 others down tomorrow to clean up the mississippi mud and I'm not sure how much of a treat it will be...a privelage yes, a treat? Hard to say. I'll let you know later.

I just saw "Lord of War". Good movie but hard on the moralistic senses. It's about a gun runner, Nicolas Cage, who buys arms from defunct countries and sells them to debased dictators, making a nice living in the process. The movie does a great job of exposing the systemic problem of the old adage, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The PS at the end of the movie lists the 5 largest gun supliers as the US, Russia, Israel, China and one other, which I forget. All 5 also hold perminant seats on the UN Security counsel. Doesn't Sudan have a seat on the Security counsel as well? Totally disturbing to say the least.

What's my response? Where do I start? A friend of a friend is an aid worker in North Africa was carjacked, potentially raped and stuffed in the trunk only to be found later. What in the world... Lord Jesus, forgive us our SINS. Come Lord Jesus, Come!