Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Almost Famous...

The conclusion of my time spent in Mississippi working with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is nowhere near finished. Even though I’m clean and warm and sitting in my room in Monterey, the story continues to unfold. Some good, some bad and some just plain ugly.

Yesterday, I rode on 5 different planes in a successful attempt to get back to California. My journey started at 5 am and ended at 8 pm. I could have flown to Moscow, Russia and visited my relatives living there in the time it took to get home. During my layover between legs 4 and 5, I flipped through last month’s issue of Outside Magazine, which was running pictures of the Katrina aftermath, and was stopped dead in my tracks. There, on the front page of the article, was Wendell sitting in his wheel chair, shirt off, looking despondent. Some students from Carmel Presbyterian Church worked on Wendell’s house while he and 7 others were living there. As we worked I couldn’t help but notice how many cars stopped by the house. I heard last week that the house is a crack house, supplying drugs to the neighborhood. I was slack jawed at first but it didn’t really surprise me…it kind of sums up the dichotomy of the work we are doing down there. Did these people “deserve” to have folks come and help them out? Did they live lives worthy of having people help them? Not really. That’s not what it’s about anyway.

Popular misconception… Jesus’ love is warm and fuzzy…teddy bears and hearts and chocolate chip cookies. Hard actuality… Jesus’ love is big enough to send 10 high school kids and two adults 2000 miles across the country to spend 2 days striping the walls out of a crack house, not really expecting anything in return. We went in ignorance, which was okay because when it comes down to it even crack dealers have mold in their house that is spreading to their lungs. It’s an unsettling thought…especially to me. What’s next? Serving the poor? Seeking justice for those living at the hands of injustice?

On Friday before I left, I drove down every street that we had worked on in East Biloxi delivering pots full of tulip bulbs that we placed on the sites. When we turned the corner on Strangi St., I noticed that the landscape had changed dramatically. The house that Diane was living in (barefoot and off its foundation) had burned to the ground. June’s house next door, where the folks from Michigan had spent much of their week, had also burned. Apparently, Diane had started a fire in an attempt to warm herself in the cold weather. The fire spread and she left. It’s pretty amazing that her damp, moldy house would burn to the ground. It was really disgusting in there.

These are sad, troubling thoughts. I realize that many of the posts have been brimming with hope. Hope plays the lead role down there…it needs to…it must continue to. Yet this community is not without its challenges. The above two stories are reality. There is no way around it. That’s where we are. It is NOT where we need to stay. God's challenge is in making all things new...God's people are the hands and feet on the ground doing much of the labor. I'm thankful for PDA, UMCORE (United Methodists), Catholic Charities, Samaritian's Purse, Mercy Ships, Southern Baptists, Lutheran Disaster Response, Episcopal Disaster Response, Church World Service, even Islamic Relief f and the Burningman Bhuddist contingent for taking part in being the hands of God to the broken.


Blogger Scott Eggert said...


Thank you for sharing the ugly. Many times we think of serving the poor, homeless, and destitute as a noble cause endeavored for the only the pure and innocent. However, many times those whom we serve are the drug dealers, spouse abusers, or just plain lazy. The striking contrast to our home life here is sunny California is that we know where the drug dealers live; we know what there houses look like; we know just how to avoid them. In Mississippi the playing field has been leveled. This is where Christ calls us to serve, where the barriers to ministry have been removed; the barriers that are often erected by us.

Scott Eggert
Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a real paradox isn't it? The broken, the poor, the hurting, the dependent, the addicted, the users...I suppose to some degree or another, this is all of us, isn't it? In the midst of the chaos, we come into contact with God's amazing grace. For truth be told, who among us "deserves" a cup of cool water, offered by a stranger? What makes us so special that a stranger may stop and pick us up in the midst of our own stuff? Why would anyone stop to offer us help in our time of despair and need? In the midst of our chaos, where do we find hope? Hummm.....

Erica, I really love reading your blog. Your writing cuts to the heart of the soul and pierces the darkness revealing God's healing light. I thank my God in my every remebrance of you....peace. Mark

8:49 PM  

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