The Gulf Coast Mission crew- all 15 of us together, if only for an hour and a half, but together, for the first time since orientation- met in New Orleans yesterday for a little business and a whole lot of fun. My 5 housemates and myself arrived dressed as six of the other volunteers (photos to come) and if I do say so myself, the joke went over quite well. We had a brief meeting and then toured around the French Market for the afternoon. It was a beautiful, sunny, not-very-fall-at-all day, but I still loved it.
We came back to Gulfport to meet up with friends and do a bit of trick or treating adult style- we hit one bar and one casino in costume (again, photos to come). Brenna was dressed as a lobster, Linda was an angel, and I was a ghost. I mean a real ghost. White sheet with eye and mouth holes. I thought it was classic! I mean, who dresses as a ghost anymore? Well, apparently not anyone in Mississippi, because when we were out at the casino a man asked if I was dressed as the Klan for Halloween. That was the end of my costume, and my ignorance. I am learning things about the south, slowly but surely.
All the same, it was a great relief to get out of the church, see some friends and enjoy a few laughs yesterday. It's been a stressful couple of weeks for me down here. I have been so fortunate to be so wonderfully supported by church, friends and family through phone calls, emails and care packages. And I really feel that I've bonded with housmates through this experience. But the work is hard. The relationships are hard. The communication and organization is hard to work with at this point. We've had meeting after meeting to try and address some issues. The simple fact is that this still is a disaster zone. There may not be bodies lying in the street anymore, but people here are still living in crisis all the time; working in crisis all the time. I get frustrated that things aren't more organized or structured, but then I remember that no one has had time to structure the structure, because they are still working on feeding and housing their neighbors. I really hope that my housemates and I can provide some relief by way of hard work and help, but I also think it is arrogant to expect that I can just jump in and create change and provide help. It's a daily battle for me to find a way to help without getting in the way.
But I believe God has called me, and so many others, here to serve. He didn't give us directions or assembly instructions. He gave us hands and minds and hearts to use in His service. The rest of the details are just that, details that we've got to figure out. I have faith that as a community of His servants, we'll "make it work" (Is it okay to borrow a catch phrase from my Project Runway friend Tim Gunn while attempting to make a serious point? Apparently, yes.).
Today my friend Linda and I attended a service of healing and prayer with our Episcopal friends here at Handsboro. Sensing our emotions and stress levels, Sarah, the priest, asked us how far we are into our mission year. She guessed we were 8 weeks in. We told her that she was about right. She told us that when she started seminary, they told her upon arrival that pretty much all seminarians experience a meltdown around 8 weeks in. I guess it is just the natural time to question every expectation you had, relationship you've developed, hope you've believed, assumption you've made and bit work you've done. So, if you have been reading these blogs you know I have been struggling with some things lately, but know that those struggles are normal. It's time to question everything. The priest said so. And so does my heart. And I know that these questions and emotions will only bring me closer to God, to the work He has called me to do and the people He has called me to serve.
And it's not like I'm not having any fun......