I started this blog to keep my church, friends and family updated on my year volunteering in Katrina recovery with the Presbyterian Church (USA). I've now signed on for a second year working in disaster recovery and another year living in Mississippi. It's getting good....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Important News Update:

I had to use my ice scraper on the car this morning! IN MISSISSIPPI!

That's all. We'll now return to regularly scheduled blogging.

Back to the Christmas report....

Christmas in Mississippi was fantastic, as I am sure you can tell by the few photos I posted yesterday. I had mixed feelings going into the holidays here. How can you have Christmas in 75 degree heat? Will the church be packed? Why am I not skiing? Where is my family? What about my favorite family Christmas traditions? Why does my tree have Mardi Gras masks and feathers all over it? Where will we eat? What will we eat? What about all of the families we're working with down here? Urg.

Christmas Eve was a rainy day. I had spent the day before gathering and delivering Christmas gifts and dinners for families donated by my church back home. My roommate Linda and I had stayed up until 2:30am wrapping gifts for Christmas Eve delivery to some needy families with whom we've been working. On Christmas Eve, I hit both the Episcopal and Presbyterian morning worship services here at Handsboro. At the Presbyterian service, a few homeless folks joined us for worship. It has become commonplace for homeless neighbors to come by the church requesting assistance with food, blankets, bus tickets, gas money, etc. It rarely happens on a Sunday. Pastor Scott had run out of money in his discressionary aid budget to assist these people, so he invited them to worship and agreed to request assistance from the congregation directly. They sat through the service and we all gave what we could to help them out. I spoke with them a bit and then gave them some of the money my home church had sent for Christmas needs. As we were talking, Scott and I realized that they had no place to eat Christmas day. Scott and his family had already invited all of the GCM volunteers over to their (not-yet-completed) home for Christmas supper, so it was easy for him to invite our new friends as well. We weren't sure if they would show up, but Rebecca (Scott's wife) and I started planning for the meal just in case.

The evening worship services that night were held at Orange Grove Presbyterian Church, the yoked congregation with Handsboro. As Linda and I were headed out the door, we ran into our new friends, from the morning service. They wanted to attend evening worship and didn't know how to get to the church. It was awesome. I couldn't believe they had returned! When they stepped into Orange Grove's sanctuary, several church members recognized them and greeted them warmly. This was the best true Christmas moment I can remember. And the service was beautiful, full of readings and carols- just the way I like it.

After church, Linda and I had dinner with some Episcopal friends. They opened their home to two ladies with no place to eat a proper Christmas meal. Another fine example of the Christmas spirit. And their family is pretty darn funny, too!

Christmas Eve finished with my two roommates and two of our GCM friends left in town all bunked in my room. We dragged all the mattresses in and had a big sleepover, complete with a lively White Christmas sing-along. A wind storm and flapping flashing awoke us all around 2:30am, so the crew slept in past my normal Santa-wake-up hour. Around 8:30 we got up and started with breakfast beignets, Grandma Grogan's sticky buns, cider, and gifts. Melodie was the proud recipient of a DVD Tetris game that we all enjoyed testing out. Somehow, without my family being here, it felt much like the Christmas mornings of my childhood.

Soon after the unwrapping was done, it was time to whip into gear preparing lunch. Our homeless friends arrived around noon and we all shared a great Christmas meal of jumbalaya and salad. That's Christmas in the South! Then I recruited Mical and Tyler to take part in my Christmas Cookie Sweatshop. We made sour cream cut-outs, peanut butter kiss cookies, and of course, chocolate chippers. Four hours of that done, we hardly had time to clean up and get to work on Christmas Dinner.

About a month ago, Scott and Rebecca had invited us over to the newly renovated manse for Christmas dinner. They were supposed to be able to move in on Dec. 15th. Well, the manse wasn't ready. So they moved into another temporary home and we had Christmas dinner there, with their family. It was fantastic. I enjoyed my first fried turkey and I am totally sold on it. We had all the trimmings- sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, the famous Miranda stuffing, ham, green beans, etc., etc. The meal was tasty and the company was cozy. We played Uno, Apples to Apples, and some sort of electronic password game for hours. It was laughter, joy, and insane competition- all characteristics of the Christmases I remember and love.

So somehow, without anything familiar available to me in Mississippi this Christmas, I had a very traditional, warm, loving holiday with good friends, strangers, and lots and lots of food. The Christmas spirit is alive and well in this disaster zone, in the families we work with, in this rebuilding congregation, in our developing GCM project, and I hope in all of you, too.

Merry Christmas- all year long!

PS- for Christmas photos check out this link!

No comments: