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, September 27, 2006

Back in Balmer, hon.... (9/27/06)

Hey all!
I made it back to Baltimore today for the MS Challenge Walk this weekend. Yesterday the Handsboro crew and I painted our living space. It is fantastic! Then the team took off early this morning for PCUSA's Ghost Ranch retreat in New Mexico for a YAV orientation. I am bummed to miss the fun, but glad to be home to visit with family a bit. My family, friends and I are participating in a three-day 50 mile walk for the National MS Society this weekend (that we've been planning for about one year). I won't be at church Sunday because I will be somewhere around mile 41....but I will be thinking of everyone. (And I will be back to visit for Thanksgiving).
All my love,

Monday, September 25, 2006

Family Day at Handsboro (9/24/06)

Sunday was a quiet one at Handsboro. I went to two worship services in the building.

The 9am service with St. Peter's By the Sea Episcopal Church (they have been worshiping at Handsboro Pres. since their church was destroyed by the storm) was beautiful. Sara, the priest, reminded us all that "we can't earn God's love, but that we should strive to experience His love". That really spoke to me this week.

The 11am service with Handsboro Pres. was a bit more casual. Rev. Scott Castleman preached on the power of Christ's love and our awareness and acknowledgement of that power. I felt that the piggy back of sermons flowed quite well today and was glad to have been present for both messages.

Then, I worshiped at the altar of the NFL for several hours. We didn't get to see the Skins game, but I did see some fantastic highlights. Hurray for the Burgundy and Gold!

We finished the day with family night- all 6 roommates eating dinner, sharing bible study, and finishing with a wild round of Cranium. It was our first family night, and in my opinion, a smashing success. However, my opinion is tainted by the glow of victory on the Cranium board.

This will be a short week as I am leaving on Wednesday morning to return to Maryland for the MS Challenge Walk. My roommates are also all leaving on Wednesday for a few days of training with PCUSA at the Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. And, finally, one of my roommates will be traveling home to Michigan to attend the funeral of a dear friend this week. I hope you all will join me in praying for the safe travels of our crew, in all different directions.

Love and Peace,

Sunday, September 24, 2006

More Photos (September)

These are photos from our first few days at Handsboro. We arrived on the morning of the church's rededication, hence the cake! Yum. That's when I got to talking with Judy (photo #3). In #2 you'll see a photo of our living space upstairs at Handsboro, where Duane and Linda are hanging out. Then, finally, the last photo is a glamour shot of me in my uniform- a sweaty PDA t-shirt and a smile. Where's that cake again?

Adventures in Alabama (9/23)

After a big family breakfast at Handsboro, the team took off this morning for fun in the Alabama sun! We drove about 2 hours to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a much needed day-off at the beach. It was beautiful! And a real beach. Who knew? In Alabama! With waves and everything (including jellyfish- the ones that sting, yes- I am saying that I was stung today and that it hurt). It was a great little get-away for the crew. I still can't believe I was in Alabama today. Really, Alabama.
Tomorrow will be full of church and football. Go Skins!
Love you all!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Photos.....from my frist two weeks here....I think....

A random assortment of photos from my first few weeks at Handsboro. At the top you'll see some of the crew waiting for dinner to start. I am chatting with Greg, Kerry and George. Next is a beautiful photo of the electrical work I spent a week on. I didn't wire that box, but I sure did help. It was a work of art! I am so proud of Fred the electrician and our team (photographed below). The 4th photo shows my roommates Brenna and Sarah Ann preparing for dinner.

So you think you can blog, huh?

Let me admit that I don't know a thing about this blog stuff. I like to pretend that I'm hip with the tech world. I'm not. I don't have a cell phone. Or an iPod. Or a MySpace Page. Or even a CD player in my car. I still own cassettes for goodness sakes! I know nothing about blogs. My college friend Khara just sent me an email to read her blog and I thought it sounded fun. Then I read it and it looked like fun. Then I bought into the stuff they wrote on the blogger ad and I decided it really was easy to set this up. So here I go......

I'm Erin. I'm in Mississippi. I have no idea what I am doing here.

Well, I have some idea. I came down here to work with the Presbyterian Church in response to Hurricane Katrina. It started as a simple online resume tossed out into Internet oblivion and became a lifestyle in just a matter of weeks. I'm still a bit confused about the process, but I have no doubts about my call to service. There is so much work to be done here and I just know that I can contribute, somehow.

I arrived on the Gulf Coast on September 5, 2006. Since then, I have been calling, emailing and writing letters to family and friends, basically saying the same thing to each of them with every message. This blog, I hope, will streamline some of those efforts. But don't worry- I still miss you all like mad, so the phone calls and written contacts will continue!

Did I mention that I miss you? I do! Lots! And all the time. Like mad, I say!

So, most of you have already heard of my travels down to the South, the week of orientation in Biloxi, my case of homesickness, and all of the fun people in my program. We moved into Handsboro Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Sept. 10th. Handsboro is a great old church in Gulfport, MS. I live in the building behind the church in office space that has been converted into bedrooms and a large living room. I live with 5 other volunteers- 2 male and 3 females. They are good folks from all different backgrounds, which will definitely make this a year for learning and growth. The goal is to live in an intentional Christian community in order to explore our relationships with God, ourselves, and others. I am excited about this process and where it will take me in my spiritual journey.

The job piece of this puzzle is still a bit fuzzy. When we arrived, there was a mad panic on to finish some work on the manse (the house next to the church in which the pastor and his family will live). So I learned construction and spent nearly two weeks pulling electrical wire and putting up drywall. It was hard, sweaty work and I now have the man-hands to show for it! But it was fun to finally be getting something done. And I did take some pride in showing these southern gentlemen that real girls get dirty and get the job done!

We've managed to sneak some fun into the trip already too. We went to New Orleans the first weekend here to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of the girls in the group. Then my team of 6 went to the Biloxi Seafood Festival with some friends, where we enjoyed good food, local beer, and some rockin' zydeco music. This weekend we plan to make a road trip to Pensacola for some serious beach time!

I am still trying to figure out what I am doing here, how I can contribute and how to live in a church for a year with five other people! But I am inspired every day by the generosity of strangers and the faith of my new neighbors. Did I tell you that I have yet to cook a meal for myself down here. There is a church in northern Mississippi where the ladies cook casseroles and supply them to Handsboro in bulk. Yesterday, a man drove up with 40 casseroles in his trunk. Seriously, I may never cook again.

So, when I don't have casserole on the brain, I will try to keep this blog thing updated with my latest thoughts, experiences and adventures. Please check back and feel free to comment (I think that is how this works), but go easy on me because I am a newbie!

Love and Peace,