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, January 31, 2007

Why I love this vacation....

I'm spending a few days in Orlando on a vacation with my Gulf Coast Mission accountability partner and friend, Lauren, and her parents. We've done a little bit of the Disney stuff, but mostly we're just relaxing. Here are my favorite bits of this vacation so far....

1. I'm out of Gulfport for a bit. Out of the office, away from the phone calls, and getting a much needed break from those precious volunteers that I love so much.

2. I'm not using an alarm clock.

3. The sun is out and it is beautiful.

4. I went to Epcot for the first time. Did I mention that I've never been to Disney World before? Epcot was fantastic. A full 12-hour day. Lovin' it.

5. My diet staples this week have been chips, chocolate and diet coke.

6. I was able to relax enough to lay poolside and read a crap novel.

7. I am sleeping in a big-girl bed. Really, no twin bed for me!

8. There was no dump truck to awake me at 3 in the morning.

9. Lauren and her family are pretty fun folks to hang out with. They've been so wonderful to me. And getting to spend some serious quality time with Lauren is such a gift.

10. It gave me time to deal with my dad and his illness this week. We had a bit of a scare, but he's going to be okay. It happened while on vacation, so I was able to talk to him as much as I or he wanted to and didn't have to worry about focusing on other things (volunteers, bosses, homeowners, roommates, Mississippians, the general mayhem of disaster recovery, etc.).

Better get back out to the pool.....

Monday, January 29, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Last night's State of the Union Address got me thinking.....

While sitting in a church in Gulfport, MS, watching the President, presidential hopefuls, and all of our nation's leaders on TV, being frustrated by everying he said about Iraq, Immigration, and Health Care (really- we only need to provide medical care for the elderly, disabled and poor children- really???), I can't stop wondering......

...what are they planning to do to help the thousands of residents of the Gulf Coast?

(All photos taken last week by the team from the Presbytery of New York City. To see more of their photos or to read their trip blog please go to: http://pnyckatrina.blogspot.com/)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


We're moving!

I'm pretty fired up about it. Living, working and worshiping in the same building has been a challenge. So next Friday, we're moving to an apartment. It's right around the block, which is great because we can still walk to church/work. As soon as I get the camera over there, I'll take some photos to show y'all. We're in the process now of getting the water, power and internet turned on (YES- I SAID INTERNET!!!! We're going to have WiFi in the apartment- hurray for modern technology...). Then we have the fun of furnishing and decorating the place. My address will remain the same, though, so cards, letters, and packages are still and always welcome at Handsboro.


And in the new home, I would like to be addressed accordingly:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Eminence the Very Viscountess Couni-dogg the Bibulous of Molton St Anywhere
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Jolly Inn to the Boom Boom Room

When you weekend is bookended by trips to the Jolly Inn for Cajun dancing and Ray's Boom Boom Room for a Saints party, you know you're not on the East Coast any more. I enjoyed a weekend of Southern Hospitality to which I can not find the right words to explain. Here are the highlights:

Fantastic Friday night dinner and fellowship with my housemates, Irvin (GCM leader) and Leroy (President of Mission Year). This was followed by a trip two hours south west to visit our friends at the PDA volunteer village in Houma, LA. We went Cajun dancing Friday night at the Jolly Inn and then enjoyed some quiet and rest in Houma on Saturday. Sunday morning, I went to church at First Pres in Luling, LA, where they are host to yet another PDA volunteer village. We hustled out of there in order to hit Ray's Boom Boom Room in the French Quarter for the Saints game.

It was the most fantastic football party I've ever been to, complete with a great crowd full of characters, free red beans and rice, free fried chicken, free grilled quail, free yams, free jello-shots and free cake. And they had a DJ blasting hip-hop music during the commercials. The whole joint was hoping the entire game. Too bad the Saints didn't pull out the win....but really, just being with that many excited people made the day a good one for me. I, unfortunately, forgot my camera, but my pal Emily remembered her camera! Check out her photos at: http://picasaweb.google.com/emilyhrhodes/SaintsGameAtRaySBoomBoomRoom.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Photos

Click on my photo link to see this and many other interesting photos from the Gulf Coast!

New pics up are from my December trip to Houma, LA to visit Lauren and several from Christmas at Handsboro.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A quick prayer request

If you have a moment, please join me in lifting up:

1. The Presbytery of Mississippi Disaster Recovery:
We're going through some transition and we're gearing up for a few busy months of hard work.
2. Gulf Coast Mission:
Four months in, many more to go. Your love and support means everything.
3. Scott and Rebecca & family:
The pastor of Handsboro and Orange Grove Presbyterian Churches and his family have just moved into the manse, where we hope they will enjoy many great years of health and happiness.
4. The Gulf Coast churches:
Rebuilding is hard on a congregation- they need all our support!

In love,

Monday, January 15, 2007

Just a few thoughts....

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. "
Martin Luther King Jr.

It's another beautiful Monday on the Gulf Coast. We're celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by working hard to help all people recover from this storm. But I suppose we do that every day. Okay, I have to work on a special celebration for today. I'll get back to you with that.

After 4 months here, I realize that my perspective has totally changed. Destruction and devastation are part of my normal surroundings. Buildings fall down, windows are blown out, people burst into tears at any moment, houses have mold and blue plastic roofs, and piles of debris live on the side of every road. I'm not as sensitive to the shock of these scenes anymore. I am not as sensitive to the stories people share anymore. That scares me. The devastation and stories are still shocking. This place is not normal.

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I was shocked at the speed, efficiency and fun of the "outside" world. Maybe I need to work a little harder to get to that outside world and refresh my perspective.

But if I've only been here for 4 months and I feel that way, what about all those who lived through the storm?

In an effort to live have some "normal" fun, I spent this weekend hanging out with my GCM team. A bunch of us went out to hear some live music and enjoy a few adult beverages in Ocean Springs on Friday night. Yesterday, we met up with most of our GCM crew in Slidell, LA for lunch and a movie. Lunch was sponsored by my fabulous church friends back in Dickeyville, MD who sent a gift card to Chili's! Thank you!

I suppose, even with all of the crazy going on in this rebuilding process- we've always got food to bring us all back together again.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Warning: Political Post....Read at your own risk.

I just read the President's speech on Iraq.

I didn't get to listen to it last night, because I was busy trying to find a ways to work on my mission experience in the Gulf. Anyone who's talked to me lately, or read this blog lately, knows that I have been struggling with some of the challenges of disaster work and community living. That means I've e been seeking consult and advice from some loving mentors and praying a whole lot.

Last night while the President was speaking, I was attending a prayer meeting. We prayed for our pastor, we prayed for the Presbytery of MS Disaster Recovery, we prayed for each other's families, for sick friends, for our world leaders and elected officials, for troops, and peace.

Today I read the President's speech.

Maybe I should have prayed harder last night.

I'm a peace girl- always will be. I don't begin to understand the complexity of the situation we're in with the whole Iraq mess. I am glad I'm not in charge of solving matters over there. But I wonder if we're taking the right course of action, if peace is our desired outcome. I wonder how increasing troops makes for a swifter end to this conflict. I wonder how we're going to pay for this increase in presence. I wonder why we're spending precious resources abroad when our own citizens are in such great need. I wonder why we're going to strip more American families apart to send more troops to war. And I keep coming back to these three things:

1. God asks us to love one another.

2. Our own people are hurting. I live in Mississippi- a poor, broken state right under the President's nose. Before the hurricane hit, people here were poor and broken. They couldn't afford health care, food, fair housing. Why weren't we taking better care of our own? Then a huge storm hits and in the months and years that follow, we're hindered in helping them recover because so many of our resources are being spent overseas. People here are still living in MOLD! And that's just Mississippi- what about the health care and education needs across the country (Baltimore, anyone?), what about poverty in our cities, what about the violence and drugs our streets?

3. My brother-in-law is in Baghdad right now. His family at home misses him and needs him. But his country asked him to go over there and do what he can to ensure stability in the chaos, and safety for his family at home. He went- gladly. He believes that he is making the world a better place, and that he is serving God's mission in trying to bring stability and peace to his neighbors. He might be right. His explanation, carefully penned and mailed to me along with a photo of him in a big Saddam chair in Baghdad, rocks every bit of my liberal argument, especially being so personal.

So I get back to the conclusion that I don't have any answers here.
I'm curious about what you think......

I guess I need to go pray some more. We all do.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's still freaking Tuesday!

Okay, the positive vibe is lost tonight.

I am writing this from my tippy-toes, leaning my laptop against the window of the church and balancing it against my chest because that is the only way to get online here. What, you ask? Yes, there is WiFi in the church for all other staff and volunteers to use, but not for the GCM team. I don't want to get started on that.

I'm doing this freak-like on-line stalking in order to look for apartments in Gulfport because we are hoping to move out of the church. I love living here, but in order to protect my sanity and a bit of my privacy (read: people wandering into my bedroom at all hours), I gotta get out of here. For two months, that's been in the works.

I thought the lesson in all of this was patience. So I've waited.....something I am terrible at doing. Maybe that's not the lesson here. Maybe this is a lesson in creativity. Maybe I have to speak more creatively, pray more creatively and I definitely need to take more creative actions.

For example- lean against a window in order to surf apartments on the web.

It's Tuesday, right?

So things have been nutty lately and I'm not totally sure what day it is. It's been forever since I've been able to get some online time- I don't sound frustrated with that at all, do I? Well, I should because I am. But I am trying to keep positive, so let's focus on the good, shall we?

A quick update:

It's beautiful here today! The sun is bright as I sit at PJ's cafe in Gulfport dropping a line out in cyperspace for y'all to read. My roommates are all back in town from the holidays. A volunteer work team from Linda's church was here last week doing clean up work and hanging out with us. We went into New Orleans with them this weekend and had a few precious moments with some of our fellow GCMers down there. I realized how much I am missing the rest of our GCM group. We're all doing similar work and dealing with a lot of the same challenges, fun, drama, excitement, and we never get to talk about it because we don't see each other often enough. So we're working on organizing a get together. It's so hard to coordinate, though, because we all have such different work schedules.

I've been really busy with home visits lately, trying to work with homeowners to get them ready for our conrtuction teams to come in and help out. I love working with the people, I just wish I could offer more help. But I am working on getting over that.

The Castlemans (pastor and family) are back in town and have moved into the manse. It is too fun having them right next door! I love it.

I'm attending a training for case managers working in disaster recovery this week. That's all I have to say about that.

So I realize now, that this doesn't sound like a positive post. The details of my life here often aren't very positive. But I am loving it. It is hard work and the drama is real and neverending. But I am learning about people and God's love for us every day.

I am so lucky to be here right now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Who's in charge here?

So as I am driving around looking for homes that don't exist on roads that have no street signs, frustrated by procedures that seem to change on each and every person's whim.......God jumps in and sends me a big, fat reminder that I'm not in charge here. Today I just happened to turn down a street, while looking for a house on my list, when several people ran after me pounding on my car. They'd had an accident on their work team and needed someone to call 911. They'd knocked on the neighbors' doors and hadn't received any help. Just when they stopped and prayed for help to come, I turned the corner, with my little green car with the big "Presbytery of Mississippi Disaster Recovery" magnets on the side. I called 911, the ambulance came and every one was okay.

I'm not in charge of assigning work here. I'm not in charge of installing street signs. I'm not in charge of the work flow. I am not in charge of the policies or procedures. I'm not in charge of dumpsters or permits or volunteers or trash bags or anything, really. I am not even in charge of my own living situation (no, we still haven't moved yet). That's hard for me. But I have to keep in mind that I am charged with loving and serving. I just need to keep remembering that.

Good thing the Big Guy keeps sending me those reminders, eh?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy 2007!

We had a great party tonight! Here are the best photos: