Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Live from New Orleans

Hey...here we are. I'm reporting in.

We made it down through incredible storms. We hit hail in Illinois and the temperature went up 30 degrees after that. Very weird. Ribs in St. Louis then on and off torrential downpours yesterday. We arrived to a very humid 78 degrees and a traffic jam. That surprised us. We had heard that New Orleans was a ghost town. Not so...at least not on the freeways. They are packed solid.

Our hotel is a big gym with 80 air mattresses. Comfortable. Good food. Nice hosts (Samaritan's Purse). We went through an orientation this morning and finely got to our house project around 11am. More surprises. We were braced for horror but if it wasn't for the piles of wood outside of some homes, and the porta-potty's on every other street corner, we'd never suspect a problem just driving down the street. If you turn off into a neighborhood you start to see what's wrong. Big trees uprooted. Houses boarded up or covered with blue tarps. The absence of normal life. Contractors looking for their assignment. You can't really tell things are wrong on the outside (in our neighborhood, that is).

Our house was a small two bedroom. We were told that we'd probably have to shovel out a foot of mud and carry out personal belongings but neither were true. The house was empty and no mud. But it was clear that there had been water up to the ceiling. Mold was growing all over and the ceiling had fallen in in the bedroom. The neighbor told us that two people had to be rescued by cutting holes in their attics after being stranded for days.

Our 14 members jumped into the work. We've got a great team. Everyone seemed to know where to go and what to do. It's not rocket science. We pull down everything but the studs and floor boards! Lots of dust and it's full of contaminants because the water is full of who knows what (oil, chemicals, sewage, etc.). We wear Tyvek suits with repirators and goggles. We look like a cross between aliens, astronauts and KKK members.

We sweat like dogs but thankfully the weather was like Wisconsin in the spring today; 72 degrees, low humidity and a nice breeze to cool us off. Another surprise.

I'm falling asleep writing this. I don't usually work this hard writing sermons and meeting people! You get the gest. I'll write again tomorrow if things change. We should finish our house tomorrow and move on to a new one.

Pray for us. Safety. Teamwork. Divine encounters. Oh, one funny thing. Most of the other 65 people here are college kids. Our team is feeling reeaaallllly old but at least they have lights out at 9:30pm. Works for me!

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