Sunday, November 19, 2006
The picture above is the wall of water that swept into the coastal towns of Mississippi 15 months ago. Someone accurately described it as 'biblical'. For me it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'storm surge'. To many insurance representatives it is a tsunami as in, "We're sorry Mr. Jones, you have hurricane insurance and you have flood insurance but you do not have tsunami insurance."
Slowly that is a battle the insurance companies are losing in the courts, but when your case is way down the line and you are still living in a FEMA trailer in front of the shell of your home... there is not much comfort to be found in court cases.
My group went down and spent time laying tile, rerouting electric, setting up plumbing, dry walling, and cleaning out homes. Yes, over a year later there were some of us mucking out homes and bleaching walls.
One of the homes I worked in had 10 foot walls and our volunteers were peeling off seaweed that was stuck to the very top of them. They said that this home was absolutely cleaned out. All that was left was the foundation and the wood. The water had cleared out everything - drywall, furniture, memories - everything and left just the skeleton of the house standing.
Other homes weren't as lucky.
And yet there is a spirit in this town like we do not experience in the every day. There is a gratitude and a a sense of camraderie that those unaffected by tragedy rarely experience.
I have quite a few stories to tell. Here is one: All of the work crews would be taken around by bus to their assigned houses. At the end of the day we would get picked back up. Two groups were already on the bus when we stopped to pick up another crew. We watched as the tiny woman whose home they were working on while she lived in a FEMA trailer thanked them and laughed as one of our really tall guys got on his knees in order to receive a hug. Soon she ran ahead of them onto the bus and said over and over again, "Thank you, thank you. Pennsylvania people are now Mississippi people, thank you, thank you!" Then she proceeded to go down the bus and give each and every one of us on it a hug while continuing to repeat that phrase.
I didn't say anything - one cannot speak when choking back tears - but I did think to myself, "No, thank you." For I didn't understand why our help was still needed, until I got here.
I didn't know why I was leaving my family and my responsibilities to spend 4 days traveling and 5 days in Mississippi, until I got here.
I didn't realize how much I needed to be reminded of the good that is in people, until I got here.
I didn't realize how much I needed to work with my hands and see an immediate result, until I got here.
I didn't realize how much I needed to be reminded of the deep kind of faith that exists when people have only had God to cling to and God came through, until I got here.
It is almost a mission trip cliche to say that I received far more than I gave, but cliche or not I am blessed for having gone down to Mississippi. My only remaining question is when are we going back?