Monday, Oct. 20
Twelve Country Club Christian Church members and guests made the 15-hour trek to New Orleans on Sunday, October 19, to be joined by five lucky air travelers on Monday. The group leaders are Kelly Ingersoll, staff representative, and Kelly Quinn, leader. Other members are Jodi Sullivan, Carty and Peggy Johannson, Susan Garner, Justin Sillix, Dawn Murphy, Jackie Cunningham, Scott Weyrauch, Alison Bond, Richard Perkins, Scott Fuller, Jill Reynolds, Linda McDandel, Ruth Bradshaw, and Laura Tyler.
The long road trip was smooth, uneventful except for gales of laughter as repeat mission members regaled the novices with merry tales of missions past. On our arrival at Metairie, we set up camp at the First Christian Church gym, our home for the week.
Monday morning found us at the headquarters of the St. Bernard Project, a nonprofit organization working since 2006 in the Parish. With the help of AmeriCorps volunteers and countless volunteers from across the nation, 155 families have been resettled in St. Bernard Parish. We learned at morning orientation that most of the work has been done by church volunteers such as those in our group.
Our group assignments split us into two vans, headed for separate houses in the Parish. Each jobsite is supervised by a young capable AmeriCorps volunteer, who directs the work. Both groups spent the day dry walling, learning “mudding,” and sanding all day. We returned to the church covered in white grit, looking like refugees from some furious desert sandstorm. Both groups had met the homeowners, whose warm appreciation already gratified our early efforts.
Kelly led our evening worship, presenting the theme of “stories” to tell-each of us learning the others’ stories, and all of us learning the story of Katrina. If we hadn’t realized that we would emerge from this experience full of stories, our earlier sojourn to dinner should have clued us in.
The outing started innocently enough, with Kelley and Scott Fuller each driving a van. Confidence reigned, as both drivers had previous road experience, and Scott had researched area restaurants from the folder of information left for us at the church. We had been blithely underway for some time, expecting to arrive at a local seafood restaurant. With Scott in the lead, we made a few route “corrections,” finally arriving at the destination to learn that that restaurant was closed on Monday. Not a problem. We’ll find some other place.
We find ourselves on an access road, trying to reverse course to find another option for dinner. We hear sirens, and realize that half the parish fire brigade is following Scott, who is valiantly trying to turn around. One fire truck passes. Scott circles our van so we can reconnoiter. Another fire truck moves in behind. Kelley, driving the other van, waits patiently. Soon we are surrounded by fire trucks, who seem to be hopelessly lost, as are we.
Finally, after escaping the Key Stone Cop fire squad, we head out in search of another spot to dine. Scott makes several forays into residential areas, weaving in and out of the causeway, back onto the road, u-turning several times as we realize we’re on residential dead ends, forcing Kelley (who remains patient) to back the van several times. After losing each other at least twice, we finally regroup at a Bennigan’s, where we have a lovely dinner.
By this time, back at the ranch, we’re ready for the quiet of worship. Kelly’s “story” theme seems highly appropriate. He asks us to tell our stories, and challenges us to explain why we’re here. Justin’s reply “I’m here to be an extra set of hands for God” gives us all pause, and Scott F. remarks that he understands that part of our job is to be witness to the story of Katrina, a huge and terrible non-fiction that too many Americans have forgotten, or are ignoring as we attend to the routines of our daily lives.
As we drive through the miles and miles of the destruction wrought by the terrible storm, the few shops and residences that are alive again shine out as the story of determination and will. Our efforts, though small, are not in vain, and our mission’s story will touch the lives of others, and especially our own, for as long as we live.