Planet Sonia

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Katrina Poem by Gary Miller Jr.

January9

Author: Gary Miller Jr.

Gary was one of our powerhouse teammates on the Katrina work trip. He was affectionately called “the Snake” by his teammates for his ability to catch and occasionally be bitten by snakes (but that’s another story). He wrote this excellent poem about his experience in New Orleans.

Like the ripping winds and rising water before them, GOD’s children invaded the weeping land left in the wake of what he enemy believed one of his finest masterpieces.

A land left to depression and anxiety as thick as the black muck and suffocating sand that encased the floors and memories of countless homes and their owners. Hopelessness swam and spread freely through the receeding waves, surrender a familiar white flag amongst the tattered landscape of sleeping trees and hollow homes. Defeat was an expression painted on the faces of those souls deemed by the enemy to suffer, an expression easily wiped away and replaced with hope by the caring hands of GOD.

With vengance GOD’s children ripped into the soggy, mold-laden walls, removing the cheap outer shell of decay and despair the enemy forced those souls to view with a blank stare, and revealed the solid foundation that supports their home. With each section of drywall removed, GOD’s children unveiled the undying, unwavering constant love that GOD sustains, no matter the thin veneer the enemy chooses to dress his lies. The weak, unstable footing of mud,soot and sand is shoveled away with ease by the caring hands of GOD’s children, providing a solid surface to walk on, and leaving a trusted path to GOD’s presence for those who do not know the way. With each rusted nail pulled from the walls, and every dirty drowned memory rescued, GOD’s children left the spirit and love of CHRIST in their place to saturate the wood, and penetrate the minds of those souls God has not forgotten.

Gary Miller Jr.

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The people perspective

January8

Author: Sonia

When you see miles and miles of devastated landscape–you get desensitized to it quickly. After all, it is just stuff.

But is the people who really impact you. It is their faces that you remember, that drive you forward to keep shoveling. You are helping them.

The only people we met that were impacted by the hurricane were the homeowners of our house, Joe and Karen, and their son, Shawn. It was through their story that we understood the impact of what had happened in New Orleans. It was their house that had 12 feet of water in it for a month. It was their cat that they had hurriedly left behind and was still missing. It was their neighborhood of 28 years that was deserted. It was their daughter who had to move hours away to find a job.

When we arrived, Joe was striding about in his rubber boots with a upbeat attitude. Shawn was inside shoveling. Karen was outside, picking through the pile of mud and debris, looking for anything that was not destroyed. I don’t know how she did it, but she did this task with daintily with a gracefulness I have always lacked. It was heartbreaking to me. What must it be like to see everything that you’ve ever owned and cared about muddy and moldy?

She had been in the house, but I don’t think she could bear much of it. It was just too nasty. Too hard. Too sad.

The amazing thing, however, that I observed was that their spirits lifted in parallel with the progress of the house. It was like we were cleaning the bitterness and loss out of these people as we shoveled the muck out of their house. Shovel by shovel, we saw progress. By the last day, they joined us in the house to finish the clean-up. They smiled and laughed. We were able to powerwash most of the house, but, to our disappointment, we ran out of time to finsh. When we apologized to Karen, she replied back, “Don’t worry about it. We can finish up what’s left.”

That’s what I feel the best about…helping these people get back on their feet.

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Hurricane Katrina Trip Overview

January3

Author: Sonia

I’ve been wanting to start the blog on our site for some time, and I could think of no better than time than now with the new year.

Brett and I went on a Hurricane Katrina disaster relief trip last week, and many people have been asking us what is like “down there.” I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell what I saw in New Orleans and Long Beach/Biloxi, MS.

First of all, I don’t think anyone can comprehend how widespread the damage is from pictures or TV. You drive and drive and drive and drive–and all you is deserted houses, restaurants, grocery stores. They all have a spray-painted X symbol from the people who searched the houses for survivors after the storm, telling the date they were searched and the number of bodies found. Fortunately, all the houses we saw had a “0.”

I was surprised because I thought that the streets would be busy with people rebuilding. Instead, it looks like the hurricane just hit last week.

The first day we worked at a large church in New Orleans that probably had about 5,000 members. It had been flooded with about 4 or 5 feet of water. After the church is fixed, it will serve as the Service International HQ in New Orleans, providing a much closer sending station to all the flooded areas. For this trip, we commuted about 1.5 hrs each way from Longbeach, MS.

Our mission was to remove the damaged drywall from a hallway and several rooms. This church was well-built with double layers of drywall and tons of screws holding it all together. I spent most of the day removing hundreds of screws from the metal studs. Since I had never used a power tool before, I found the experience empowering. (Although those screws about an inch from the floor were tough!)

The next day we were sent to a home in Chalmette in the St. Bernard Parish of New Orleans. As we drove around the neighborhood, we saw cars flipped on their sides, balanced on fences, refrigerators on roofs, and a plane on a driveway between two houses. (Click here to see our photos)

The house was under 12 feet of water for more than a month. It had a car in the front entry way and about a foot of mud on the floor. Another Service International team had done the difficult work the day before: they had shoveled out the mud in the living room, kitchen, and dining room. We had only the three bedrooms and two baths to shovel out. The mud was a thick, black stinky mass that we called muck. It was so heavy, that I could only handle smaller chunks of it. Once all the mud was removed, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow, we started knocking out the walls.

Since the walls were still damp, they came out a lot easier than the church. In fact, Brett and I agreed that this was our favorite part. If you tapped on the walls just right, you could get entire sections to fall off at once. This was fulfilling because you could really begin to see progress with every mold-encrusted wall that was removed. (By the way, SI provided respirators and hazmat suits, so we are feeling and breathing just fine.)

All in all, during the two days we were at the house, we were able to completely gut it. All walls, carpets, toilets, sinks, and bathtubs were removed, as well as the ceiling (what was left of it), insulation, wood trim, and door frames. We were able to powerwash about half the house–and it was glorious to see water wash clean areas that water had destroyed.

More tomorrow on my Katrina observations…

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