Day 1 – Arrival, March 4th
There wasn’t supposed to be a Year 13.
Let me step back a bit.
It is 71 degrees and sunny right now in Slidell, Louisiana. It’s 36 degrees with a forecast for snow at Kents Hill. Just saying. This is the first entry in our blog for the 13th Mission Trip to the Gulf Region. For those just joining us, we have been coming down to Louisiana and Mississippi since March 2006 to work at what is now the Epworth Project. Then, it was in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in August/September of 2005. Since then, there have been many more natural disasters and this has been one of the hardest hit regions in the country. Hurricanes, tornados and floods seem to be a way of life down here and there is a steady list of things for us to do. And earlier this afternoon, the Executive Director, Jim Fatic let me know that he still gets calls for houses that haven’t been touched since Katrina. This week, we will be mostly working on houses that were damaged in floods from 2016. As always, we will be working for clients who do not have the means to otherwise make the repairs themselves. But we aren’t supposed to be here. Because this trip was only supposed to be a five-year gig when we first envisioned it.
Here's another good reason we aren’t supposed to be here. On August 25th last summer, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and other areas of the Gulf region. Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma blew through the Caribbean and into Florida. Ten days later, Hurricane Maria became the worst natural disaster to ever hit Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. None of these storms severely impacted the Greater New Orleans area. At the beginning of the school year, I was asked if we be going to Florida or Houston this year. But I had already signed us up for Slidell based on this nagging feeling that we were going to be needed there. Upon arrival, I was told that this week there are 96 people from 4 organizations working at Epworth. And that is more than all of the folks combined since July of last summer. What I suspected was going to happen did in fact happen – the volunteers shifted to other areas and the folks here are struggling to meet the needs of the clients they have. So I’m glad we didn’t shift away, and the Epworth people are as well.
I just finished a four day drive to get here (I selfishly left a day early to detour and meet my newest grandson, David.) Dr. Link and his daughter have just arrived from their three day adventure through the Nor’easter to arrive, and we are waiting for the groups who flew to arrive from the airport. And for the next several hours, they will come filtering in. Last arrival should be here by midnight. And bright and early tomorrow morning we will hit the job sites. Houses will be fixed, skills will be learned and stories will be shared. Lives will be changed, and at the end of the week we will be tired but it will be good. It always is. Even if we aren’t supposed to be here.