The Long-Awaited Mississippi Update

So... since I could never hope to describe everything that happened to us over the Mississippi trip, I thought I would just divvy the events up into two categories and then make a list. So here it is, folks, what you've all been waiting for:


Blessings (from us) Given
Tearing a roof off of a devasted house.
Putting a new roof on abovementioned house.
Picking up trash around abovementioned house.
Hucking logs at abovementioned house.
Sanding drywall at another house.
Mudding drywall.
Sanding drywall again.
Mudding drywall, and ceiling. (Michelle and Jolene rock at ceilings.)
Me leading worship at devotionals every morning but one. (And on the day when I didn't, I played backup guitar for the guy who did.)
Me playing a late-night concert for everybody in the girls' tent who wanted to fall asleep to me singing.
Laying pillars in the ground for Ed and Lydia's new house.
Flattening ground for Ed and Lydia's new house.
Hucking rocks while flattening ground for Ed and Lydia's new house.
Pouring concrete for Ed and Lydia's new house.
The 13 of us plus Larry, Lynn and some other strong guys picking up the playhouse from Larry and Lynn's house out of the forest (it had been blown 3/4 of a mile away from its original location), putting it on a tractor trailer, bringing it back and setting it back on its posts at Larry and Lynn's house.
The 13 of us getting to pray for Merle and his whole family before we went to the airport on the last day.

Blessings (by us) Received
Having our own little tent city at HQ.
Team meetings in the "town square" of our tent city.
During one team meeting in the town square, while we all sat around a lantern in the dark, hearing Mike say "Let's tell Holy Ghost stories."
Having an amazing view of the ocean and the sky every morning at devotions.
God showing me a Scripture passage to read before leading worship every morning.
Seeing Nebraska Brett carry 2 80-pound bags of shingles up a ladder at the roof house.
Getting a bowl of pretzels, corn-on-the-cob, sausage, potatoes and crawfish from Merle while working on the roof house.
Sustaining mad scarring on my arm from hucking logs at the roof house (a trace of which I still have).
Getting a plate of hot eggrolls straight from the oven at the drywall house.
Me coming up with an olde English ballad title at the drywall house: "Off We Go A-Mudding."
Me getting to have a long talk with Kelsey at the drywall house.
Getting to watch a real pro mud a section of drywall in 30 seconds that would take us 15 minutes to do (and his looked better).
Me acquiring a whole bunch of female groupies from Michigan. (Well... whether or not this is a blessing is questionable...)
Eating amazing food every day from God's Katrina Kitchen.
Being able to take showers in the shower trailer.
Eating an amazing dinner at the D'Angelos'.
Having amazing discussions with the D'Angelo's.
Playing piano for Mrs. D'Angelo.
Having Mrs. D'Angelo play the piano and sing for us.
Kelsey, Lindsay and I conquering our fears and eating whole shrimp (after tearing off the head and the antennae and the legs with our bare hands) at the D'Angelos'.
Having a discussion on Calvinism at the D'Angelos', even though we only got through "U."
Having Kelsey give us all nicknames (mine was Rocky, because 1) I just rock 2) I'm a rockstar and 3) I hucked a lot of "rocks" at Ed and Lydia's house).
$5 machetes at Wal-Mart. Oh yeah.
Trying to memorize 1 Corinthians 12:12 as a team.
Blessing for me, Marge, and Kristin: not getting many bug bites. Blessing for everyone else: mad amounts of DEET.
Learning what "rebar" is and how to put it into pillars at Ed and Lydia's house.
Hearing Larry and Lynn's story, how their house was rotated 3/4 of a turn around by the hurricane and how their entire neighborhood was covered in 25 feet of water, but how they came back anyway.
Hearing Ed (not a believer) say: "If it wasn't for so many Christians coming down here to help us all out, I don't know where we'd be."
Having the immense fun of getting to pour concrete at Ed and Lydia's new house.
Having the whole team of 13 of us working all together at Ed and Lydia's and Larry and Lynn's new houses.
Signing all of our 13 names in concrete at Ed and Lydia's.
Rassling in a bayou at Ed and Lydia's.
Seeing the look on Lynn's face when we put the playhouse back on its posts--it almost meant more to her than her real house did.
Seeing the look on Lindsey's face when she saw the playhouse back on its posts (Lindsey is the 7-year-old granddaughter of Larry and Lynn, and the playhouse was built by Larry and Lynn for her).
Our last team night (on Friday night) out by the harbor, when we went around the circle popcorn-style and madly complimented each other.
Taking a surprise trip to New Orleans on Friday night, leaving at midnight and getting back at 4:30 am.
Getting to pray for Merle and his whole family on our last day.
Learning that Merle's son Charlie had become a Christian 2 weeks before.
Getting to wear shirts that said "Campus Crusade for Christ Katrina Relief Team - Volunteer" on our last day.
Eating at Cracker Barrel for our last meal in Mississippi.
Having 4 or 5 random people come up to us at Cracker Barrel and tell us how much they appreciated the work we were doing.
Having our entire meal at Cracker Barrel (well over $100) paid for by a chaplain who had just left, so we couldn't thank him.
Having another group of people who had wanted to pay for our meal buy us all fudge sundaes for dessert.
Getting to leave the waitress at Cracker Barrel a $50 tip since we didn't have to pay for any of our food.
Getting to "beat the crap" out of our rental cars in the line of duty, and (when we brought them back to the rental place) not only having no extra charges, but the price actually being $55 less than the price we were quoted--per car.
Getting to sign the banner in the airport that communicated Delta's thanks to all the relief workers.
Having the cashier in a bookstore at the airport thank us for all the work we were doing.
Getting to refer said cashier to HQ where he could fill out a work order and have his garage door fixed.
Having all of our drinks at the Starbucks in the Houston airport paid for by yet another person who thanked us for all the work we were doing.
Getting home to California safely.
And the final blessing for me:
Getting to sleep for 15 hours after we got home--from 12:30 am Saturday night/Sunday morning until 3:15 pm Sunday afternoon.


So there you have it. As you can see, despite our best efforts, the blessings that we all received far outnumbered the blessings we were able to give. But that's the way God delights to work.

"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" - Acts 20:35

One of the Scripture passages I read one morning before the devotions was from Jeremiah 29. It was God speaking through Jeremiah, telling the Israelites to settle down and make a living there in Babylon, the land of their exile, because they were going to be there for a while. Verse 7 says this: "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." I related this to the work that we did in Mississippi. Because our true citizenship, as Christians, is in heaven, our time here on earth is like our time of exile. This is not our permanent home. But that doesn't mean we should seclude ourselves from the world, to be neither in nor of the world; we should "seek the welfare of the city" wherein we are exiled, and pray on its behalf. As I said to the people at the devotions, that's what all of us as relief workers were doing there: seeking the welfare of the city of our exile, and praying for it. And God did indeed bless us, for in its welfare, we found ours.


Darth_Harbison said...

Oh how I miss being able to eat at Cracker Barrel . . . *sniff*

Anyway, sounds like it was very awesome indeed. Although I can't quite see you as "Rocky" . . .

Anonymous said...

Hey A.J.,
I really enjoyed reading what happened during the trip. The bond between everyone who went looks incredibly strong. I was I would have went. By the way, thanks for putting up the stakes on Wednesday.

Ryan Maguire