I've been back for a week now and think I've processed my mission trip to Louisiana enough to come up with something coherent - but I'll let you be the judge of that.
Trouble and I left for the Pelican State early Saturday morning ; a 16 drive in a church van is an experience all on its own. :) We basically got to the church (Sweet Lake UMC, see previous post for the link) just in time to set up our living area and crash. Sunday morning we attended our hosts' worship service and then set out for some supplies and a general orientation to the area.
We toured the town of Cameron, which is right on the gulf coast in the southwest section of the state - they got hit by BOTH Katrina and Rita. It's been 18 months since Rita blasted through that area and I could not believe how much destruction is still such a visible, tangible reality. There was still a refrigerator stuck in a tree, shells of homes floating in the marshes by the side of the roads, roof shingles and debris lining the ditches. Cameron is pretty much built on two industries - fishing/shrimping and oil. Helicopters were constantly flying over us as we were driving and walking around the area; there were air fields along the highway set up like helicopter taxi services to take oil rig workers out to the countless rigs we could see on the horizon, out in Gulf waters. From where we stood on the beach, it looked kind of like an "antennae farm" that we have in the urban/suburban areas. The ice house, where fisherman and shrimpers bring their catches and keep them fresh for selling, was still a big shell of a building - no ice to be seen. There was a much smaller, temporary facility in place a little bit down the road, but nothing that will allow for the industry to return to its pre-hurrican size. There were sites with wiped clean foundations sitting next to a trailer - the temporary homes of business and residences alike while everyone saves money and waits for the man power and supplies to rebuild.
One of the most powerful things for me was to go into a Catholic church in the area that had beena large parish with a school and "life center" next door. The building looks as though it's barely been touched in the last 18 months - there are wires, insulation and plastic sheeting hanging everywhere, blowing in the breeze. The chairs and cots for the small children's area are still stacked up along one of the "walls" of what was once their classroom. The sanctuary had dust everywhere, pews misaligned and shoved up towards the front, rust on the lights hanging from the peaked roof (about 15 feet above the ground) and yet I could still smell incense when I approached the altar area. The church looked so much like the church where I made my first communion, and the scent of incense was something so unexpected, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut - I could scarcely breathe and couldn't help but start crying. I took so many pictures, and would love to share some of them, but I'm currently at school and don't have the camera with me, so that will have to wait until the next post. I'll get more into the actual work that we did the rest of the week too. Thanks for "listening"...