Friday, May 09, 2008

Going to Biloxi - thoughts before I go

This is the beginning of Habitat's busy season and things are really hopping. I can't believe how much goes on each day at this place and it's made me realize just how much I've learned since September when I started here, and yet how much I still have to figure out. We've gotten to the point where we are turning volunteers away because we just don't have enough work sites for them to all work on! Our Saturdays have been booked up for groups for months and are booked all the way thru the fall - which amazes me. And yet, in the middle of all of this business, I'm going on a trip next week. :)

All AmeriCorps members who are serving with Habitat for Humanity get together in the Spring for a big project. It's a little different each year, but this year we're a part of the Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project. I'm hoping that we get to meet the man himself and perhaps get an autograph! As far as I can tell from the information I've received up to this point, we're going to be doing a lot of work in several places. Some of it is going to be rehabbing homes that were damaged in the hurricanes but salvageable and some of it will be new construction. I'm excited that I'm going to be on one of the construction teams - it will be very different than my usual office position and I can definitely use some sun! Of course, the hours will be crazy (up very early and hopefully not staying up too late) and we'll be staying in a casino hotel since those are the only places big enough to hold all of us in that area. Oh, the irony! The humidity and heat will be considerable but I'm bringing sunscreen and aloe vera gel just in case.

While the luggage and packing list is prepared, I'm not sure that my spirit and emotions are prepared for this trip. I've been down to Louisiana a couple of time to do hurricane relief work and it was disheartening both times to see how little had been done in the time since the storms. It's been more than a year since my last trip and I haven't been to Mississippi before but I have a special connection to Gulfport (which is near Biloxi and one of the areas where we'll be working) and am dreading seeing its current condition. When I made the decision to become a Deaconess in the UMC, I was at a Deaconess Convocation held at Gulfside Assembly, a conference center right on the water that had previously been a church center for the use of African-Americans when the church was segregated. It was a beautiful, spiritual place and I heard it was completely washed away by Katrina (the most recent news I've seen is this article). I want to see and yet I dare not look - like a car accident or Ground Zero in NYC. What is it that compels us to go to these places and stare at the debris and gruesome remnants? I'm going on this trip and am going to do what I can as a part of a tremendous project, but it's not enough. Gulfside is a project of the church and is responsible for finding its own volunteers rather than using groups from other agencies and projects. Who will rebuild them? Perhaps someday I can go back on my own...

No comments: