A Trip That Opened My Eyes

by Phoebe A. Dewar

Ever since I have been back from Louisiana, I am constantly asked, “How was it?” “Did you have a good time?” “Did you have fun?” “What did you do?” While all of these questions are to be expected and are normal questions of any trip taken, I have been somewhat disappointed. Nobody has asked how the people are. Nobody has asked how the living conditions are. Nobody has asked what still needs to be done. Nobody has asked what the church can do. Well, even though I have not been asked, these are the areas in which I feel the most attention needs to be given. Yes, I had an excellent and life changing time in several ways, it was a great trip and to a certain and limited degree “fun” was had, but this trip was much more than that.

This trip opened my eyes to a hard reality. I could not have imagined the situation in which I was about to find myself and after being there, I still can not imagine how those people are living in the conditions they are in. If I found myself complaining of the hard floor I slept on or the skittles I couldn’t find at the store, I suddenly realized that for me, this is temporary. But for hundreds of thousands of people their everyday encounters include much worse problems. Homes are completely destroyed, wiped out entirely; leaving only a foundation and maybe one front cement step. People are camping out in tents under highway bypasses with all of their belongings that are left packed into a U-haul. Babies R Us is now a parking lot full of trailers and tents and port a potties. While I worried about my sugar fix for the day, there were people who had to worry about getting a hot meal and finding somewhere safe to sleep.

I saw the news; I saw the pictures and the damage. What I did not see were the people who are just like me in utter and complete desperation. Where do they start? How do they get their life back? What about the kids? The conditions are improving; however time is definitely a factor. It is has been maybe six or seven weeks and there are still schools closed and families on the streets. There are still piles of trash in the neighborhoods waiting to be picked up and neighborhoods which still have streets that cannot be accessed. While structurally the city may take years to heal, I do not personally see how a person is supposed to go on; how long will it take them to heal?

I cannot speak for the whole area, since I was only in a small part of it. However, what I saw inspired me and brought me to tears. Our group was staying in a Spanish church in Metairie and through that congregation I have learned more than I have space to write about! These people had the best spirits and a faith that was unshakeable, no matter how many miles per hour Katrina came at them. They worshiped with their whole hearts and beings and even though it was in Spanish, I have never felt God move through a place like I did there.

These people cooked a meal for us every night and constantly thanked us and were very appreciative. You would never have been able to look at them at know what they were suffering. I was greatly encouraged by this. If these people can face even the hardest natural disaster and still have an unfaltering faith in God, then what is my excuse for not wholly trusting in Him? This year has found me questioning God and my faith and has also found me struggling more to become closer to Him. I am excited about my new journey and through this trip I am encourage now more than ever that this is the right path to go down.

I spent my time helping rebuild a home- ripping up flooring, putting insulation and sheetrock in, mudding and sanding, etc… Yet that week, regardless of all that I did, the Melino family did so much more for me. They showed me my prejudices and how I need to change.

I saw the news; I saw the pictures and the damage. What I did not see were the people who are just like me in utter and complete desperation.

They showed me that even when you physically have nothing, you always have God. This is a family that prays every time they go anywhere in the car and that faith is astounding! This family was so full of love that they gave each member of our team $100 when we left. How amazing is their faith that they continue to give to others in their time of need.

I am so grateful that you all gave and made this trip possible for me. Some of us are hoping to return around Thanksgiving or Christmas and I will definitely be on that list! Your support went to good use, it went to a family who shows God and trusts God in everything they encounter and struggle through. Their witness in New Orleans is incredible and through helping them, we are helping to spread God to a much needed city. I can not thank you enough or say how deeply impacted I have been. I truly have learned that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive. Even though I have come away with a severely sprained ankle and a virus which landed me in the ER, it was worth every minute and every dollar to see the smiles on their faces when we put up just one more wall or cleared just one more section of damaged floor. They are forever grateful as am I for the giving of Grace Community Christian Church and for the prayers that have been prayed. Please, I urge you to keep on giving. The blessings you will receive will be numerous and the experiences that will be encountered are forever rewarding. I will never forget that family and the work I have done, and more importantly, I will never forget how they taught me through their actions to always lean on God and your faith will carry you through even the strongest winds that life may throw your way.