Friday, July 17, 2015

NOLA 2015: Thursday!

Today we took the day off from working with, and experienced NOLA at it's finest.  We started the day with biscuits and gravy and then did some work around the Mission House. For lunch we had some delicious Mac n Cheese and then we packed in our vans to head downtown. 

On our way we got stopped at the canal, waiting for the bridge for 20-25 minutes. #NOLAstyle 

After finally crossing the bridge we made our way downtown to the French quarter. 

We had to visit the French Market:

And of course stop by Cafe du Monde:

And try some delicious beignets! 

We stopped by the aquarium too:

And walked down the park by the river:

When we came back to the mission house we had a huge shrimp boil with all the neighbors. 

We hung out with our NOLA neighbors

And we also celebrated 5 birthdays! One on Wednesday, 3 on Thursday and one on Friday. 

It was a great day!! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NOLA 2015: **Guest Post** by Sally Stockdale

Temperatures near 100 with humidity you could cut with a knife, giant spidersno plumbing (aka no toilet!), dirt, grime and sweat.  These are a few things the students and leaders in my group have endured the past three days.  And we wouldn’t have it any other way.  


We have been working on the house owned by a wonderful, resilient lady named Miss Kim.  

Miss Kim’s house, which has been in her family for generations, was completely submerged after Katrina.  She has been trying to restore her modest home since 2011 but many obstacles have hindered this process.  She lost $90,000 to an unscrupulous contractor who took her money and either didn’t complete, or did shoddy work that wasn’t up to code.  Copper wiring was stolen from her home. A gang was using her house tosell drugs while she was away in North Carolina trying to earn enough money to finish her home.


Her determination and thankfulness through this process, however, has been inspiring.  She has loved on our kids and vice versa, even promising to serve us up peach cobbler on our last day!   

The work has been physically and emotionally hard.  Some of the jobs our students completed so far include jacking up the house to replace rotten, termite infested wood (check that off my bucket list), Measuring, Cutting and hanging concrete siding, demolishing two floors down to the studs and replacing them with safe, non termite infested flooring.  

And there is so, so much work left to be done!  I guess I was quite oblivious to the continued need for help in the poorest communities of New Orleans, 10 years post Katrina. Miss Kim’s story is similar to hundreds, if not thousands of other people in this area!


Please pray for Miss Kim and the wonderful people of NOLA.   You can also be very proud of the hard working, determined youth of RRC for the difference they are making this week!   

-Sally Stockdale


NOLA 2015: Senses

We saw:

X's still on the fronts of houses from when they were searched after Katrina. 

The hundreds of lots that used to be filled with houses, but now stand empty , over grown by weeds. 

The tears running down Harold Bailey's face when he thanked us for volunteering. 

The brown water rolling towards the drain as the shower washed away the dirt and sawdust from the worksite. 

The bright orange on the throat of the little green lizards. 

We heard:

The scrape of the trowel against the concrete board, as is pulls the mortar across the floor.  

The slap of Levi's back hitting the top of the pool water. 

The pounding of hammers against the Sheetrock as we were doing demo. 

"Rebuilding NOLA has only been possible because of all the volunteers."

The 22 songs on our Popcorn Panda mixtape CD over, and over, and OVER again. 

The harmonies of "it is well" bouncing off the ceilings in the main room during worship time. 

We said:

"Shut up and pass the cheese!" -PJ

"Sallay!!" -Darren

"Witchcraft" -Cole

"Brrr."  Jon

"One plus one equals Jesus"

"Oh! You're a hot little boy!" -Koriel 

We smelled:

The chicken poop from the next door neighbor permiating the humid air. 

Burning plastic electrical chord melted from the rented belt sander. 

Lavender body wash in the boys bathroom. 

Sweaty, dirty teenagers. 

Insence and bath salts in the French Market. 

We tasted:

The warm, powder sugar beignets at Cafe du Monde. 

The pepper speckled through the gravy on my biscuits at breakfast. 

The spice of the sausage in the gumbo we ate at Cliff and Rachel's house. 

Voodoo flavored potato chips. 

The sweet crumbles of Miss Kim's peach cobbler. 

We felt:

The burning on our lips after eating the corn on the cob from the shrimp boil. 

Chunks of tile hitting my skin, and water spraying my face as I used the tile saw.
The bumps on a bearded dragon's dry skin. 

The sting of sweat in our eyes as it dripped down our faces. 

The humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife. 

The wrench on our heart when walking through Miss Kim's home, knowing we need to do something about it. Feeling God's leading to act, to serve, to love. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

NOLA 2015: **Guest Post** from Pastor Jon

I am part of a group of six who have been assigned to work on the house of a retired barber named George. My partners are: Lauren, Natalie, Samantha, Levi, and fellow leader Charlene.
George's house sits on pylons with a crawlspace underneath. It is not presently occupied. But they hope to have occupancy by this August, the 10 year anniversary of hurricane Katrina. Our main project is sanding and finishing George's wooden floors. In one room, a squatter had built a fire which got out of control and which damaged the floor. We are trying to sand it down so that it is finish-able. Things are going slow but steady. We hope to get all of the floors nicely finished.

This is George's family home. When you talk to him, you realize that it just doesn't make any sense to him to live somewhere else. This is home. 

The organization we have been working with,, helps people restore their houses in the lower ninth Ward. 
The person from lowernine who is leading our team is from the Netherlands. His name is Kevin. He describes himself as an agnostic and we have had some enjoyable conversations. Perhaps you could pray for him.


NOLA 2015: Monday

We had our first day of work on Monday. We woke up and had breakfast and devotions, and were out the door by 8am. We drove the 15 minute drive out of Chalmette into the lower ninth ward and met at headquarters. 

There we joined with another team from Texas for an orientation meeting. The staff there explained a little bit about the lower 9th ward and what happened in Katrina. Then they split us up into crews of about 5-8 people. 
Our team was split into three different crews. Each crew was paired with a lowernine leader and went to a different house site. 
This is one of our crews at George's house! They are working on sanding and refinishing wood floors. 

Another one of our crews, in Miss Baryl's home, worked on installing an attic ladder and mudding and sanding drywall. 

We look forward to completing a lot more work in the coming days! 
Keep checking in to see more of what we are doing! 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

NOLA 2015: Sunday

We woke this morning to the smell of blueberry pancakes being cooked in the kitchen. We enjoyed a slower morning of eating breakfast and getting ready for Church. We loading into our vans and drove to Next Generation Church. This mostly African American church is full of people who love The Lord. There were hands lifted high, voices shouting out "Amen", hips swaying, and feet tapping out gospel steps. We loved being a part of glorifying God with this church family. 

After church we brought the group to the lower ninth ward. This is one part of New Orleans where the levees broke after hurricane Katrina, and a large barge plowed down many of homes. The majority of the ninth ward, which once was full of homes, churches, and community buildings, stacked together side by side, is now just open fields. There are some cement slabs or porch steps that leave hints of the lives that used to fill this place. But most, even 10 years later, have become over grown, forgotten, abandoned by those that lost their lives, don't have the means to come back and rebuild, or hurt to much to return.  

After driving way too slow, trying to take it in, we parked our vans next to the Mississippi River. The kids made sandwiches, and we sat on the earthen levee overlooking the river and ate lunch. The river was high, but it was still impossible to imagine the more than 10 feet of water that covered this area almost 10 years ago. 
We could see the downtown skyline in the distance. I couldn't help but think; This city is resilient. It has character that began in it's culturally rich roots, and rose out of the mud and ruble to rebuild. It has had to endure every knock down possible while trying to find the strength to hold on. Moldy FEMA trailers, insurance evaders, vandalism, contractor fraud, Chinese drywall.... And still, the city isn't defined by it's buildings or homes. This city is it's people, and it's people are proud, loving, united. I can't wait for the students to meet this city- to talk with the people here and be welcomed into this community. 

NOLA 2015: Harold Bailey

On Sunday afternoon we had the honor of having Harold and Caprina Bailey come and share their story with us. 

Harold is 27. He is celebrating his first wedding anniversary with his wife Caprina next week. Last summer, in July, 8 years after Hurricane Katrina, he finally moved back into his home. 
Harold was 17 when Katrina happened. He told us about how he and his family had to decide whether or not to evacuate. After hearing that the storm was developing a double eye, he and his mom and dad, brother, sister in law and  and 2 nephews decided to leave. They went to Selma. All 7 of them stayed in 1 hotel room there for 3 days. After learning the severity of the storm damage, they realized they did not have the means to keep living in the hotel much longer. He and his family ended up living in a shelter. After a while the shelter could not continue supporting the families and decided to close it's doors. Harold and his family then had to travel to Atlanta to find more resources and services to help. 
Over a month after the storm Harold was able to return to New Orleans. 
He remembers how everything, every house was the same color: brown. Mud and stench was caked everywhere. His house was in disarray, and his city was hurting. 
This is when Harold's story sprung into action. Harold immediately started pouring himself into his city. In the months following he lived on a cruise ship in the channel, and spend his days doing clean up efforts. Although only 18, he was in charge of many other men. He helped lead a team of workers who sorted through debris and waste as homes were cleared out. 
Since then Harold has continued to fight for his city. He has worked with St. Bernard Project, and has helped many people with the rebuilding efforts. He spends much of his time volunteering with the population of homeless giving out food, water, and the love of Jesus. Harold currently helps lead a program called Fatherhood of the Round Table, that focuses on mending fathers and their families. They meet from 10-12 with men, many of whom have served time in jail or prison, and advocate and teach them family skills. Harold continues to be actively involved in the politics of his city. 

During his talk Harold would gaze up at the tshirts hanging in the big room of the Mission House. Each shirt is signed by volunteers who have helped rebuild New Orleans after Katrina. Harold expresses, through teary eyes, how greatful he was to everyone who was willing to help his city out. He told us to be proud for helping, and giving our time. 

It was an emotional time of sharing in each other's lives. Afterwards we asked if we could pray with them. Of course they said yes! 

Harold longs for community and lively good for his city. Please pray that relationships and community continue to grow in New Orleans. Also, pray for Garold and Caprina, and their two sons. Pray that Hod would bless them, and watch over their sons, as the fight for good schooling for them. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

NOLA 2015: Safe Travels!

We made it! 

As I sit on the couch in the big room of the mission house I try to take it all in. Laughter is filling the room, from the tables to the tall ceilings. It feels good. It feels good to be back in this place, to be back in this city. I look around and already see new friendships being cultivated. Each slap on the table and frantic claw for a spoon reminds me of the lively energy that these high schoolers have for life. It has been a dream, for the past few years, to take students down to New Orleans, and to have them stay in the Mustard Seed Mission House. Today, that dream is finally a reality. It feels good to be back in this place, it feels exciting. I look forward to seeing how this group of people will experience this beautiful city. I get butterflies in my tummy as I anticipate the ways God is going to work through us this week. My heart is full as I look around the room and already see people stepping up and helping with dinner prep and clean up. I am thankful when I think of the miles and hours that are safely behind us. God is good. 

A few photos from today:

Crossing the Mississippi River

Stopping at the Arkansas State Line 

Crossing Lake Pontchartrain

Entering downtown New Orleans 

Arriving at the Mission House! 

It has been a great journey to NOLA! 
We are ecxcited to finally be here!!