Philosophical Ranting of an Engineer

Post Spring Break

April 16th, 2007

I spent my last spring break on a mission trip with thirteen other people going to New Orleans where we helped with the continuing cleanup and rebuilding from hurricane Katrina. While I could summarize the whole trip and tell you what we did each day, my friend Jonathan who organized the trip has already written this up. So I quote him.

Here’s a day-to-day breakdown of our trip from April 8th to April 14th.

The daily schedule is as following: 6:30 – Breakfast 7:30 – Devotional/Worship 8:45 – Leave for work site 12ish – Lunch at work site 3-4 – Return to Crossroads and shower 5:30 – Dinner 7:00 – Worship (MWF) 10:00 – Lights out

Sunday, April 8th (Easter): We met at the Triplet’s Circle at 5:30 AM to load the vehicles, pray for the trip, and leave. By 6 we were all fueled up and on the road. Ross Heskett was driving his family’s Honda Pilot (4 people), Eric Brysnvold was driving his car (4 people), and I was driving Tank (6 people). We had a pretty good trip down, but we arrived almost two hours late due to us eating at Chiles for dinner. We got there around 9:30 local time (CST). After unpacking and getting a brief run down of the building and our daily schedule we went to bed. The girls had to share a room with another organization and had to sleep on cots while the guys had a room to ourselves and we had regular beds with mattresses. It turns out that the building received power about a month ago so we were off the generator – good news.

Monday, April 9th: After breakfast we all met in the devo room to have orientation. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but we did get our first assignment – actually two. We were to send half of our group to help with a local church and the other half needed to stay at Crossroads and help around the building. We split into two groups – I took one group to Joy Church while the other half stayed and cleaned up the building. As it turns out Crossroads tries to have each group stay for at least part of a day to help with building maintenance, we just got the first day. Joy Church (still under construction) is led by a guy who looks like Austin Powers – same hair, same glasses, similar personalities. Here we helped clean up the property, compiled hygiene packs for the 9th Ward, compiled food packs for those in need, finished some drywall, caulked things that needed caulking, mopped/buffed floors, etc. The people running the church we not your ordinary pastor and staff but instead were younger individuals with nontraditional personalities :) The crossroads group did a variety of tasks which included but are not exclusive to cleaning bathrooms, cleaning/helping in the kitchen, constructing furniture, etc. After work/showers we played frisbee until it was dinner time. After dinner we socialized and went to devo. We worshiped then gathered in the guys room for a debriefing and game time. We each talked about what we did that day, what was the most fun, and what was the most challenging. We then prayed for the rest of our week, those who we were going to help/meet, and Crossroads Missions. After that we played an awesome game that John O’Grady knew. It was a combination of Catch Phrase, Charades, and one word. The teams were guys vs. girls with guys coming out on top – but we all had a blast.

Tuesday, April 10th: Breakfast then morning devo. Praising the Lord is a great way to start the morning – it would be nice if we could have morning devos everyday at Rose. Back on topic, our assignment for today was to go “street cleaning.” New Orleans has an ordinance that fines people $100 a day if they have grass over 12 inches or trash in their yard. Since a lot of people have not returned since Katrina they have not been able to mow or cleanup their yard. So we went to a neighborhood and trimmed people’s lawns and removed trash from their yard. This is good and all but it rained on Tuesday… and it wasn’t very ward so we were out in the rain while picking up trash. After lunch we went back to Crossroads due to lightning. There we helped around where we could but there wasn’t much to do. Most of the guys went to scout out a house with one of the interns – we were mainly there to provide protection. Once we got back we played footbag… then ate… then played more footbag until about 9. We then met in the guys room again to play the game mentioned on Monday. We had a blast again and, oh, the guys pwned.

Wednesday, April 11th: We had french toast for breakfast – very good. After morning devo we went back to the neighborhood to do some more yard cleanup. It was sunny out. It was really cool to see everyone just attack the neighborhood (in a pleasant manner of course). We cleaned up a great many houses some of which had not been touched since Katrina. We also met an awesome Katrina survivor who told his story of, well, survival. Everything was fine during the first part of the storm, but after the eye passed the water overtook the levee. In ten minutes ten feet of water had covered the neighborhood. He cut his pets free and either got to the room or grabbed onto something (can’t remember). After riding out the storm he made his way to the levee where quite a few people had tied their boats together. As it turns out this is a great way to survive a hurricane as not a single boat was lost. In fact one of the boats was a shrimp boat so the owner was providing food to whoever came by. Some of the other groups we were with helped conquer his back yard while the rest of us continued around the neighborhood. For lunch we ate at a house in the neighborhood (Amy’s I believe) – she was connected with Crossroads. We had hot dogs, hamburgers, and brownies :) We continued through the neighborhood until three. After showers was the usual game of frisbee, dinner, then devo. That night we gathered again to discuss the day and our thoughts on the situation.

Thursday, April 12th: Today was a half day by design. For the first half of the day we gutted a house :) It was partially gutted to start with but we took out the drywall, ceiling, and cabinets in two to two and a half hours. Unfortunately Tank’s car battery was dead. Ross Heskett jumped it and we went to Auto Zone (recently renovated). Their test equipment showed that the battery was “bad” but it showed signs of a “good” battery. So we tried to start the van again and it worked! Hallelujah! After making it bad to Crossroads we showered and left for Cafe Reconcile. The cafe was started six or so years ago and takes “at risk” individuals and teaches them life skills as well as cooking/waiter skills. Oh, and the food was amazing! It had an awesome bowl of white beans, rice, and shrimp – and the smothered okra was fantastic! From here we went into central city and found where Crossroads had completed two houses. We took a tour inside of one and it looked very nice. Since Crossroads is providing labor for free they are selling these houses for much under the standard price point – thus helping those with low incomes. The neighborhood was in shambles though. We passes many, many “You shall not kill” signs in the neighborhood. Apparently the place is not safe at night due to drug activity. We then went to the French Quarter. The place looked pretty much the same as it did when I went before the storm. It was very apparent that the city/companies had put a lot of effort into cleaning up that area due to tourism. We walked around most of the quarter including Bourbon Street. I had no idea that it was that horrible. The street was entirely composed of bars and adult entertainment facilities. We continued around the quarter until we decided to get something to eat. We grabbed a snack of french donuts (B-somethingerother) and then tried to find a Pizza Hut. We left downtown and headed back in the direction of Crossroads hoping to find one along the way. We actually found two… but they were both destroyed. After about an hour of search for food (just about everything was destroyed) we stumbled upon a local pizza place. We grab a bunch of pizzas and returned to base. It was getting late so we ate, played some pool, then went to sleep.

Friday, April 13th: We were really hoping to go finish gutting the house from yesterday but we were assigned to help out at a junior high school. Once we arrive it turned out that we were not helping to restore a school but to instead transform the body of the school (damaged as it was) into both a church and a youth center. We did general clean up, tree removal (thanks to David Loughry), and renovation. Our project leader (Aaron Johnson) was actually quite familiar with Rose-Hulman and the surrounding are. Let me refine what tasks we performed. Both Sara Hong, Rachel McHenry, and Sarah Smebak painted the inside of the old gymnasium (two coats), David Loughry used a chainsaw to dispose to some trees, everyone (except the painters) cleaned out the upstairs of one of the buildings – we dumped a lot of stuff and moved cabinets and desks to another building, and performed general cleanup to the upstairs of the newest building. In the newest building Crossroads plans to house interns, maintain an office, and house individuals who plan to work on the weekends… among other things. So we were trying to cleanup and furnish the rooms with furniture that was not damaged by Katrina. It was hard work but we got it done. Before we were completely done all the guys but me (I had to drive the girls around) went to help finish a house. We joined them later but there wasn’t anything for us to do. We left after getting some cold snacks from an ice cream truck. Once the day was over we played even more frisbee, had dinner and devo, then met in the guys room to discuss what we had done that week and why we had done it. We talked for well over an hour concerning why we came, what touched us this week, and how we had grown as a group. It was amazing. Pretty much no one wanted to leave, but alas Rose was calling.

Saturday, April 14th: We were packed, fueled, and on the road by 8 AM. The trip back was not too bad. We had our bout with car sickness but we made it back. I’d like to say thanks to everyone who came on the trip. Thank you so very much. I hope that you were touched by what you say and learned. I’d also like to thank all the freshman girls for coming along – it wouldn’t have been the same without you. Drivers, thank you very much for your transportation and your cheerful attitudes.

Thanks you all, thank you!

That was the trip. I had a blast. One of the most fun things I’ve done all year. This trip meant a lot to me for a couple of reasons.

There were fourteen people in our group, seven men and seven women. If you know anything about my school you will know that that is a very odd ratio. The school’s male-female ratio is about 4-1. I knew most of the guys, with one guy I had met only once, but there were five freshman girls, all who lives on the same floor, that I had never met before. It’s unfortunate I hadn’t met them because over the week I got to know each one of them and they are all cool people. I enjoyed talking and getting to know each and every one of them. I’m excited about graduating, but it makes me sad that I will only be here five more weeks when I just made some new friends. Fortunately the group seems intent on continuing our relationships through future activities.

Seeing all the other volunteers on the mission trip and seeing all of the fulltime workers as well as interns, some of whom were younger than I was, was really inspiring. It could be fun to spend a summer or a year down there working and leading other groups.

I had more to say, but everything I write turns to rambling so I’m just going to stop here. Some of the pictures taken on the trip are publically available, the rest are currently on Facebook and will hopefully be public soon.

More pics.

1 Response to “Post Spring Break”

  1. Tim Says:
    Great to hear that you had a fun, productive, rewarding time in New Orleans. The pictures are great, too. I went to New Orleans too, but my trip was strictly work. I would have loved to have been able to spend more time with volunteers and the people.

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