Sunday, March 05, 2006

Working in Pascagoula - First 2 days

Arrived Pascagoula - Central Church of Christ around 1 on March 2. (Thursday)

Our purpose in coming here was to help with hurricane relief -doing what we could to help with getting people's homes restored. (See for a description of the relief operation that we are working with.

About 2:00 I had a short conversation with David Kilbern who is overseeing the operation—they call it “Operation Love your neighbor”.-- He showed us where to put the "BBB". We are right beside the building and — one bonus is that I have a great wireless INTERNET connection from the church. .

We got set up and then went back to see what we might be doing.

It is chaotic in the office so it turned out that we weren’t able to spend anytime with David Kilbern until late Thursday evening. (As an aside, turns out there are about 7 Davids here including one who is David Kilbern's brother-in-law from Pensacola Florida and David Baker who is the head of a Christian relief operation from Georgia who has joined forces with the Central Church effort -- he does the housing and provides a lot of the supplies-I think. I'm picking this up in dribs and drabs and, it is, as I said before often confusing as to who is doing what -- which is NOT surprising considering the scale of the disaster and the excessive demands on too few people who have stepped up to take on these leadership roles. -- My joke when I found this out (about the David's) was that it only took 1 David to slay Goliathbut I guessed Katrina was a lot bigger than Goliath!!!).

We just dived in and helped with some things around the building – sorting clothes and janitor work sweeping up and dumping trash. They are feeding between 25 & 30 people - some volunteers like us, some people who are staying in the building (they have converted classrooms to “dorms”) and some neighborhood people—

Evening meal was good -casseroles and salads and good bread. John Dobbs who is the preacher here decided to have services each evening in March. We sat in on the one Thursday evening small group—good singing and excellent lesson on a new life in Jesus.

Slept well in the new location

March 3 – Friday

They have a small annex building that they are using as a “cafeteria”—one of the "David's" (the brother-in-law) cooked breakfast this a.m.—full southern style-eggs, grits, biscuits, gravy& pancakes (I passed on the gravy—looked like it would really gum up the arteries!!!) Lots of people here from different backgrounds – one older carpenter Roy who fell and hurt his back but is still working – there are no doubt many stories and I will try to capture a few as time goes on. I’m having difficulty remembering names but that will come .

We talked to a couple from Virginia this a.m. who are finishing a week here working on restoring one house. They have traveled into Canada and told of a trip they took to Yellowstone in winter where they rented snow machines and put their 2 kids on a sled to make a 122 mile tour around Yellowstone. She is (and has) home schooling the kids (seven in all!!) . They live on ocean in Virginia and have experienced (milder) hurricanes so they have a better idea of what this is all about.

About 9:30 David took us over to this house (see picture on left) where we slotted to do some painting. The guy (John?) had been working on replacing the plaster up 4 feet in his parent’s house – was in final stages of getting a primer coat sprayed on before painting when he fell and hit his tailbone so the mother had called David and asked if they could help.

This is a really nice home in a (relatively) well off neighborhood where they normally wouldn’t be helping but he agreed to do it because of the circumstances.

On way back to get supplies, David gave us a tour of the area closer to the beach – what a mess – lots of houses have been completely leveled—nothing left now but the slab. Others are in various stages of reconstruction. If the house was more than 50% damaged it has to be raised up onto 8 ft piers to meet the new standards for being above flood levels.

He took us to one house (picture at left) that had not been touched since the hurricane. It was owned by an 85 yearold lady whose family had taken her to Jackson, Miss. She has been there 6 months and wants to come home. What a mess – mold on the walls – all the furnishing wrecked—I took several pictures The ones I've included give a small idea of the mess it left. Linda was teary eyed thinking of how terrible it would be to come back to that – everything below 4 feet totally gone and then higher up there were all these knic knacks on the shelves.

Her son was there when we were there cleaning out a shed and removing anyof the small salvableitems that were abovethe waterline so the group of college kidscoming next week could "muck it out" and start the cleanupp and repairs. "Mucking" includes removing the refrigerator which was laying on its side and hadn't been touched for 6 months.

Anyhow, we gathered up painting materials including our box of stuff we brought with us and went back to the house and painted the living room- 12 x 16 -- more complicated than normal since they put in a chair rail all the way around to cover the joint between new sheetrock on the bottom half of the wall and old plaster on the top. (pictures show before - as we found it and after painting)

It was sort of weird because to all intents and purposes it was no different than painting a room in our own house until you walked into the kitchen where the repairs haven’t been done or the bathroom which is stripped down to the studs. We found that much of the house needs more work on sanding the old plaster before it can be painted. We hope to do the dining room to-morrow (Saturday) and maybe do something different next week.

This is from Linda’s journal “There are some really neat stories about how God has intervened to bring good things into the lives of the people they are dealing with people are hurting badly—no homes, no hope and lots of depressions some stories of suicides. There seem to be some very caring people here and lots of hard work being done. …People are left with nothing and some are unable to find papers for ID so are having a hard time just trying to get help. ... I can really see that there may be a lot of sickness around here because some people won’t tear out the walls where it doesn’t look so bad – like the kitchen in the house were we were – but according to David there is always black mold in the walls and it has to be done or there will be problems. I just wonder if it can really all be cleaned up and what happens to people who live there if it isn’t. What an unbelievable disaster “

March 4 - Saturday
The day started kind of rough for me. We are using the washrooms in the building since we don't have a full hookup. I was trying to deal with a slow flushing toilet in the building (facilities are being used more heavily that designed with all the people around) and ended upwith an overflow --so had to scrounge up a mop and cleaning materials to get that cleaned up.

Around 8:30, we caught a ride to "our house" with John (Sanders). He is a 34 year old originally from Rhode Island. He has an engineering degree and MBA from a schools in Michigan and had spent 7 years working in automotive (?Ford?) in Detroit and was then displaced in a round of job cutting.

He has a passion for Christian service and came down here shortly after Katrina and has been here ever since (except for a break at Christmas) - he spent first few months "mucking out" homes. Since he has come back he is working estimating jobs for a roofing contractor to cover some living expenses. He is staying here at the church and doing a lot of volunteer work as well. He was going out with a chain saw to clean up a tree that was filling a back yard.

We finished painting the dining room yesterday and started on the trim (Yech!!!). Just as we were breaking for lunch the owner's son (with the hurt back) had brought paint for the trim. He is staying in a trailer parked right in front of the house. On Friday morning when we were first there he had hobbled out - could hardly walk -- to talk to David and explain what they had planned for painting. We hadn't seen him again all the rest of Friday and he was gone when we got there Saturday a.m. We talked to him briefly before we left for lunch . When we came back after lunch he was gone again. Hope to maybe be able to talk to him a little more on Monday.

At lunch, Linda got a chance to do some mothering. One of the "girls" (probably in her late 20's) (Heather ) who is staying in the building had a cat which she wasn'tallowed to keep inside.During the night it had gotten loose and was killed on the street. She was heart broken and blaming herself so Linda offered her a shoulder to "cry on".

After lunch we were getting ready to go back to painting but there was a big panic. There was a bus load of about 70 college kids due in. They have been fixing up make shift dormitories in the office space of an old glove factory and another warehouse. A crew had worked all week to build makeshift bunk beds but David had not been able to arrange to get the mattresses picked up and delivered. He had called and gotten a guyto come in on his day off to open up the warehouse where the matresses were stored but they needed people to help move them. So John hooked up a trailer to the van he is driving and we went off to do that. One trailer was a little small but we piled 20 mattresses on it and tied them down with "rachet straps" --It was a miracle that this topsy turvey load made it the mile or so to the destination but they did.

During the "great mattress caper" we got to meet Carl who went with us to help. He was living near New Orleans in a rented trailer when Katrina hit. He and his friend woke up to find their trailer rocking and when they looked out their vehicles were swamped -- they waded out to the highway, flagged down a semi that was headed for Mississippi and they came here "running from the storm". He lost everything but the clothes on his back including a car-- His friend lost a car & a truck. He had been living on the "cruise ship" here in Pascagoula but had to leave there endof February. He has a job as an auto detailer but still doesn't have a place to live. He is hoping that FEMA will find him an apartment soon. For now he is hanging out around here helping out with stuff when he can.

He had some interesting stories about life on the "ship" -- One the one hand it was great -- they had the full cruise ship treatment-meals and facilities which was more than many had ever seen in their lives -- at the same time several hundred kids withnothing to do but run up & down the corridors or run the elevators up & down and generally make noise and "be kids" often without parental supervision. Then of course the "10%" (or maybe higher in this case) that were into drugs and drinking making life miserable for everyone else.

Saturday evening we had a relatively small crowd for supper. David (Kilbern) deep fried chicken fingers on an outdoor propane burner. They had expected this bus load of kids from North Carolina but they didn't get inuntil 9:30. We went in for the eveningmeeting but very small group so John (Dobbs) had a short prayer session and finished early. We came back to the motorhome and crashed -- after a dayof climbing ladders and bending we were ready to be done. I was sleeping before 10.

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