Sunday, December 17, 2006

Few more photos

Originally uploaded by Halldór Elías.
I have added few more of my photos from the course to Feel free to look at them and use for good cause.

Look at pictures.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Go My Children....Never Alone

In a couple of minutes, we'll take off for Baton Rouge.
In a couple of days, we'll back in Columbus, Ohio, processing our experiences here.
In a couple of months, God will call me from comfort to the cross--the empty cross.

A song as God's response TO US as we go from this place.

"Go My Children, with My Blessing
Go my children, with my blessing never alone.
Waking, sleeping, I am with you, you are my own.
In my love's baptismal river I have made you mine forever.
God my children, with my blessing, you are my own.

Go my children, sinces forgiven, at peace and pure.
Here you learned how much I love you, what I can cure.
Here you heard my dear Son's story, here you touched him, saw his glory.
Go my children, sins forgiven, at peace and pure.

Go my children, fed and nourished, closer to me.
Grow in love and love by serving, joyful and free.
Here my Spirit's power filled you, here my tender comfort stilled you.
God my children, fed and nourished, joyful and free."

Christ's Shalom be with all who need it (and especially with those who think they don't).

Today, I said good-bye to New Orleans for Jesus,

The Rushing Water

On our first night in Slidell, LA, our group heard from Rose who rushed away clinging for her life on a table amidst the flowing waters from Hurricane Katrina. She survived and is thriving, she continues to share her story and live in the grace of God and within the community of the south.
From the beginning of her story our first night until the end the trip, our group has also been rushed away with the words, stories, pictures, destruction, sadness and hope of life after Katrina. We've been welcomed on this journey by new friends and saints of New Orleans. Our emotions have been consumed, we've been consumed with mile after mile of debris, crushed houses, vacant malls, empty neighborhoods, broken trees, tired faces and bodies, newly planted flowers and trees, stories of strength, humor, and tears of hope and joy.

I missed out on hearing much about Katrina; unfortunately, living out of America for two years caused me to turn a blind eye to events here. Yet, now I can no longer turn away - as a witness to both the destruction and the hope here, my eyes and heart have become a witness.

We look forward to sharing more of our trip with the seminary community and engaging all of you to use your resources and time to help and support the people here.

The waters of hope and relief and rebuilding continue to this day and will for many more years to come - we cannot afford to turn away. May we all continue to be washed and filled with God's love and grace. May God's power to consume our lives carry forth the mission to love and serve others - consume others with the hope, joy and peace needed.


Kim Knowle

Things in the Air

Last night we heard from an employee of Lockheed Martin who works at the plant that manufactures the external fuel tanks for the space shuttles and his son who was part of the military's air evacuation response to Katrina.

A levy system built around the plant, pumps and some brave souls that weathered the storm, saved the plant and the shuttle program. Had the plant been destroyed, the shuttle program would have grounded to a stop. The international space station would have suffered because there is no other delivery system for the parts needed to finish its construction. Signs of hope that devastating destruction was not total destruction.

Many question the benefits and needs of the space program, I'll not get into its merits here. Just suffice it to say that I'm a fan of the space program and I gave quiet thanks to know that Katrina did not cause a serious set back to the program.

Immediately after the storm, military helicopters were in the air doing rescue work. People were evacuated, some to the convention center. We heard of harrowing experiences. There was no air traffic control. We heard one story of a helicopter trapped on the roof of a building after its weight caused it to collapse.

If the military under orders was taking people to the convention center in its early rescue operations, how did other parts of the government not know until days later that there were refugees at the convention center? I don't have an anwer, maybe the long government reports made after the storm do.

Perhaps the most memorable thing for me durning this session was right at the beginning when a tear appeared as we were told how grateful the people were for volunteers like us coming to help. I hope you have an opportunity to come help and experience that tear for yourself.

Proclaiming the Gospel is Job #1

By this time, my head is swirling with so much information, I'm afraid many things are losing their identity as they become part of a composite. I have multiple things I want to touch on in and as we are leaving tomorrow for Columbus I am rushing to add a few more posts to this blog.

As one might expect in a mission as big as the Katrina relief effort there is controversy in its miidst. In some ways it is a storm within a storm. It would seem that much of the relief effort being done by churches is being dictated by the government as it restricts the use of grant money for specific things. It is not allowable to use money or resources from these funds for rebuilding churches and one cannot use the opportunity such work provides to evangelize by sharing the Good News. This is a necessary part of the separation of church and state. One should not have to have religion forced upon them as they receive help. That is an essential part of government funded assistance. Thank God for the government assistance! It is helping so many people.

Yet we were reminded yesterday that the mission of the church is primarily to proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus crucified and risen. Our acceptance of government grant money has limited the church's ability to carry out this mission. The work of social service is necessary, but should it be done in a way that limits our primary mission? Perhaps churches should not be afraid to stand on their own, trusting in the generosity from members of the Body of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and forego the government grant money.

Mucked out and rebuilt houses etc. are part of the recovery, but as the Gospel proclaims and we experience in our own lives true healing comes from our faith in Jesus Christ. That is the Good News we must proclaim to a people broken by Katrina.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Winds of Slidel

After a day of cleaning up a pile of trash and priming drywall, we drove by Brett's house that we had mucked out last week and all of the enormous pile of what use to be the inside of his house had been hauled away. A shower, dinner and then a planning session for our presentation at school and I was feeling the stress. I had nearly shut down during the meeting. My nerve endings were sparking and I was ready to crawl out of my skin.

I needed space and some quiet. I do what I often do in times like this, I take a walk. I sing a new song that comes to me as I walk and I commune with the Lord. The breeze was blowing and I extended my hands so that the wind blew across the palms of my hands. That has become a sign of the Spirit's presence with me. Thirty or forty minutes of this and I was relaxed, calm and I was renewed in my call to priesthood.

The winds blow across the globe. In the winds of Slidel this evening, I found peace through the Spirit. Should I have been surprised that the Lord would bring peace in the midst of chaos?

The Humor and the Tears

On Friday the eighth of December, our team was blessed to have a gentleman who works for the judicial court of New Orleans talk to us. By now, the impact of all that we had seen was beginning to take a toll and many of us were beginning to show signs of wear--sadness, weariness and all the other emotions that accompany the realization of such an enormous tragedy.
But Mike, who was our speaker, was as refreshing as a spring rain. While he had lost all that he had owned and continued to live a FEMA trailer, and while he also was clearly still quite emotional regarding all that he had lived through during the past year, he method of coping with the events of and following Katrina was one of humor. He told us the that he figured that there was little to do but make the best of it and laugh. One could sense, however, that some of his laughter was used to cover pain. More than once, I saw tears on his cheeks, especially when speaking of friends, his home, or his animals.
Mike has family in Dayton, Ohio and that is where he evacuated. What should have been a 14 hour drive became a twenty-six hour drive as it took him 8 hours to go 25 miles as he was leaving the city. He told us that as far north as Kentucky there was "no room at the inn" because all lodging was filled with other Katrina evacuaees. Thus, he had no choice but to continue on for the full 26 hours. He was headed for his sister's home in Dayton, and he told us that when he reached her house, he completely broke down. And yet he laughed!
When he returned to Orleans parish his house was completely demolished and his belongings gone. And yet he laughed.
He was transplanted to Texas for a period of time--no clothes, no personal belongings, no security. And yet he laughed!
I believe that all of us could learn from Mike. Our troubles are so minor compared to what he faced upon his return to his home, yet he didn't whine--he refused to feel sorry for himself. We could all probably learn a healthy lesson of the gift of laughter that Mike demonstrated. God bless you Mike.
Blessings, Mary