Saturday, March 20, 2010

Returned-long version

We got back from New Orleans yesterday evening and I considered writing a post then, but in the interest of coherency, I decided to wait until after I had slept. That said, the coherency of this update might still be lacking. I'll do my best though.
We left Pella at about 8:30pm Friday night or so, with 6 vans, 4 of which were pulling trailers. In the vans were about 21 Central students and recent alums, and a whole bunch of high school students and chaperones, for a total of 80 some people. We were definetely protected by angels as we made the drive from Pella to New Orleans and all the vans made it safely. I slept most the way as a defense against motion sickness. Part way down our convoy was joined by a car with 2 adults (Sue and Donna) who were joining us on the trip but had left early so they could do the trip in 2 legs, instead of all at once. Just before New Orleans I transferred to the car for the crossing of the "big scary bridge". The big scary bridge was about 40 miles long over a lake and was very very wavy. I was very glad that we did not go back across it when we left New Orleans. Being in the car helped avoid some of the waviness and thus helped the motion sickness.
We arrived in NOLA Saturday afternoon and spent some time unpacking and showering before eating. The highschoolers and their chaperones stayed at the big church and the college students and recent alums stayed at the little church, Pastor Charles' church. This meant that the majority of college student girls got to sleep in bunk beds as opposed to air mattresses on the floor. It also meant that we had to get up earlier than the highschoolers and go to bed later because we had to drive between the two churches.
The college students were paired up to lead small groups of highschoolers and I was paired with Jordan. Jordan and I had 7 highschoolers in our group and by the end of the week I knew all of their names and could match names to faces, even though I misses small group twice. I count that as a success.
Sunday we went to a church in Slidell. Amazingly we were considerably early and instead of waiting around at the church we went to look for alligators. We did not see any, nor did we feed anybody to them. We learned an important lesson about not having 50 people on the end of a dock though.
After church we ate our bag lunches and went into Slidell to watch the St. Patrick's day parade. The most interesting thing about the parade was that the people on the floats would throw vegetables at us- potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, etc. I'm not quite sure why, but we did end up with a considerable pile of vegetables and lots and lots of beads.
After the parade Pastor Charles took us on a tour of New Orleans. It is amazing how much damage remains after 5 years. Some of the houses looked fine on the outside, but when you looked inside you could see that they were just shells of houses. Other places, especially in the 9th ward, had not been touched at all in 5 years and you could tell that they were exactly as they had been left. I have some pictures and once I get my memory card back from Niki I will post some. It was very heartbreaking and after awhile I could not look anymore.
After dinner Sunday night, we had small groups and worship time. Then the college students made a walmart run to get some important things like sunscreen, aloe, ear plugs, and waterbottles. Some of us had forgotten that it was no longer winter in NOLA and had failed to bring sunscreen and aloe with us. Even I was a little toasted Sunday night. (I'm a wonderful shade of tan now) I had a small seizure Sunday night, but my friends had me in bed before it hit and it was short, so that was a blessing. I blame the excess sun and lack of water and lack of sleep for that.
Monday was our first day of work. As can be expected, things did not go according to plan and we were severely delayed in leaving the big church for our projects. However, G-d worked in an amazing way. While the leaders were out trying to figure out how to hook up trailers, rest of us were in the sanctuary having a hymn sing. We got Ashley to accompany us on the piano and we just sung hymn after hymn. And a bunch of praise choruses too. And some random songs. I was super impressed with the high schoolers and their patience.
When we finally left I was on the Gerald's house crew. I was supposed to be siding, but did a lot of other stuff instead, such as weeding, tearing up old flooring so new could be laid, marking studs, and sitting in the shade drinking water and taking care of myself. There was a creepy ice cream truck that made daily visits to that site. Gerald has a little son, Genesis, who was very excited when he came home from school and saw us working on his house. I wasn't able to go back to that site later in the week, but I have heard stories of Genesis running around screaming "Thank you" at the top of his lungs over and over again. We finished siding the house, and laying the new floor and installing the hot water heater. Hallelu-JAH!
Monday night was crawfish night. I was excited for it. I have never had trouble with shellfish or any seafood and I had discussed with Diana how it was prepared and fully expected to be fine with it. I even liked it. However, it did not like me. At all. I had eaten two crawfish when my mouth went numb and my throat started swelling. Benadryl and Ventolin were not enough to pull me out of it and my amazing friends stabbed me with my epi-pen and brought me to the hospital. Thankfully Pastor Charles was with us and knew how to get to the hospital very quickly. By the time we got there I was semi-conscious and breathing and we proceeded to wait and wait and wait and wait. Pastor Charles ended up leaving, and Jordan and Niki stayed with me. After about 4 hours or so I finally saw the doctor who ordered a shot of benadryl and a shot of steriods, since I was headed into a secondary reaction by that time. The nurse was amazing and gave me both shots at the same time so it felt like one. It was two shots because there were two needle holes in my hip. I don't remember a whole lot after the shots. Jordan and Niki told me that I got really goofy and said some random stuff. The IM benadryl wasn't as fun as IV benadryl (no cherry smell), but it was still good stuff. The doctor also ordered a 12 day course of oral prednisone and 50 mg of benadryl every 6 hours for the next 24 hours. Tuesday was pretty much a blur because of that.
Tuesday morning they let me sleep in a bit, which is good because I don't know that I would have woken up with everyone else. High dose Benadryl does that to me. When they picked me and Ali up at the little church to take us to our job site, I got into the van and Sue said "I want to be the first to congratulate you" I was uber confused. Usually I don't get congratulated for going to the hospital and being strung out on drugs. Eventually she elaborated. As a Western alum, she knew Mark Poppen and knew my application for seminary had been reviewed on Monday. She called Mark Monday night while I was at the hospital. The Benadryl/steroid cocktail I was on made it hard for me to show how excited I was, but on the inside I was very very excited. I've been accepted to Western! I will be moving to Holland, MI next year! A few people got very excited texts from me on Tuesday before my cell phone battery died all the way.
My work project on Tuesday was Arthur's house. I'm not sure what the overall project was, but I know I weeded and made screens, and cleaned the floor so it could be stained and slept in the van. (Sleeping in the van became my project for rest the week, thanks t0 benadryl and prednisone). I also know that we painted the porch at Arthur's house. Whatever else was supposed to get done, we got it done. Hallelu-JAH!
In small group and worship Tuesday night we talked about resting in G-d's hands. It hit home hard. I'm very much a go-go-go-go person, so it was a good reminder just to sit and rest. And it was what a very good friend of mine had told me to do before I had even left for NOLA. It was very good.
Wednesday was a rough day for me. The Prednisone makes me very dizzy and nauseous, and it makes my brain really jumpy (hence the lack of coherency). I also had some seizures on Wednesday. So even though I was at the thrift store project all day, I really didn't work. I slept a lot and talked with my new friend Mandy. I'm not even sure what our project was at the thrift store, but it got done. Hallelu-JAH!
Wednesday night the college students took the night and went and fed the homeless (I slept) and then went out to dinner. I was awake for most of dinner. The neatest thing at dinner was that we each got a letter from a faculty member who had been praying for us all week. That was really cool. Then, when it was really late and no one else was left in the restuarant, we went back to the little church and slept.
Thursday was our last work day. I was on the crew that went to the church in Slidell and did landscaping type stuff. We weeded flower beds and then planted new shrubberies. Mandy and I may have accidently spent a long time pulling out what we thought was a weed only to realize later that it was a baby shrubbery. In the afternoon we spread mulch in all the flower beds. I slept on the floor. When we left, the flower beds looked beautiful and there were new shrubberies planted. Hallelu-JAH!
Thursday night we cleaned up both churches, packed all our bags and had some pretty sweet small group and worship time. The college students who got back to the little church first were rock stars and rolled up everyone's sleeping bags and started cleaning, so that when we got back later all we had to do was shower and pack up the last few things. We left NOLA at about 11:30pm and I copiloted until 3am. Thanks to the prednisone, I don't sleep so well at night without help. After 3am I slept pretty much all the way to Iowa.
As we arrived back in Pella, it started to snow. Ickyness. I'm ready to go back to NOLA. It was warmer there and they had sunshine and no snow.
Other highlights of the trip:
JayJay: This little bundle of energy must have lived close to the little church because he was there all the time. He was 7 years old (maybe) and just loved to hang out with us. On Thursday night we sat on the porch of the little church and I told him stories. I miss telling stories. He also had a really cool toy that was like a magna-doodle but used light instead. He let me play with it. He took down some of our addresses, so maybe we'll get letters from him.
Finishing other projects: I'm not sure what all we did, but I know a group moved dirt, another group painted a different church, some group did something called soffeting, and in general we got a ton done. Hallelu-JAH!
Amazing community: The group was amazing. This was my first time on the NOLA trip and it was just incredible to work with everyone and take care of everyone and be taken care of by everyone. Lots of hugs, lots of "doing it for Jesus", lots of praise. Hallelu-JAH!
Safety: there were no major injuries, all the vans made it to and from NOLA safely, and no one got super sick (there were lots of colds and some stomach flu type stuff, but nothing major). Hallelu-JAH!
When I have pictures I will post some, but right now Niki has my photo card.
Be blessed!

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