Tuesday, March 17, 2009


We arrived back from our trip to New Orleans this past Saturday exhausted, but encouraged from the week. It was hard to leave the "80s and sunny" weather in New Orleans, drive through 14 hours of rain, and get back to "cool and rainy" weather in Blacksburg. I've always said that I've wanted to visit this city, so I was excited to be able to experience it and serve it at the same time.

Our work for the week was about half physical labor and half community interaction. For the physical labor part, we did maintenance, cleaning, yardwork, and painting for the church and the mission house to give them usable facilities and enable them to do the ministry they are doing in the community. For me, that kind of service comes naturally, and I really enjoyed the chance to get sweaty and dirty so that these organizations could be a blessing to the communities they are in. The community interaction part included playing with kids at after-school programs, going to teen Bible study groups, and going door-to-door to invite people to a theatre production at the church. This canvassing work was a stretch for me as I'm not a huge "talking to strangers" kind of guy, but it was really neat to see the excitement from some of the people we talked to simply because their neighborhood (which was affected greatly by Katrina and is still getting back on its feet) was seeing cultural events return and seeing the church back on its feet.

One of the most interesting experiences we had was the opportunity to drive around the city and see some of the areas that were devastated by Katrina more than 3 years ago. Specifically, we got to see the area called the Lower 9th Ward, which experienced some of the worst flooding when a canal running alongside of it was overcome with the storm surge. This neighborhood used to be a high-density, lower-income area, but is now almost nothing more than a field with a grid of streets running through it. Many houses in the area aren't built with a concrete slab or a foundation, so they were almost all literally washed away by the storm. It was a surreal sight to be sure.

Here are photos, photos, and more photos from our trip!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spring Break So Far

On Saturday morning, we packed up the BCM's big white van and drove down to New Orleans for a spring break mission trip - the drive took us about 14 hours total. April and I are leading a group of five students down here to work on some service and community outreach projects in the city. I did a few of these spring break mission trips while I was a student, but it has been a while since I've done any sort of project like this, and the first time that I've led a team. We've put a lot of thought and effort into planning and preparing for this trip (which was a difficult process for me), so we have been excited to see all of our plans come together and to begin to experience what we've been thinking about for a couple of months now.

Our good friend Zack Reuter works for a church here in New Orleans called Sojourn Lakeview, and we are partnering with them. The idea to head down there came during a conversation we had with Zack over Christmas when we got a chance to hang out with him. Their church is relatively new in its current form, and needs some work updating and cleaning the building that it recently moved into. They will also be hosting a theater production in their building starting the end of this week, and need some help getting the word out to their neighborhood about the production and the fact that the church is back up and running. Our team will be helping with both of these projects toward the end of the week.

We are staying at a place called Rachel Sims Baptist Mission, which has been reaching out to a different neighborhood of the city for a long time. They have programs for needy adults and kids in their neighborhood. Today, we were able to help do some "spring cleaning" of the building and the grounds, including organizing, yardwork, cleaning, and trash pickup. There is a public park across the street from the center that they use for many of their activities, so we did a lot of cleanup there too. In the afternoon, we met the neighborhood kids there for the after-school program. It was great to be out in the 80-degree weather playing with the kids, helping them with their homework, and helping them listen to the Bible stories they were being taught.

Yesterday was a day to relax and experience New Orleans for us. We went to church at Sojourn Lakeview and then drove out into the swamp to get some tasty fresh seafood for lunch. In the evening, we got to head over to the French Quarter, eat some beignets, and explore a little bit. This is definitely a unique city with so much to experience!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blue Mustangs

We made a good run, but sadly the season ended last night for the Blue Mustangs, the intramural basketball team I played on with some BCM students. We were knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen round of the tournament by the reigning championship team, the Young Gunnaz. Although the Gunnaz had quite a bit of an edge in athletic talent over us (their team included a player from the VT football team and one from the club basketball team), we had hoped that our solid fundamentals and some hot shooting could lead us to victory. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, and we came up short despite a ferocious second half run that brought us back from being down about 20 points to only being down 8 with about 10 minutes left in the game.

I am so glad that Virginia Tech allows me to participate in intramural sports as a campus minister - I had a great time being a part of this team and getting the chance to play basketball that was a little bit more exciting and meaningful that the pickup games I'm used to. One of the best parts of last night's game was the crowd that came to cheer us on. I didn't count, but I bet there were at least 40 BCM students (and my supportive wife was there too!) there cheering us on. It felt like we were playing in Cassell Coleseum when the crowd would erupt after a defensive stop or a basket.

Our team was also given the "Sportsmanship Award" this past week. We got some free stuff from the sponsors (hoodie from Champion and a coupon for a free pizza from Pizza Hut) and did a photo shoot with their banners. It hasn't been posted yet, but I'm thinking you might get to see a picture of the Blue Mustangs here sometime soon.

Update: They did post our picture on the Recsports website, and here it is: