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!