Hurricane Katrina Relief

I just discovered this link at the Sun Herald, the local newspaper in Gulfport (Biloxi actually) and it has some impressive before and after photos. Thought you might like to see it.

This is the first day that has felt even close to a day off. We have a crew coming in tonight, so we are getting ready for them. Yesterday marked 36 days without a day off, and most days were over 12 hours, but things are starting to come together. At least for us it is becoming manageable.

One early newspaper article that I read said that almost 75% of the buildings in Harrison County (Gulfport area) were destroyed! Well over 100 people have died, and they still discover a body from time to time as they remove rubble. We’ve done this MDS work many times before, but the devastation is unimaginable and you just never get used to it. The destruction of Andrew pales to this. We drive through it every day as we assess jobs and coordinate volunteers. You learn to focus on the job at hand and block out the impact of it all as you work, but every once in a while I have time to stop and look…..and think….and I get a lump in my stomach. So many people are living in tents, and many homes are so full of mold that they are uninhabitable.

One church member that we visited said that there were 4 bodies washed up against the front of the house next to his after the storm subsided, and he was blocks from the beach. Many people who tried to ride it out were forced up into the attics of their homes to escape the rising water and then couldn’t get out. Some spent the day in the attic as the water rose even higher, but lived to tell about it. Others didn’t survive and died in their attics.

Pass Christian is one area where we have worked and this web site will give you an idea of how total the destruction is down here. Ironically the worst areas don’t look as bad – they are just clean – all the homes and debris was swept blocks inland where we see roofs on the ground with cars piled on top of them.

Things have continued to dog us here. I’ve had severe tooth pain since Saturday and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since then. Monday I went to the dentist and he checked my tooth and took an x-ray and didn’t find anything wrong. I went back to work and the pain got worse until by Tuesday morning I was about ready to stand in front of the next freight train that passed by.

I got up in the morning and made myself some coffee with just a small,dim light on over the cooktop. When I poured the coffee and cream in, I thought the strainer had broken and the coffee grounds had floated to the top. I turned the bigger light on to get a better look and realized that my coffee mug was full of ants, and the countertop, sink, cooktop and cutting board was covered with them! :O( Great material for a Stephen King novel. (groan)

I went to the dentist again that morning after addressing the ants and he found a cracked filling and some decay in an upper tooth. (I had thought that the pain was in a lower one- d’uh) He filled the tooth, and for the first time in days I was free of pain. It was like the sun had come out again. Unfortunately by 2pm during a meeting the Novocain wore off and I had more pain than ever. I drove back to the dentist by 3, climbed into the chair yet again and ended up having a root canal. :O( They’re over-rated. I don’t know how you feel about spiritual battles, but we’re facing one. Today I was recovering from having the dentist run rough-shod through my mouth, but the big pain is gone and I’m hoping for a real night’s sleep tonight.

We are on the road as I type….somewhere around Knoxville, TN and are hoping to get close to Gulfport, MS sometime tomorrow. Being well aware of the old “first impressions” axiom, I’d prefer to show up at the church in the morning, rested (maybe?) and alert (and showered) rather than in the evening looking like a flood victim and half asleep. (“sooooo…this is what MDS project directors look like” *groan) :O)

We got to the MDS office Monday night after 9pm and just growled at anybody that got close and dove into bed. I was a little more personable in the morning. We had a very busy and intense day with meetings most of the time just getting up to speed with respect to the status of the various MDS projects. Got four shots in the same arm and still feel it. (Tetanus, Hep A & B, and Typhoid)

Some of you asked if we would email when and if we got the nod from MDS. Well, we got it, and they’d like us to come ASAP, so we are leaving on Monday. Since there is little in the way of housing available they have asked us to come with our RV. Sleeping on the floor in the church works well for short-term volunteers (a few days or a week), but longer term people need their own space and a softer bed. Burnout is a big risk.

We will stop in Akron, PA at the MDS office on Tuesday and meet with someone to get briefed in as much detail as is available. (that often isn’t much in these things) We’ve arranged to get Tetanus shots and inoculations for Hepatitis A & B while we are there in Lancaster.

Wednesday we’ll head for Gulfport, Mississippi where we will coordinate the relief efforts in that area on behalf of MDS and work with the Gulfhaven Mennonite Church. MDS has asked us for a commitment of 6 weeks to “see how things work out”. That’s MDS speak for “6 weeks and maybe as long as you are willing to stay”. Given the popularity of, (and competition for) January through March for MDS volunteers, (many of the farmers have free time then) there will likely be other project directors available for that time period, so we may be home in time for the deeper snow. :O( We really don’t know for sure.

Thanks for the support that we have felt from you already, and for your prayers as we serve.