Today’s Gospel lesson from Luke tells us that “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness”. The Mission Trip to New Orleans was also full of and led by the Holy Spirit in so many ways, from the moment we received the parish blessing from Sam and the passing on of the Superman T shirt from Sheila to our trip home as we flew safely above the storm accompanied by Bishop Harris.
Each member of the group offered their own unique gifts, not only to the people of New Orleans but also to the group itself. I think of Anne who after lugging all our sleeping bags and pillows and driving 13 hours straight to miss the snow storm went right to the grocery store so everyone else would have food for breakfast the next day. I think of the Rebuild Group of Lorraine, George, John, and Jim who arose early every morning to spend the day building and painting a homeowner’s closet and returned to do dishes after dinner every evening. I think of the Beacon of Hope group including Lana, Cece, and Fred who painted all week both inside and out and entertained us with their humor and stories.
I think of homeowner Bev and her dog Sweetie who graciously welcomed us into her home and her life and were so thrilled that Will was able to put 3 bookcases together for them. I think of Barb and Marilyn who spent countless trips going back and forth to the paint stores with Bev to decide on the color of her house and who also spear headed our delicious and creative dinners. I think of Mary who each evening took it upon herself to get both pictures and write-ups on the blog so that all our supporters could be involved in what was going on while we were there.
I think of Bill who organized the Bayou Rebirth project of repotting trees and got us all interested in how important the issue of restoring the Bayou is. I think of Patti’s cousin Nick who not only welcomed us with his red dress and cookies but also brought a few of us out on a trip to actually see the Bayou. I think of going out with Patti, Mary, and Will to feed other volunteer groups rebuilding homes throughout the city as well as a community of people living with HIV/AIDS, the working poor, and the homeless and the privilege of listening to the stories of all who we met.
But most of all I think of the people of New Orleans – how despite all their struggles of the past 5 years and before are able to maintain an incredible spirit of hope and love. Despite the poverty, violence, little progress in rebuilding, and lack of resources they continue on, believing in the spirit of their community. We were fortunate to have been there at a time when not only Mardi Gras but also the Superbowl was coming up. The excitement was everywhere and the love of the people of New Orleans for their city was overwhelming. I was struck by how happy they were just to have made it to the Superbowl and how if the Saints won it would only be “icing on the cake”. That sense of appreciation was extended to us as well by every single person we met, who thanked us not only for coming down but for most importantly, continuing to remember them. Thank you St. Michael’s for making that possible once again.