New Orleans, LA – Hello from New Orleans! Day one on the work site, and my hands are already sore. So… what the 411? Well, we got up early, around 6:45 a.m., ate a quick breakfast, and packed our lunches for the worksite. The Louisiana air was warm and wet, which I feel is a common thing down here. As we drove over to orientation at the warehouse, I marveled at the city landscape. There is such diversity here, from big beautiful French/Spanish mansions to half destroyed and abandoned structures. And even more diverse than that seems to be the people, of every color and walk of life.

We arrived to orientation, which was down an oddly sketchy muddy road. At orientation, we heard about the devastation left behind by Katrina, and how many were unable to leave and many more unable to return to rebuild. We learned about SBP, St. Bernard Parish, and how they got started by a few people who intended to stay for a few weeks but have now been here for 12 years. It amazes me, the funding and dedication that thousands of people continue to pour into rebuilding this community. The volunteer leaders, from AmeriCorps, showed us around the office, an open space with big whiteboards depicting progress on houses and volunteers. It was really cool to see how they built up this community of service and giving back. Then we were released to the work site.

We were sent to Knight Street in East New Orleans, where tornadoes devastated homes in 2016 that were recently recovered from Katrina back in 2005.  We rolled up to the house, which was just in the process of starting insulation. Our group leaders, Hailey and Charlie, introduced us to the process of installing insulation, and believed that we may finish by mid-week. Well we did all the insulation in one day. The ceiling, the walls, cutting and getting itchy from all the fiberglass. Staple guns, while a totally awesome concept, (and probably not meant to be in my hands), are harder to work for hours than maybe expected. We all worked hard, and mid-day needed a little pick-up, so Dr. Minnerath and Sister Vicki ran out to McDonald’s to get us some well-earned cold beverages. It was so lovely outside, a nice warmth (70 degrees!). The neighbors next to the house we were rebuilding smiled and waved at us they passed. So once we finished house construction, we headed back to our house for the week, and at the house we got snacks and washed the fiberglass off of our bodies and clothes. We ate Ziti pasta for dinner, with chicken sausage which was very good (the Sisters are good cooks), and for dessert was Methodist Bars—which led to a whole interesting conversation on their origins. Sisters Peg and Vicki discussed the resident feral cat problem and were quite humorous in their ideas on how to “get rid of them”. We then had a wonderful reflection, led by me. (Ha) I’m bad a making up prayers so Pinterest came to my rescue with a swell community prayer. The group was really starting to bond and crack each other up. In great part thanks to the participation of the sisters, who bring laughter but deep reflection about the city all in one go. Following that was games and learning all about Mardi Gras—which is several weeks of parades with different Krews who are themed and throw out different gifts and beads. Very cool. So I guess I’ll close this post with the prayer I found on Pinterest, and with a rock on to all the SOUL trips!

Help us, Lord, as we work together to build your empire. Help us to be the light that leads the world to you. God, may we be good role models to the people around us so that when they see you and your love within us, they would want to know you more and more. God grant us the patience to work together, bring us all together as a family. Help us to work together with understanding and compassion in our hearts. Amen.

– Best Wishes, Elizabeth Atneosen