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J2A Mission Trip to New Orleans

 

An Introduction to the 2013 Urban Adventurers from Fr. Allan:

 

The Urban Adventure is the culmination for most of these young people of this past year’s Journey to Adulthood program. For several years now, J2A has been the cornerstone of the St. Paul’s youth program, a wonderful opportunity for our young people to learn, to grow, to be challenged, to be formed in their faith.

 

The Urban Adventure is all about young people taking responsibility. Thus, they participated in many aspects of the planning, including choosing the route we would take on the drive to New Orleans and leading worship.

 

I’d like to thank this past year’s J2A and Rite 13 leaders: Tammy Martin who oversaw the whole program.

 

The Rite 13 leaders: Tom and Catherine Mathews, Brian Moore and Amy Jackson

 

The J2A leaders: Rick Plasket, Billy Newman, Tony and Caroline Crow

 

As we look ahead to this fall’s program, I hope that both the Rite 13 group for 6th-8th graders and the J2A group for 9th-11th graders will grow and flourish. We’ve assembled two very strong leadership teams for this coming year.

 

As the Urban Adventure was the culmination of this past year’s program, the Spiritual Pilgrimage will conclude the J2A year in the early summer of 2014. Our 9th, 10th and 11th graders will be involved in a year-long preparation for this pilgrimage—we’ll have more information about that trip for youth and parents at our orientation meeting in September.

 

 

Nick :

 

Riding down to New Orleans on the bus was such fun. We were all laughing and having a great time. Then all of a sudden you look up and realize those same people that were laughing and having such a crazy time on the bus are no longer laughing but coming together to try and help make someone else’s life better and realizing this world is bigger than Newnan. We can make a difference in this world.

 

 

Thomas :

 

New Orleans is still rebuilding, but volunteers have made a huge difference. Locals as well as people from all over the country came together to help our neighbors, and have been ever since. God's presence is clear at lower nine, where the volunteers happily accept anyone who wants to help. You don't need to have any experience, you only need to be ready and willing to work. I love that.

 

Our trip was great. All souls welcomed us with open arms. Everyone was friendly and happy to see us. We had the privilege to witness them pass another milestone as Father Edward officially became their priest.

 

So, whether we were eating in the French quarter, painting a house, laying tile, or battling it out in one of our nightly nerf wars, we were having a great time. We heard stories and shared some of our own. We met new people and tried new things. Although we hit a couple "bumps in the road", we rolled on and had a great mission.

 

 

Fred Weiss:

 

Imagine a flood of such proportions in Newnan that entire neighborhoods are completely inundated with upwards of 20 feet of water? Water which all but covered even the utility poles. Your entire home floating for blocks until it breaks into pieces after hitting other houses.

 

This month marks the eighth anniversary of the terrible Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods in the New Orleans and the gulf coast area. Eight long years and what is the new “normal”? Entire areas especially the lower ninth ward in New Orleans are sadly only 15% rebuilt.

 

Our group of Urban Adventurers spent several days working on two homes in the lower ninth ward. I was shocked at the vast amount of complete destruction remaining.

 

It was in this environment I met a homeowner named Capucina. She and her husband had been “lucky” if you will, and were now in their rebuilt home. They had crossed the hurdles and pitfalls and were now home.

 

Our group of 5 from St. Paul’s were working with our team captain and summer volunteer, Zeno. We were finishing the exterior painting on Capucina’s mother’s home just next door.

 

What struck me about Capucina and all of the survivors I met; was that despite all of their trials and tribulations they have an abiding faith in God. Despite the eight years of “wandering in the wilderness” they look to God for their daily blessings. They are all so grateful to the many groups of volunteers from churches and other organizations that continue to show compassion and are able to help them rebuild their lives.

 

I am so very proud of the youth who were able to attend. They are truly amazing. To see them all jumping in with both feet to work in that New Orleans heat for the sake of others is a continuing inspiration to me. To you parents who were able to share their precious ones for a few days this summer know that they all did you proud. Thank you to St. Paul’s for supporting our youth both spiritually and financially.

 

 

Michael :

 

Going to New Orleans was a life changing experience. I used the word scared to describe the way I felt, but that was the wrong word to use, the way I felt was truly alert. The trip made me reflect on my life. Some people we met had so little, but were so content with what they have, some of the nicest people I have ever met lived in New Orleans. This trip was truly eye opening.

 

 

Clara Berry :

 

The Urban Adventure is the first real mission trip in which I have had the privelege to take part. Before the trip I had recently not been spending as much time in youth activities as I would wish. This trip gave me the feeling that I was still a part of the fellowship at St. Paul’s.

 

This piece of scripture from Isaiah reminded me of the strength the people of Lower Nine carried.

 

Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won’t become weary. They will walk and won’t grow tired.

 

Though the neighborhood is still weary and do not have much, I beleive the Lord has sent them angels, and they are strong. I saw God in those people.

 

 

Harrison :

 

At first I was skeptical about going on this trip. I kept thinking how five days with people I didn’t know was gonna turn out, and would I really experience the great feeling of knowing you just made a difference in someone’s life. I decided to go because I have never been on a mission trip and, New Orleans would be a great place to have my first one.

 

When I got on the bus, I talked to the people I did know, and every now and then, I’d make small talk with some of the ones I didn’t. After the first two days, we all warmed up to each other, but it wasn’t until we had the famous Nerf War of All Souls that we all really became friends.

 

The work days were the days that everyone was really happy because we knew we had just helped a person, or family, in need, and we were inside with AC. When I got back to Newnan, I realized the importance of going to church and getting closer to God.

 

So I’ve been coming to church as much as I can this summer, and now I’m standing up on this podium speaking in the house of God, something I never could’ve done before the mission trip. And that’s the biggest change the trip to New Orleans has had on me.

 

 

Phillip :

 

This summer our youth group took a mission trip to volunteer in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. During the time we spent volunteering, we stayed at All Souls Episcopal, better know as “St. Walgreens”. The church was established in an abandoned Walgreens, which was destroyed by Katrina. We volunteered through the group know as Lower Nine. They help with the rebuilding of the Lower Ninth, which is still undergoing a slow recovery after Hurricane Katrina.

 

We split the group up into two separate groups to volunteer at the two projects the lower ninth had going at the time. My group went and helped paint a newly rebuilt house. The woman who owned the house’s daughter lived next door and was very friendly to us while we worked there and told us her story of how Katrina affected her and her family. It was very humbling.

 

The experience of volunteering was a fantastic one and I’m very glad I was able to have the opportunity to do such great work.

 

 

Rick Plasket:

 

I so enjoyed sharing the adventure with this group of young adults. So many times during our trip, they proved themselves to be self-confident, self-aware, and self-sufficient. At times, they were sharing the joy be being kids and playing like kids. Other times, they interacted as adults, sharing their observations and views on the so very different environment we experienced. When asked, they stepped up to give some wonderful prayer sessions. Thank God for their youthful energy applied to the hard, hot work we all performed to help rebuild a very small part of the Lower Ninth Ward.

 

 

Sophie :

 

Our mission trip to New Orleans was such an eye-opening experience for me. It made me realize that other people do not have everything that I have.

 

I really liked attending church at All Souls because the worship space was small and it made me feel closer to everyone and to God.

 

This trip helped me discover my passion for community service. Darren from Lower Nine taught us how to tile a bathroom and we fixed up the church garden with Ms. Elizabeth.

 

We also did a lot of fun things on the trip. Mrs. Tammy and I are now Cajun dancers. We took a tour of the French Quarter, went to Café du Monde, and also visited Lafayette Cemetery.

 

Finally, I would like to thank all our chaperones: Mr. Rick, Mrs. Tammy and Father Allan, and our amazing bus drive, Mr. Fred for taking us on this Urban Adventure.

 

 

David :

 

When I first arrived in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, I was scared. Driving through rows of dilapidated houses on almost non-existent roads, I asked myself this question, “How am I really going to stay here for a week?”

 

When we drove into the parking lot of All Souls, I saw Lee Curtis. It made me happy and relieved to see him there. While staying at All Souls I was concerned about having homeless people knocking at the door. I was concerned because there was no police station, fire station, or hospital in the lower ninth ward.

Later on, I felt like the people of the congregation of All Souls, the owners of the houses we repaired, and even the men at the muffler shop enjoyed and valued our presence in the lower ninth ward. It was fun getting to know the youth at All Souls, too.

 

I enjoyed this experience in New Orleans as it is a very memorable one. I learned how to do all sorts of house repairs and improvements like patching and scoring sheetrock, using a pneumatic nail gun, and tiling shower walls. I gathered knowledge about construction, New Orleans, and the people of the lower ninth ward. This is a trip I will never forget.

 

 

MacKenzie :

 

I honestly had no desire to go on this trip. It came time that I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to go on the urban adventure or not. I obviously said yes but I wasn't excited about it. I moaned and groaned about going for reasons I'm not going to get into. Within a matter of days before we left I got a little excited for it but not enough to really change my attitude. On the ride to Mississippi I just kept wondering how the trip would go. I was so worried we would all quickly get sick of each other and it wouldn't end well.

 

Truth be told I did get tired of some people but thankfully we had some peacemakers that kept me level headed for the most part. A lot happened on that trip that stuck with me like the all out nerf war and the argument about how to say "Audi" and so many other moments that I may not ever forget but nothing popped as much as when I saw that the people living in the lower ninth ward had gone through and are still going through one of the hardest disasters that could hit an area. And even though there were probably many times that community wanted to give up, it was remarkable to me that they held out and kept rebuilding and grew stronger. I couldn't be more thankful that I got the opportunity to go and meet these inspiring people.

 

I don't have any hesitations or reservations about the upcoming pilgrimage because of the fantastic time I had in New Orleans.

 

Tammy Martin:

 

All the contacts had been reached. All the travel plans had been made. We were excited about our goal. We were heading to the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans to help the locals return to normal, everyday living. Like most Americans, we knew we could fix their problems.

 

Our excitement quieted as we rolled across one of the three drawbridges isolating the Lower 9th Ward from the rest of New Orleans. When the bridges are drawn for water traffic, drivers wait on both sides of the water for up to 20 minutes. The neighborhood is still primarily, abandoned…homes, stores, schools, and churches. Only about 30 percent of the original Lower 9th Ward residents have been brave enough to return home. Once there were five schools, now only two. Once there were many churches, now only a few. (One being our host church, All Souls Episcopal, otherwise known as St. Walgreens. Yes…Walgreens wouldn’t re-open after Katrina.) There is no hospital, no police station, and no fire station. Thankfully, new police and fire stations are under construction.

 

I can’t imagine why, but some of our optimism began to wane. Then we worshipped with the community of All Souls and met locals. We learned how, after Katrina, Lower 9th residents and volunteers continued to meet in the abandoned Walgreens to comfort and provide services for each other. It was this place of gathering that led to the organization of the church. We began working, helping, the best we could in the community center garden, painting an elderly woman’s home, and completely remodeling Karen’s home. Our last afternoon, we wanted to keep working at Karen’s. We hadn’t finished and there was so much more to do! Why couldn’t we, with all our confidence and optimism, stay long enough to help?

 

Well, the following morning, before we were to leave for Newnan, we almost got our chance to stay a little longer. We had driven out to look at the Lower 9th Ward levy designed to hold back the bayou. There it was – to the left, heading back

into New Orleans, a honeycombed, rubber wall still waiting to be filled with five feet of rocks. This is what the Corps of Engineers recommended to hold back the water. Well, this “proper wall” was too expensive to fill with rocks, so they are just hoping the rubber barrier will do the trick. To the right was a honeycombed, rubber wall still waiting to be filled with two feet of rocks. On this side, not only were the rocks too expensive, the rubber barrier had to be cut to two feet as well. If anyone doubts environmental racism exists, they should visit the Lower 9th Ward. Our enthusiasm and optimism continued to fade. Had we really done anything to help?

 

Then, as we pulled out of the parking lot, the bottom fell out. Literally, the exhaust pipe – nine feet long – fell off our bus. Maybe, we could stay in the Lower 9th Ward just a little longer.

 

We could have called the bus company and waited for assistance. But, remember how isolated we were in the Lower 9th Ward? How long would it take? Would anyone even come to help?

 

Absolutely! I called up Darren, our work supervisor and Lower 9th resident. He responded right away with knowledge and tools and contacts. Yes, we followed Darren to Mark’s Muffler Shop, one of the scarce neighborhood businesses. We needed a part to hold the exhaust pipe in place. The shop owner gave us the part, Darren reconnected the pipe, and we were good to go. But before leaving, I was getting to know one of the shop employees. He was very appreciative of our work in the community and he explained that his church had just sent a truck full of water and food to Oklahoma after their devastating tornados. He explained that the Lower 9th knew what Oklahomans were going through.

 

As we rolled back across one of the three drawbridges isolating the Lower 9th Ward, it was evident that we had come to “help” the people of the Lower 9th, when, in reality, it was they who helped us.



The Journey to Adulthood Urban Adventure participants returned to St. Paul's safe and sound early Wednesday evening.  They were exhausted and weary from two days of hard work in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, the section of the city most damaged by Hurricane Katrina.   One crew painted the outside of a house, while another hung ceiling fans, tiled a bathtub, crawled underneath the house to install new plumbing and honed many other skills.   In between, they prayed together, joined in worship at the only Episcopal Church in that section of the city, All Souls', cooked breakfast, explored Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District, danced to the music of a terrific Zydeco band at Mulate's, slept on cots in the All Souls' Community Center and made the adult sponsors and their priest very, very proud.