Happy almost Friday McReaders! Today we have a report on the mission trip several McCormick Students took to New Orleans this past January, written by 1st year MDiv student Stephanie Levan – you may remember her reflections in this blog post.

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Is it safe?

I think it is.  It’s finally safe to come out of the woodwork on this one.

(we needed some recovery time, ya know??)

Well, Mcbloggers — I’m here to announce that McCormick went on a mission trip, and we’re ready to broadcast it to the world. [hang with me ... I know it's a long post...]


For all of you who aren’t aware — a group of 10 students and staff members from McCormick went on a week-long mission trip to New Orleans, LA on from January 21 – January 28, in partnership with RHINO.  RHINO [that is Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans] is a ministry that is supported by St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church in NOLA. [they are obviously Presbyterian, given how much they seem to like acronyms] RHINO partners with Habitat for Humanity in the New Orleans area and has helped to rebuild homes since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

On a snowy January Saturday in Chicago, our crew loaded into two mini-vans, and the 10 of us made the fast-paced and windy-road journey to The Pelican State.  Stopping over in Memphis on Saturday night in order to catch a quick church league basketball game and our fill of Memphis BBQ — we welcomed the gorgeously sunny weather in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon.

With our self-proclaimed tour guide, Maureen, [or was that group-appointed??] we had the opportunity to explore our new surroundings.  We discovered the French Market, free romantic ferry rides, and red beans and rice to our hearts’ desire.  With only an instance [or 2??] of slight food poisoning and [mis]communicated directions — we were able to enjoy areas of this eclectic city that has been physically and spiritually resurrecting from the storm that hit almost 7 years ago.  The spirit and pride that radiated from the people of New Orleans was contagious … and after our orientation from our [rockstar!] RHINO coordinator Avery, we could not wait to get started on helping the rebuilding process of this fantastically spirited place.

Tuesday morning [bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ... and operating on true Presbyterian time] we met our supervising crew for the houses that we would be working on for the rest of the week.  We were divided into several groups with other small groups of volunteers, and got to work quickly!

Our groups were involved in several projects between two different houses [nicknames are my own, based solely on the responsibilities and personalities of the people involved]:

The BangerSisters: Melva, Bong, and Kristin were in charge of nailing and screwing in woodblocks in order for the drywall to be put-up by subsequent groups of people.  When their inside job was completed, they then assisted in climbing ladders and nailing on siding to the outside of the house.

The Social Climbers: Stephanie (myself!) and two other ladies who were from New York, Katie and Krista, were trained on the scaffolding in order to apply trim for the subsequent siding, and then later we put trim up around the corners of the house and nailed, cut and measured siding as well.


The Backsiders: HyungJae, Tyler, Miseon, and JungJae working on the house around the corner putting up trim and siding.  This group was probably the hardest working group of all — and you could definitely tell at the end of the week that all of their hard work paid off!

The Porch Swingers: Maureen and Jamie worked to complete a front porch on the house around the corner.  They nailed, sanded, and built a beautiful porch with railing that we’re sure will be enjoyed by the owners!

[insert pregnant lull in the background music now ... time for a more serious note...]

After one rainy morning that involved lots of coloring for the Literacy program, however, Thursday brought with it a chance to get personal tours of New Orleans, both the good and the not-so-good that has come about in the past 7 years.  After a short presentation of the history of Hurricane Katrina, we were accompanied by St. Charles Pres church members and led around the city to explore what New Orleans looked like today.  This is when reality hit for many of us.  In the 9th ward, which was one of the most deeply affected places in New Orleans, there were still piles of rubble and remnants from 7 years ago.  There were bare fields where houses once crammed together, and there were house foundations still remaining, intertwined with the grass and weeds of the field.  Of course, there was sign of new life as well — many different groups are still working to rebuild and redesign this area.  There was an obvious attempt to redefine what it means to live in New Orleans, but the scars still remain.  Just as any other wound — this one will continue to take a long time to heal.  Through our tearful tours, we could feel both the hope and the heartache of the NOLA people — all rolled up together.

This hope is what sustained our group through the last work day…

On the last day of work, we worked alongside Avery and Mike to help clear rubble from an empty lot before returning to work on our assigned houses for the week.  Of course, rubble is best cleared to the tune of an 80′s Pandora station — and we were so excited when we finished that we quickly formed an [air] rock band!  We might have gotten a bit carried away….

At the end of the week we were exhausted, sun-burned, and full of emotion.  I suppose that’s what mission trips do to people.  We have returned to McCormick with a tweaked outlook on our own lives, and with the hope that relationships and partnerships were built and will remain strong.

After all, our mission work didn’t end when we returned back to a snowy Chicago —- it began.

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