Trip - May 2008
A group of 12
from First Congregational UCC in Waterloo, Iowa, set off for New
Orleans Friday May 16, 2008. The following is a collection of
(mostly) my pictures with minimal commentary. I sorted them into some
categories but they are not entirely chronological.
If you only want to look at pictures, that's fine - just click the links. If
you want some context for what you will see, then read the blurb for each first before going
to the picture pages. The link back to this index page is at the
top left of each picture set.
We left from the
church Friday afternoon in two vehicles - the church van and a
Highlander that Gary convinced his wife, Linda, to trade for
his truck for the week. (Thanks, Linda!) We drove as far as
Ferguson, MO (a suburb of St. Louis) that first night and camped in the
fellowship/ education building of Immanuel UCC.
group picture was contributed by Dave, but he didn't take it since he is in it. (I think maybe Greg did?)
Our Home Away from Home
We stayed in
classrooms that had been converted to dorms in St. Matthews-Central UCC
in New Orleans.
These pictures are in and around the church building. Central UCC's building sustained extensive
damage and so they have joined with St. Matthews in a covenant
relationship for now. The long term status of the joint congregation is
still under discussion but we thoroughly appreciated their hospitality and
worshiping with them. We arrived about 7:30 PM Saturday
night and were met by volunteer church member John Etter who showed us
around the building, answered questions and gave us keys. We cooked
most of our own meals in the well-equipped church kitchen so a grocery
store trip was necessary that first evening.
worship, 7 of us set off to explore the neighborhood.
This part of town is on a ridge so was high enough that it was not
significantly damaged in the storm. Streets are
lined with Southern live oak trees also called evergreen oaks) - the landscaping and
homes are beautiful. Some of the pictures were taken in
nearby Audubon Park.
Sunday afternoon John Etter met us
at the church with some walkie-talkies and gave us a tour of the city.
We started with an overview - some history and perspective - at
the church and then set out in the vehicles. Many of the pictures
in this set were taken from a moving van through the window so
you will see some reflections and some blurring. But
I thought it was worth including them because they do vividly show
much work remains to be done even almost 3 years after Katrina.
Industrial size dumpsters and trailers in the front yard are
still common sights. In some places, whole neighborhoods are
wiped out - some houses are just boarded up, others have been
demolished down to the foundation. But there also is ongoing
progress - some new homes are going up and others are being
Our Work Site
we drove to Little Farm UCC for general orientation from the UCC
Disaster Response team, then we split into our two work groups.
I was in the group of 5 (Gary, Rich, Celeste, Mike, me) who
worked on Miss Sophie's house. Elaine was our site
(She and her husband, Garrett, are from Massachusetts and are volunteering in New
Orleans for a year through the "Partners in Service" program.)
The water was "only" 4-5 feet high there so her upper floor
was not flooded, though it did incur a lot of wind damage.
Right now Miss Sophie is living upstairs with her
daughter; we were working on the lower level that was totally gutted,
where she will have her own apartment. We were lucky that
there was electricity (via extension cords) and running water (outside
faucet) on site!
The other group (Tim, Dave, Cliff, Sue, Erika, Connie Jo, Liz) worked
double "shotgun" house - one side is for Andre and the other side for
mother, Otha. Garrett was their site coordinator and I
don't have pictures of that work since I wasn't there..
Miss Sophie worked in her garden most of the day. When it
rained, she came in to help us - she is not used to being idle!
The white marks on her shutter are left over from right
after the hurricane when agencies were marking each home after checking
it for survivors or casualties.
Jeff was another volunteer we met who was staying in the men's dorm
with our group. He's an electrician from Ohio and came down
for a week to help. He was wiring at Beecher Memorial UCC so one
day we took a short field trip over lunch to visit that site.
Beecher is in an area that was
severely damaged and had only been back to hosting worship services for
a few weeks - over 2 years after the hurricane.
Groups that worked there have left uplifting messages or bible verses
on the unfinished infrastructure. We also had similar notes
on our bunk beds in the dorms - names, churches, dates, words of hope.
That helped us feel some continuity as a part of the huge
team involved in this lengthy process of restoration.
Hope Shall Bloom is one of the themes of the reconstruction
efforts in the city and when I saw that plant (the last picture here)
pushing up through the asphalt in the parking lot by the library I
thought it captured the thought well.
We went out to
dinner on Sunday and Thursday. Sunday evening we went to Mulate's
wonderful Cajun restaurant with Zydeco music and dancing.
After supper we walked down Bourbon Street to get the feel of
the area. Though I don't have pictures of it, on
Wednesday night the ladies of the church served us a traditional red
beans and rice dinner. It was very yummy and we enjoyed
having some time to visit with them and learn more about the church,
the area and some ways that the storm affected their personal
lives. (For example, some who had livable homes left were without
power for 3 months.) Thursday we went to the French Quarter and
the Gumbo Shop which
also featured local specialties. We ate well! It
was raining but we still walked around Jackson Square a little bit, with
a stop at Cafe du
Monde where some purchased coffee to take home.
Friday May 23 we worked until noon and sadly said
our farewells to Miss Sophie. We got packed up and hit the
road around 2 PM. The pictures I took on the way out of town,
around Lake Ponchartrain were again taken from a moving vehicle, through the
windows, so you'll see both reflections and blurring. I think they
give a good feel for what the area is like though. We stopped
at a Cracker Barrel for dinner and arrived at the Memphis First
Congregational UCC around 9 PM. This is an urban church with
an impressive range of ministries - from the Hostel where we stayed, to
a bike repair shop, to a child care center and numerous support groups.
Their sanctuary is quite unique (see pictures).
Our evening devotional time was spent working on an outline for the
worship service Sunday morning where we would share highlights of our trip with the
Saturday was a long driving day. We started with breakfast at
Otherlands Coffee Bar which has a funky feel, a gift shop and great
food. We stopped in the St. Louis area for a late lunch and
then got back to the church at about 7 PM. The last group picture was taken by John.