Reaching New Heights in Mississippi

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is an interesting place. If you look in one direction you see the vastness of the Gulf Coast (if caught during a sunrise or sunset it’s absolutely breathtaking). However, do a 180 and look in the opposite direction and you see a completely different picture: even 5 ½ years after Hurricane Katrina that picture continues to show devastation and destruction.

Since Katrina, [nlcf] has sent 9 teams to the Gulf Coast area to help with rebuilding efforts after the storm. This past Spring Break, a team of 14 traveled to Pass Christian, Mississippi to serve alongside
SouthCoast Design Build. Previous trips were spent in large volunteer camps, often with over 500 other students from all over during their Spring Break trips. Most of these camps have closed in hopes of the communities getting back to a sense of normalcy. This year, about a week before we were supposed to leave, our housing fell through. After some connections and phone calls, we were able to find separate housing for the guys and the gals. Little did we know at the time how this housing situation would impact our trip.

On Sunday we were able to worship with the Church of the Good Shepherd (the church that graciously housed our guys and allowed us to use some space to hang out and cook meals). From previous trips when a lot of our interactions were with other volunteers, it was a blessing to meet and worship with so many people that lived through the storm or relocated to help with the rebuilding efforts. The church body greeted us with open arms. Their hospitality was a testimony to us all. It was a great start to the week. Sunday afternoon we also had the opportunity to be a part of the community as they celebrated Mardi Gras. Not many words can describe that experience, but I trust God used that time to give us a heart for the community.

During the week, we worked with Leah McBride (an [nlcf] and VT alum) of SouthCoast Design Build on Ms. Dang’s home, a woman who lost her house after the storm. When we walked onto the site the first day we were met with the framework of a house about 15 feet in the air (on stilts) with little interior framework. By the end of the week, we had helped do a good portion of the roofing, wrapped the house in Tyvec and started siding, completed the majority of the interior walls, and completed other odd jobs.

The thing I love about these trips is that they take us out of our normal day-to-day activities. Throughout the week, I saw students climb scaffolding and get to heights that they never imagined at the beginning of the week they’d be able to conqueror; I saw new friendships formed not only within our group but also with other students of SCDB that we worked alongside; I saw someone share their testimony in front of a church body for the first time; I saw someone light up after holding a nail gun and realizing a whole new world exists outside of Computer Science; I saw the church body span across many miles.

It is shocking to many that there is still work to be done in the Gulf Coast area. However, what I find most shocking about these trips is that while we go and offer our helping hands and meet some very real physical needs, most often God thanks our efforts by rocking our worlds spiritually and relationally.

– Jeanette Staats

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