New Orleans is recovering slowly from Hurricane Katrina. As of last year, the 10 year anniversary, only 34% of residents had returned to their homes in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area hardest hit when the levees broke.
But that's pretty well known.
My family and I are in New Orleans for the first time, working with a mission team from our American Baptist region. Some members of our team have been coming for years.
A team member, who started coming shortly after the storm, worked at school today. She said it was wonderful to see schools and children, because in the immediate aftermath there had been so few,
Two small groups worked at construction sites, helping to rebuild homes that were damaged in the storm. One homeowner is still in Texas. The other is living in part of her house, although a member of that team said it "wouldn't be livable by our standards."
Me? I encountered rats. Assigned to a food pantry, I thought I would be sorting, boxing and distributing food, and I did for part of the time. However, we arrived before the food and we were asked to clear out a room, sending some stuff to a thrift store and throwing out garbage. Rat droppings were everywhere. I found a dead rat. Other team members saw more rat bodies and a live one. They moved a huge box of popcorn kernels, the rats' main food source we think, out.
While the room was swept, I moved over to organizing food boxes and dividing large bags of rice into small ziploc bags.
But what really stands out about the day was the appreciation. I and another team member were introduced to the food pantry customers as people who had come down to help after Katrina. There was a wave of thanks on the people's faces.
And then there was lunch. We had brown bag sandwiches, but Miss Brenda figured we would want New Orleans food and cooked fried chicken and jambalaya just for us. Delicious. (Alright we were a tad nervous, because of the rats. but we got over it. That stuff was cooked in boiling oil ,, and, boy, did it smell good!!)
So today's meme reminds us of the slow progress rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward. Behind it there are stories, so many stories. You should visit. These people need to tell those stories. And they are very grateful for the chance to tell them to new ears. And appreciative of whatever work you can do.