Monday, April 2, 2012

Lent: The 6 Girls

***Don't forget to sign the petition to save refugees from North Korea!***

Blessing #38 - Youth on a Mission (YOAM)
I know this one is long.  Bear with me - there's a lot of pictures, so it's not really as long as you think.

Do you remember Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?  I know, I know - "That was seven years ago, Anne.  How am I supposed to remember that?"  We are trained to have incredibly short term memories.  But, let me tell you, this is one time that I step out of that mould.

As soon as minors were allowed into New Orleans (roughly ten months after the levies broke), I traveled to the area with a team of young people and adults, sponsored by Glen Mar United Methodist Church.  What I saw there was paralyzing, to the point that it still haunts my nightmares.  I only needed the tour once.  The details have been etched in my mind such that even years later, I can still give an accurate guided tour, as I will do for you now.

On our tour of the Ninth Ward, we started in the areas that had brick houses, so the damage was minimal.  My camera got left on a plane, but I'd like to share with you some of G. Winter's photos from that day:
The crosshairs denote (starting on the far left) the team the checked the house, the date it was checked, the number of people missing from the house, and the number of bodies found in the house.

From the brick houses, we moved on to the pre-fabs, and the difference was horrific.  My words aren't going to be able to convey what I mean.  Just look at the pictures.

The houses floated across a nearby creek, landing on cars, trees, and even other houses.

But the worst, the absolute worst, was what was waiting for us at the levies.

We got to the levies, and there was nothing - only foundations.  The rest had been swept away.

So why am I showing you all this?  Because I want you to understand.  You can't understand why I'm thankful without first understanding what happened in New Orleans.

After our tour, I couldn't continue my repair work.  It seemed pointless.  There was so much to be done.  What difference would one dry-walled house make?  I sat down in the bathtub and cried.  I cried until Hannah and Katie came to find me.  And we began to plan.  Soon, we widened the circle to include Caroline, Jessica, and Brittany, and, together, we began planning the first even Youth on a Mission trip to return to New Orleans in the Spring of 2007.

The entire, YOUTH-LED group

The destruction was still horrific,

and devastating,

But we moved through it, knowing that we were making a legitimate difference, and were not just one-timers.  We knew we were in it for the long haul.
Just after the New Year of 2011, YOAM launched it's first ever collegiate trip, while continuing the high-school-run trips (yes, the leadership is comprised of high-schoolers) over Spring Break.  I got the privilege of making a return trip with that group.  (We didn't bother getting a guide for our Ninth Ward tour.  There were enough of us with it fully engrained in us that all we had to do was distribute Walkie-Talkies.  This kind of thing doesn't leave you.)

The collegiate group
My crew
So why today?  Why am I so thankful for YOAM today?  Because they just had their first day of work on the EIGHTH YOAM TRIP since its founding.  Eight.  I never dreamed that this would become what it has, but here we are.  There's still work to be done, and so YOAM still packs up and heads down to New Orleans, now twice a year.

Unfortunately, since the Red Cross and UMCOR have now both left New Orleans, funding has become a bit of an issue.  Each participant in a trip averages in around $650 in un-pre-paid expenses (certain donations handle a lot of other expenses).  If you are interested in helping to defray some of these costs, please let me know, and I will be happy to put you in contact with the right people.  All comments on my blog must be moderated before they are posted, so privacy can be maintained.

Either way, I hope you will join with me this week in prayer for my friends in New Orleans.

What have you done that the world said was impossible?

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