We are back from a wonderful trip to New Orleans with a team from Rock Harbor Church. Words cannot express how amazing the experience was, but I will try to convey them here.
We met at Rock Harbor with our team to pray for our trip before we left. Then, we all piled in cars and headed to LAX. We made it through check in and security safely and boarded the plane with no problems. After a short 4-hour flight, we arrived in humid New Orleans.
We met Taylor, the intern from Rock Harbor, at the rental car place. He took us back to the church, where we almost immediately sat down to a dinner of pork chops, mashed potatoes, peas, and canned fruit. It tasted good after a long day of traveling. Following dinner, we had an orientation and tour of the facility, and stayed up for a bit playing games and hanging out.
We woke up at the crack of dawn, literally, it was 5:45am (3:45am Pacific Time) and stumbled down to breakfast, which we were assigned to set up. After breakfast, we had a time of devotion with all the other groups staying at the church. Following that, we met briefly with our team and received our assignment for the day: kids camp.
We arrived at the kids camp at Celebration Church and split off to be with different age groups. Dan and I joined the 8-9 year-olds for a fun filled day of craziness. Actually, it was pretty fun. We first had library time, where I read an “I spy” book with some girls. Then, we had computer time (which Dan loved) and I helped a girl play the game “dress Paris in jail”. Then we had snack, which turned into total chaos. Carrie from our group is a professional balloon creater person, and she made balloons for all the kids, including swords, flowers, and animals. It was craziness. After snack, we went to the gym and played basketball with the kids, around the world and some game that I don’t remember the name. After gym, we had lunch away from the kids with the Schumachers. Following lunch, both of our groups went back to the gym for 2 hours of play. I was exhausted within the first 30 minutes! After that, we had another snack, played board games (I dominated at Trouble) and then did crafts with the kids. Our teacher, Miss Staci, decided on painting the kids’ hands and making a mural. They loved it! Who would have thought that idea was so entertaining!
After a long day with kids, we went back to the church and got ready for dinner. After a great dinner of lasagna, bread, green beans, and salad, Taylor took us for coffee and beignets in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Then we walked around the area, where we stumbled onto an area with tons of homeless people and tarot card readers. You could definitely feel spiritual warfare going on in that area. We ended up getting some sandwiches and water for the homeless people, and then stayed around to talk with them. As scary as that sounds, it was pretty cool talking with them and hearing their stories. It was neat to see that they are people just like us. Dan and I talked with a guy named Shaun Patrick.
After the normal routine of breakfast and devotion time, we received our assignment: demolition of a shed in the 9th ward. As we drove there, it was crazy to see all the destruction from Katrina. I can’t fully describe what it looked like, but it was desolate and sad to see the homes that were barely standing, overgrown grass and weeds, broken windows, etc.
We arrived at the house and got straight to work tearing down the family’s storage shed. We were greeted by hoards of flying cockroaches under pretty much anything that we lifted. We worked hard, shoveling debris, tearing down the structure, and piling it all up by the street for pickup. Around noon, the family, Bill and Alma, brought us pizza and allowed us to eat inside their wonderfully-air-conditioned home. It started pouring rain, but only for a bit.
We headed out to continue working and worked through the afternoon. We were also introduced to a whole host of creatures: black widows, wolf spiders, overgrown grasshoppers, “snakes” (which turned out to be salamanders) and my favorite, a family of rats. Let’s just say there was a lot of screaming going on. At one point, one of the guys even had a roach on his neck.
After a long day of hard work in the scorching sun, we returned to the church for dinner. After dinner, we grabbed our leftovers from the previous nights and went to the “wall”, where many homeless people gather once a week to get fed by the local churches. Dan and I walked up last and didn’t have a spot in line to serve food, so we went out to where the homeless where eating and struck up some conversations. I saw Steve, a man we had met the night before, and offered to watch his dog while he grabbed food. He came back and we talked for a bit, and then I started talking with another man, Mel. We talked a lot about his situation, why he was in New Orleans, that he wanted to start over and had been trying, but failing. I offered to pray with him and he gladly accepted. It was such a cool thing just to pray with him about his life and current situation. We said our good-byes, and then the different groups gathered together, held hands, and prayed about the evening.
Driving back to the church, a run to the grocery store was suggested, and we were able to get fresh fruit and ice cream. I know, great combination, huh? We went back to the church and met with the group to debrief the day.
After breakfast and devotion, we got in the van to “do lawns”. We drove back down to the 9th ward and pulled up at a house to do yard work. The front wasn’t too bad looking, but the back looked like a forest with a house in the middle. The house was abandoned. We got to work raking, cutting grass, pulling ivy, killing wasps, shoveling debris, and the like. We took a break for lunch, and immediately after, it started pouring down rain. We took shelter in the van, but the storm wasn’t letting up, so we headed back to the church.
We decided to help out around the church, and our assignment was to organize donated clothes into categories. We had fun reminiscing about outdated styles and fashion statements. Good times. After that, we got ready for dinner and after went to Starbucks for some good Orange County fun. Really though, it was nice to relax and hang out with the team.
After breakfast, we went back to Bill and Almas to finish taking out the shed. We spent the morning doing that as well as planting some new trees for them. They bought us lunch again, and we had pizza and fried chicken. Great combination if you ask me. We hung out for awhile with them, and they prayed for them as a group. It was nice to be able to spend extra time with them.
After we finished, Taylor gave us more of a tour of the 9th ward and some harder hit areas. We even got to see the area where the levy broke. There are mostly no homes on that street.
We all went out to dinner to a Creole-type place which had fried everything, shopped around for a bit, and went back to the van only to find out we were blocked in. After 40 minutes of creative manuvering, we made it out of the spot. It was incredible. Headed back to the church, had a debrief, and went to bed.
We got to sleep in (who would think I would say ‘got to’ to sleep in?) until about 8:30am, had breakfast, and headed off to Celebration Church for service.
After church, we all went to lunch at various places. The “older” crew ate at Quiznos. It started raining a bit after lunch, and we went back to the church to do a final debrief of our trip. We were supposed to try and do snow cones and crypts, but our debrief lasted awhile, so we were only able to drive by the crypts. Kind of freaky, the graves are all above ground. We were hoping to be able to walk around the cemetery, but ran out of time.
We dropped off the van at the rental place and were shuttled to the airport, only to find out our flight had been delayed. We sat around and played cards, read magazines, and ate. After a 3 hour delay, we took off from New Orleans. The flight was mostly uneventful, except at the end. Just as we landed, and huge cockroach started crawling up the inside of the plane. Just as I noticed it, Kimi started screaming, jumped in my lap, and I somehow landed on the floor in the aisle of the plane. Greg moved quickly to kill the cockroach. It was a great ending to our trip. We made it back to Costa Mesa around midnight, tired, but filled.