Saturday, February 21, 2009

The First Week

Hello friends and family members! I am sure that some of you have begun to wonder if I made it safely to New Orleans, as it has been a week since I arrived here and this is my first attempt at a mass update. Obviously I have made it here, and am doing well. Let me catch you up on what I've been doing. . .

This week I hosted a group of 11 adults from Austin, MN, as well as a two man team from our very own Hershey, PA. I was pleasantly suprised to find that this father/son duo are actually members of Hershey Free, and are even frequent customers at Events Etc., although I had never met either of them before. It was such a nice surprise to have folks from home here my first week, and I even had the pleasure of traveling with them (their names, by the way, are Bert and Nick Miuccio) to the French Quarter to see a live Jazz show at the historic Preservation Hall off of Bourbon St., and enjoy some authentic New Orleans Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop!

In addition to Bert and Nick, I have met literally dozens of other wonderful people this week, many of whom are staff members here in Central City, either on the church staff at Castle Rock Community Church, or on the Urban Impact Ministry staff. Since I visited the Yellow House for the first time this past August, the Urban Impact offices have moved into the front rooms of the house, which means that the house is even busier than usual, with lots of people coming and going all of the time. In addition to the staff working here and the teams living here, Urban Impact also runs a small academy, and each day the students eat lunch in our kitchen. One thing that you will notice right away in this house is that every resource is used to it's greatest potential :)

It's a bit tricky to describe what life is like here in the Yellow House, but I will try. As far as living arrangments are concerned, I would say I'm somwhere between a college student and a summer camp counselor :) I wake up at 4:30 each day and prepare breakfast for my teams, who stumble down in search of coffee just in time for the 6:30 breakfast meal. After breakfast they disperse to their work assignments, and I keep busy cleaning up the kitchen, doing dishes, and baking or preparing food for their dinner. This week our team was small enough that everyone could eat here at the house, but starting next week, I will have to transport all of the food to Castle Rock Church which is at the end of the street. Usually around 10:00 a.m. I retire to Katie and I's private apartment for a nap and some time on the computer. Between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. I return to the kitchen to start preparing the evening meal. After 6:00 dinner it's more dishes and food preparation, unless we make fun plans (like going to the French Quarter, or in the case of this week, Mardi Gras Parades). Bed time seems to get later and later as the week goes on and the teams gather and spend time with me in the kitchen. By the end of the week, I get about 4 hours of sleep in a night, which means naptime gets a little longer during the day :)

On Thursdays instead of eating dinner here at the house, we take grills and hot dogs to one of the work sites and have a neighborhood outreach where we invite members of the community to come join us for a free hot dog dinner. There is no "catch" for the neigbors to participate, but if they need prayer, or want to get connected to Castle Rock, there are plenty of staff members available to meet their needs. This Thursday we had a really great turnout for the location we were at, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my week!

Speaking of highlights, let me tell you what happened on my first day here in the city. . . When I arrived at the Yellow House last Saturday night, I was all alone, as everyone seemed to be traveling, getting married, and generally coming and going this week. I was instructed by my supervisor to meet her at church at Castle Rock at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, but because I momentarily forgot about the unspoken rules of "southern time" I arrived at 9:55. No one else showed up before 10:15. For 20 minutes I sat there all alone with a smile on my face, trying not to look like the most out of place person in the entire universe, and thinking to myself "what in the world am I doing here?". I had made it through leaving my friends, family and house 1500 miles away. I had made it through driving 20 hours by myself and spending the first night in this huge house all alone while people screamed and carried on outside my window. It wasn't until that moment in the church chair that I considered for the first time that I might have made a big mistake in coming here. No sooner was the text sent to my sister voicing my fear, when God stepped in and in His great kindness assured me that I was exactly where He wanted me to be :) Ivan and Scharmaine, the homeowners from the house our team gutted in July, sat down in the two chairs right in front of me, and within seconds it was like a family reunion, with laughing and hugging and catching up.

After that, the rest of the day went smoothly. . . in fact the rest of the week went smoothly. The awkward part is over for now. Everyone knows who I am and why I am here, and they have all extended warm and gracious welcomes to me. I have my things unpacked and my routine down pat, and I know how to make my way around the neighborhood. Today, as I sit here alone again in this quiet house, with the sounds of Mardi Gras parades ringing off in the distance, I know that for now I am home :) In fact, I don't remember a time in my life when I have been more sure that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. . .

All my love,

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:11-13