Saturday, February 20, 2010


Hello friends and family members! I can't believe that I have been here in New Orleans for one full week already! I came into town safely last Saturday night after a two day, 21 hour drive, to land right in the middle of Mardi Gras madness!

When I arrived Saturday evening (February 13th) I was greeted by our team for the week, a group of 54 youth and adults from Black Rock Church in Fairfield, Connecticut. This just so happens to be the last team I served last year, so it was really cool to start up with them again this year. Having 54 volunteers the first week (which is pretty much full capacity here in the city) definitely forced me to "hit the ground running" and the general chaos and traffic of Mardi Gras added to the challenge.

Sunday morning I had the privilege of rejoining my New Orleans "church family" at Castle Rock for a great Valentine's Day service. Afterwards Katie and I had lunch with a group of young adults from the church (who have been so welcoming to me) and later we walked down to St. Charles St. to catch the Thoth parade. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a parade (65 and sunny) . . . I couldn't believe that just two days earlier I had been shoveling snow in chilly Pennsylvania!

Monday morning started in full swing as Katie and I made our way to Sam's Club to do the shopping for the week. This is probably my least favorite aspect about what I do here in New Orleans, and the Lord was kind enough to provide a very easy and stress free shopping trip. Monday night after dinner we caught the Orpheus parade with some of the Connecticut Team. Reggie Bush was throwing signed footballs, much to everyone's delight, and a guy right next to me caught one. This was the first day that the temperature dipped down low enough to remind me that it's still February :)

After the Mardi Gras parades rolled through on Tuesday the teams were able to really buckle down and get some work done, and I was able to get more sleep :) Tuesday evening my little neighborhood friend Shemore (see my post from last year) and two of his buddies stopped by for a late dinner, but I was disappointed to see that he had become much louder and more badly behaved than last year. Someone from the church told me that there hasn't really been anyone who has been able to consistently mentor he and his friends, and that their behavior had been quickly declining. I was saddened to see such a change in him, but at the same time can understand that without an adult to walk alongside him and help him make the right choices, he's just another ten year old lost in this city, with no real guidance or direction.

On Thursday morning, two of the volunteers from the team offered to make breakfast (one is a caterer who has his own business at home) which gave me an extra hour of sleep and a little less work on Wednesday, not to mention a delicious breakfast that I didn't have to make with my own two hands :)

Thursday night a quick trip to Wal Mart with two of the senior high youth turned into an unexpected "God appointment" where I had the amazing opportunity to help one of the youth share the gospel with his close friend who has not yet made a decision for the Lord. Being able to talk with him and help answer his questions was such an honor . . . and I thought I was just going to the store to buy eggs! It amazes me every day how much God is using this city and the opportunities here to further His Kingdom on every level!

Thursday night was also our Block Party night, which I absolutely love!. We set up grills somewhere in Central City (usually a worksite) and just hang out and give free hot dogs out to the neighborhood. This week we set up on an empty lot so the kids could have a football game while we fed any one else passing by. Probably the thing I love most about this city is it's community. Unlike home, (where I have only spoken to my own neighbors half a dozen times in FIVE years), everyone just hangs out and talks to everyone else in the neighborhood. .'s such an awesome thing!

Last night (Friday) Katie and I were invited to go with the Connecticut team to dinner at the Crescent City Brewing Co. in the French Quarter. The Black Rock Church is located in a very wealthy section of Connecticut and it just so happens that one of the team member's mother's works for the owner of Pepsi Co. This gentleman decided to treat the entire team (56 people) to a dinner of crab stuffed shrimp and chicken on his tab, because of the work they were doing to help New Orleans. It truly is humbling how supportive people are of this mission!

This morning my beloved team left at 3:30 a.m., and as I write this, they are all probably back in their homes in Connecticut. They have definitely been one of my favorite teams ever , with so many great kids, and servant-hearted people - I will definitely miss them, and hope to see them again this year.

Now that I have about 20 hours of peace and quiet, I'm going to begin planning and preparing for the next group, a team from Canada, and a team from Minnesota, who come in tomorrow morning.

I really can't put into words how happy and privileged I feel to be here in this place, and I am so incredibly grateful for each of you who have helped me get here.

In his Valentine's Day sermon this week, Pastor John referenced 1 Corinthians 13, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong, or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

He went on to explain that it is possible to do many great things, things that even require a great sacrifice, without actually having great love. My prayer over the next five weeks is that I will not just be a "do-gooder" who is serving and sacrificing out of duty, but someone who is operating out of love. As Pastor John said, we should have the attitude not of "I GOT to" but of "I GET to". Thank you for helping me to "GET to" . . . .I pray that I would serve Him well.

Love and Blessings to each of you,


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