New Orleans, Louisiana [2007]

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day 1 [] January 4, 2007 [] New Orleans, Louisiana

I slept until 7 a.m. Our morning started off in the tent with all the Jesus banners for music and devotions. After that, we packed up the tools—pickaxes, shovels, hammers, sledges—and left for the job site.

Our job was to gut a two-story house down in the 9th Ward, one of the serious flooding areas. We split into 4 teams and attacked the house. We carried all the furniture and belongings (pictures, rugs, clothing, dressers) out to the curb for the tractors to pick up. We sledgehammered through the walls. In order to move some of the heavier furniture outside, we were forced to demolish them into managable chunks. The heaviest item we had to handle was a cast-iron piano, eventually getting it outside by rolling it across piano legs and heaving it with 6 men. Go physics class! The coolest item was a real deal hair-styling machine that looked like it could've come straight from a salon.

At one point, we started to smell gas, so we cleared out for an inspector to check the site. It turned out to be not gas but a ton of mothballs. As he was leaving, he quipped that he wouldn't be caught dead in these houses because of the asbestos and lead. Well, that pretty much killed the momentum we had going, even though the house didn't have asbestos flooring, we weren't ripping out ceilings, and you'd have to breathe the stuff for a long time (i.e. 20 years) to see harmful effects. After gutting 2/3 of the bottom floor in 3 hours, we called it a day to wait for the asbestos inspectors.

That night at 7pm, we caravanned to The Wall, down past Canal and Bourbon Streets. We took the remainder of our catered chicken dinner (at least 3 tins full...they ordered extra on purpose) down to the hundreds of homeless and hungry in the area. A bus-full of Menonites, fully garbed in traditional clothing, showed up to sing to the homeless and preach the Bible to them over their portable microphone system.

My friend Jon and I sat down next to 3 men, struggling though not homeless. One of them, John, claimed he was one of the band members from the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" band, whatever their name was. He grew up in NY but lost a lot of money in drugs and moved to New Orleans to write a novel and a hit song. We talked till it was time to leave. He and his 2 friends live in the poorest motel in New Orleans and work construction to pay the bills, which a winter New Orleans rain can easily disrupt.

And it did.

The clouds rolled in with lightning, an eerie no thunder storm, and whirling clouds that we learned later resulted in tornados in parts of the city.

Upon returning to Celebration Church, we enjoyed a teamtime debriefing of the day's highs and lows.

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