Katrina Mission Trip to Pascagoula, Mississippi
At 5 AM on September 3, 2006, 17 people commissioned by the Presbyterian Church
of Plum Creek left the Plum Borough area bound for Pascagoula, Mississippi to
assist in the recovery effort from Hurricane Katrina which had devastated the
Gulf Coast more than a year ago. Rebuilding from the devastation has been much
slower than originally expected. Unfortunately, many people are still living
in recreational trailers attached to plastic pipes connecting to the city
sewers and use garden hoses to bring drinking water into their "homes."
The members of the Plum Creek Church Mission Team were somewhat confused upon
their arrival in Pascagoula as most of the homes which they saw as they drove
down the street seemed in good shape.
However, once they began the actual repairs, as supervised by Ed and Tracy,
site managers for the Disaster Assistance Teams spearheaded by the Presbytery
of Mississippi, they began to have their eyes opened. Over 90 % of the 250
families at the First Presbyterian Church of Pascagoula suffered damage to their
homes; 45 were totally destroyed, 70 were in some stage of repair but few
families were actually living in their homes. Everyone they met had a story to
tell of the immediate events surrounding August 29, 2005 and the SLOW, SLOW
process of rebuilding. Here is one of the many stories:
John, Betty and Elaine live in a beautiful two story home surrounded by palm
trees, tropical flowers, squirrels playing in the back yard and numerous bird
feeders. But inside the home, things are very different. They are able to use
the upstairs bedrooms and have water for cooking and toilet facilities. But,
except for their living room where 80 year old Betty has a TV and some
furniture, most of their belongings are crammed into a back room which serves
as 83 year old John's office.
Elaine, the middle aged daughter had moved back
home to help care for her elderly parents after John broke his hip in the
summer of 2005. She had been home about a month when Katrina struck. The
family evacuated the area for 3 days and returned to find everything covered in
the smelly slimy mud left behind from the receding seawater. Elaine began the
first phase of demolition by hiring someone to come in to cut off the plaster
board above the water line and pull out the soaked insulation.
She replaced the hot water heater, furnace and air conditioner which had been
corroded by the salt water. After she sprayed all the areas with a mold
retardant and sealer, she started to lose heart in rebuilding the kitchen.
"I began to think the kitchen didn't look so bad and I could just live with it".
When our recovery team arrived, it was determined the carpeting on the steps to
upstairs needed to be removed, the parquet flooring in dining room, vinyl
flooring kitchen and breakfast area needed to be scrapped up and would be
replaced with ceramic tile. All the kitchen pots and pans, cleaning supplies,
dishes etc., were boxed up. Everything, including the microwave was moved to
an adjacent room where the parquet floor was salvageable.
The refrigerator was moved to the back porch. The counter top, sink, garbage
disposal, cook top, built in oven and dishwasher were removed. Underneath,
black mold was found 4 inches or higher on all the remaining studs. Again,
Betty sprayed on the chlorine smelling sealer and mold retardant. John who
served in the Merchant Marines and the Navy in the 40's-50's often left the
home to "check on the beach" area or just run errands.
Betty was glad to see the team arrive and said, "What could we do to rebuild,
at our age?" She seemed overwhelmed but felt safe enough with the team banging,
scraping in the dining room and kitchen to take a nap in her rocker in the
living room. Elaine disclosed that Betty had been up most of the night packing
away her china in anticipation of the cleanup. On Wednesday, more of our team
came in to lay the ceramic tile, completing the job by Friday evening.
Kitchen cabinets were already on order and would be installed once they arrived.
The family thanked everyone repeatedly and often offered the team tea, coffee,
soft drinks or whatever they wanted.
The Delta Airline Stewardess' Story
On the last leg of the trip home, one team member was sitting at the back of
the plane and she and a stewardess, from Georgia, shared stories of the mission
teams' efforts on the Gulf Coast. A team from the stewardess' own Baptist
church had gone to a home to begin rebuilding it. Inside, they found an
elderly couple disheartened, discouraged and ready to give up, ready to kill
themselves. The mental health clinics are overburdened and the suicide rate
along the coast is very high for teenagers and the elderly. The team
intervened, began rebuilding the couple's home and gave them hope to carry on.
Later, when the team arrived back at headquarters, they learned they had gone
to "the wrong home." God had sent them to offer the hope of Jesus, the Light
of the world.