Monday, June 26, 2006

Crossed over the River Jordan into "the Promised Land"

Lagniappe Missions Team arrived back safely to NC around 2:30 am (0-dark-30 again) on Sunday morning June 25th. Long trip back home to Raleigh with rain at the tail end of the trip (final stretch from C-H/Durham to Calvary PCA). As Lisa told us in her e-mail to us last night: "... unpack, do some laundry, clean your rooms, take a shower and get some sleep!!!!". Caught a few hours sleep in my own bed before church on Sunday. Presentation to Calvary family with some selected pictures Sunday evening with fellowship supper (even Krispy Kreme donuts courtesy of Gwen). Back to work teaching this am (too early, even for me); more rain on/off today in Wake and Harnett Counties, so can't cut the grass @ home just yet (tough break). Many, many thanks to God for His protection to all of us throughout the trip, to Lisa as our missions trip leader/coordinator, to all my colleagues, and to all who supported us with their diligent prayers and monetary support. Great experience overall with enough "Lagniappe moments" to keep me humble. I was blessed to be able to participate as a part of the missions team. God is indeed good, even "in the midst of the storm".


Dr Mike

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Final Push!!

Lagniappe, MS Day 6

On the sixth day, God said it was finished, and we agreed. Friday's workday ended as Monday's began: with a torrential downpour, water pouring in through the dining hall roof, flooding roads and parking lots...which gave us a small taste of what the Hurricane Katrina victims must have felt. Though we have had a great yet tiring week working here in Bay St. Louis/Waveland, MS, we are looking forward to returning to North Carolina to all of you who have been keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Our electrical team worked in earnest on the big house on the beach knowing full well that they wouldn't finish the job. Three rooms were fully wired, all the electrical boxes were installed, and progress was made in other rooms as well. We had a special treat when our host took us out to the Chinese buffet for lunch. They are wonderful people and we were pleased to have the opportunity to know them better.

The drywall team completed the projects that they had worked on the last few days. Each of them, especially Anna, finished the week a premature grey due to all the dust. The homeowner was so appreciative of their work that the team was blessed by hamburgers for lunch. Everyone on the team developed super-SPBs (sanding pole biceps). Any of you that need help finishing up a room, you know who to call.

The roofing team finally escaped the compound to work offsite, completing the ridge cap on a 8-12 pitched hip roof. The house started 9 feet off the ground, as the new building code requires that each house be built on stilts. They experienced their own hurricane in the form of 4-year-old Troy Jr. It was great to finally have a chance to visit some of the locals and hear their stories (such as a 38-foot storm surge on their property, only 5 feet above sea level). The 2-hour job grew to 7-and-a-half due to an inavailability of necessary materials and Heaven's Friday afternoon bowling league (thunder, lightning, etc.). After a short intermission, the job was completed safely and the team members signed their "John Hancocks" on the omnipresent Tyvek wall coverings of the front porch. Their arrival back at the compound, though delayed, was fortuitous as Benton had been stranded for an hour by the rising tide in the parking lot across the street.

Finally, tools were inventoried and returned from all three groups. The vans have been repacked with our well-used tools, some moist clothing, and we are preparing for the LONG trip home. Though we had planned to wear "the mission trip uniform" while traveling, discretion had the better part of valor, and the only requirement that the clothes worn be clean and free of mold. Looking forward to seeing our Calvary family on Sunday and sharing the goodness of God's mercies during our trip.

Note to readers: if there appear to be any problems and/or issues with photos from today's activities, it is because the Calvary Blogmaster and his family departed for a well-deserved family vacation this evening. BTW - if you also wonder why there is a "missing" posting on the 23rd of June, this is it. We started on the 23rd...


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Roof, Sand and Wire

"We came. We saw. We sanded." The sheetrock crew sanded all day today and had good opportunity to interact with some of the neighbors. Listening to people tell their stories is an important part of the ministry here. Folks in this area all have stories that they need to tell. The Lagniappe crew told us the first day that it is more important to listen to people than to do any work. I thought "Yeah, yeah, I hear what you're saying, but when push comes to shove you really want the work done." No, there really is a need to listen to what people have been through with Katrina and what they are going through in trying to recover. Some of these people want to serve us, as a way to show appreciation, to help with the healing. It's difficult when you're here for a short period of time to not get caught up in the desire to try to build the most sheds or roof the most houses, instead of wanting to participate in what God is doing in people's lives.

"Visualize the line. Feel the line. Do the line." This was the roofing crew's mantra as they lined up the shingles on the new bunkhouse. They were hard at work in the 95 degree heat and high humidity roofing the new bunkhouse. It was so hot on the roof that the crew could only work 30 minutes at a time, with a 30 minute break. You can imagine the temperature on the roof was quite a bit hotter than the air temperature. By the afternoon, the tar on the back of the shingles would melt to the roof as soon as they were placed on the roof. One young man had duct tape on his shoes that started to melt. Although progress was slower than expected in the morning, a pnuematic nail gun was a huge boost in the afternoon shift. The bunkhouse is now done, as is the roofing crew.

The electrical crew finally completed Mr. H's mobile home wiring about noon Thursday. With a bit of anxiety, Mr. H flipped the main breaker. No smoke or fire, a good sign. We took the fan Mr. H had been running on a cord running from outside and plugged it into the wall. What a great feeling to see that fan come on! Megan and Ryan took Jay's circuit tester and tested each of the sockets in the mobile home. Every one worked except for the GFI outlets. After a few minutes of head scratching, Jay realized we needed to reset the circuit and everything worked great. Mr. H was very pleased and asked Jay to come back anytime and be his electrical contractor. Later the crew started work at another house that needed complete electrical work. This house is about 400 yards from the Gulf and had been completely leveled by Katrina. Jay walked through the whole (new) house with (another) Mr. H, listening to what he wanted and talking with him about everything that was needed. This will be a massive job. There is no way the crew can complete the job before we leave on Saturday, but there will be a start and a handoff to the next crew to come in. It is quite a contrast between this house and the one just completed. Everyone here has been affected by the storm, both rich and poor.

Please pray for good rest and continued safety. One more day of work and the team is quite tired. Attitudes have been good and grace has been abundant. We are tired, but encouraged with what God has done in us and through us.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Miracles Do Happen!

I have to admit, as of last night's post I thought there was no chance that the new bunkhouse would be completed enough for people to sleep in it tonight. Well, when we returned from dinner (we traveled to Gulfport for an all-you-can-eat buffet - tasty!) about 9:50, the folks were putting the finishing touches on the insulation and there were air mattresses on many of the bunk beds. Jay and Ron still have to wire one of the smoke detectors and hang the overhead lights, but they tell us that should be done in an hour or so. God has done amazing things through this team and the other folks helping on the bunkhouse.

Everyone worked so hard on the bunkhouse today. It was all we did - roof trusses, electrical work, cleaning, you name it and the team pitched in to provide a place for more volunteers to sleep in (relative) comfort. Many folks did things over the last few days that they never thought they would/could do. It has been a stretching experience. Folks have sawn, hammered, run electrical wiring, built a roof, put on tar paper... The team leaders have been great with those of us that need a little instruction. It's such a blessing to have folks that know the technical details of what we're doing.

Today was extremely hot! It was definitely the hottest yet. Sarah and Kristin were superb in their roles as our little mermaids (the folks responsible for ensuring that we all hydrate as we should). We required so much water today that Anna joined the mermaid team to prod everyone to drink more.

Folks were in and on the roof all day long. Bill, Mike, Rich, Lisa and Gwen were warriors. Trusses here, trusses there, trusses everywhere. Folks from other teams (churches) came in to help with the trusses and roofing as well. There is a group of three high school young men from Atlanta that have been a big help with the roof work. Rich has dubbed them "The Georgia Boyz." The bunk beds that the team built several days ago have gotten a quality control test by being used as scaffolding to put up the roof trusses. Hopefully, none will collapse on the folks using them tonight. Jay and Ron had the electrical team charged (pun intended) and wired the whole bunkhouse (minus three or four wires) today.

Tomorrow promises to be another busy day. The drywall team will finally get to put up some drywall at someone's house. The shed team will surely be hot - they are scheduled to shingle the new bunkhouse. The electrical team will finish the wiring at Mr. H's mobile home and then off to another assignment. At least those are the plans...we are definitely flexible. None of us expected to build a bunkhouse when we arrived. Again, God had different ideas, and I can say that people have had the best attitudes about what God has in mind for us. Enough for this evening. It's late and we need an early start tomorrow. Thanks again for praying for us. Pray that we would be honestly loving with each other.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Energizer Bunny Day

Our devotional this morning was from Romans 3:10-18. We were challenged to look at our lives in light of the truth of the Gospel which declares, "There is no one righteous, not even one." It is a great start to a day of serving those who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. It helps us focus on the fact that we are also broken and in desperate need of a Savior - no better than those we serve, only touched by the One "by whose stripes we are healed."

It was an extremely busy day here at Lagniappe (like the Energizer bunny, it just keeps going and going...). The main focus of all three of the Calvary teams today was the fifth bunkhouse currently under construction. The shed team and the drywall team worked all day and into the night to build bunk beds and trusses for the bunkhouse. The electrical team worked in the morning prepping the structure for electrical work to be done as soon as the roof is on. Although the schedule calls for work to stop around 5 PM, many on the shed and drywall teams started again after dinner, helping to put the trusses in place for the roof. This is quite a job and as this entry is written the crew is still working on placing the trusses. The folks here at Lagniappe desperately want the bunkhouse available for new volunteers arriving tomorrow night. It would take quite a miracle for that to occur. Will you pray for that miracle?

Just to give you an idea, here is the remaining work to be able to occupy the building: complete the truss assembly and installation; install plywood on the roof and then shingle it; run electrical wiring in the whole building, including lights, A/C, smoke alarms; insulate; install doors and windows; install all bunk beds. All this work needs to occur within 24 hours - sort of 'Extreme Makeover Home Edition' on steroids. Bill T. has been leading the charge on this work and has successfully trained both teams in all aspects of bunkhouse construction!

We've had a few people that haven't felt well and needed to take a break from work to recuperate. Fortunately, a good nap or rest seemed to take care of most of that. Continue to pray for good sleep and proper hydration, both very important here.

The electrical team spent the afternoon at the mobile home mentioned on Monday. We thought we could finish the job in a couple of hours, but it took a lot longer than expected. By 6:30 PM we were just finishing for the day with several more hours needed to complete the job on Wednesday or Thursday (depending on what happens with the bunkhouse construction). Mr. H shared more with us about his experience with Katrina (including aftermath pictures) and we were eager to hear about his life. Jay left Mr. and Mrs. H. some literature about Lagniappe Church and invited them to check it out. They are very appreciative of the help and are eager to occupy a larger space, as they currently live in a FEMA trailer right beside the mobile home they are restoring.

Tommorow promises to be an even busier day than today, so continue to pray for stamina both in physical strength and in attitudes.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Was a Great Day!

I learned today how to use a circular saw, and I had a lot of fun! I really appreciated the opportunity that the more experienced men gave us to learn new things, even though we made mistakes and couldn't always keep up with the fast pace.
-Christine D.

Hmmm...I learned today that it is not a good idea to try and clean paintbrushes that have dried out for who knows how long. Let me tell you, that was a special experience...a long experience. Other things I did: held boards that were being cut, transported wood back and forth and then back again, and then forth again...well you get the point. I also hammered one nail, but that was all the elbows could take for today, but it was an accomplishment! :) There were a lot of us working at one site, but we all worked very well together and it made the time pass quickly and the day was a lot of fun. Thanks for your continuous prayers.
-Anna H.

Hi, this is Megan L.!!!!!!! Today i was on the electric team. I was very excited because i actually completed an electric socket all by myself!!!! I was happy!!! sorry if this bored you!! :) remember, semper gumby!!!! :)
-Megan L. :) was really wet. All of the wood and all of our shoes were wet. By the end of the day my feet looked like two giant prunes that had been bleached. But today waas otherwise team building. We communicated on what we needed tool and wood wise. There were puddles and mud everywhere (even inside :) thanks to the roof damaged by Katrina). Otherwise today was pretty fun. See yall later.
-Kelsey W.

What an awesome day by our mission's team. The day started early with a downpour overnight and the ubiquitous puddles emerging throughout the Lagniappe compound. New team from Tidewater Virginia (Va Beach) arrived late last night which made the acomodations in the bunkhouses even more cozy. Over 10 teams here in the "Coalition of the Willing" from all over (NC, VA, PA, OH, IL and IN to name but a few). By 6 am we had a "gullywasher" deluge "up on the roof" (and then through the roof of the "church"/dining hall/etc.) Great to see the positive attitudes and spirit of cooperation among ALL the groups, staff and locals even though living conditions are "Spartan" and primitive for most folks. All the youth worked in an outstanding manner in all the jobs today - building bunks, roof trusses for the new bunkhouse and a completely new electrical wiring job for a local family. Long day with everybody hot, tired and sweaty but with a shower before dinner and hopefully a win by the 'Canes in Game 7 everybody is looking forward to another great day here along the Gulf Coast of MS... Canes win, Canes win, Canes win!!!
-Dr Mike

Well, two of the three teams had the opportunity to do work that they didn't even plan on. You can read about that above. The electrical team had the opportunity to serve in the community by stripping all the wiring from a mobile home and starting to rewire the whole trailer. Mr. H, the owner of the mobile home, barely survived Hurricane Katrina, with his wife and four other people (he was in another building, not this trailer, during the storm). More about that tomorrow. Suffice it to say that God used this man to rescue several people that would have almost certainly perished in the storm. We have been encouraged with the excellent attitudes today. Folks were indeed flexible, which always helps here. Please pray for good rest and sleep, even with sore muscles. Pray that the truth of the Gospel would be evident in our life and words.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It's Worse Than You Think

The team went out this afternoon after lunch to see first hand what happened with Hurricane Katrina. It's been nine months since the devastation and it's almost like nothing has been done in the reconstruction. We're sure it was worse right after the hurricane, but on street after street, where there used to be house after house, there is now nothing. Mostly there are just foundations or concrete slabs where whole neighborhoods once stood. Occasionally you will see a few pilings or the shell of a house without one or two of its walls. Trailers...there are trailers all over, some travel trailers, some FEMA trailers, some tents. It's amazing that people could basically live for eight or nine months in these conditions. We are so thankful for God's provision for us.

Tomorrow is a new (aka different) day. The plan is for us to work on finishing a new bunkhouse here on the Lagniappe "campus". By Thursday there are supposed to be 259 volunteers here and there is not enough space to house them. This is the most people that Lagniappe has had in a single week. Bill worked the afternoon with a crew that framed the whole bunkhouse. Tomorrow will be electrical rough-in and joists and trusses for the roof. If the bunkhouse is done in time, it will not be a second too soon. Hopefully we'll have some pictures of the bunkhouse work tomorrow. The bunkhouse is not what we expected to do when we arrived, but it's obviously what God wants. Our hope is in making His wants, our wants.

The Chicken Truck of My Heart

Today has been a great day to worship the Lord here at Lagniappe. Many of us awoke early as our bodies are still on Eastern Time. It is a bright and sunny day. Breakfast was kind of on your own - whatever was available in the kitchen. Some folks had cereal, others grits and oranges. For the early risers (~ 6AM) there were a few Dunkin' Donuts; later, someone had some leftover pizza (Breakfast of Champions). The early folks had the best selection, something Dr. Mike informed us was called optimal foraging (which we quickly dubbed "OF", for short).

Later in the morning we had a worship service here in the hall, with Jean preaching. The sermon text was from Genesis 6:5 and Isaiah 64:6. Jean told the story of a tractor trailer load of frozen chicken that had been donated to Lagniappe in the last few weeks. The truck was parked in the back of the compound and kept cold by a diesel generator. Unfortunately, the generator started to fail without the staff realizing it and the chicken was completely spoiled. They noticed it first when they could smell it through the closed trailer. They had to clean out the trailer and tried all sorts of things to make the job more "palatable." Jean used the illustration to talk about the "chicken trucks of our hearts", full of rottenness and putrid filth that we try to hide by freezing it or keeping the door shut. He used the opportunity to talk about the two-part Gospel - Christ dying for my sin and giving His righteous to my account. He challenged us not to try and manage our sin by pretending that we were OK, but to admit that we're not OK and to be OK with that (OK, too many "OK"s in that one). Jean wanted us to see Jesus as the lover of people who are filthy, wretched and not OK. What a freeing bit of doctrine!

The afternoon is pretty laid back - we plan to tour the coastal area to get a view of the devastation as well as take the obligatory trip to Wal-Mart. We have a briefing tonight after dinner on the schedule for the week.

Please pray for stamina in the heat - with what little we did today we have seen how it can drain you.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rest of the team arrives

The rest of the team arrived tonight around 8 PM CDT. Much hotter here than it was even 50 miles up the road. Quite humid too. If you're from Raleigh, think Raleigh in the middle of August. We got checked into our bunkhouses - pretty nifty accommodations. The guys are in Creola and gals are in Iberville. The bunkhouses have some air conditioning, which is a blessing. The pictures were taken inside the church/dining room/meeting room.

Lisa was pushing water right away. I think this is going to be a real sticking point all week. Please pray we would remember to drink lots, as it's difficult to catch up once you're behind.

Once we got situated, the team hung out, talked and played some cards. We'll probably hit the rack early tonight (after showers, more water, etc). Tomorrow it's breakfast, church (Jean Larroux preaching and then taking off to General Assembly) and not sure what after that. Watch for another update Sunday.

We've Arrived and Glistened

Lisa, Rich, Rob and Kristin arrived this afternoon around 2:30 at Lagniappe. We saw a lot of destruction on the coast (pictures to come.) We filled out paperwork for a while and then we were put to work. So far we have already moved paper products up to the attic, sweated, drank some water, moved and unpacked twice (we ended up in the wrong bunkhouse due to a terrible map and Lisa and Kristin thought they were going to end up in a room with a man from Chicago), sweated, drank some water, moved dinner, sweated, drank more water, checked out where the Walmart and hospitals are located, sweated, and took out the trash while still sweating. The trip was uneventful but if you ever go through Alabama make sure to stop in historic Opelika. When we first arrived we met Pastor Jean Larroux who was about to leave for his afternoon off. The interns also have the day off since they have been so busy getting ready for the work teams. We were told that tonight for dinner there will be 117 people but by Monday night there will be 275 glistening bodies crammed in the church for dinner. We have not been able to see any of our worksites for the week but we might be able to see them tomorrow. We are still working on finding a way to be able to see the Hurricanes game tonight but we have a few possiblities. Hopefully the Hurricanes will win and we will be able to watch it. Watch for pictures later tonight.

Hydrate or die. Semper Gumby!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006


A picture of our last meeting before the trip to Bay Saint Louis on
Saturday. Lisa's got us whipped into shape. COTS is Lisa's acronym
for the four committees that are planning the trip (Construction,
Operational support, Transportation, Spiritual). There are a ton of
details still to be worked out. Lisa, Kristin, Rob and Rich head down
on Friday as the advance party to get the lay of the land and smooth
the arrival of the rest of the crew on Saturday. Of course it could
be that Curt has them working Saturday morning. Semper gumby!