Monday, July 10, 2006

Pics from New Orleans, as promised

Here are the some pics from my recent mission trip to New Orleans, as promised. The construction ones are obviously from the worksite. The destruction ones are from the Lower 9th, and I'm posting them only because I want to keep it in people's minds how bad the devastation was, and still is. There is still a lot of work to be done. Then there are some other, random pics from the trip. Here you go...

There you go. Like I said before, it was an awesome trip, and now I get to look forward to camp. We leave this coming Sunday, and return that Thursday night. I'm definitely excited. This will actually be my first youth camp experience. I've been to other camps (4-H, stuff like that) but never a camp focused on one's spiritual life. So this Student Life camp should be an interesting experience.

Alright, it's lunch time. Peace...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I need words...

Wow. Just wow.

For those of you who don't know, I just spent the last week in New Orleans on a mission trip with the youth at Briarlake, and we just got back tonight.

To be honest, I am almost speechless. I simply don't have many of the words right now to explain. About the devastation- I can talk about that. It's bad. I saw houses completely flipped upside down, cars destroyed, just destruction on more destruction. But here and there are signs of hope, the faintest breaths of a city coming back to life.

We worked with Habitat for Humanity and the Baptist Crossroads project. The Crossroads project was actually being planned before Katrina, and after the hurricanes and floods, it was expanded. The current plan is to build 79 houses in the 9th ward (where some of the the worst flooding was). Our group worked all week, doing everything from organizing materials, tools and supplies, to acutally framing up houses and so forth. It was hot. It was difficult. It was amazing. I'll talk about that later, and I'll post some pictures once I get my camera back.

But what most moved me was the transformation and growth that took place in our group. This was my first big event with this group, and I was very curious as to how it would work out. And this is where I am close to speechless. I could talk and try to say how amazing it was, but I wouldn't do it justice; I would really only insult what happened. I don't want to cheapen the work with too many uselss words. This explanation will fall short of what I want to say. Essentially, it was a very powerful experience for me, and for many of the group. It really reconnected me with something that I feel has been missing in my life for too long now, and that would be feeling God's presence. Last night we had a foot washing ceremony, and it was the first time I have felt God, I mean really felt like God was there, in a long, long time. I broke down. I bawled. It was just so powerful to see these youth and leaders bowing humbly before one another and washing each other's feet. It is such a connecting, sincere experience. The leaders started off by washing the feet of the youth, and then the youth were invited to wash the feet of people that had affected them throughout the week.

Let me tell you, it was one of the most...just... I guess humbling, touching, and heartening experiences of my entire life, to have some of these youth, my youth, come to me and wash my feet. It felt like God was reaching into my chest and wrenching my heart, pumping the blood and life through me. And it was equally powerful for me to wash the feet of these kids who I had seen work so hard, who I had seen give so much of themselves for something bigger than themselves. It was moving. So moving.

And now that I am back, I miss them. I am sitting here in my apartment, and I feel their absence, literally feel it around me. I wait to hear the sound of them running down the hall to go play four-square. I miss them sitting around talking. I miss sharing life with them. And it hurts. But it's a good hurt. Right now, I am just amazed at God's power and majesty. How God can take something so simply as driving a nail, or packing a board, or riding in a van together, or washing each other's feet, and turn it into something great, something awe-inspiring, something so sincere. I'm crying right now simply by remembering it. The youth were awesome. The trip was great. But God is so much better than any of that. And for me, that is powerful.

I suppose I could continue rambling on, but it isn't going to help. Maybe I will have words later. For now, I'll steal some from David Crowder...

"And He set me on fire,
And I am burning alive.

With His breath in my lungs
I am coming undone.

And I cannot hold it in
And remain composed.

Love's taken over me
And so I propose
Letting myself go.

I am letting myself go.

You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.
You are my joy.

I need to catch my breath,
I need to.
I need to catch my breath,
Give me a moment now.

I'm laughing so hard..."

Right now, I'm alive. I feel better than I have in a long, long time. And, like everything else, I owe it all to the awesomeness of God. I only wish I could explain...