Monday, September 1, 2008

Banana trees in November

The guys on the news say it's really windy. I believe them.

I pray.

In November of 2005, Mo and I went to Gulfport, MS with a group from our church to help clean up in the aftermath of Katrina. Mo (7th grade) was the youngest of the group, there was a high school boy (Sam, his name is important later), and four women counting me. Our group of six got in the church van and drove 23 hours straight through, went to work doing whatever we were told, and drove straight through to return home less than a week later.

I have not yet figured out exactly what my purpose there was supposed to be. When the opportunity presented itself, I felt God calling me to go. I didn't tell anyone. I was thinking about it, wondering if it was God or me. A couple of hours later, out of the blue, Mo said that she felt like God was calling her to go.

A laugh that's also a cry sounds really strange. Mo gave me a confused look. Then I explained why I had made that sound.

I think my going had more to do with obedience and preparation and encouragement than accomplishment. We were five women and a young man with no special skills, but our hands were willing.

Yardwork was our main job. Not planting, mowing, or trimming.

We were minesweepers.

I have never seen so many shingles, parts of shingles, or nails. Mo found a nail embedded in her shoe one day. We discovered a whole intact window in the middle of a yard, but it was not a window from the house in that yard. We stepped over downed electrical wires (I wondered if I should be worried or not) to take it, along with the shingles and nails, the shingles with attached pieces of roof, the tree branches, boards and siding to the piles waiting by the road. Huge piles of trash along the road and in the road. Every road. We added to the piles of trash that waited to be taken away. Piles of trash that had been waiting, growing for months.

People told us their stories.

She watched her walls moving, breathing in the wind. She ran to the back wall and pounded nails into it every time the wind took a break. Her carport collapsed, but her car did not get a scratch. She had a broken foot.

We, the willing women, carried the carport to the road together.

He is in the military. He had just returned to his mother's house the day before. He looked shell shocked. Numb. We pulled smelly carpet and branches to the road. We gathered shingles and shingle bits and tossed them in the pile.

He joined us. He smiled and joked and I like to think he woke up there with us.

There are other people, people who watched, who came and went. They did not tell their stories so I cannot judge their motives. We moved their branches and nails and shingles to the road. We prayed for them too, but not with touch. And then we moved on.


We were told that this home used to be attached to this chimney. The people were hopeful that they would be able to move back in.

This home ended up about a foot from the road.


Another group, all men, was there when we were. Sam had worked with them cutting up trees most of the week. They left the day before we did, but they left this gift for us on the job board.


A beautiful man named Joe showed us his garden. He shared his kumquats with us, and told us that when Katrina blew through, the leaves were stripped from all the plants and trees. While people rebuilt their lives under white FEMA trailers and blue FEMA tarps, the living things under the sky regrew leaves and rebloomed.

Somewhere this year, banana trees will be blooming in November. Minesweepers like me will marvel.


WheresMyAngels said...

Wow, that is so wonderful! Glad God called you and that you followed.

Kristi Smith said...

That is cool that you went and I am sure it was rewarding (at times). When people are in that state of shock, I am sure they have no idea what to do.