Friday, August 15, 2014

Mission Mississippi 2014

On July 6th, I traveled with my church's youth group to Gulfport, MS for a week of mission work. We had 50 youth and 9 adults. I was a big part of the planning and that started in December. We ended up choosing to go to MS because I went with our church two years ago and the set up is perfect. It is at a Catholic Church called St. Ann's in Lizana, MS. When Hurricane Katrina happened, a man traveled to MS to help with the clean up. In all the chaos, he was turned away. He went back home and raised money to come back to Lizana and St. Ann's and build a place for volunteers to stay. It is perfect. There are two large pavilions - one with lots of big garage doors to open. This is where we eat and hang out. The showers and bathrooms are in the back area. The other pavilion is where we sleep - a kitchen, bathrooms, and one room for the girls and one for the boys. Here is a picture of the place:  I took my pictures with my cell phone, so they might be blurry.
We flew into New Orleans on Sunday.  We rented 12 passenger vans and had van groups of 8-9 kids.  These became our chore groups around the center.  Our daily work groups were different.  We were on a tight, full schedule that began each morning, waking by 6:30 am for breakfast.   There was a chore group to put on the breakfast food and clean it up.  A different group to set out the lunch food so we could each pack our own lunches for the day.  We put them in coolers and filled some coolers with water.  There was a chore group to set up dinner.  There were church volunteers from St. Ann's who made us amazing dinners.  We had a chore group to clean up after dinner and finally, one more chore group to clean up the hall before bed.

So, breakfast at 6:30 am, make your lunch at 7:15 am, and we all made it to mass for 8 am:
After mass, we would pile in our vans and our work day would begin.  St. Ann's offers us a place to stay and to eat, but it is up to us to find the food.  We had a lot of work lined up ahead of time.  We were going to work at a Deaf Center, a Navy Center, a Retirement Home, a Food Pantry, a Presidential Library, a Habitat for Humanity House, and community people's homes.  We set out to work by 9 am and returned between 4 and 5 pm.  Each day we had a "home crew".  This was a group of 3-6 youth and 1 adult who would stay behind at the center and clean up, do errands, go to lunch, and prepare a skit, reading, or song for our evening Prayer and Processing.  The kids love doing it and we had 5 amazing Home Crews!  Thank you.

One of our favorite work sites was at Ned and Karen's house.  They have a lot of blueberry bushes they can't pick anymore, so we can pick and donate them or use them.  They have JJ, the horse, who lives in the patch.  They have a lot of goats and these were the hit of the week.  There was a goat named Elizabeth who was 10 days old and a huge hit.  I think every youth got a chance to hold her.  Ned had a lot of projects around the house for us to work on.  Here is Ned and one of our guys feeding Elizabeth:  There's one of me holding the sweet baby, too.
Here is JJ, the horse in the blueberry patch.  He was huge:
After a hard day's work, we often stopped at Sonic because we don't have any around us:
Some of us might make a pit stop at the beach which was like bath water.
 We were greeted each day with treats from Home Crew:
In the evenings, we would hang out and play softball, games, and Four Square was a huge hit:

A huge thank you to St. Ann's Community for our amazing southern cooking like our fried catfish dinner:
 In the background, you can see our Warm Fuzzies on the wall.  Each person makes a bag with their name on it and hangs it up on the wall.  During the week, everyone is encouraged to write a warm fuzzy for anyone they want to - maybe they made a new friend, maybe they saw someone work really hard that day, maybe they saw God in that person, maybe they were just saying hi or thanks.  It sounds kind of corny, but the kids are busy with it all week.  The rule is you are supposed to wait until you are unpacking back at home to read them.  I love mine!
Here is some of the work we did: We painted Nell's house. 
 We worked at the deaf center:
 We worked in the Navy Galley:
 We worked in a food pantry:

One surprising opportunity was to work at The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  I guess I thought it was going to be a run down library for us to fix up but when we got there it was like a beautiful museum with the workers dressed in period clothing.  We cleaned the upstairs, but 3 of our guys got to restore some of the carriages and then they were given a tour of the vault.  They were amazed.  They had to wear gloves and they got to old and touch everything.  What a great opportunity.
We saw lots of gross bugs, snakes, and lizards along our way:

On Wednesday night, all 60 of us went out to The Shed, a restaurant right down the road.  We had a fun night.
Friday brought big storms in the afternoon, but we finished up the week strong with a big, good ole fashioned dance party:
And, finally, Saturday morning, it was time to leave.  We all wore our Mississippi shirts for one last group shot:
The trip far exceeded our expectations.  The group of kids came together so nicely.  I think it was a life changing event for many.  It was great to take the kids out of Hopkinton and show them a different type of world.  They were all so well behaved, respectful, and hard working.  We couldn't be prouder.  We are truly blessed!

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see so many familiar faces--both colleagues and students! It looks like you all had a great time.