Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Time for a Mission

We were driving this time, so we packed everything we needed into large, waterproof bins. Too much clothing in one bin, pillow, blanket and sleeping bags in the other. Because if it rains, and your tent leaks, your stuff won't get wet. We would be sleeping on cots this time. Boys in one tent, girls in the other.

the gang (hailing from Northern Alberta, Ontario and Tennessee)
It was a 7 hour drive, but it took ten because we stopped at the grocery store to buy food I can eat (lactose and gluten intolerant - sigh). We arrived at 8 pm, Sunday night, and the first person I saw was Bill. As tall as a wall, and the sweetest heart, his huge arms hugged us both. Then Glenn, with his camera still around his neck and his impish smile. Then Bob, then Ken, then sweet Darla. We first met these people two mission trips ago in Louisiana, and again in Georgia.  We build together, we ate together, we prayed together. And we were about to do it again.

Hurricane Sandy was not expected.

Jane (not her real name)  knew it would be a storm, but she had lived there since she was 16. 'In that house right there. She met her husband at a wedding. He was from Brooklyn. They moved into the house next door. Her daughter lives next door. Her other daughter is taking writing in College. Her son passed away two years ago, in his sleep, see my locket? Here is his face. He was my special boy, my heart.' She wipes her tears, her trembling hand holding mine. 'It was my husband's birthday, why would we leave? We had dinner, and cake, and then...the patio doors just blew open, the water just covered us.'
dropping off drywall (sheetrock to you southerners)

Sally lived in a bungalow. In the house she grew up in, for the past 40 years. Her mother died last year, her father two years ago. Never married, no children. 'But I'm worried about my neighbours up the street. She has 3 kids and the just built over the mess. She has nothing'.  She wouldn't talk about herself, about what she needed. We hung Sheetrock, puddied the holes, sanded, let her take us up the street to Frankie's Deli where they make bagels the size of your head, right in the back. But what about you, Sally? What do you need?  Two more days of working. She came each day, slowly opened up. She had been a police officer. Worked in the subway after 9-11. Inhaled all the dust, now she's sick, so much dust. Asthma. Now she's retired. We talked. She opened up. She bought us bagels and diet coke, even though we argued with her. Talked and talked. And we prayed with her. Go get help, Sally. Let the church make phone calls, let them get volunteers to paint your house. Let them call the plumbers and electricians because you have lost absolutely everything, Sally. No pictures, no clothing, no furniture. Let them help you.

my hunky man

One afternoon we took the ferry to the Ground Zero Memorial. Everyone remembers where they were when they found out. I was in Paramedic school and was passing the media room when I noticed everyone standing there, silent. I peeked in and saw the tv. I thought they were watching a movie. I had to sit down. I don't think I moved for an hour. But I never cried. My heart hurt and I felt awful, but I wasn't there. I disassociated.  The Memorial is completely fenced in, security everywhere. They're almost done building Tower 1. The foundations of the two towers are now 'ponds'.  The perfectly square ponds are outlined with long plaques, and engraved names. One pond is larger, carrying the names of those killed at the site. The other is smaller, carrying the names of those that were killed in the plane crashes, and the names of emergency crews. My fingers found the names of the firefighters. Just doing their job. Running straight into the danger, to save the lives they could, not even thinking of themselves.  My husband is a firefighter. Did I ever tell you?  The long plaques reach out, covering water. The water slips down into a perfectly square, 30 foot waterfall, which collects into another 'pond'. Which leads to another smaller, perfectly square hole, leading into infinity. The 'void' as the brochure calls it. Oh my heart.

And I cried for those souls, for their families.
And then I cried for those souls, the ones who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy. For the souls who have no comfort, because they do not know the bright shining light of God.  And I cried because it was so tragically poetic, that their souls could slip into the void. Those souls who only know loss, pain and loneliness.

What are you going to do about it?

Sweet Lynne and me enjoying Dunkin Donuts
Jenn Kelly is a proud member of the North American Southern Baptist Relief team, which is a part of NAMB. She plans on doing many more mission trips.
She's currently trying to find an agent for her new book, but isn't trying hard enough because the garden out back is calling her. You can find her at www.jennkelly.com if you are so inclined.