Vine Street in NOLA

It was good to be back in New Orleans again after Christmas. This year, thirty-nine of us made the trip by van, train, or plane. And like before, our youngest workers were elementary school students, and our oldest were retirees; the biggest numbers (and most of the energy) came from our teenagers and young adults – it was, again, a wonderful experience!
We noticed that overall traffic in and around New Orleans had picked up significantly since last year, more businesses were open, more homes looked inhabited, and almost all the debris piles by the side of the roads had been removed.
Driving through the colorful Musicians' Village (built with the support of Wynton Marsalis and Harry Konnick, Jr.) was a delightful and uplifting moment, and looking at Brad Pitt's house kits covered with bright pink tarp - a little camp right beside the rebuilt levee on the edge of the Lower 9th Ward - was equally inspiring and encouraging.
Things have changed in New Orleans in remarkable ways, but some things haven’t. There are still thousands of unused FEMA trailers parked on fields near Purvis, Mississippi, many slowly sinking into muddy oblivion, others housing termites. Areas of New Orleans where people have struggled before the levees broke continue to make painfully slow progress. Overall, the contrast between neighborhoods like Lakeshore and Gerttown remains sharp, but even in the most depressed areas, the signs of recovery and new life are strong: there’s a house with new windows and a new door, and it is painted bright yellow like a beacon of hope and defiance; there’s a little restaurant on the corner, freshly painted in boldest fuchsia, and the yellow signs advertise soul food for the neighborhood.
We will remember Mr. Willie, whose house we helped to rebuild. We will think about those who will move into the low-income apartments where we installed doors. The youth of the church will reflect on their experiences during worship on February 24, when we lift up the ministry of Week of Compassion.
If you want to experience first-hand how helping to rebuild homes in New Orleans is changing the lives of workers and their ideas about church and discipleship, start making plans for joining us on our next trip – because we’ll go back to the Mission Center at West Side Christian Church, we’ll go back to Mr. Willie’s house to see how he likes his new home, we’ll go back to the places where the love of God is doing remarkable things through the generous work of ordinary people.