Well we made it; we arrived in MS on January 5th, and hit the ground running. We are settled in to our cottage (translation:1200 sq foot, 3 bed/2 bath house). It was dark when we arrived so I was not able to see much. The next morning John and I ran out for coffee. My first impression was, “this town has a littering problem there is trash and debris everywhere!” Then we drove down by the water to see the devastation, my 2nd impression was “How is this ever going to get taken care of, and how long is it going to take!” It is overwhelming. In some areas, the homes are completely obliterated, in other areas there is so much damage you have to wonder if it would have been easier on the homeowner for them to have just lost everything. You can drive through a subdivision and see no obvious damage to a home and then next door there is a blue tarp on the roof and a FEMA trailer in the front yard. The idea of returning to your home and having to sift through the remains is just too much. An elderly man actually died for that reason. He rode the storm out at a friend’s house; however, upon returning to his home and seeing the extensive damage…his heart just gave out. I know this story because each and every day in the newspaper they tell a story of someone who lost their life in the storm. Actually, the entire paper, cover to cover is all about Katrina. This saddens me because in my local paper in Atlanta, there is rarely anything about the storm, unless it has a political undertones (i.e. Roy Nagun and the Chocolate Factory). There is rarely anything on the national news. How is the rest of the country going to know the Gulf coast still needs help if the news is not covering it? Down here, Katrina is everyday life for the residents. Everywhere I go, I overhear people talking about their experience, the trouble they are facing, and their inability to get reliable help.
It’s volunteers that are rebuilding the coast, people like you and me. Most of the people at the CORE camp are church groups from all over the country. This week there are groups from as far as Colorado, Wyoming, and Iowa. Some volunteers are college students; we are expecting many for spring break and some have just come by themselves. They are old and young from all walks of life. Senior pastors and former congressmen, skilled and unskilled. My point; they need help, able bodies willing to do what ever is necessary to help. Whether that is cleaning and sanitizing, hanging sheetrock or working in the kitchen, there is a place for everyone.
I spoke to many of you before I left and told you to “come down and visit while I’m here” Now I’m saying come down and volunteer or just tour the area, go back to your churches, friends, softball teams, or whatever group you may be apart of, and let them know what you have seen. Put a group together or come alone, experience it first hand for yourself. The people here are so warm and friendly, they are so appreciative of the help they are receiving. I feel so welcome and so privileged to be here. So, come see me. You can stay with us in our “cottage” or at the camp; there is room for everyone!
Our new address is 2325 Tradewinds Drive, Gautier MS 39553. Many of you have asked me to forward my husband’s updates to you, and some of you are already receiving them. Please let me know if you would like to be added or deleted from the list. Thank you for all your love, prayers and support.
Missing you all,
Niki and family