Monday, March 24, 2008

Arrival in Naw'lans

Things we've learned in the seven hours we've been here:
  1. "New Orlleeeans" is not right. The locals say "Naw'lans" although we're still not sure we can pull that off.
  2. It's easy to get lost here.
  3. Speaking of getting lost, Fuel has some crazy drivers, although we'll try to avoid mentioning names. *cough*Justin*cough*
  4. Bouncy balls can provide hours of entertainment.
  5. We like dancing. In cars.

OK, so maybe that's not all we've learned - it really is amazing how much God can teach us and use us in such a short amount of time, when we're out of our comfort zones and willing to let Him.

Just to recap the day, we met at 6:45 am at John Wayne Airport, and were blessed to all get through security quickly and all sit in the same vicinity on the flight. (We try to keep from annoying our fellow travelers. Really.)

We had a brief 50-minute layover in the ginormous Dallas/Fort Worth airport, but luckily we braved the SkyTram and most of us even grabbed some Subway before boarding our next hopper flight Southeast.

I think the stewardesses put something in the beverage service on that flight, because most of us konked out, but arrived in Louisiana with smiles, all of our baggage on the baggage claim, (Hallelujah!) and very messy hair. (Well, the sleepy girls, anyway.)

Justin, Jeff and Adam, being the "elders" of the trip, went to go get our sweet rides (3 mini-vans) and before we knew it, we were loaded up and ready to go.

We arrived at Celebration Church to great hospitality (comfy cots and Southern cookin'!) we had a bit to eat and went out to explore.

A couple of the Celebration volunteers rode with us to give a first-hand tour of the worst-hit areas of the city (St. Bernard's Parish and the 9th Ward,) and share what Celebration is and has been doing to help.

I think our whole team was surprised at what we saw. Seeing homes still completely destroyed, standing empty with their windows blown out like empty eye-sockets and dilapadated porches still sagging - and to realize that these are families' lives and homes and heritage that is still in shambles years later - it moves us to feel a tiny part of what God must feel when His children are hurting.

As one member of our team pointed out - especially in Orange County - we live in a constant state of instant gratification. I want something, I buy it. Simple. But many people here don't have that option. Years later, people are still struggling to rebuild in an area that is still so broken and crime-ridden that Hope is hard to come by. That kind of perserverance convicts our hearts and reminds us that God also, does not give up on us. He is faithful, and we as a team are so excited to see more of that this week.

Tomorrow, we're going to serve at a Homeless Shelter and then go out for some Streetcar Evangelism. We're excited to see what God does in and through us, it's only Day One and He's already shown Himself in great ways...

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