The long drive to Baton Rouge was one with many prayers. Sitting in my seat alone, all I could do was pray, “Lord, what are you doing? Why do you have me doing this? What if I can’t do it?” Pure silence in return, but I knew I could trust what the Lord was doing. I didn’t have to know, I just had to do.
Driving by peoples houses and seeing what was once their possessions, family treasures, and money’s worth of sheetrock is one to see in person. Every. Single. House. Once climbing out the van and into the open air, the smell of mold soon became the new normal. Walking into the first house, I remember, was almost already completely gutted out, except for the usual small things and lots of major cleaning. I swept unlimited amounts of dirt for hours. That was my first day.
The second house was much worse. For mold had been sitting in it for days and had really absorbed the house. I forced myself to wear a mask and hated it. I could barely breathe and sweat galore became my new clothes. I found myself a hammer and began to pull drywall nails. The trash outside had begun to finally cook with the sun beating down on it. With the mix of mold and what is now considered wet trash made me think, “This must be what Haiti smells like.” And to see other home owners through out the day sort out their own junk is just heartbreaking. Some piles in front of homes held a large sign on the front that read, “Everything is Free.” But there were no takers.
At this point, I was tired like so many, and really felt inside that I wasn’t doing anything worth good. I am weak physically. There is so much I cannot do when it comes to this kind of labor. I felt that way until we came to the third house. For the first time, I got to talk and listen to a homeowner and her story. This woman was a stranger but shared her life, and how she was so thankful that we were there to help her. Even better, she shared her joy in the Lord. This is what brought me to the point of seeing that just being there to show that I care is good. And it motivated me to want to do more and not think so much about how tired I already was after only two days.
I still had in the back of my mind, “If only I had my camera…”
The third and final day was the greatest of them all. The fourth house was the biggest blessing, and where I truly saw that through gutting a strangers house leads to ministry. I will never forget meeting Monique. She was overwhelmed at the beginning of our meeting. She didn’t know where to put things or where to get them. But by the end of the day, she really needed to talk. I had the opportunity to hear her life stories and be blessed by them. Because everything she had to say turned your attention back to the Lord. Story after story she gave. I listened and am amazed by this woman’s testimony and faith. I never realized just how blessed I could be to hear her journey to where she is at today: facing the aftermath of a historical flooding.
At the end of the day and having already eaten dinner, I sat at our table and felt tears form in my eyes. I realized that I had forgotten all about the fear of first taking this journey, and disliked that the next day I will be leaving it. To see how the work being done was also working in people’s spiritual lives made me wish I could do this only and nothing else. I didn’t want to leave.
As my team packed up the final suitcases, a new team has come in to take our place. As I look to the side of me, I see that one of those new team members just so happened to have a backpack, a tripod, and a camera with him. I look at this man and thought to myself, “That could have been me,” but at the same time, “but I have the greater blessing.” You can only experience so much with a camera. But without it, you experience it all.
So what now? I do not know. But I do know, that there are many stories yet to be told.