I had the opportunity to go down to Kiln, Mississippi in July of 2006, nine months into the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Our church arranged a Mission Trip in efforts to help with the Hurricane Katrina Relief. It was the most humbling experience of my life. When I think about what event has had the biggest impact on my life, this is what first comes to my mind. The results of this experience exceeded so many of my pre-conceived expectations of just community service. I was blown away when I got the chance to visualize the devastation of New Orleans in person, the many empty businesses, the debris along the beach, and clothes still in the trees. It looked like the hurricane had just swept through that morning. I thought about how many people couldn’t return to their homes.
I was not only touched by seeing the destruction but also by hearing the individual stories of those who were affected while working on their homes. I painted a house and worked in their yard, built steps to get into a trailer, and helped build the foundation for house. Each person had a unique story that connected directly to my heart. Although they had all been through so much hardship, they were the most giving people. One woman mentioned us being there, even just listening to her, was the nicest thing anyone had did for her, that it gave her a whole new hope for her life. Another older lady had offered to cook for our entire crew, though she had really no money to spare. She found it her duty to give with the kindness of her heart to those who had helped her. It amazed me how I had come to help her but she was offering aid to me. I felt as if I would never be able to do enough. Everywhere we went Kiln residents thanked us for being there. They made it known to us that all the work churches had put in, each group little by little, had made a huge difference when combined.
This was the first time hard work was easy to me. I felt as if I would have never been tired, I never wanted to leave and it felt as if it would never be finished. I didn’t find it in myself to complain about the tough conditions or the extent of the labor. Seeing them smile and the appreciation watering in their eyes made it all more than worth the while. These are the images and memoirs I most take with me to remind myself of how humble I felt at that moment. The people taught me most importantly to give thanks even when things are not going right and when things are kind of rough, because I will always have something to give glory and a blessing is always waiting.
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