Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Impressions from Gulfport

I walked outside tonight and saw church vans parked all around a tour bus. New Providence Presbyterian from Maryville, Rivermont Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Fountain City Pres, all around the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Gulfport parking lot. Two hundred and fifty people. 250! 182 of them from East Tennessee and our congregations. It takes 9 hours to get here, except for the 50 folks from Hamilton, Ontario who have joined us after 24 hours and five minutes on a bus. Non-stop! We have registered all these folks, fed them spaghetti, educated them on what to expect (and they really have no idea what to expect!) and will soon be sleeping nearly on top of each other all around the floors and pews and in every nook and cranny of this great building. We are all tired and we don’t know what tired really is yet. The excitement is palpable in the room and everyone is pumped about being here, apprehensive about what lies ahead of us and knowing that God is holding us in God’s hands in all that we do.

The people who have given up a week of their Christmas break, and those of us who are giving a week of our vacations, are representing you well down here in Gulfport. We have met and met and discussed and met again, worshipped together and praised God’s name and asked God to be in our work. We will work tomorrow in Bay St. Louis mucking out houses and in Biloxi repairing and replacing roofs, teenagers and senior adults alike. This is our first mixed ages trip, with families and college students and gray hair in evidence everywhere. God is in this work.

Earlier today Cindy, Bethany and I drove down US90 between Gulfport and Biloxi and saw the devastation and were awed by the destructive force that nature unleashed here. Words cannot describe it. Pictures cannot do it justice. It is my prayer that as many of us who are able will work on future trips to help the poor and homeless, the uninsured and under insured recover their lives. If you do, when you do, you will discover God’s grace as you have never understood it before. If you have ever suffered a catastrophic loss in your life you have some knowledge of what this trip means to the folks who live here. It means that God is alive in their lives and that God has sent us, that God loves them enough to send others to be a part of their lives at this time. And it means that God has sent them to be a part of our lives. And we will never be the same again. Thanks be to God.

Peace and grace

Steve Benz

Sierra Group – Team 1


At 8:03 AM, Blogger Sherry said...

Thanks for taking the time to keep us (who are back at home in East Tennessee) posted on the progress of the trip. It is great to be able to get a glimpse into the work, the spirit of the group and the mission. --
Sherry Brewer


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