When most people think of New Orleans, they think of delicious Cajun food, Mardi Gras celebrations, and a laid-back feel that has earned the city the nickname “The Big Easy”. What most people don’t realize is that even today The Big Easy is full of hardship. More than 11 years after Hurricane Katrina, it’s devastation is still evident throughout the city. This disaster took 1,833 lives and cost nearly 200 billion dollars in damages. To this day, there is still cleanup work and rebuilding to be done.
In June of 2016, a group of 20 Maranatha students had the opportunity to help in the ongoing repair effort. During their weeklong stay, this team worked with Team Effort Missions, a group that has been doing reconstruction in a part of the city called the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the sections most devastated by Katrina. The group spent most of their work time doing manual labor such as demolition, siding, and dry walling. Working alongside other groups that had also volunteered, the combined task force built a fence, and put new walls and a deck onto a church that had been destroyed in the hurricane 11 years ago. At the end of their workweek, the team celebrated by enjoying an authentic Cajun seafood cookout, and walking around the city.
I had the opportunity to be a part of this missions effort during our weeklong stay, and was incredibly moved by the drive of our team, and by the response we had from the surrounding community. During our stay, we had a number of things go wrong, including leaving some of our travel documents at Maranatha (many thanks to the Howe family for picking them up for us), and barely making the plane. Throughout the duration of our stay, humidity levels never dropped below 90%, while daytime temperatures soared into triple digits during the day. All of these factors could have made for a less than pleasant group morale; however, our team barely seemed to notice. On the worksite, my pride in our group and our school soared, as we persevered through frequent thunderstorms, humidity, and biting insects to accomplish our tasks. At the end of the week, I felt a sense of accomplishment, as the locals brought us lunch while we worked, and thanked us profusely for our work. Seeing the physical changes to the community as a result of our work was rewarding; but personally, the most rewarding aspect of our work was seeing the joy on the faces of the locals as they realized that their community and churches were on the mend once again.
The story of New Orleans over the past 10 years has been one of sadness and difficulty, but also of hope. This hope is what drove the Maranatha team to give of their time, money, and energy, to help restore The Big Easy to its former glory.