What a day it was! We met with Steve Kos, the head of Convoy of Hope which operates out of Gautier, the city right next to us. He and his wife have been here since October operating a disaster station from a local church. They are quite organized and run a tight, efficient ship. They have a warehouse from which they can draw for needed materials and were very welcoming to us. We will be returning Monday morning to see just how their operation works. They have new teams of volunteers coming in Monday and we will learn first hand how they orient them to their work. They are currently living in their motor home in the back of a strip mall along with a couple other campers. It just goes to show how people can make a home anyplace!
From there we decided to take a trip along highway 90 which runs directly on the coast line. This took us from Pascagoula to Pass Christian. Pass Christian is where the eye directly hit. Every mile heading west exposed more and more devastation. By the time we reached Pass Christian there was nothing left standing! I thought we had seen terrible devastation here but this is nothing to the blank lots left with nothing but debris of everything imaginable. The houses are gone, the restaurants are gone, the businesses are gone, the churches are gone, the hotels are gone, the casinos are gone, even the highways and beaches are gone! When I say nothing is left standing I mean nothing is left standing! The only way to know what used to be there is sometimes spray painting on the foundations. We took extensive video of a First Baptist Church that was hit directly. It was a huge church where the entire front side was gone, exposing the pews that had been in the balconies. Even heavy rebar was no match for this storm. We have no idea what is holding up the steeple!
Every mile we took more and more footage and still it will not tell the true story. There are no words, the emotions that came up in each of us became overwhelming. The thing we noticed is that there is no "life" along the beaches. You don't see people running around, walking, working or living. You don't see dogs or cats, you don't even see squirrels in the trees because most of the trees themselves are either gone or down. There just isn't any life! It's a feeling none of the 3 of us have experienced and yet we were nearly unable to express what it was we felt!
The beaches themselves are such a mess. There is debris everywhere and although there are machines combing the beaches, sifting the debris from the sand and trying to smooth it back again for what will hopefully be tourist season, they are still a mess. And as for tourist season, where will they stay? There are no hotels with ocean views, there are no hotels! The casinos were not excluded either. The one gigantic barge casino that we all saw on the news that had been completely lifted from its ocean spot and dropped onto land about a block away is being torn down and the metal is being recycled. As we stopped and looked at it we wondered how something that enormous could be lifted out of the water and dropped on land? These things don't just happen, we don't see such things nor do we understand them.
We drive along, mile after mile after mile seeing scraps of everything imaginable hanging from fallen trees. We see a jacket with one sleeve so tightly wrapped in a tree that it will just have to slowly rot to not be seen anymore. We see boats that have been tossed into what used to be someones home. We see vehicles that are now twisted and crushed beyond recognition. We see showers and toilets and air conditioner parts ripped from there appropriate places inside someones home. All of this debris is a part of someones life, part of them. The pain they must feel is not something we can imagine, nor do we want to. And this is 6 months after the storm!
We stop at a disaster location in Pass Christian, a spot that cannot be missed as it is the only thing standing. There are 2 huge tents, one with all clothing and food that people can come and get, all for free. It looks alot like GoodWill and has a constant stream of people coming in and out. The other tent is a diner/church. They serve meals starting at 7:30 each morning and have a church service each evening at 7:30. We spoke with a couple who were in their second week of volunteering and were going home this weekend as the emotional toll was getting to them. They also are living in their camper behind what used to be a church in Pass Christian. They told us how the evening services are a combination of Mennonites, Presbyterian, Catholic and every denomination imaginable----just like it should be. We are many churches but we are one church! They also have small storage barn type units behind the tents with supplies and assistance of all types. This entire setup was one man's idea, a man who acted on his idea and who is truly a man of God! We did not have the opportunity to meet with him as he was busy helping some people, like he would be doing anything else?!
This drive took us over 4 hours and like I said, the video footage and still photos cannot possibly tell the complete story, but that is all we have. Hopefully we will be adding some of those photos to this blog as soon as we get a bit more settled. I would like to ask that in the meantime please pray for the victims. Prayer can move mountains, and that is just the power that will be needed to restore living conditions for them. So many people have asked us what is needed here, how can they help? Pray-----for them-----for us-----ask God to touch your heart and you will know what to do. Realize that in 6 months it is still in the beginning stages and most likely will be after a full year, maybe even years.
Like I said in the beginning of these journals, we have committed our lives for atleast one year to be here, be "on the ground" and do whatever God has in store for us. We cannot do this without your support and prayers. We welcome your comments to this journal and thank you for reading and coming along with us on our adventure.
I know there are probably things from today that I am too tired and too emotionally exhausted to remember so maybe tomorrow I will remember. For now I will sign off and once again ask for your prayers!
May God bless each and every one of you. We are truly a blessed people and we should never ever take that for granted.
Sleep well all and until tomorrow--------be thankful in everything!