Monday, September 19, 2005

Post from CCDA Member Kevin Brown in New Orleans

Thursday, September 15, 2005 John Paul and Roz Bartley, along with their daughter Sarai, came to visit from Houston today. JP is the guy I am grooming to be my right hand man. Sandy broke into tears at the sight of them, not because of the way they looked but because of her deep love for them. Sarai, five years old and the most wonderful kid, clung to us like long lost relatives. She has spent many days at our house and is very special to us.

We may have found an apartment for them closer to us than the current five hours (they are living in Houston in a two-bedroom apartment along with 12 other people). They would live with a woman who has MS and has an extra apartment next to her house. In exchange for some work on her behalf they would receive free rent. JP and I went into the city together. His house is ruined. Black mold is growing up the walls about 6 feet from the floor. His house is elevated about 3 feet above the ground on stilts. That means there was up to 9 feet of water in Hollygrove. Everything he owns is ruined. It was his first home, one we helped him purchase after we did years of renovations with youth groups and Adventures in Missions trips. It was a former crack house. He had only lived there for a few months.

Next we went to the Center. Part of the roof is missing and you can see the sky from two of the bedrooms. But that's not the bad news. We lost all of our trees. The downstairs had water almost to the ceiling. All the books, computers, office furniture, refrigerator, pool table, furniture, everything is ruined. The smell is indescribable, sort of like raw sewerage mixed with death. The sight is awful. The whole neighborhood is dead. The grass was killed by the toxic sludge, leaving behind a gray and black residue. All of the houses are vacant with the front doors kicked in by search and rescue crews. They left their marks on the doors, flourescent orange spray paint indicating the number of dead inside or whether the house was vacant. It looks like what you might see in a movie about the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

The only signs of life were stray dogs and army patrols with huge machine guns and face masks. Military checkpoints are everywhere. The military are dressed in fatigues and roam the city in Humvees armed to the teeth. It really is surreal and quite sad. Our first group is coming on Saturday to secure the roof so that we don't get any rain through the roof. Hopefully we can board up the windows, too. We anticipate many more such groups in the weeks and months ahead, rebuilding the Center as a beachhead in a rough neighborhood where people can go to get some hope. We'll need to rebuild the computer center so they can access FEMA, Red Cross and more. We'll use the Center also as a staging ground for more mission teams. If they can deal with the smell, they'll have a place to sleep. I'll need lots of help.

The sight was so discouraging. I'll need people to pull stuff out of the building because it's just too difficult to figure out what needs to go and what we might be able to salvage. The discouragement is crippling and I couldn't even begin to make a plan, it's almost 40 years of ministry wiped out in one fell swoop. Granted we have lots of lives as a testament to our work but little of the stuff that means so much is salvageable.

Here is one example. I saw our old Rolodex, full of all the phone numbers in our network. I picked it up and it was full of the toxic sludge which poured out all over me. The cards were all matted and illegible. When I got home I stunk. Sandy wouldn't hug me until I took a shower. And then the mold began to make me wheeze and sneeze. I took antihistamine tablets and a shower. Less than an hour later I involuntarily fell asleep and dreamed restlessly of the lives and dreams that have been shattered by Katrina.Posted by Kevin Brown, Trinity Christian Community on September 18th, 2005


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