This post is going to be a bit different from my usual makeup and beauty posts. I’m going to talk about my mission trip to New Orleans a little more in depth and share some pictures with you guys! I hope that maybe if you’ve been hesitant to do something like this or don’t know what to expect, that this will help you make the decision. And I hope it will inspire you as well!
Missions work was something that used to seem out of my reach. I didn’t see myself as strong enough or mentally capable of dealing with the things you see and do when you’re in extremely poor areas. But as i’ve taken a leap of faith these past two years, I’ve seen that I was doubting myself too much. Going into New Orleans and seeing the aftermath of hurricane Katrina is not as shocking as going to Haiti after the earthquakes or other similar areas, but there is still an element of surprise and surrealness. Many times, when disaster strikes somewhere other than home, we are detached because we can’t physical see it ourselves. However, when you travel to an area and see the damage personally, it can be overwhelming. However, when you realize your purpose for being there, you can set aside the many emotions you may feel and focus on the people.
The areas in New Orleans that were hit heavily by Katrina have improved physically over the past few years. There are still abandoned and boarded up houses and there are still homes that look barely livable, but there is more improvement physically than there is destruction at this point. The lives of the people are a different story. There is still poverty. There are still gangs. There are still murders. People are stuck in a poverty mentality because it’s all they know. Younger children born right around or after Katrina especially don’t know any other kind of life. I don’t know what the neighborhoods were like before Katrina, but I’ve seen how they are now and there is great room for improvement.
This is where missions comes in. We don’t come in to give them a bunch of money and then leave. We don’t give them a bunch of free stuff or pretend like we’re going to make everything better in a few days. What we do is give them hope and show them that life can be different. This year we spent our time in a particular apartment complex. It was a decent size and had two large courtyards for us to set up our activities, vacation bible school, and tents for the evening church services. During the day, we spent our time forming relationships with the children in the complex. We played games, drew with chalk, had water balloon fights, face painted, and most of all, we told them about Jesus. Amidst all the fun and games was a purpose. We couldn’t give them sympathy. They knew that we don’t understand their lives and sympathy doesn’t help. But what we could do was show them a greater love and hope. Everyday, the kids were given the message that Jesus loves them. While playing, we found ways to say things to the kids like, “Jesus loves you,” “Jesus protects you,” “You can pray to Jesus anytime you want.” We showed them the joy of having Jesus and when we did this, anyone could tell that their countenance changed. At first, no one wanted to come out of their apartments. The few that did were hesitant to interact. But, by the second day, many kids and even some older teens came out to play and hang out with us. Even some of the adults were talking with us as well.
We had two days of VBS with lessons about being fishers of men and Jonah. The evening services under the tent were amazing and we were able to reach the adults as well. One day we went around and picked up trash and another day we went through the complex and handed out groceries. All of these acts, combined with the great sermons from men who had been in the same situations as many of these families, produced a great change in the people. The owner of the apartment complex was so amazed by the what was going on that even though he is not a Christian, he said that he wanted to have a church service in the courtyard on Sunday!
This trip was so successful and amazing! We formed great relationships with the kids and adults in the complex and were able to share so much with them. It was so hard to leave and I wanted to stay much longer. But I feel better knowing that the church we worked with there will be a presence in their lives and I trust that God will continue to work in their lives as well!
Now it’s time for some pictures!