Saturday, August 11, 2007

Katrina Anniversary

Approaching the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,
I was reminded again of the resilient and inspiring people
of St. Bernard Parish Louisiana, whom I had the pleasure of
working with last prayers are with you always.


On Dec 31 - Jan 7th, I and 20 other church members went down to St. Bernard Parish, LA.... one of the communities hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. St. Bernard Parish is adjacent to New Orleans along the banks of the Mississippi River and within current levee systems where urbanized portions of the parish are today. There are 15 communities in St. Bernard Parish, all of whom experienced incredible devastation. The media coverage of the storm had been mainly focused around the New Orleans area, due to politics & socioeconomic status. While the people of St. Bernard Parish are resilient, many residents felt as if they had been forgotten. When we arrived one of our first projects was to lay sheetrock for an elderly man named Gibert, who is 75. Gilbert had survived the storm by swimming across the street in 8ft of water to his neighbors' two story brick home. There he and many other neighbors congregated until the Coast Guard arrived three days later. One year later Gilbert needed to rebuild his home. After months and months of struggling to get a FEMA trailer he recently recieved one, and now has a place to sleep while working on his home. We had the pleasure of helping Gilbert, and the first day we arrived all he could do was thank us by offering us fruit from a beautiful satsuma (tangerine) tree that survived in his backyard. Everyday we came and worked and Gilbert would ask us to please take all the fruit from this beautiful tree. I was so touched by his generosity, especially in light of his current condition. With no family, no home, no community to help him & deteriorating health, Gilbert was praising the Lord, knowing that people could still love him. I will never forget Gibert and what that tree represented to me. God is good, there is hope and the purpose of life really comes down to serving others.
When I arrived back in Michigan I felt inspired to create a piece of art in honor of the people I had met. I used Glbert's tree and put all 15 communities somewhere in the rubble. The words in the sky are from the book of Matthew, "When I was hungy...when I needed shelter...". I will never forget the inspiring people of St. Bernard Parish, especially Gilbert and his satsuma tree.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

That story really touched me. It must have been such an experience going out there and seeing all of the after effects. I know the appreciation from the people (especially Gilbert) must have made the trip very worth while. Kudos to you and everyone that went with you to help out the community and make a difference.