Operation Noah Rebuild: New Orleans Mission Trip
My Experience in New Orleans Imagine a city so full to the brim with culture that it is alive on every street corner andin the hearts and souls of its people. When I think of New Orleans, Louisiana, I can’t helpbut think of it this way. Nothing beats the taste of fresh Cajun crawfish or shrimp poboys,then finishing the day off with a hot beignet at Café du Monde, overlooking the portwhile listening to the jazz and blues street musicians nearby. Culture is all around you.You can’t help but fall in love. That’s how I felt when I saw New Orleans. The very nextday though, I had a rude awakening. We climbed into the big church vans early in themorning to start on what we had really come to do: Help rebuild New Orleans. I expectedit to be grim, but after almost two years since Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees broke,I could not possibly prepare myself for what I saw. Whole neighborhoods, with hundredsof houses, were completely wiped out. They had not even been touched yet. No work hadbeen done to clean up and rebuild the homes. All of those families were still waiting for ahome again. On the outside of the houses, they were spray painted with a big “X” anddifferent numbers and letters were in the four spaces. I finally asked about them. Thenumbers represented different things depending on where they were located in the “X.”Usually, the numbers represented how many cats and dogs died in the house, which wassad enough, but even worse was what the other numbers meant. Those numbers stood forhow many people died in the house. There were so many numbers, so many deaths, itbecame too hard to even look at the “Xs,” and I had to look away.
Continued... We finally arrived at the house we were to work on. Outside and to the left of thehouse was a FEMA trailer where the owner, Mrs. Thompson, lived. She had been livingin this tiny trailer for almost two years, constantly wondering when she could finally livein her house again. The organization we were working with was called Operation NoahRebuild, or NOAH. NOAH specifically selected Mrs. Thompson out of thousands ofpeople to give her a house, so you cannot imagine how grateful and excited she was whenwe arrived. All houses rebuilt through NOAH are done within six weeks. Each week, adifferent group from entirely different places in the US comes in and continues work onthe house until its completed. Our group just happened to be the last group, so you canimagine the excitement in Mrs. Thompson’s eyes when she saw us there. She knew thatby the end of the week, she would have her home back. We took a walk around the house to see what there was left to do, then startedworking on the house. The amount of work left to do in just one week was overwhelming.Some of the walls on the inside were still not up, electrical was only partially done, andthe bathroom was still only a shell of a room. That week flew by, and we weren’t evensure if we could finish it in time. On the last three days, we had to kick it into hyperdriveto finish. On the last day we were there, two hours after we were supposed to leave, wefinally finished the house.
Continued... We had a whole ceremony planned to give Mrs. Thompson the keys to her new home.I can’t possibly explain the emotions I felt during that ceremony. Seeing Mrs.Thompson’s reaction as she was handed the keys was so powerful. She couldn’t hold backthe tears any longer. As we all hugged her, and then prayed with her, we all started to cry.This woman had been homeless for almost two years, and now she finally had a place tocall her own again. A few weeks later, I received a card in the mail. Mrs. Thompson had found out whatall of our addresses were and sent us thank you cards, each with personal messages toeach one of us thanking us by name and explaining how wonderful her life is now thatshe’s back home. That card, along with the knowledge that I helped make that happen,was the best gift I have ever received. After experiencing what it’s like to give back like that, I can’t help but tell everyone Iknow to go do something like it. We are called the United States of America. There’s areason for that. If our neighbor falls down, help him up. It does not just benefit that oneperson when you do a good deed like that, it benefit’s the whole community, and it warmsyour heart. That feeling of accomplishment from finishing a house and giving the keysover to a woman who so desperately deserved it is something that I think every personshould feel. It gives you a sense purpose, humbles you, and opens your eyes to how luckyyou are. I strongly encourage everyone to go out and do this kind of work at least once inyour lifetime. You will forever be changed by it.
New Orleans 2007Part of my team from New Orleans Mission Trip 2007
Why You Should Go On A Mission Trip “Why would you spend your spring break in an unfamiliar place, sleeping in bunkbeds in an old abandoned school, only to get up really early in the morning every day togo do construction work for a person you don’t even know?” my boyfriend asked when Itold him I was going to New Orleans for spring break with my church. He had a point; itsounded crazy. What perfectly normal 15-year-old would do something like that? Well,about 20 other teens were going with me, so I guess I’m not entirely alone. After a lot ofthought, I had decided I wanted to do this. I had been to West Virginia before on amission trip and had the experience of a lifetime, so I decided I wanted to go somewhereelse, somewhere where my help would be even more beneficial. After Hurricane Katrinahit and the levees broke, I knew where they needed me: New Orleans, Louisiana. So, Isigned up with my church, we planned the trip, and off I went. The truth is, I have neverfelt better in my entire life than when I go on mission trips. There are so many benefitsthat come from going on a mission trip. Not only is it beneficial to the people you wouldbe helping, but it is also beneficial to yourself. Volunteers get to experience so manythings and gain valuable life experiences. I believe everyone should go on at least onemission trip because it benefits those in need, as well as gives those who volunteer lifeexperiences that will stay with them forever.
Continued... is to help someone. First of all, the most important reason to go on a mission tripThere are so many places, even in the US, where people are in desperate need of all kindsof different things. Usually, the people who need the most help need simple things thatmost people have, like a home, clothing, or food. Sometimes they might have a home, butit is in disrepair, and needs to be fixed up so that it is able to be lived in. This is usuallythe case for the mission trips Ive been on. You may be wondering why these houses cantbe repaired by the people who live in them. There are two reasons: money and health. Thesupplies needed to fix up the houses usually cost too much money and they cant affordthe supplies. Also, sometimes the case is that their health is in decline, so they cantphysically do the labor needed to repair their homes. This is why they need volunteers tocome in and help them. My philosophy is that if you have the ability to help those lessfortunate, you should. It improves not only their life, but your world. Another reason to go on a mission trip is the experiences you will get to have whenvisiting places youve never been to before. I had never been to New Orleans before, andthere is no way of knowing if I would have ever made it there if it had not been for themission trip. Whats great about going to different places is that you have different andimportant experiences. I was able to have a first hand account of what happened to NewOrleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. I was able to not only see the devastation, but alsotalk to the people there and get to know what they were thinking and feeling about whathappened. I had a much deeper understanding of just how much the storm impacted thecity than if I had only watched it from the news.
Continued... Those werent the only experiences I had while I was in New Orleans though. I alsogot to experience the culture in New Orleans, which is so entirely different fromCharlotte, NC. I tried all different kinds of food I have never even heard of, like cajuncrawfish and French beignets. In New Orleans, the culture is all around. Jazz and bluesmusicians play on every other corner and voodoo shops are all over the place. It was anamazing cultural experience for me, and I would have never experienced it if I had notgone on the mission trip with my church. Another important life experience I received by going on mission trips was what Ilearned about rebuilding homes. I learned how to build different parts of a house,including putting up drywall and installing floors and windows. I can say without ashadow of a doubt that I would have never learned how to do any of that if I had not goneon a mission trip. Back home, if there had been a problem with my house, I would havebeen useless. Now, I can pride myself on being able to fix certain things around the housethat typical 21-year-old girls do not know how to fix. Those experiences will stay with mefor a long time.
Continued... Finally, my favorite life experience from going on mission trips is the experience ofgiving a person who lost everything a key to her new home. We had a whole ceremonywhere we presented Mrs. Thompson with the key to her home we had just completed.After almost 2 years of living in a FEMA trailer because her home was destroyed whenthe levees broke, she was finally able to move back into her home. Knowing that I hadbeen one of the many people that made that possible for her was a wonderful feeling. Tothis day, I still get tears in my eyes when I think about that moment because it was such apowerful ceremony. After experiencing something like that, it changed me. I felt like Ihad finally made a difference. You cant put a price on something like that. For all of these reasons, I truly believe everyone should go on at least one mission tripin their lifetime if they have the ability to help. There are other mission trips that dontinvolve building houses, so if someone wants to make an impact but can not do that kindof physical labor, they can still go on mission trips. I want everyone to experiencesomething like what I experienced because it helped me to grow as an individual and italso improved the life of someone else. There really is nothing to lose and everything togain by going on a mission trip. As John Holmes once said, “There is no exercise betterfor the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
Operation Noah Rebuild Almost two years later, and still looks practically untouched
Operation Noah Rebuild In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southeastern coast of the United States.Of all the hurricanes to ever hit the US, Katrina was the second strongest recorded inhistory. New Orleans, Louisiana was the most badly hit area. The US knew it would causedamage, but there was no way of knowing just how bad it was going to be. A few monthsafter the devastation, Operation Noah Rebuild came to New Orleans to help rebuild thishistoric city. In the spring of 2007, then again in 2008, I was able to experience thedevastation first hand by working with Operation Noah Rebuild. New Orleans is a port city that is located below sea level, and so there is a leveesystem set up around the city to keep it from flooding. The levees were only designed tohandle up to a category 3 hurricane, but Katrina, a category 4 hurricane, hit the city withincredible speeds of 140 miles per hour. Since the levees were not designed to protect thecity against that kind of power, they broke, giving way to a surge of water flooding intothe city. It is estimated that eighty percent of New Orleans was under water after thelevees broke, sometimes as deep as twenty feet in certain places. Due to the flooding, thedeath toll for this hurricane was a horrific 1,577 for Louisiana alone, with a grand total of1,836. Thousands upon thousands of families were left homeless.
Continued... in New Orleans.In the beginning of May 2006, Operation Noah Rebuild was launchedAccording to www.thebridge.namb.net, Operation NOAH is “a three-year partnershipproject (through August 2009) between New Orleans area churches and associations, theLouisiana Baptist Convention, and the North American Mission Board to help NewOrleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers rebuild homes; start, restart, orstrengthen churches; and reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ.” Its mainpurpose was to rebuild New Orleans, one home (or church) at a time. The whole programconsisted of volunteers from all across the country, dedicating their time and energy intorebuilding a community completely destroyed by the storm.In 2007, I joined my churchs youth group on a trip to New Orleans to work withOperation Noah Rebuild. While there, I finally saw the true devastation of the city. It washeartbreaking, but I knew I was there to make an impact, so I kept my eyes focused onwhat mattered: Rebuilding New Orleans. After my first experience there, I knew I had togo back, so I returned the following year and helped out again.In August of 2009, Operation Noah Rebuild ended, however New Orleans is still workingon rebuilding the city. It has made huge strides, but it is still in disrepair in places.Volunteers are still needed to help rebuild the city, but there arent as many programs towork with now. Overall, the disaster relief was quite successful, and many people havetheir lives back to normal. Resources: http://www.thebridge.namb.net/aboutus.aspx, http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html, htttp://www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-hurricane-katrina
A Letter to HomeDear Dad, It’s day four here in New Orleans. I can’t believe how beautiful historic New Orleansis! We visited the French Quarter last night, and all I can say is “Wow!” It’s such a coolplace! You would love it. There are jazz musicians on practically every corner, and sinceyou introduced me to jazz music, it made me think of you. I tried this weird food callcrawfish, which looks sort of like shrimp, but they’re cooked with their bodies still intact.Oh boy, did they look gross, and they were covered with all these spices, but they were sodelicious! You have got to get here sometime and take a week off from work to experienceNew Orleans. Hayley, Robert, Krystal, and I ventured onto the “world famous” Bourbon Street andmade it about one block before we had to go to a different street. That street was insane!There were drunks all over the place, and so many tourist shops. That is obviouslyoverrun with drunk tourists who want the “New Orleans experience.” So not for me. I’dmuch rather head back to Café du Monde, my official favorite place to be in NewOrleans. They are known for their amazing beignets (which are basically fried doughcovered in powdered sugar). You know how I love all desserts? Well these beignets arephenomenal! They cook them to a perfect texture. They are soft pillows of friend doughand the powdered sugar add just the right touch. I could eat those all day!
Letter Continued... As for the rebuilding part, it’s exhausting. I find myself able to easily fall asleep everynight because there’s always so much work to be done. My group is rebuilding a house forthis sweet lady, Mrs. Thompson. She’s been living in a small FEMA trailer for so long,and our goal is to finish her house so she can finally move back into her home when we’rethrough in a few days. I really hope we finish. I feel like there’s still so much to be donethough. We have started working on sanding down the walls in a couple of rooms, somaybe it’s possible. She deserves this house though. There’s not doubt about that. She hasbeen nothing but an extremely grateful, loving woman to all of us, and her neighborsseem to feel the same way about her. Almost daily, she has neighbors come over to sayhello and see her. They always stop in and say hi to us as well, which is super sweet sincethey don’t even know us. Anyways, I just wanted to update you on the trip. I know you wonder how it’s going,and since I get terrible phone service, I really can’t get through on my phone. I miss youand I can’t wait to see you on Sunday! I love you! Love, Chloe
Jazz musician playing his trumpet. He was quite good.Two of my friends and I in front of The French Quarter
New OrleansI arrive in New OrleansAnd see the dancing lightsOf nearby voodoo shops and casinosI smell the fresh Cajun Jambalaya,And taste the perfect spicy crawfishI watch the night lights,Reflecting off the Mississippi river The sun rises,While enjoying a fresh French beignet Opening my eyes up to realityFrom the famous Café du Monde We take a drive,All the while, smooth jazz And see the devastationFloats up from street musicians Houses torn to shredsIlluminated by soft moon rays Whole Neighborhoods gone And families still unable to return home It sets in, My purpose is clear To bring hope to my compatriot To rebuild a historic city And revitalize the culture Of a city demolished and broken And that’s what I plan to do
The view of the Mississippi New Orleans French QuarterRiver from Cafe du Monde
About the Author My name is Chloe Wishart, and I amcurrently a student at UNC Charlotteworking on becoming a future elementaryschool teacher. The reason I decided tochoose the topic of mission trips (morespecifically my experiences helping out inNew Orleans) is because it is a topic that isvery close to my heart, and influenced megreatly while growing up. My target audience has been basicallyeveryone, but focusing mainly on thosewho live in the US. My goal for thismultigenre project was to show the worldjust how wonderful mission trips can beand try to convince everyone out there togo on at least one mission trip in theirlifetime. Thank you for taking the time toread about my experience. I hope you getthe chance to experience a mission trip oneday too.