South Central Conference Disaster Ministry - New Orleans

May 29, 2008

 Ducks in a pond

"Evangelism is just one beggar telling another
 where to find bread." D.T. Niles

I was sitting at a location where people pass by and feed the ducks in a pond. The ducks have learned to watch for people to approach the pond, regardless of whether or not a person had food for the ducks. If a person approached, the ducks would swim over or fly across the pond if they thought there was going to be a tasty piece of bread or other morsel of food. I watched the same scenario over and over again. The ducks were desperate for a meal. The strongest ducks got the most food. Each time a person came outside to feed the ducks, the flock moved to the new location. The more food that was produced was directly proportional to the number of ducks that would appear. It took a great deal of bread and other food to satisfy the needs of all the ducks. 

Those ducks reminded me of what life is like in New Orleans for many people. The need is so great for so many different things, people act like ducks in a pond when they hear of an opportunity, legitimate or not. There have been thousands lined up to receive food, clothing and other benefits many times since Hurricane Katrina. One day some months ago an offer for quick access to $20,000. per household created traffic jams, long lines and a great deal of frustration for people. It was simply hunger and desperation that lead to the long lines. Sadly it was not a legitimate offer. Two and a half years post Katrina, the hunger and desperation is not lessening. The needs will be here for several years. There is a seemingly endless number of people in the region seeking assistance. Our office receives calls every day from homeowners whoneed help.

It is going to take a long time for all the needs to be met in New Orleans, hence the name, long term recovery. For the thousands of homeowners in need of assistance returning to their homes, the wait and truggle is analogous to ducks in a pond. Our office and every other agency working here receives calls each day from homeowners seeking assistance. Today our office has received four so far. The conversation is basically the same for each one.

"Can you help me rebuild my house; I got your number from…?" As a Christian organization it is very difficult to say "no." We can't really. The most frustrating part is that our project list grows ever longer and the wait for those homeowners will be a long one. One Church World Service Staff person working in New Orleans early on in the recovery effort reminded us that with thousands of people needing assistance, someone is going to be the last person helped. Will there be enough bread (resources) for all?

Rebuilding Homes, Rebuilding Hope

The Disaster Ministry office recently designed a new t-shirt for those that come and work in with the Disaster Ministry office. In the redesign process it was decided to put the words "rebuilding homes, rebuilding hope" on the front of the shirts. That succinctly describes what this office and volunteers do each week. The rebuilding of a person's home gives the homeowner safe, secure housing. Rebuilding hope is what happens in the process of home rebuilding. Our office and each volunteer that comes to work, brings with them love, compassion and hope. The time and effort it takes for a group to plan ahead, travel here, work for the week and return home is itself a great undertaking. o do that for someone a person doesn't know and may never meet is one of the purest forms of Christian love there is. All the love, compassion and hope is transferred to the homeowner. What a great blessing.

 

 

Available Weeks

Would you like come work in New Orleans Disaster Ministry? There are a few slots available in 2008. The following weeks have openings: Sept. 1 and 8,  December 1, 8 and 15. If you would like to come any of those weeks, please log on to ucc.org/hurricane/volunteer and fill out the online application. We would love to see you!

Ideal number

Is there an ideal number for a group? That would depend on your perspective. In the beginning of this ministry, there was only room for twenty people. For whatever reason that number has stuck with us. A group does not have to be twenty people. We welcome individuals, families and groups of any size up to fifty. Naturally, availability will come into play with larger groups. Anyone is welcome!

Funding sources

What is called a total rebuild of a house in New Orleans cost in the neighborhood of $40,000. There are three main agencies that fund rebuild projects, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way. Red Cross and Salvation Army are able to fund $20,000 per house and the United Way $10,000. Each of those agencies works with the Long Term Recovery Committees in funding individual cases. When this office accepts a rebuild case, we receive funds from one or more of those agencies in order to complete the project.

 

 

Beecher Memorial UCC

Beecher is now poised to begin reconstruction. In May the electrical wiring started to be roughed in. Rough in of plumbing will take place in June. Over the next several months there will be opportunities for groups t work at the church as work is available.

By the Numbers – 1.4 Million!!

The disaster ministry recently reached 3107 volunteers that have come to work in New Orleans, in 271 groups totaling 1.4 million dollars in volunteer labor. Many thanks to all! 

National UCC office funds Long Term Recovery Organizations

When the Hope Shall Bloom Fund received donations shortly after Hurricane Katrina, fundsbegan to be distributed to agencies along the gulf coast. Those funds are still being distributed. Each of the affected parishes in Southeast Louisiana has established a Long Term Recovery Organization, (LTRO). The United Church of Christ assists the LTRO's by receiving grant requests from them and funding those requests. A typical grant request is for $25,000. Hope Shall Bloom Funds are still at work even though the fund has officially ended.

Speaking engagements - Rev. Alan Coe,

Minister for Disaster Recovery is available to speak. To schedule a speaking engagement please contact him at: revacoe@yahoo.com or by phone at 830-832-2222.

 

135 Sauve Rd. River Ridge LA 70123 - ph. 504-258-7306 - email: ucchurricanerecovery@yahoo.com

 

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