Yesterday, Saturday July 21, was our service project day. We woke up and went to the Superdome for a small meeting before departing into the community. Our project took place in a small church located in the lower 9th ward. We were assigned to be doing literacy activities with children. Once we got there we were greeted by the pastor of this little church and we had a quick welcoming service. Shortly after this introduction we were informed that the rain the day before prevented some other church groups from completing their service projects. So we decided to split into two groups and work on both projects. Half of us stayed to read and give books to children, and half of us went out into the hurricane ravaged neighborhood to hand out surveys, number trash cans and pick up garbage.
I was among the group that went our into the community to do work. One of the first people we encountered was a very kind man who was the second chief of the Wild Tchopitoulis Indian tribe. He allowed us all to come into his house and see the costume he and his wife were hand making for the Mardi Gras parade. It was a truly amazing piece of work! All the feathers and beads were put together 1 by 1, all by hand. I have never seen something so beautiful and labor intensive. I still couldn’t believe how kind that man and his wife were, to let us come in their home and take pictures of their costume and see photos of what they do. I was completely fascinated. This was probably the highlight of the day for me.
As we continued on with our work, we met a man and women who we talked to for a little while. They too were very kind to us. They even gave us a jug of ice tea to drink while working under the hot sun.
I again couldn’t believe the kindness and generosity of the people we met. We spoke with a sweet old man who expressed how thankful he was to see us all here in New Orleans and helping out the community. Before we finished speaking with him, we all held hands and he said a prayer for us and all the work we are doing. I did not expect these people to be so friendly toward us. I thought we were here to serve them, but in many ways, they were the ones serving us.
Then after our lovely time meeting and helping the people in the lower 9th ward, we went to the Superdome for another night of worship. This night was particularly cool because we got to hear from a women who had struggled throughout her childhood and early adult life but managed to find her way to God and become a pastor. Plus, we had a nice performance from the Christian-Rock group called Switchfoot. It was a pretty good show.
We ended our final night in New Orleans with a lovely community life dance. It was a rather enjoyable evening.
Today, Sunday the 22, we went to the Superdome for our very last worship service together. This time we managed to get seats on the dome floor. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome is an amazing and huge place. Standing in the center looking all around you at the thousands of people surrounding you was simply amazing. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to end this gathering. We all had communion together, which was a neat experience. Sadly we had to leave. We drove about 7 hours to our motel for the night. Tomorrow we will finish our journey home to Madison. This will be our last blog post from the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering. I will really miss New Orleans, but I am hoping to see everyone again in Detroit in 2015 for the next gathering! Anyway, see you all Sunday.