New Orleans-Days 6 and 7
Now that our group's responsibilities at the worksite were finished, we decided to spend the morning checking out the 9th Ward, since we weren't able to see some things the day before. Lori had never seen the Make-It-Right neighborhood (if you don't know, check it out at www.makeitrightnola.org ) so we HAD to do that.
We walked around the neighborhood, now bustling with construction, folks living in their eco-sustainable houses and other people like us, marveling at what an amazing community that was and would be. Betsy, Dawn, Kelley and I strolled along the newly-reinforced levee (that to most of us still looked quite feeble), while others gazed around and others took in the informational park that describes the vision and mission of the organization.
We were about to walk by Reverend Charles' house (a man that the group had worked with in years past) when Brandi Green, a Make-It-Right homeowner, greeted our group and invited us to come over to her stoop and chat for a while. In typical New Orleans hospitality, she proceeded to tell us her story and the story of the neighborhood along with a guided tour of her house. The place was great (her top floor is an open-aired space perfect for gatherings) but the most memorable part for all seemed to be Mrs. Green's thoughts. You'll have to talk to mission trip members to get a full idea of all her wonderful stories.
We had to leave the 9th Ward to make our lunch reservations at Café Reconcile, an amazing non-profit organization that uses the medium of food service to create job opportunities and create communities in one of New Orleans' most dangerous and hopeless neighborhoods. We heard the story of the café from the Catholic sister who started the project as a place to give local youth a place to eat around a table, using real forks and knives and learn a bit about table manners, no small feat for many of the kids in the neighborhood. But later the project morphed into confronting the injustice of no job opportunities and failing schools that opened the door for most of these kids to be led into lives whose only end is destruction. So, they offering life skills, job training and Bible study for groups of at-risk youth and young adults in the community while they create some of the best food in the city. We also heard the moving story from our server about her experiences growing up in NOLA and coming of age during Katrina.
This isn't to say that the only reason to visit Café Reconcile (www.reconcileneworleans.org) . The food alone is worth it. At our table, we were all oohing and ahhing over the mashed sweet potatoes, smothered okra, collared greens and Portobello mushrooms. Carty decided to play the role of tempter as he ordered the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding for the table (he may have ordered it for himself, but it didn't turn out that way). I, myself, was okay as long as my crawfish bisque made it to the table. So, next time you're in the Big Easy, stop by the Café for lunch and thank me later.
The rest of the day, our groups kind of split up and hung out in various places throughout the French Quarter. It was fun and relaxing. I would tell you more, but if there's one thing I have learned from our mission trip group, it's that "what happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans." We had to get back relatively early for our long drive back which was (thankfully) uneventful-except for Nebraska beating the pants off Mizzou (this may be biased, but no one else volunteered to blog). While this past week may have found many of us a bit tired and some of us sore, I do hope that while the number and location of daiquiri trips is only known to a select few, I hope that the rest of you have been able to get a sense of the overwhelming joy and love that went into-and was a result of-this trip.
We had a great group and wonderful hosts. God made God's self know to our group those days and we carry it with us, ready to share the story and the love with all those that want to experience it. May God be moving in your life similarly. If you need a reminder, just talk to any of us and we'll tell you a few good stories...