We're off for our adventure! We boarded the Spirit of New Orleans train in Champaign, Illinois at 10:30 p.m. Saturday night (yes,that's PM) and headed south for New Orleans. The train was quite comfortable and there is so much room, it's amazing. I wish I could say that we were able to sleep -- NOT! At least most of us couldn't sleep much or very well on the train. Even with the extra space and most of us able to spread out and take two seats, sleep was hard to come by. So, what do you do when you're riding on a train and you can't sleep? Some of us watched movies, some listened to music, some snacked, some talked, some doze -- most of us did all of the above!
We arrived in New Orleans a bit ahead of schedule on Sunday afternoon and after collecting our luggage and finding the restrooms, we met a delightful fellow, John, from the church in Slidell, who volunteered to make the 45 minute drive to pick us up at the train station. On the way back to Slidell, he gave us a bit of a mini tour, pointing out some of the major sites and enlightening us on the hurricane damage and the recovery efforts. Thanks, John, for being so gracious!
Finally, we arrived at First Christian Church in Slidell, the place where we will work and call home for the next week. What a beautiful campus this is! The church is located on a large lot which is filled with beautiful, old and very large Live Oak trees. Did you know that the Live Oak tree is know as the southern symbol of strength? These trees are magnificent. In my younger and more agile days, I'm sure I would have scampered up them to see the view from above! The many trees at First Christian were their main source of damage during the hurricanes, as their property was buried in debris. This especially large tree in front of the sanctuary building is now known as the "Oak of Hope" -- a symbol of hope and renewal as it continues to stand and thrive!
After a bit of time to unpack and get our bearings, blow up air mattresses and meet others here for the week, we were treated to a wonderful supper prepared by the long-term volunteers that are here for the entire duration of this project. Let's just say no one will go hungry this week. The food is amazing and plentiful and the people are so friendly!
After supper we gathered for orientation and worship! What a day, and the work hasn't even begun yet! By the time my head hit the pillow at about 10 PM, I was more than ready to sleep the night away! It's good to be here and we look forward to the week to come.
Please check back for more updates soon!