Thursday, January 31, 2008

What Happens in Biloxi......

We left on Christmas Day, and arrived early on December 26th -- twenty members and friends of the UU Church of Lexington. Why Christmas? Some of us, tired of the materialism and commercialism of Christmas, had decided to spend our holiday helping others. Some of us needed to start Dec. 26th in order to be back in school or at work within a week. Ranging in age from 4 to 64, we were an international team: a Partner Church minister from Transylvania, an Alabanian exchange student from Germany, and one American born in Saudi Arabia. The family for whom we were going to build a house are African American, working-class, lifelong residents of East Biloxi.

We completed our task, and surpassed our goal. Within a week, the new house was framed, and the outer walls were begun, and sheathing on the roof. Astounding for a team of mostly novices! There have been several other groups from Lexington in our wake, and the family should be moving into their completed home this weekend. After almost two years in a very small FEMA trailer on the site of their former home, and 6 months across the bay in a FEMA trailer camp, it will be a momentous homecoming.

Since then I have discovered that the UU funding program gave $50k to the East Biloxi Relief & Coordination Center, the agency with whom we worked to complete our mission. How cool is that??!! We also had the blessing of attending services at thedetermined-to-survive Gulf Coast UU Fellowship, with their wonderful minister, The Rev. Susan Karlson. Connections abound!

Most of our team will never see the results of what we did, except maybe in photographs. What amazes me, one month later, is how many other things were begun and built during that week: Confidence. Friendships. Trust. Leadership. Skills. Goodwill. Faith.

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Biloxi comes home with you and continues to unfold for a long, long time.