Yesterday was a lot of sitting around and so we had a conversation with the school staff at KIPP Believe about if they really needed us or not. They assured us that when we arrived they would have a list of stuff to do and that they REALLY needed us. We were a little bit skeptical, but they were absolutly correct! We worked non-stop all day long and only completed about 2/3 of the list they had for us. We painted, organzied, made bulletin boards, cleaned, and a ton of other things.
We went to dinner at 5:30pm at one of the greatest wing places in the country. Huge wings, low prices, and some great memories. You’ll have to ask a student on the trip about it!
After our final share time, we cleaned where we are staying and headed to bed.
Today we served at the KIPP Believe Primary (yesterday was at KIPP Leadership). The entire school system in New Orleans is comprised of charter schools. They are the first city in the entire nation to make that move and KIPP is one of the charter school groups that has several schools here.
It was a little bit frustrating because the staff at the school was extremely busy because it was their first day of school. Our team had mixed feelings. Some of our team felt like they did a lot of work, while others felt like there was a lot of standing around. We were scheduled to be there until 5pm, but we finished their entire work list by 11am. Despite some down time, we did prove to be a lot of help to the school since they had just moved into their building on July 1st.
We quit working at about 5pm and headed to the French Quarter to take a cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. We had a great dinner on the ship and spent two hours just enjoying the Mississippi river, the breeze, and great conversation. After the cruise we headed home and headed to bed.
This morning we headed over to an elementary school to help them prepare for their first day of school which is Tuesday. They start EARLY down here! We worked from 9am – 5:30pm and only had a ten minute break for lunch . . . but we sure did accomplish a lot. We hung signs, organized closets, sorted and delivered $20,000 worth of books to teachers, picked up rocks at the playground, organzied a library, cut things, glued things, drew things, colored things, and filled out things all day long. The teachers and staff were overwhelmingly appreciative and we also heard the magic words that we long to hear from our contact . . . “we’ve had a lot of groups this summer, but you guys were the best group we’ve had.”
One of the weirdest things happened. While we were in the back part of the school cleaning up rocks and trash one of the guys said, “That’s not where we parked is it?” and pointed to a van at the fence (see the picture with this blog). Right in front of us, parked at the school, was one of the two FBC Georgetown church vans that we sold last year. What are the chances of that?!?!?!?!
We were planning on eating dinner with two of our missionaries that we’ve served with before, but at the last minute they had a pressing matter arise so they had to cancel. Since the guys were leading the day in the Battle of the Sexes (the girls couldn’t even score a point) they chose to go back to the French Quarter for dinner. We ate at Camellia Grill and then headed back for an early night. The entire team was exhausted.
We got to sleep in a little bit in the morning, but then we hit the ground running. Rarely are we able to work on Sundays because everyone we are working for is taking the day off so it was a fun day for us.
We started our day with worship at FBC New Orleans. When you visit a church and think, “If I lived here this is definitely where I would go,” I think it means they are doing something right. We heard a great sermon out of James 4 by their pastor David Crosby (who is the dad of one of our Camp Collide co-directors Josh Crosby!)
The girls had command of the Battle of the Sexes and they chose to play the Urban Spoon game for lunch so after church we drove out to Slidell, Louisiana and ate lunch at Ky’s Bicycle Shop. Ky’s is a diner-type restaurant that has bikes hanging from the ceiling. The setting was kind of cool. After lunch we went on the Swamp Tour down the Pearl River. We saw a lot of smaller alligators (8 were around our boat at one time) and a lot of beautiful scenery.
After dinner we drove back to the French Quarter and had dinner at Cafe Maspero. Steve and Carol Hickerson were on vacation in New Orleans so they met us and bought dinner for the entire team! After dinner we shopped in the French Quarter and had dessert at Cafe Du Monde. We finished our day with a share time and then went to bed.
We got up this morning and went grocery shopping for the week. Each day the point totals for control of “Battle of the Sexes” starts over and the girls assumed control at the grocery store. After shopping we went prayer walking through Tulane University and Loyola University.
After prayer walking the girls used their control of the game to choose lunch and they wanted to play the Urban Spoon game. We ended up at a wings place, but since it had no seating we went next door to a chinese food restaurant.
After lunch we went to APEX. APEX is a community center for teenagers in a poverty inflicted neighborhood. While there we cleaned the building, fixed computers, organized a library, served lunch, and played games with the neighborhood kids.
After our work projects, the girls chose to eat dinner in the French Quarter and we ate right on Jackson Square at a place called Stanley. While in the French Quarter the guys took control of the game (which I never thought would happen!) Before that happened, the girls had decided on the Haunted History Ghost Tour.
We got home at 10pm and had a brief share time before heading to bed.
We loaeded up with 11 of the best seniors at 8am and started the journey towards New Orleans and kicked off the annual “Battle of the Sexes.” There are contests all along the way to get points and whichever gender has the most points at a given time get to make a decision. The guys started off with a quick lead, but the girls passed them by before lunch and chose for us to eat at Whataburger outside of Houston.
The trip to New Orleans was packed with traffic and what would have been an 8 hour drive (if you drove non-stop) ended up being an 11 hour drive. The great news is that we arrived without incident and moved into the Tulane BSM where we are staying for the week.
After a brief orientation and the girls choosing the larger bathroom for the week (yes, they were still in charge and I anticipate they will be all week), they decided to walk to dinner. No one wanted to sit in a van any longer. We walked to Fresca’s and had pizza. After we got back, we unpacked, made our grocery shopping list, and had a brief share time before going to bed.
Our final day was back at the same house and still working in the backyard. At this point of the week we were trying to clear as much stuff as possible before we had to leave. We took several trips to the salvage yard and the dump today. Our grand total of trips ended up being sixteen trailer loads.
The initial reason we got involved was that the city was concerned about mosquito control and at 2:30 on Thursday (initially we thought Tuesday) the inspector was coming. He arrived right on time and walked through the backyard and gave the thumbs up. The house passed the mosquito control test! During the final day we did tear down the shed/tarp and replaced the old tarp with a new one.
It took us about two hours to close out the trip. We had to wash the trailer out again, drop Mason at the airport, drive to the other side of New Orleans to drop the Camp Restore tools off and then we went back to the house to clean up. We walked to Fresco’s for some pizza and then came home to the final share time. After our share time, we cleaned the place we were staying and went to bed . . . we were starting the journey home at 7am!
Today was another full day back at Alicia’s house. I think we had unanimous agreement that today was much harder than yesterday. On the first day we could see great progress because the backyard looked remarkably different because of the greenery being taken down. Today we spent the day hauling trash out of a makeshift shed. We made one full haul of metal to the salvage yard and four more trips to the dump. That brings the grand total to ten full trailers of stuff hauled off. The hard thing is that there is at least ten to fifteen more loads of stuff that need to be taken away, but Alicia wants to keep the stuff. That has been hard for the group because they want to clear it all out. We talked a lot about loving people today and how loving people is more important than clearing stuff.
We did make a memory today. While loading trash on of our guys dropped a container and it spilled a black substance that had the most horrific smell imaginable to mankind. Nearly the entire team had to leave to go to the front yard to get away from the smell and it never went away. No one knows what it was, but I can assure you that I have smelled some rotten things before and this is the gold medalist. Things went from bad to worse when we found out that one of the team members had loaded the materials it was on into the trailer. By the time we found out it was too late. The “liquid death” had already been flung on four of the five sides of the trailer and was all over other bags and trash that was waiting to go to the dump. We ended up having to take the trailer to the car wash. We didn’t get anything in the van, but the smell that was attached to us also smelled the entire van. We have sense cleaned the interior of the van as well.
On a positive note, we got to eat at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz and we spent the evening taking a dinner cruise on the Steamboat Natchez down the Mississippi River. Another great thing that happened was a mini-reunion. Last year, we took several Leadership Track students to Super Summer at Howard Payne University. One of the adults that led our small groups was a young lady named Lacy. This morning we found out that Lacy was staying below us in the same building we are in. When we got back to the BCM building we had a great share time and then spent some time fixing up the place (repairing doors, working on the shower, and fixing some lights).
We left around 8am to head over to Alicia’s house to begin what was a day long project (and possibly the rest of the week). Alicia lives at home and is caring for both of her parents. Her father was a Lutheran minister who served at the same church in New Orleans for forty years, but now is suffering from dementia. Her mother has cancer and Alicia’s daughter, who is a college student, has or had (I don’t know the full story) cancer, too. Life has moved so fast that her property has been left unattended and now the city has gotten involved. Our goal was alleviate the pressure from the city.
The backyard could have been a scene out of Jurassic Park. There is no grass in the backyard, it is just leaves, ferns that run underneath your feet, ivy growing all around the fence, and elephant ears that were taller than we were. We immediately started taking all of that vegetation out. Mosquitoes had become a concern of the neighbors. After bagging the vegetation, we hauled it to the dump. That haul filled the entire trailer!
After clearing the greenery, we found a backyard full of items that had been placed out there, but had no purpose. We began separating things into three piles: Keep, Salvage Yard, and Dump. We don’t have bathroom facilities at the house available to us so we have to use some of the local stores. Each time we took a trip to the dump or the salvage yard, we would take two or three that needed a bathroom break. That would kill two birds with one stone! We ended up filling the trailer full of scrap metal for one haul and then returned to the dump three more times (total of four trips there). Each trip had the trailer packed to capacity.
After work we came home to clean up and then headed back to the French Quarter. We ate dinner at Bubba Gump’s and then took a Haunted History Tour through the area. Our team wanted to go back to Cafe Dumonde before we headed home for our share time.
This morning we began our day with a little prayer walking. We are living about 100 yards from two different universities, Tulane and Loyola. We are staying in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry building that houses ministry for both campuses. We prayed for the ministry here and for people along the way.
We arrived at the New Orleans Mission at 10:00am and got to work. Our team was split into a few different groups. We worked in the garden pulling weeds and ripe vegetables. We painted the administration building. A large group of us worked in the clothes closet. We were schedule to work until 1pm, but we were finished with all of that right at lunch. Once again, the students of FBC worked harder and faster than anyone anticipated. We ate lunch at the mission and then headed back to our house to pick up the trailer.
Our next job was to start working in the backyard of a house who is getting pressure from the city to clear it out. As we were headed there the rain began. It rained steady for about an hour and the radar showed a lot more coming. With lightning in the sky, we decided to postpone that house until tomorrow, but we got to get our eyes on it to see what we need to start early in the morning. Our contact with Camp Restore is a lady named Kathy and she is phenomenal. Within minutes she had us redirected to another work project.
We went to AXIS which is an after school ministry for children and teenagers that live downtown. Several years ago, a young man was murdered in the street. One of the ladies in the neighborhood felt like she had to start doing something about the violence so she invited the kids in the neighborhood to her house to provide a safe alternative for them to hang out. That ministry quickly outgrew he house and they started meeting in a church. This week they were able to move into their own space in a brand new building. We reshelved books in their library, deep cleaned window sills, doors, floors, and bathrooms. We did some other minor thing around the building as well.
Since we ate lunch at the mission, we decided to save money and eat our typical sandwich lunch for dinner. We had nothing planned for the night and since the girls were still winning the Battle of the Sexes (they’ve led 62 of the 64 hours) they chose to go to a movie and then come back for our share time.