This has been an summer of the pilgrimages.
Four years ago, my husband, fourteen other people and I spent a week on a Mission Trip in New Orleans. It was not long after Hurricane Katrina had devastated the city. We were privileged to help restore a middle school and rebuild part of the home for a family whose house had been destroyed by the storm.
Three years ago, my husband and I returned to see how the restoration was progressing. It was hard to imagine that so many things looked the same. Some homes were as big a mess as they had been the summer before. The house we started looked finished, but the electricity had not been hooked up. We wondered what had happened to the people.
Then last summer we were part of a youth gathering of more than 36,000 people who joined together to continue the cleanup and do what we could to help the people of New Orleans. When we took the kids from our church to see the house we helped build, we saw a man mowing the lawn. We had to stop! We met Curtis and his wife Jackie and their daughter Heather. They were finally in their home. We share stories, laughter, and tears. I will share some of the stories with you this year in class.
At the end of July, we went back to NOLA...New Orleans Louisiana (LA). We went not to work, but to find the Jazz, the blues, and the spirit of the city. We also went back to see Curtis, Jackie, and Heather. Their troubles are not over yet; like many others in the city, it appears that they have Chinese drywall in their house. This is a problem because much of the drywall sent during the restoration was contaminated. They may have to tear it all out of their new home and start over again. You can imagine how frustrated they are. Heather is in a wheelchair and must have 24-hour a day care. Some folks have many battles that the rest of us can only imagine. You will hear many more stories from NOLA.
Last week we spent on the northern half of the pilgrimage. We returned to the towns where I grew up in North and South Dakota. We visited relatives, graveyards, and historical sites. One day we went to Fargo, ND. I went to school there for 1-4 grade and 1/2 of sixth. My primary school was called "Little Ben." It is now just a parking lot. However," Big Ben," Ben Franklin Middle School is still there. I had not seen it since 1961, and I drove the truck right to it. I am sure my husband was amazed; I knew I could do it. That was pretty cool. In 4th grade I went to Roosevelt. There was a lot of construction going on in that neighborhood, so we needed the GPS, but I did find my sixth grade building right away, without the GPS. That was fun!
Yes, you will hear more about the pilgrimage of 2010. You will hear other stories, too because you will be coming to La Plume et Le Papier...(this is not exactly the correct use of the French, but we will use it anyway)...the Pen and the Paper. We will write everyday. We will read everyday, so start loading up on books and yellow notepads. I can't wait to get started.