Friday, June 30, 2006

Understanding Conflict

One day this week I was sitting around a table planning an upcoming workshop on "Healthy Congregations" with a group of leaders in our presbytery. One of the topics includes the theme: "Healthy Congregations Manage Conflict". Looking around the table, I could see that some people were unpursuaded, to say the least.

In most of our churches, one person said, "People avoid conflict like the plague, because they are afraid of what will happen." Another person said, "Yeah, we don't do conflict well." Those aren't surprising statements. And yet, it's rather difficult to be a human being and not experience conflicts or disagreements in the course of life, not just in church, but in our family life and work life and oh yes, out on the baseball or soccer fields. A recent minor league baseball game here in Omaha featured the manager of the visiting team exploding in anger over an umpire's call. So, after a heated dispute, he went and pulled up 2nd base in protest. Needless to say, he got tossed from the game! In reality, none of us can effectively "stuff conflict", but we can learn to better manage our experience of it.

The Latin root of conflict is "confligere" and means "to strike together", which offers the image of flint and stone, sparks, heat and fire. "Heat" is a common metaphor for conflict.

Interestingly, the Chinese symbol for confict combines two terms: danger and opportunity. In this perspective, conflict is not seen in terms of collision, of force and heat, but rather as a challenge.

Some time ago I read a book with the intriguing title, "When You Say Yes, But Mean No," by Leslie Perlow. Perlow offers a number of challenging and ultimately helpful and healing insights about conflict.

First, "Each time we silence conflict, we create an environment in which we're all the more likely to silence the next time."

"Silencing conflict creates resentment, anger, and frustration in a person"

"When there is pressure to go fast, people are all the more likely to silence their differences to keep things moving as quickly as possible."

"When we silence conflict, we may also hinder our ability to be creative and to learn in the process."

"Creativity requires an environment that lets us be ourselves and feel comfortable in taking risks."

A few months ago, I attended a week-long training in Mediation Skills conducted by staff from the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. It was an exceptional training event.

We all bring skills and experiences to an understanding of conflict we were told.
The trainer also shared with us that conflict is usually composed of three elements:
people, process, and problems". We were told to be "soft" on people, but tough about adhering to good process and determined in our approach to facing the problems.
That's good advice.

Rabbi Edwin Friedman once remarked that leadership seems to be about "leading people". But it all begins with being able to "lead oneself". I think that's true of conflict. The more confident and healthy we become in facing conflict, the better able we are to help lead others in managing conflict.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message fundamentally about reconciliation. Reconciliation should be a living dynamic and practice of our faith. The world greatly needs reconciling forces and people, who have the confidence and skill to move toward healing relationships. When you think about it, that's not an optional part of Christian faith. It should describe what Christian community looks like.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

College World Series

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels, my alma mater, is known primarily for its success in basketball. Well, this week right here in Omaha the Tar Heels are set to play for the College World Series Championship after a tense 6-5 win over Cal State Fullerton Wednesday night. I was there! What a great experience it was to attend my first College World Series game with my son Jason, who is home for a few weeks doing a medical school clerkship in family practice medicine before he starts his third year at the University of Missouri. Sitting with him, enjoying a great baseball game together was like an extra added post-father's day present.

Just a few rows below us we saw a t.v. crew camera-man filming a shot of a father holding up his son, who may have been a year old. And I thought about my son Jason's birth nearly 24 years ago in Baltimore, Maryland at Union Memorial Hospital just a short distance from the old Baltimore Orioles Memorial Baseball Stadium.
Watching that father hold up his delightful son to the camera and then seeing the image on the huge jumbo video screen out in center field at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, I felt what a deep blessing my own three sons have been in my life.

The Tar Heels game against Cal State Fullerton was really exciting. Behind 2-0 after the first couple of innings, my Tar Heels roared back on home runs and excellent defense. Coming into the ninth inning the game tightened up to 6-5, until the ace of the staff, Andrew Miller came in to pitch the last out, and the Heels moved into the championship game this week-end. I plan to be there.
So does my son.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Designing Worship Together

Recently I was asked a rather interesting question by a group of church leaders. What would I do if lay members leading a worship experience said or did something that I strongly disagreed with either theologically or spiritually?

Describe the circumstances I replied. This family worship gathering, I was told, was an early morning service that preceded a more traditional worship experience in the life of the church. All the pastor had to do in this family worship gathering was to show up and offer a brief message in a casual atmosphere, while lay leaders took care of everything else. What do you think such dynamics are bound to produce?

I thought to myself in hearing that early family service described, that any number of confusions and misunderstandings were bound to arise over time. Lack of communication, a perfunctory role for the pastor, and an obvious lack of worship planning could all contribute toward conflict.

A part of my answer to this group of lay leaders was that worship is "the work of the people" and that misunderstandings can arise when either pastor or people fail to join their best efforts in designing a compelling and appealing worship experience for all ages and stages of faith.

One quite helpful resource to help in worship planning is the book "Designing Worship Together", with the subtitle "Models and Strategies for Worship Planning".
Authors Norma deWaal Malefyt and Howard Vanderwell offer up a wealth of practical and exciting suggestions about how teams of people in the life of the church can be empowered to do the work of the people of God in worship.

The authors of "Designing Worship Together" remark that "When the two of us began our ministries in the late 1970s and early 1980s, worship planning consisted of selecting three songs to "plug in" to the standard order of service, phoning in the song numbers to the organist of the day- and worship planning was done!" You could call that style of worship design the "fill in the blanks" style of worship planning. The problem is that such a style doesn't offer any opportunity, much less encouragement to employ the creative gifts of members for worship. Drama, liturgical dance, visual backgrounds for scripture using power-point technology, use of multiple voices in reading and speaking the texts of worship; you name it, all of these elements of a vital and engaging worship experience are omitted with cut and paste or fill in the blank worship services.

How is it that the creative God we worship, who is all about inspiring creative gifts and accomplishments of people in the world, would not want to invite our best creative efforts in planning worship?

"Designing Worship Together" makes a pursuasive case for collaboration in planning worship. An honest part of this case for collaboration also involves a look at obstacles to collaboration: Incompatible views of worship, insufficient available time to plan, failure of partnerships, personal agendas, and yes, the failure of pastors to plan ahead. But none of these challenges is insurmountable.

"Designing Worship Together" offers a mini-course for pastors and lay worship leaders or committees on how to work together. One helpful suggestion calls for worship leaders to come up with a thoughtful and appealing "purpose statement" for worship that guides the worship and mission of the church.

A number of other suggestions are offered, including a reference to work by noted Presbyterian pastor and worship leader Tom Long of Emory University. Long says that vital and faithful congregations:

1. Make room, somewhere in worship, for the experience of mystery.
2. Make planned and concerted efforts to show hospitality to the stranger.
3. Have recovered and made visible the sense of drama inherent in Christian worship.
4. Creatively adapt the space and environment of worship.
5. Forge a strong connection between worship and local mission
6. Maintain a relatively stable order of service and a signficant repertoire of worship elements and responses that the congregation knows by heart.
7. Moves to a joyous experience toward the end of the service.

What would I do if I disagreed with others leading worship? Well, a sense of humility calls for each of us to recognize that our worship and our leadership of worship is always in need of reform. No experience of worship is ever perfect, but ours is a gracious and loving God who welcomes us into the divine presence, and gladly receives our gifts. This loving God also seeks to transform us and change us and make us more holy. Together we are called to design worship that honors the goodness of our God. The good news is that we are called to do this together!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

At the Village in D'Iberville, Mississippi June 4-9

"God is loving and kind and caring and full of miracles," was the message I and about 75 volunteers heard from Dr. Irene McIntosh during our orientation at the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Village in D'Iberville, Ms. last week. Irene is the President of D'Iberville Volunteer Center & Village near Biloxi, one of the hardest hit areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance helps operate this Village, which can house 100 volunteers at a time while they fan out across the community to rehab homes severely damaged by the storm surge of Katrina. The accomodations aren't fancy: large military style olive drab field tents that have received ply-wall interior walls and air-conditioners, an outdoor shower facility, group meals in the large meeting tent, and simple food prepared by volunteers. But the spirit of the Village is alive and bustling and filled with people on a mission to make a difference.

Irene was riveting in her stories of Hurricane Katrina's devastating force. She was an eye-witness and survivor herself. In her opening remarks she shared with the group of some 75 volunteers meeting with her under a large white tent: "In 12 hours, the people of D'Iberville went from middle class status to that of a 3rd world country. We had no jobs, no homes, no grocery stores, no electricity, no sewer and 65% of buildings were useless. No one was coming to help us. Not FEMA. Not the Red Cross."

But miracles did begin to happen, Irene told us. "The government of the people, by the people, and for the people" began to respond in the presence of church volunteers from all across the country.

Our charter bus from Omaha had driven through the night, leaving on Saturday afternoon at 4p.m., and arriving some 20 hours later with our group of 25 high school and college students and another 6 adults. We had come to live in the "Village at D'Iberville" and to contribute our volunteer efforts at helping local residents recover and rebuild.

My own team of 8 high school students and a young teacher in her early twenties was assigned to dry-wall the home of a man named Don, who is 75 years old. When Don saw our group of inexperienced youth,I think his hopes sank, not expecting that we would accomplish very much. His smile was still present on his face that first day, just not a real big one. Just watch, I told our youth, and see how that smile of Don's will grow.

I was standing in the hallway of Don's home that first day, removing a glass globe light fixture, so that fresh drywall could be hung, when I noticed something interesting. Come on over here, I asked the youth in my team. Watch this. I then shook that glass globe, which was full of water from the storm surge that engulfed the homes in the neighborhood. Don, the homeowner, told us the water was half way up in his attic. Everything in his home was destroyed. The tragedy was compounded when Don's wife died 12 days after the storm. For some 6 weeks, Don told us, he then lived in his car until a FEMA trailer was delivered.

Each night in the Village we gathered for a simple evening devotion and group sharing about the day's experience. On the second night, a teenage boy in our group got up to share and told us what he heard an older woman say to his group. "Maybe God is punishing us for our sins," she said. The boy in our group sat down, unsure of what to say next. Before I knew it, I popped up out of my seat, like something had grabbed hold of me, pushing me forward. I had heard comments like that before, from fundamentalist leaders.

That is not the God we worship and experience, I said. Ours is a loving and just God, who is revealed most fully in the life and ministry of Jesus. "Our presence here this week," I said, "shows that we believe God has sent us as the hands and feet of Christ in service to those in desperate need." "God so loved the world, that he gave his Son. Indeed, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world," was the scripture passage I cited. And then I sat down.

Our homeowner, Don, whose home my team worked on offered witness to God's presence in many ways. Don was not a church goer, but each day he seemed to draw closer to our team. As we arrived about 8:30 a.m. each morning, he came out the door of his trailer to greet us. None of us had done much drywalling before. So the first day, we labored to get one room finished. The next day, we finished two rooms. And each day afterward we doubled or tripled our work production. Seeing this group of energetic high school students learn to do something they had never done before was a minor miracle of God's goodness. And Don's smile grew larger each day we were at his home.

On our last day, I invited Don to join our group in a circle to offer a blessing prayer for his home. I'd like that, Hart, he said. And I would like to pray for you too. So, I offered up a prayer and a blessing, and we experienced the miracle of God's presence in the life of a new friend.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mission to the Big Uneasy: Part 2

After our long 10 hour day Monday, we returned to our host church site, John Calvin Presbyterian Church, muscles aching but feeling the ache was worthwhile. Barb Lewellen, our food director, had no problem organizing our group of eleven to cook up a wonderful meal together. Afterward, Greg Carlson led us in our regular evening devotions, with a centering question: “Where did you experience God during the day?”
We all, in some fashion, felt that experience of God’s presence in our work with Darrell, sharing in his joy of the beginning of a new chapter in his life.

Tuesday and Wednesday our assignment took us to the Lakeview neighborhood, which is primarily Caucasian and a nearby community to downtown New Orleans. Lakeview seemed like a ghost town when we arrived. It’s a large neighborhood, considered to have been highly desirable for middle to upper middle class residents. It’s a long established community, with many older adults and growing numbers of young professionals. Our project was to gut a house for two young doctors, Michael and Kyle. They are in their internship year. They had purchased their home just a month before Katrina, only to lose it. I asked them whether they had debated over whether to rebuild, and they said, “most definitely.” Kyle grew up in the area, but Michael is from Baton Rouge. They are graduates of Tulane Medical School. Posted in their front yard was a sign, “We’re Coming Home to Lakeview”. The sign captured their feelings and commitment, along with a number of other residents. Kyle’s mother greeted us as well. She’s part of a network of small business owners advocating for federal loans to restart businesses in greater New Orleans. There’s much dissatisfaction with a slow federal response. Following 9-ll in NYC, some 18,000 businesses were lost. Three months later federal loans and aid were available. In New Orleans, some 18,000 businesses were also lost, but federal aid and loans have yet to be received.

Kyle and Michael both worked with us on their house. They wore t-shirts with the logo, ‘Doctors Without Hospitals” as a reference to how doctors from Tulane and other hospitals had to function in the days after Katrina. They opened clinics wherever a dry space could be found. Our mission group felt satisfaction in knowing that we were helping retain two young doctors for New Orleans. One report we heard is that some 1,500 doctors are leaving greater New Orleans because they’ve lost patients to displacement, or their jobs have been eliminated due to hospital closings. At the end of our work on Wednesday, we shared in another prayer with the Cash’s and received heartfelt thanks. It was again a moving experience.

When we left Kyle and Michael’s home, we decided to take a drive down to the 9th Ward, scene of some of the greatest flood destruction, and home to many of the poorest of New Orleans’ back population. It’s hard to describe the scene in the 9th Ward, which looks like a war zone in some ways. Many homes and buildings are just completely destroyed. The 9th ward is a very large area, home to thousands of black families, many with roots going back over a hundred years. It’s a place of great poverty. Small frame houses are the norm for housing there and stood little chance of surviving the flood waters. Many of the residents couldn’t leave ahead of Katrina because they had no cars to drive. Some 25% or more of people in New Orleans had no automobile transportation. After witnessing the scene, we left realizing how desperate the lives of many people are in New Orleans.

Wednesday evening back at John Calvin Church, we were invited to share in a dinner that night with residents of the neighborhoods around the church. Following Katrina, the church began hosting these Wednesday dinners for residents who had no kitchens in their homes left. About 125 or more attended that evening, and most were not members of the church. One woman seated at my table, with a charming New Orleans accent commented, ‘It’s awesome that there are people like yourselves, willing to come here and help us. God is using you in a wonderful way.” Then she said, “You’re really fortunate with the cool weather this week. You don’t know what a bad hair day is like until you’ve lived in New Orleans for the summer.”

On Thursday our work took us to an American Legion facility where a lone woman in her seventies was sorting through the equipment and belongings of the Legion. It was quite clear that she was in some disarray and was clearly overwhelmed by the task of what to do with the two story building. A term we learned this week was the “Katrina effect”, which refers to the emotional trauma and aftermath of the devastation experienced. One observer stated that, “the mental health concerns here are far greater than those we can expect from infectious diseases or household injuries.” Former New Orleans public health director Brobson Luty commented “that, in the immediate aftermath of all this, the primary psychiatric care in this city was being provided by the bartenders at Johnny White’s and Molly’s”. You get a feel for the flood’s destruction when you “drive around a town that has a permanent bathtub ring around it.” (1 dead in attic by Chris Rose of the Times Picayune)

Thursday we also worked for several hours tearing out a back porch owned a 65 year old woman named Joan Patrick in the suburb of Kenner. When I arrived, I heard Joan say in a typical New Orleans greeting, “Hello baby. I’m so glad you all are here. We can’t survive another Katrina. You just live day by day. I take it a little bit at a time. I wonder if we’ll ever recover from this.” Again, post-traumatic stress was evident, or the “Katrina effect.” Barb Lewellen was marvelous in responding to Joan Patrick, engaging in warm pastoral care and support. Barb also practiced what I would call “practical theodicy” in sharing with Joan that God did not will Katrina. Many public preachers in America have suggested that cruel nonsense. Even though we worked for several hours at Joan’s home, I think we all realized that our chief work was to serve as an encouraging presence that day. Joan Patrick almost literally drank in the attention and human contact from all members of our team. She hugged us on arrival and hugged and kissed everyone of us when it was time to depart.

On Thursday evening, we had a great opportunity to attend a book signing at Border’s Book Store by the prominent local historian Douglas Brinkley, who is a professor at Tulane University. Brinkley was frequently a t.v. commentator in the aftermath of Katrina. His recently released book is titled, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Brinkley’s publisher Wm Morrow asked him to produce this book. He is also leading up an oral history project of the flood for Rice University. The book is an account of “Louisianans saving Louisianans”. In the book, Brinkley recounts dozens of stories of heroism by average citizens and some not-so-average people. First responders didn’t think of race when they were coming to the aid of people. He tells the story of people like “Mama D and the soul-patrol” and how this older African American activist leader gathered up urban young people as a rescue force.
Brinkley notes how “some people felt guilty about Katrina in their grief as survivors.” On the political front, Brinkley offers up sharp criticism of governmental responses at all levels, but shares particular disdain for FEMA. Brinkley shared with us in his talk that night that “some wanted me not to tell these stories,” believing that examining the failures of government and individuals was too painful. Brinkley’s response is notable. His intention is “to collectively heal by sharing stories.” Here, Brinkley’s Catholic Christian roots are evident and encouraging. “I wrote this book out of hope,” said Brinkley, for the city of his birth. This is an inspiring collection of stories. Brinkley’s further goal is “to create an awareness that it’s o.k. to speak out and not let politicians off the hook.”

Our last day of work on Friday we gutted our last house, or at least three fourths of the job, back in the Lakeview neighborhood. Just down the block from this house was the Lakeview Presbyterian Church, which Greg Carlson and I visited. We met the two pastors, Rev. Jean Marie Peacock and Rev. Neale L. Miller. Both had lost their homes and were operating with cell phones and lap-tops in a make-shift office on the second floor of the church. The look on their eyes, Greg and I agreed, was one of physical and emotional exhaustion. They’ve lost their own homes and nearly 50% of their congregation as well. On Sunday’s they are now worshiping back in the sanctuary with about 75 in attendance. Some church teams have helped with gutting the church and its preschool building. A huge challenge remains. Jean, the associate pastor, commented that emotional stress is an enormous challenge for survivors and that they envision recruiting volunteer mental health professionals from the PCUSA to come and spend anywhere from 1-3 months at a time doing counseling and training volunteers. They will need funds to support this effort. Greg and I agreed to follow up on this.

We completed our mission work on early Friday afternoon, returned to John Calvin to store our equipment, and get ready for the journey home. But we also made time for another final trip down to the French Quarter for the afternoon and early evening. Why should Americans care about this historic city? Why should we rebuild and spend tax-payer money on restoring the city? Those are hard and tough questions, in our current political climate. That afternoon in the French Quarter, Greg Carlson and I stood in the Cabildo historic Spanish building on Jackson Square where the Louisiana Purchase was transferred to the United States, a signal accomplishment under President Thomas Jefferson. The city of New Orleans has been an influential port at the mouth of the Mississippi for over 200 hundred years. New Orleans contribution to the economic growth and cultural heritage of the nation and world has been enormous. That Friday afternoon in the French Quarter, Greg Carlson and I sat drinking café au lait and eating beignets in the Café du Monde. I saw at a table nearby someone with a t-shirt with this logo, quoting the late, great jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong: “What we play is life.”

There’s a funky, charming, sometimes outrageous quality to the cultural life of greater New Orleans. There’s an undeniable relish for life present in the city. I keep coming back to the greeting from Jean Patrick at her flooded home one afternoon, “Hello baby…I’m so glad you’re here.”

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mission to the Big Uneasy: Part 1

Our Katrina Mission Team gathered at Faithful Shepherd PC on Friday, May 12 at 1p.m. to begin our trip to New Orleans. We packed the vans and then Greg Carlson, a Presbyterian pastor and trip chaplain, offered a sending prayer for our mission team. It was a good way to begin, asking for safe travels and a sense of common purpose for a group of people who were new to each other. Preparations for this trip began back in December, when I and a few others in Presbytery felt a call to organize a mission trip to the Gulf Coast.

That Friday night we stopped in Columbia, Mo where I arranged overnight accommodations at Trinity Presbyterian Church, whose pastor is Rev. Rim Massey, a long time friend. The next morning, Rim and his wife Judy treated our entire team to breakfast at Cracker Barrel as a way of offering encouragement and support to our efforts. What a great way to get started!

On Saturday, May 13 we began our long drive to New Orleans and arrived that night about 11:30 p.m. in Metairie. It was a long day! We broke up the day with a short stop in Memphis to visit Graceland and to pay tribute to Elvis. Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album echoed in my memory.

“The Mississippi Delta was shining
Like a National Guitar
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war.”

Simon concludes that song with a mystical allusion:
“Maybe I’ve a reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland.”

For a group of eleven pilgrims traveling to New Orleans, that’s a good sending song.

We were met at John Calvin Church in Metairie by Bob Tobey, one of the church elders, late on that Saturday night, about 11:30 p .m. He welcomed us with enthusiasm despite the lateness of the hour and said not to worry; the last group had pulled in at 2a.m.. After unloading, we settled in for the night anxious to begin our adventure in the “Big Uneasy”. Our accommodations were in the church’s family life center, almost a Hilton Hotel for mission workers, with a couple of showers and a nice commercial grade kitchen to prepare our meals. Our rooms were the regular Sunday School class-rooms. My room was in the high school room where I noticed a prominent sign posted:

”Thawing the frozen chosen, one at a time!” I thought I’d take that line back with me for future use….

Sunday morning we worshipped with the John Calvin congregation. The congregation was warmly welcoming of our presence for the week, even giving us a round of applause during the announcements. There may have been 100-125 in attendance that morning. The music was great, not surprisingly, since the pianist/organist also plays regularly at the famous French Quarter restaurant “Pat O’Brien’s”. Afterward we were told that nearly 30% of the membership has not returned to New Orleans, including most of the families with children. This has been a hard blow emotionally for the church, but it’s a typical story we were to learn. After worship, we received a good orientation to the situation in New Orleans from our coordinator Richard Britson, a retired attorney, and Bob Tobey. Bob informed us he had been the owner of a wholesale hardware business destroyed by the flood. He is able to now retire, but as he said, not everyone is so fortunate. Most of the flood damage in greater New Orleans and Metairie occurred from the levees either being topped or undermined from Lake Ponchatrain, to the North of the cities. Continuing debate and controversies regarding Army Corps of Engineers past levee construction work and failures of government funding for adequate levee systems remain as part of the ongoing story of Katrina.

Sunday afternoon our group drove down to the French Quarter for a walking tour and enjoyment of the cultural scene. We had dinner at the Acme Oyster House, a favorite local place that’s served as a setting in a number of movies. I challenged everyone to sample a raw oyster from a platter I ordered for the group. You should have seen the look on some faces as the oysters slid down. Afterward we wondered through the streets to Jackson Square, the heart of the quarter. Our group divided up, allowing our group of five college age members some freedom to explore. My friend Greg and I wandered around the square and then up to the river walk-way, where the Mississippi flows. I thought about the river and how crucial it has been in American history, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase down to the War of 1812 and Andrew Jackson’s defense of the city in that war. His statue atop a stallion rearing back on two legs is the centerpiece of Jackson Square. After our walk, we stopped at the famous Café Du Monde for a café au lait and an opportunity to enjoy the street scene and listen to some fabulous jazz musicians playing outside the café.

We struck up a conversation with a group at a nearby table who asked where we were from and what had brought us to New Orleans. After telling them we were on a mission trip to help in flooded housing areas, the smiles and expressions of warmth from our nearby table mates made us feel even more welcome. “What do people here need?” I asked. “We need compassion and patience,” a woman at the adjoining table said. I kept that comment in my mind the rest of the week.

Monday was our first full day, and it was a busy start to the week. Our first project was in the 7th Ward, largely African-American, where we gutted a house for Darrell Kennedy, an accountant with the Depart. of Agriculture. His house had to be totally gutted, down to removing the flooring. We spent over 10 hours that day completing the job. Darrell worked side by side with us. In the neighborhood, his neighbors were in various stages of recovery. At the end of the day, we took pictures and shared in a blessing prayer. Darrell warmly hugged each of us and thanked us profusely for our help. It was quite moving.

That afternoon Darrell went to his next-door neighbor to ask if he could borrow a water hose for us to get fresh water and wash up a little before lunch. Darrell told me that before the flood, no one much knew each other in the neighborhood, but now they all did. And they were all looking out for each other and helping in any way they could.

It was a long, hard day of work that Monday in New Orleans, but it was the reason we had come. All day I looked around at our team of eleven, who worked with enthusiasm and great humor all day. We were quite a sight, with helmets on, eye goggles to protect against dust and other flying debris, swinging hammers and crow-bars and shovels all through the day. It's a great way to relieve pent up stress, I concluded. There was also a wonderful sense of being part of a team in service to someone else. All day Darrell worked by our side, with a huge smile beaming on his face. I don't think any of us will ever forget that smile, knowing we were helping someone begin the process of rebuilding his life.