I stood on the hill outside of R&O’s restaurant, overlooking the water boundary that destroyed parts of Louisiana. I stood there and could only look and listen. I heard our campus minister’s father describe how the levees broke and stripped many of everything that they owned. I rode past boarded-up homes where the water line still represented a period of great disaster. I could see where the waves crashed and broke apart parts of the state people called home. I saw residents, even still, collecting belongings and cleaning up their once flourishing lots. I witnessed all of these things and I could feel the waves on the walls of my heart. I can’t imagine being so inconvenienced from a natural disaster that I would have no control. The type-A person in me would go absolutely insane; I wouldn’t be able to stand the waves.
During this mission trip, I was privileged enough to work with my collegiate ministry program while preparing for a build-a-thon for Habitat for Humanity in the New Orleans area. We spent the week moving lumber, cleaning work sites, shoveling rock, building walls, and the list goes on. First, let me remind you of something shocking for those who know me and a lesson for those who don’t. I am not a carpenter and I seldomly find myself doing any type of outside, manual labor. I don’t like doing things in high humidity and I really don’t like that nasty layer of dried sweat you develop on your skin from working outside all day. The funny thing about it, is that I knew that I’d be building in the heat and would get REALLY gross, but I signed up anyway. Why? I signed up because I knew I could use my perfectly capable body to help people, despite how uncomfortable it made me feel in any particular moment. I knew that the waves in my life driving my discomfort weren’t strong enough to mask my desire to help people who needed it.
Through the thick, humid air that all but consumes you in Louisiana, it was very evident that there was a culture wrapped in family, community, and well-being. Everyone who passed us at our work sites either smiled, waved, or stopped their cars in order to thank us for helping get their community back in order. I’m not talking about five people here, I’m talking upwards of 20. These people greeted us with open arms. I could tell that they were genuinely thankful for us being there. Our work created waves of love on America Street. I was so happy to be able to help these people. We got the chance to meet one of the future homeowners and hear parts of her story. I now realize that there is so much that goes wrong in the lives of people who are just like us that we never think about. People’s problems are generally alike across the board. How great for this woman to get a new beginning after the waves took her under? How great for her to feel the love after the waves took away parts of her hope?
As I sit here during this eleven-hour car ride, we happen to be listening to “How He Loves” and I can’t help but be moved by the irony of the lyrics. “…loves like a hurricane, I am a tree – bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy…” These words are so powerful when reflecting on the residents of Louisiana. There was a literal hurricane! People we’re bent, broken, and misplaced by the waves. How on earth did people make it? How on earth does one have the stability to come back and see their home as a pile of rubble?I have come to have a lot of respect for organizations like Habitat for Humanity. These organizations bring together so many people for a common goal so those being helped are able to make it, to rebuild, and to live again. I believe that the central idea behind all of the organizations of its kind is love and hope. Christians and non-Christians alike drop what they are doing to go help people. Volunteers come from near and far to help one another. The civic engagement community is huge and it all comes from love, which promises hope. You see, it was love who was able to walk on water. Love was able to heal the sick, comfort the poor, and make the blind see. Love makes a person feel complete and gives them hope for the days to come and the trials that each of us face day-to-day. We learn that we are under God’s mercy and there is hope when the waves push you under.
I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, but the Love I am referring to is God. God does so much good in our lives; in fact, only good things. I fully believe that God is at work in the lives of the volunteers working in Louisiana whether they realize it or not. Atheist, agnostic, buddhist, muslim, whomever, God is there. God gives these volunteers’ hands and feet as a gift and makes them the body of Christ. He gives those receiving it the hope to carry on. He gives them the hope acting as the church relaying a message that today is just one day to make tomorrow better. God is able to rebuild us from the waves of destruction. It may not be easy and we may have to fight for it, but the best really is yet to come. God is our source of love and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to go to Louisiana to be reminded just how we can deny ourselves to love others. I’m so glad that God showed me that even though we have our own issues, we are still called to act as the church should; to go forth to love and serve just as Jesus taught us. It is there, away from ourselves, that we can make waves of love in the midst of destruction.