A Volunteer's Tale
This is the first in a series of stories by volunteers working in Pearlington, Mississippi.
Jeanne Sommers recently returned from Pearlington, where she was in service with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, working closely with Mary Wityshyn.
"As I started out on this trip, I was looking forward to helping the people who were so devastated in this little town of Pearlington, MS, that no one had ever heard about before Hurricane Katrina. I also had many fears; could I handle the long drive in the RV, the extreme hot temperatures? Was it safe? How bad was the bug situation. One of the volunteers during the week asked about people thinking of us as being heroes. I didn’t want to be a hero.
I just wanted to do something to make a difference to just one person.
Driving home, I realized that two things had been on my mind the whole week: ‘Pushing Boundaries’ and ‘Learning to Trust God.’ I found that God was there every step of the way; climbing roofs, putting a tin roof on the Work Camp Kitchen building with Shirley. Removing the nails and taking the old shingle roof off the Kelly home with the rest of the Port Kennedy mission team. God renewed us with strength daily, as our assignments were divvied out among us. Pushing boundaries came again to my mind with each new assignment and daily we trusted in God to help us complete our tasks successfully and safely. We could all feel your prayers with us as we worked. You were also a part of our team.
While in Pearlington, someone told us that the name Katrina meant "cleansing." I went onto the Web when I came home to see what I could find about the name and two meanings came up: ‘Katrina’ - comes from the German Origin meaning "pure" and Katrina could also be related to Greek "aikia" meaning "torture." I guess we discovered that what happened in Pearlington supported both meanings of the name. We saw the devastation that the Hurricane caused, but we also found ourselves looking for beautiful things among the devastation.
New flowers were blooming, greenery was growing over fallen trees and piles of debris; playful puppies running around the work camp; the hot sun and sometimes cooling breezes; smiling faces and lots of hugs to share; laughter galore and the nighttime moon and most brilliant stars you have ever seen.
The motto of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is "OUT OF CHAOS, HOPE." There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but there is also the knowledge that God is there among the chaos, giving hope to everyone in Pearlington, residents and volunteers, alike."
Jeanne Sommers - First Presbyterian Church of Port Kennedy