Ten Eastern students recently put their faith into practice when they gave up four days to help with cleanup work after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, travelling 27 hours to Pass Christian, Mississippi.
“I felt so insignificant because of everything that needed to be done,” sophomore Christie Davis said after taking the trip. “But in the end God answered me by saying ‘you can make a difference with the individual people.'”
The team was a part of a larger group from Calvary Fellowship Church in Downingtown and Campus Crusade for Christ based out of James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The trip spanned from September 29 through October 3.
The team joined with 30 other students from JMU. They arrived in Pass Christian just two days after the town had reopened from being closed due to the damage.
According to junior Ryan Cobb, the town had been under 40 feet of water at one point and residents’ possessions were strewn all over the area.
The group worked to clear debris, ranging from shingles to large trees, out of a cemetery. Many of the head stones had been knocked over. There was nowhere to put the trash that had been taken out of the cemetery, so it was piled along the side of the road.
“Most of the town’s belongings were in the cemetery,” junior Ashlie Nissly said, referring to how the water had carried items to this location.
Several distribution centers were set up throughout the town. Senior Amy Petrilla went to one of the centers and said that on her first day, 500 cars representing over 1,000 families had been served. Her job was to give toiletries, food and other necessities to the cars that came through. They were also assigned the task of unloading an eighteen-wheeler filled with similar donated goods.
The group also worked in people’s homes and backyards. They completely gutted three houses, leaving only the wooden framework and cement floor. In all, they assisted fifteen households.
The group agreed that the needs of the area were overwhelming when they looked at the whole picture.
“Community gets rebuilt by helping one family at a time,” Cobb said.
The team also worked with Trinity Episcopal Church, whose building had been completely wiped out. There were tents set up outside to allow the church to continue to meet. All of the church services were filled.
Davis said that the song “Blessed Be Your Name” was stuck in her head for the entire week, especially the line, “Lord you give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.”
She explained that even though the people did not have anything, they were still blessing God’s name.
Junior Melissa Sohl said that it was amazing to see how the body of Christ was working together. It became clear to the team that the people in Pass Christian, Mississippi still had hope despite their circumstances. The local people were helping each other out, even giving shelter to their now homeless neighbors.
“My heart is definitely not the same,” sophomore Brent Freshwater said. “My views of what is important have been changed. I feel differently about things now.”
“It made me realize that there is another world out there that needs help,” Cobb said.
A trip is being planned to go back to Mississippi over Christmas break. More information will be available soon.