Following a long, but overall uneventful drive from Noblesville to New Orleans for the 2016 version of the White River Christian Church NOLA Mission trip, there were many relationships to celebrate. For many of the 20+ members of the group the relationships among one another were new, but the highlight of the first two days was the renewal of the friendships both at The Bridge Church in Jackson MS and at Camp Hope with the folks from The Gathering and Crossroads.
Celebrating Easter Sunday at The Gathering was tremendous. For those returning to The Bridge it seemed like old home week, but for those new, there was a sense of connection they couldn't quite put their fingers on. One person new to the trip was floored by the bond he sensed with this church a few hundred miles away from home.
"There is something about that church and about Pastor Jamane," Dennis Reddick said. "The people there make you feel at home. I can see the connection between that church and ours."
During his message, Pastor Jamane Williams spoke about the renewal we as Christians have the opportunity to experience, referring to Christ dying and being resurrected. His talk highlighted how we don't live with the stone still in place, but living beyond the stone, meaning our story doesn't stop with the crucifixion on Christ, but with the new life brought on when the stone was rolled away and He arose.
Arrival to New Orleans brought a lot of gawking out of vehicle windows at all of the water and scenery unique to this region passing by. Once the group hit Camp Hope, there was again a sense of being "home" for those returning and those new feeling something special about the volunteer base camp.
After unloading the vans and dropping off the luggage, it was time to gather for orientation and prepare for the week. After orientation, it was dinner at a local diner, followed by an evening filled with some card playing, a little table tennis, and a lot of team bonding.
Day one in the field saw us split into three groups and take on a variety of projects in three different parishes. One of the teams rebuilt the backstop of a baseball/softball diamond in a local park, with a second team working on flooring in a home, and third striving toward the completion of some demolition work started by groups who were here previously.
"It was really cool that we were able to build this backstop for the field," Grace Briso said. "For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, there are kids in that neighborhood who will be able to play baseball or softball on a diamond with a new backstop. That's pretty cool to think about and is very rewarding."
With a variety of projects and interactions with many folks, both local to the area and other volunteers, many opportunities await this crew to live beyond the stone.