Faith Stories: My Faith Journey to St. Mark’s UMC Mission
While at church one Sunday, the announcement was made about a Volunteers in Mission trip to New Orleans to work on the St. Mark’s UMC church building and to feed the homeless on the corner of N. Rampart and Governor Nichols Street, located in the “Vieux Carre.” Since I have a very deep fondness for this great city of ours, I went to speak with Rev. Larry Norman, who was leading the mission. The first words out of my mouth were, “I cannot do physical labor, but I can cook.” His first words were, “Great, you can lead the cooking for the team and the 150 homeless people.” My rebuttal was, “Uh wait just a minute… I am a virgin at mission work and cooking for this many people.” His rebuttal, “Don’t worry about it. We will go over what you need to do.”
My first approach was to get some St. John’s folks to donate casseroles to feed the 150 people plus our team, which was 12 members strong. That was a very easy task because our members will always help any way they can. The next chore I had was to figure out how much food to order. All I can say is, “Hello!!! Google, you are a Great Friend of Mine.”
The day came when I decided to prepare Meatball Sauce with Spaghetti, French bread and Garden Salad and for dessert homemade cookies donated by a St. John’s member. The next step was to start figuring out how much of each thing I would need. I had to fix 2 breakfast meals, 3 lunch meals and 2 dinner meals, plus 5 snacks.
The ordering of the supplies was a task in itself but I was very blessed by my daughter Cara who works for a national food company that orders and delivers for restaurants. My friend Google helped with the amount to order and, believe me, it was a very large supply. Let me say that I did have assistance with this process.
Then off we went for the wild weekend ride. The work was strenuous, time consuming and included a lot of dish washing and cleaning up of the kitchen area. The rewards were great. We even received our communion in the kitchen… now how is that for service?
We went to church service on Sunday with our name tags on. Everyone in the church had on a name tag. While I had a few minutes, I started visiting with the people that were there. By looking at the name tags, you figured out very quickly that the names were not real. In conversation, they explained the name they chose and why they chose it. The ladies seemed to have pretty actress or singer names and the men took to authors or actors. I had a wonderful conversation with Sherlock Holmes and William Shakespeare. But I honed in on this guy sitting quietly in the pew and asked his name and it was John… yes, you are right, John Wayne. I asked him to go outside with me for a minute as I needed fresh air and he told me his story. Thanks be to God, he had an old family home that he shared with his siblings. He had numerous jobs and adventures throughout his life, but for now he is the acolyte for the St. Mark’s UMC and is very proud of it.
Some of the stories I heard were frightening to say the least. I found out that the homeless will usually team up in pairs. While one sleeps, the other keeps watch for robbers. They live in constant fear since they are sleeping under embankments and covered by boxes or whatever else they can find. I was told a story about one night when the person who was supposed to be keeping guard fell asleep and they were robbed and stabbed. The police will not come out if they are stabbed with a small knife so the injured walks to a hospital for a stitch or two.
Everyone I spoke to that Sunday all stated how blessed they were and how great God is. They said it could be worse… can you imagine that? That made me think of how I really feel about being blessed. Do I just say that because I believe in Christ and make myself feel better or do I really believe what I say when I announce that I am blessed? After all, I am not homeless and sleeping on park benches and under bridges, etc. I really thought this through and prayed to God for guidance to see if I was just mouthing off so friends and family would believe that I am a Christian. God spoke to me in my heart by saying, “You always have thanked Me for your precious family being blessed with no disabilities to speak of. You have always thanked Me for your parents and for your St. John’s family. So I think I really found out that I did mean it when I thanked him for blessings and also his grace. The homeless also brought up the grace factor of God for they were not killed the night before and they woke up that Sunday morning and were fed lunch. Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
Another thing happened on that 72-hour adventure. I became more fond of and thankful for my church friends. Sounds funny but it is the truth for you see, I learned a lot about them. Seeing them in church on Sundays falls short of getting to know them. I tell you the truth; they are a beautiful bunch of people who are not self-centered and fake. The team worked together and wanted to help each other in every way they could. No one whined or complained about having to do such hard work. They rolled up their sleeves and did what had to be done silently and relentlessly. We were always polite to each other but freely spoke our minds without fear.
And one more thing…I had no fear while I was there. You know how you hear the stories of robberies, killings, etc. in the Vieux Carre’, but I felt as if I was at home in my back yard, except it was bigger, noisier and a bit dirtier. Just kidding, I really did feel comfortable and unafraid the entire time even when we went out at night. I also felt relaxed mentally, just felt warm and sincere and not stressed out as I thought I might be. The warmth of our Lord surrounded us all. I thanked God over and over again for this wonderful experience.
Kathleen McCann Adams