Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Orleans 2010

Zack's passion for New Orleans started back in 1999, way before Hurricane Katrina when he went on a missions trip there and loved the people and the community. Then, he knew he had to take his new youth group back in 2006, a year after the hurricane to help with recovery and his passion spread like fire. Including that trip in 2006, he's been back to New Orleans 12 times, I've been there 5 times, Zane has been there 3 times, and Emerson once. Each trip has had anywhere from 25 to 110 people, sometimes just college students and other times a mix of high school, college, and adults. Even the people at the hotel know us and remember us. I always talk to John, who works at the bar ever year and he asks about what we're doing.

During our first couple of years, we spent most of our time and efforts gutting houses, some that hadn't even been touched years after being flooded in Katrina. As time moved on, our projects have also grown and changed. We have done so many things: hung out with kids who have lost so much, helped homeless people, served at food shelters, rebuilt houses, worked in yards and inside houses, helped in rehabilitation centers, met people and made friends and connections etc.

This year was especially amazing for me because I got to help a family paint their entire house - a family who has been working to get back into their house for 5 years and will finally get back in within a month or two. The lady who owned the house, Barbara, told us her story of how she evacuated her house with a few possessions at 2:00 in the morning and then ended up being away with family for 8 months because she couldn't even get near her house since everything was flooded and broken, dead and gone. She said she felt like losing all hope many times, but God would give her peace and give her hope in small ways (like seeing a tiny patch of green grass in front of her house when there was no other signs of life). She said that now she can't believe that because of people like us and others helping, she gets to live in her own house again after her life was devastated. I have a picture of our team with her and her son Landry, and need to find it to post, but here's me painting.

There is still SOOO much work left to get peoples' lives back to "normal." So many people are still living with the flood lines on their walls, no furniture, no carpet, etc. (or no home at all) and are just settled with that being the way they live because they have no means to fix it. We all love New Orleans so much and I hope that we get to spend many more weeks there helping and serving.

This was a wonderful trip and I'm so proud of my husband, who planned and executed the whole thing! There were seriously a million details and I have no idea how he figured them all out but somehow he did. He basically didn't eat, sleep, or relax for a couple weeks, but he thinks it was worth it to change so many lives of people on the trip and the people in New Orleans. Thank you, Zack for all that you did!!!

Here are some videos and pictures from our trip:

Each time we've been to NOLA, we've visited Cafe Beignet, a place that has live Jazz music and food. It's always a good time for everyone to hang out and to dance.

Dancing with Dad from Josie Weingartner on Vimeo.

Each night of our trip, we had a group meeting, with all 110 of us! It was sooooo much fun for Zane and Emerson to get to hang out with that many teenagers and college kids. They loved the attention and just had so many choices for who to play with. Before each meeting, we just hung out, played music, and were silly.

Dancing with the Crowd from Josie Weingartner on Vimeo.

Most people drove, but the rest of us flew together. Here are a few pictures from the plane and airport on the way there...

Emmy was on the scale - and didn't want to move off.
All four of us in our NOLA shirts, ready to go. My mom came with us to help me with the kids and boy was I glad she was there!!! She was an unbelievable help and I couldn't have pulled it off without her.

Here's our shuttle on the way to the hotel - and how we looked most the time while driving in our vans around town.
We got to visit a church that we've gone to each year we've been there. They are so hospitable and welcoming and love having our big group there. This year, Zane and Emmy got to play with all the kids - good thing since the service lasts almost 2 hours!!! The people helping were happy to see them, because they aren't used to having blonde visitors. :)

We got to tour a Bayou. Zane had a little lizard crawl right across his foot. We also saw frogs, spiders, huge crickets and grasshoppers, but unfortunately no alligators.

It was burning hot! Most of our trip was over 100 degrees, plus super high humidity. Zane and Emerson didn't do too well, so we tried to keep them cool most the time.
Emerson kept wanting to look over the edge but I had to hold on to her every second. The layer of moss and leaves was crazy and looked like a real ground even though it was water.
Finding entertainment in the hotel room.
My mom took the kids to the River Front one day to help with the BBQ they were doing for homeless people there.

We spent lot's of time just hanging out in the lobby. Here's Emmy with her friend Mack.
Zane zonked out on my lap...
We let the kids eat in the lobby a bunch since it was easier. Zane's wearing his helmet because we brought his scooter and let him scoot around the hotel and outside.

Falling asleep while eating.
We were reading in our hotel room before bed.
Here's our meeting room and group with Zack up front in his jersey and red hat.
Just playing in the meeting room.
There were a lot of interesting people along the streets - this guy acted like a statue and then came to life. Zane really liked him and talked to him.
Eating at "Mother's."
We got to eat beignets... The kids mostly liked the powdered sugar.

We got to take groups down to see the lower 9th ward, the place that got hit the hardest by the hurricane. While there, we met this man who lost his house during Katrina and now lives in a new house built by an organization created by Brad Pitt. He told us his story of how he and his family were in their house when the levies broke so they climbed up onto their roof as fast as they could because it flooded so fast. They were all on top of the roof when the house unhooked from the ground and started floating down the street. This man was holding his 3 year old grand-daughter in his arms and they hit a light post and it jolted so hard that the water pulled her out of his arms and she died in the flood. Later that day, his mother also died on their roof because she was so sick and couldn't get any help. This was so heart breaking hearing this man tell his life story and I just can't imagine going through what he did. I just kept trying to fathom how many more people went through similar things and it's horrible.
My mom and I took the kids on a trolley ride and then stopped to play at a little park we found.

The popsicles seriously melted in about 3 minutes.

Climber from Josie Weingartner on Vimeo.

These are pictures are Cafe Beignet, the jazz place that the video at the top was from...

Emerson and Zane held hands with these two kids one night on our walk back from the French Quarter.
We got to take the kids to the Children's Museum one day because it was within walking distance of our hotel.

Playing football and spending time together at the River Front.

Here's Zane with his buddy Aidan.

On Saturday, our flight was scheduled for late afternoon, but got delayed until 10:30 that night! I tried to get Emerson to sleep before we loaded, but she's such a light sleeper that she kept waking up. There was too much going on so her and Zane didn't sleep until they were on the plane at 11:30. Then, of course woke up when we landed and didn't go to bed that night until after 2:00 am. At least they slept in the next day.

The middle-of-the-night plane ride...


Crystal said...

thanks for the information and pictures! it looks like you guys had a great time - what a cool thing for zane and emerson to experience too!

Lori said...

What a heart you and Zack have for the people of New Orleans!! We are so proud of you!! Thank you for sharing your trip with all of us!!