Saturday, December 20, 2008

RUF Blitz Build Photos

Please click on the photo above and you will be taken to an online web album. From there you may download any of the pictures for personal or professional use. You may sell them or give them away. They make great stocking stuffers.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 5: 2:30 pm

Thank you for your prayers...5 days, lots of rain, no injuries, and two houses later...the week is over! Both houses look incredible. Check out the slideshow on the website for more pictures of the week; I will be uploading them over the next few days. These college students did an incredible job-working through rain and mud, learning new skills, and encouraging each other and the staff! I have been amazed by their enthusiasm and rejoice that, 3 years after Hurricane Katrina, there are mission minded students interested in bringing restoration to a hurting area. Thanks to them for their time, their hard work, and their great attitudes!! Thanks to Bobby and Troy Lane (2nd house pictured) for frying up some delicious turkey for the crews this afternoon! Thank you to the staff (both of Lagniappe and Habitat) for the hard work and many hours they put into these projects. And finally, we thank the Father for all of the above along with safety, energy, and even the desire to serve.

Monday, December 15, 2008

8am-12pm, Day 1 of the College Blitz

These photos were taken between 9-11:00 am this morning. Check out the website tonight to see pictures of the afternoon! The volunteers and construction staff are cruising and both houses are moving incredibly fast. So far the rain is holding but you can see the ominous clouds in the back-ground.

College Blitz Build Underway!

As I sit at my computer, 6 students from the University of North Carolina are cleaning the kitchen, and 30 more college students have driven off in green vans and Honda accords to the Lagniappe work site! This week Lagniappe is partnering with Habitat for Humanity, and 2 houses will be dried in (that means framed, sheeted, sided, painted, and roofed) by Friday. The students come from North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama. Many just finished their finals on Saturday and drove down on Sunday. It is a tremendous sacrifice of time and money on their part, and we are thankful for their participation in the ongoing work! Please keep them and the staff of both Lagniappe and Habitat in your prayers this week. We will be updating the blog daily and hopefully will have some pictures of the progress by this afternoon!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I Didn't Vote

This was writtten by a friend of Jean, Grant Scarborough, who works at an inner city medical clinic that he co-founded in Augusta, GA. It is profound. Occasionally I get inspired to write and this happens to be one of those days. I woke up early to vote for our next president. This is important. Four years of leadership that has the capability of changing our cities, neighborhoods, and even our very lives. Today was the day I made a difference. Standing in line with my diet coke can and granola bar in hand, I waited. One hour I waited. Then my time came, I thought. But they could not find my name. They found my wife's name. I informed them that I lived with my wife. I even told them she was pregnant, I thought that gave me credibility. Still, no name. They called downtown and I was not listed there either. I walked away dejected. I couldn't even get an "I voted" sticker. I asked for the sticker and the sweet lady said, "did you vote?" well – you know – I just kept walking. What a wasted hour, well not completely wasted. For over an hour I talked with a lady who was trying to start an inner city medical clinic in a nearby community. Her eyes lit up as we talked, "I've heard about you," she said. We exchanged phone numbers all the while talking with the next guy about his desire to start a once monthly dinner for the homeless. Then my two new Methodist friends used my wifes favorite word "providential." They smiled as they used this word while I stared in disbelief – or maybe old fashion confusion. Yes, by the time I reached the clinic I was a providentially dejected voter without even a sticker or an opportunity to change the world. I would even say that this is the curse of my mother, but she might read this one day. All I can do now is pout and see patients. I am good at one of those and not so good at the other and I will let the reader decide. My first patient was a middle aged man from rural South Carolina. He showed up with his CAT scan report in his hand. I read the results before I even saw him – "a destructive invasive neoplastic lesion" obvious cancer that even a good "pouter" can interpret. The CAT scan was performed over a month ago (the words destructive and invasive came back to mind). Where have you been? Seemed like an obvious question. In unbelief I heard a story of rejection. He has been to four different hospitals that refused to help since he had no medical insurance, 2 were even state hospitals. No one was willing to give him chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. I yelled quietly, "What in the heck is wrong with this place?" This guy created in God's image can die and no one cared. Breathe, exhale and keep going. Patient 2 – A kind inner city man with just your basic medical problems of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. He says everything is fine except…then he points to his head. "I don't trust nobody doctor." He tells a tale of sitting in his chair all night long and looking out his blinds every time he hears a noise. He stands alone at the bus stop. He walks alone and turns around if anyone is behind him to make sure he is not being followed. He is big and intimidating but has become imprisoned mentally. His wife passed away over 20 years ago and his son is in Iraq. "I don't trust nobody doctor," he repeats again and again. We pray for his tormented paranoid mind that has imprisoned him. After prayer, the man gets ready to leave and then nervously speaks "Doctor…. one more thing…" I don't have time for 'one more thing.' "There was an old lady out front who couldn't pay her co-pay. What's going to happen to her?" I inform him that people have to pay a little bit to be seen. It teaches them responsibility or something. "Well she said she could pay in a couple of weeks, but I don't know how she will be able to – Do you mind….. I mean …..Can I pay her co-pay?" I have never seen a borderline paranoid schizophrenic reach out and care for a stranger like this man. I walked back in a closed exam room and wept. Is a president really going to change the world or will it be you and me and my paranoid friend. Has Christ not called us to this time and place to build His Kingdom and love His people? Are we going to change the world in the ballot box and then go home and wait for it to happen? We are his ambassadors, to build his kingdom, love a neighbor, serve the poor, and die to self. That sounds great, but now what? My nurse is having a yard sale, why don't you come? In fact, she has gathered a couple of friends to help, because economics tells you the more stuff at a yard sale, the more you make. And she wants to make lots of money. The yard sale is for Calvin – a quadriplegic, that comes to our clinic. He was recently hospitalized because Medicaid does not give him enough gauzes and supplies for all his wounds and his bed is not ideal for his thin quadriplegic body. My nurse was thinking about writing Calvin's name in for the presidential election, because if he became president he would have better supplies. Instead, she decided to raise the money through a yard sale. She is "wasting" one entire day so a new friend can have gauzes, wraps, and lotion to stay a few more days out of the hospital. Talk about changing the world! She has started with loving her new friend through a yard sale, more than I have done in a long time. It is Election Day and I did not vote; but if I could, I would vote for you, the reader. We need you to walk outside and love those around you for the sake of Christ. Go, serve, build, and die unto the glory of Christ. Have a yard sale, pay for someone who cannot afford his bill, care for someone dying of cancer - - can you see the world beginning to change?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or the Top Ten Reasons To Be Thankful

As I was pondering my life during the wee hours of the night last night, I was amazed at what God has done in my life since God moved John and I to Lagniappe, and I began to review the good, the bad and the ugly. The GOOD involves the amazing journey beginning in April of 2006 when God arranged (for years) a divine appointment at the RUF Mississippi State University Crawfish Boil with Andy and Cammie Chapman, and our lives as we then knew them were over. That day began an eight month journey of experiencing God literally moving our hearts and spirits in another direction, a direction that was unexpected and even shocking. I still sometimes experience the shock of what God did, but I know as sure as I'm typing this that God did it. How odd of God to take a crooked stick like John, who said for years, "I'm not a missionary and I'm not going anywhere", and a crooked stick like me, the chief of sinners, to plop us down in the middle of what I am convinced is the most incredible picture of God's restoration of creation - the restoration of US! Which brings me to the BAD........we have learned so much of our own brokeness...........and the UGLY..........that we are much more sinful than we ever dared believe.........which brings me back to the GOOD..........that we are much more loved than we can even imagine, to the point that when God looks at us, He rejoices over us with singing! The blood of Jesus hides the BAD and the UGLY so that when God looks at us, He ONLY sees the GOOD! How amazing is THAT? Can you even picture God in Heaven rejoicing over US? With SINGING? It is incredible. Top ten Reasons to be Thankful 1. That Jesus' blood covers the bad and the ugly and God only sees the good, which isn't even ours, but is Jesus'. 2. That the same God who makes things broken then proceeds to restore them. 3. That God can use ANYONE to accomplish His will, even broken people like us. 4. That God is in control of all things, even the Kings, Presidents, Pastors, the details of my life and the number of hairs on my head! 5. That God established marriage as the perfect picture of Jesus' love for His church. Christ loved his Bride enough to DIE for her! 6. That God is still on the throne and history cannot and will not be changed. The Alpha and Omega has established it from beginning to end. 7. For the fellowship of the saints, the most fulfilling fellowship and communion we can ever experience on earth. 8. For the Beauty of the Earth 9. For Music 10. For the promise of Heaven and getting to see Jesus face to face. That's it! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, ending with the GOOD, or as they say in the Bay, "It's All Good!" Have a Blessed Thanksgiving week.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thank you Cammie!

As you may or may not know one of our staff members is moving to another part of the coast to continue the restoration work in a different capacity. Cammie Chapman and her daughter, Kate will be moving to Gulfport, Mississippi and she will be working with R.S.V.P., a program that allows local senior citizens to serve their 'own' communities. Many of you know Cammie as the friendly voice behind our reservation hotline. She has helped provide 'air traffic control' for over 10,000 volunteers who have served at Lagniappe. She has done an amazing job and will be a great assett to Harrison County. We are sad to be losing her, but she is only moving her 'vocational' work. She is still part of the Lagniappe family, an active member of the church and deeply loved in this community. Cammie, thanks for all you have done. We know that the work of restoration will be furthered by your participation through the Harrison County Chamber and R.S.V.P. P.S. Lynne Sabin will be picking up the torch on reservations, so please call or email her with any reservation needs!

Saturday, November 01, 2008


If you have not yet read Sarah Denton's blog about the Mockingbird Cafe' please read it. It describes well the community attachment to the cafe'. If you have been to Bay St. Louis as a volunteer then there is a good chance that you have spent the better part of one or many evenings enjoying the porch and the culture that surrounds the Mockingbird. I recounted to Martin (one of the owners) how I hoped that one day Lagniappe would be as beloved as the cafe'. It may be hard to get your mind around, but as Jean IV recounted to me, "Dad, there were hundreds of people there Thursday night- everyone was there. (NOTE: Jean had gone home early and we live about 1 block from the cafe'. At present I am out of the country so this story was recounted to me via Skype on the internet) He continued, "about midnight I heard this roar and cheering. It was louder that anything I'd ever heard in Old Town, then I got a text from Connor. It said, "They're not closing!" As the city contemplated the closing of this beloved establishment I had one resident say to me, "We might as well just move!" Funny isn't it? Katrina galvinized the city, but when faced with the thought of losing community, residents would rather move than be isolated from each other. All that to say that I'd like to encourage you to give. Not give to get. Not give to have a tax deduction, but give to help. We have had hundreds of thousands of dollars given to help individual families, but this is a place that helps all of us cope; all of us gather and all of us have community. The Mockingbird is trying to raise $10,000. I'd love to see them raise $100,000. Please consider sending a check to them. As is popular to say these days, "We bailed out Wall Street, but what about Main Street?" Here's your chance. Their contact information is as follows: Mockingbird Cafe', 110 South Second Street, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520, Attn: Mockingbailout. 228.467.8383. Here's a link to the Sun-Herald story about the bailout.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Blocks and Brooms

The Arden Presbyterian (SC) team brought this 1927 Singer sewing machine that runs like a dream. The tag attached to the machine reads -- To: Sewing Women @ Laginappe Presbyterian Fm: Jay Migeras @ Arden Pres. The machine will be given to Donna Skinner, one of Lagniappe's home owners. Block and foundation work was the focus of the Arden volunteers this week in the community. They also entertained us as they danced with and pushed brooms cleaning in the main building here at Lagniappe.
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The Mockingbird Phoenix

For over 2 years, the Mockingbird has been the local coffee shop, burger joint, music venue, and living room for Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. You could not go without seeing a familiar face, and no matter where you were from, walking through the front door was like walking into your own home. Kat Fitzpatrick (a local artist) was quoted by the Sun Herald saying, "When many of us were living in trailers, it was our living room." For a lot of people, it still is. People who don't have an office do business there, and students study there. It's like the best part of a City Hall and a rural post office." It is where Lagniappe held our weekly staff Bible study, and where we went to meet about business, or escape business. Nicknamed "the Bird," the coffee shop / restaurant was the eclectic haven for folk music, art, Lazy Magnolia, and the best burgers in town. Any given day you could find the punk rockers, the prep-school students, the soccer moms, and of course someone on the Lagniappe staff sitting by a window. Monday morning, October 27th, patrons were shocked by a sign that read, "The Mockingbird will be closing its doors Friday, October 31st. Thank you for letting us be part of your lives." It was a blow no one anticipated-a sobering warning that this town's economy is fragile. No one could imagine downtown Bay St. Louis without the Mockingbird. So we prayed. Lagniappe spent the last week, corporately and individually praying for this coffee shop and their owners, Martin and Allicin Chambers. Why does a coffee shop matter so much? It matters because people matter, because culture matters, because art matters...because God cares about conversations over coffee or burgers and loves folk music! It matters because it served as a community center-a catalyst for relationships, and a place of beauty in the midst of chaos. The garden at the Mockingbird has, at times, been one of the few places in this city with green landscaping cascading over handrails and around foot a town under construction, green things become increasingly valuable. Thursday night was their final goodbye, the last night of music and food before they closed their doors. "Full cyrcle" band played, and the Bird ran out of food and beer by 8pm!! Allicin stepped the mic and the several hundred patrons quieted down, expecting a farewell speech...but through some tears and smiles Allicein managed a quiet "we aren't closing!" Little was heard after that. People's bank had come through to refinance them-recognizing the incredible importance of this cultural hub. The Phoenix came; the Mockingbird is staying open! It was a sobering reminder to all of us that Bay St. Louis is far from recovered. Small businesses are still in desperate need, and without them this town cannot hope to recover. But God is faithful, and we still have good coffee, great beer, and a living room on Second and Main. For more information check out and

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Popsicle season is almost over, and we are moving into the hot chocolate deliveries, but here is one of the last popsicle crews. These students are from Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, LA. Grace also has a private school through the church, and the school sends anyone from the senior class interested in a missions trip! So the students get a week off of school and the opportunity to volunteer and learn many new skills. These students hung all of the insulation in Donna Skinner's house; thanks to their work all of the sheet rock is now hung and waiting to be finished!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Training YOU!

This week Lagniappe has been privileged to partner with a group called Training You in Mississippi. The program is a 6 week course in construction skills-including 3 weeks of classroom training and 3 weeks of on the job training. Training you teaches adults Hancock County valuable job skills, and even trains them for specific jobs that companies in the Gulf Region specifically requested. One of the greatest needs in Hancock County is job skill training. Training You has recognized that need and seeks to fill it in a unique way. Volunteers have come from all over the country to help rebuild the coast; Training You is equipping the people who live HERE to be able to give back to their own community. It is an incredible program that gives adults in this community an opportunity to give back while simultaneously equipping them for gainful employment. Oh, and the training is FREE!! Lagniappe has a lot of projects; Training You has a lot of skilled and semi-skilled might call it Providence! The instructors will tailor their classes and education based upon our needs-meaning that we can ask them to do almost anything and they will take on the challenge as an educational opportunity for their students! They are currently hanging sheet-rock in Mr. Moore's house.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This week we have several teams hanging sheet rock, while others are setting block for a new foundation. We have had our first hint of fall weather, which is bringing a breeze and lower 80's temperatures for the first time in a while! The Lord continues to bring people, despite difficult economic times and busy fall schedules...we are incredibly thankful!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

God is still bringing volunteers

Sometimes things seem slow here; when the building is empty and our staff fill up only one table at lunch. On those days, I tend to panic. "Where are the people? How will finish the job? Does anyone remember?" This weighs espcially heavily on me as the "Resource Coordinator;" recruiting volunteers is my job! It is on those days that I walk to our main building and look around at the signs on the walls and remember that God brought all of those people; He will bring more. Then, like the 9 lepers, I often forget to return to Him in praise when our parking lot, lunch-room, and bunkhouses are full! This week we have volunteers from California, Rhode-Island, and North Carolina helping to hang sheet-rock and finish a foundation. We are especially excited that Ruth Friant's father is volunteering here this week! Ruth has shown him little mercy-sending him out to pour concrete and hang sheet-rock, but he has everything with a great attitude. Our Northern friends have been a little frightened of our bugs down here-apparently our dragon-flies are like F 250s, and our wood-roaches are the size of armadillos....but they are hanging in there! Popsicles have a way of making every day better, as the picture makes clear. Thank you to all the volunteers who have remembered and returned. Thank you to our Heavenly Father who has never forgotten, who never sleeps, and who will surely finish the good work He has begun.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall is upon us...

As the weather begins to cool in Bay St. Louis the work continues forward. Many homes are 'in process'. The church continues to gather on Sunday mornings worship, fellowship and the Lord's supper. It is a great encouragement to hear so many people in the community consistently compliment the work that our staff and volunteers do in this area. The boards are still on our windows at the Larroux house, but we are hopeful that we can take them down in mid-October at the end of Hurricane season. Keep us all in your prayers and please schedule a trip to Lagniappe when your schedule permits. Blessings and grace, Jean.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Lagniappe shelter on WLOX Biloxi

Sorry for the commercial, but thanks to WLOX for their coverage of Hancock County!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Lagniappe Update

We are sorry for the lack of communication these past few days, but we have been fairly busy. The last of the staff was able to return last night and were relieved that all staff homes survived with no damage. The Lagniappe facility had some of the fence down, a few leaks in the roof of the big building, but we are up and running again. While our construction crew assesses the needs in our community, our facility has become a Red Cross Shelter. We are housing about 25 Red Cross Volunteers and expect to receive about 75 refugees from our area today. So many of you have sent emails asking about the houses you worked on on previous trips, and we are happy to report that not one of the Lagniappe houses we have built was damaged! We are still assessing damage to other homes you might have worked on, and we can only report that many homes in Waveland did have damage due to flood waters, and our current mission is to take care of as many of those families as we can house safely to meet their immediate needs of food and housing. Our previous mission of participating in the restoration of the Gulf Coast through the declaration and demonstration of the love of God shown to us in Christ Jesus has not changed, and we will be here no matter what. MNA Disaster Response Director, Arklie Hooten, is staying with us and is seeking to establish a relief site in Baton Rouge, a community greatly effected by Gustav's winds. For information about that, please check the MNA website Please pray for the people here. They are so weary. Also pray for us, that the love of Christ would be displayed in word and deed. As Curt Moore has stated, we have entered into yet another area where we are over our heads and depending on grace. Stepping into these waters is ALWAYS fearful at first, yet we know it is the canvas upon which the Father loves to display His glory and grace. Thanks so much for your prayers and emails!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Photos taken during Hurricane Gustav

All photos come from complements of Frank and Susan Underwood.

National Guard HQ at Lagniappe

Monday, September 01, 2008

Lagniappe Staff Alert

Since many area residents sustained flood damage in Waveland, Lagniappe will be opening it's bunkhouses to families in need of shelter, and will also open it's kitchen to begin serving meals as soon as possible. Highway 603 was flooded today, but is expected to reopen by midmorning on Tuesday, so all Lagniappe staff is asked to return to the Bay as soon as possible to facilitate disaster response at Lagniappe. Please pray for travel mercies for all those returning home.

Gustav Update

Governor Barbour just reported, with limited access, the effects of Gustav. 10 foot tidal surge in Waveland. Several hundred homes damaged in Waveland. Several main roads in Hancock Co. sustained flood waters; Dunbar, Hwy.90 in low spots. All assessments were done from boats. Unable to check rest. Curfew in effect 6pm-6am.

Will report more in the morning.

All Lagniappe staff safe and sound.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

6:10 PM

He maketh the storm a calm.........................

It's early yet, but it appears that the Bay has been spared any serious damage so far. Jean reported that there has been rain and wind, but very little storm serge and no water has made it to Highway 90 anywhere on the Mississippi coast! Waveland has completely lost power, but there has been little wind and tree damage! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! He has obviously answered our prayers as we have watched the east side of Gustav pretty much fall apart instead of causing havoc! Thank you, Jesus. Please continue to pray for Mississippi, Louisiana and especially New Orleans, that their levees will be able to withstand whatever flooding ensues there. Thank you so much for keeping us in your prayers! "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Church on Sunday, Remaining staff evacuating

With the upgrade of Gustav to a Cat 4 and probably a Cat 5 by morning we have determined to cancel service tomorrow and ENCOURAGE all remaining LPC members and families to head for higher/safer ground. We did not want there to be any reason to remain in Bay St. Louis longer than necessary. John Sabin and I are the last two remaining staff members in the Bay. We will finish boarding up the church in the morning and then John will be heading to Brookhaven, MS and I will be going to Necaise, MS (about 40 minutes north of Bay St. Louis). We would ask you to please remember Hancock County in your prayers. There is a heaviness in the air here. The sentiment that I have heard over and over again is, "I just can't do this again..." I find myself nodding in agreement. For tonight Bay St. Louis is peaceful. There is a band at the Mockingbird and I saw a clarinet player just playing to himself on Main Street this afternoon. This town has a soul that is resilient, but she is tired and weary. I know how she feels. NOTE: Lynne Sabin will be updating this blog so check back during the storm. I will keep her updated via Satellite phone. Blessings and Grace, Jean P.S. Please read Psalm 107:23-32 and pray those truths for Bay St. Louis!

Governor Barbour announces mandatory evacuations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Aug. 29, 2008 PEARL - Governor Haley Barbour issued mandatory evacuations for Harrison and Hancock counties beginning Sunday morning for people living the following: • FEMA travel trailers • FEMA mobile homes • Mississippi Cottages • Residents in designated flood hazard zones. "There is no question we are taking this storm seriously, but there is no need to panic," Governor Barbour said at a news conference at the National Guard Armory Readiness Center in Gulfport. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, David Paulison, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and MEMA Director Mike Womack also attended the news conference. "As we prepare for the worst, we must pray for the best," Governor Barbour said. The Mississippi Army National Guard will launch a door-to-door campaign on Saturday to notify people living in low-lying areas, flood hazard zones, FEMA travel trailers and mobile homes and Mississippi Cottages to seek alternative shelter because of the threat of severe tropical weather. The State Emergency Response Team, which is comprised from MEMA and several other key state agencies, will also deploy to Gulfport this afternoon. Once there, the SERT will establish an Emergency Operations Center so they may monitor and assess resources and needs for local governments as Gustav approaches. Due to the large number of people expected to evacuate from Louisiana, Governor Barbour said Mississippi and Louisiana officials are planning to use the contraflow plan for both Interstates 55 and 59 this weekend. An exact starting time for the reverse laning of the interstates has not yet been determined. More than 7,000 Mississippi families still live in state and federal disaster housing. These units are temporary units which is why they are not elevated to heights to protect residents from floods and many are in flood prone areas, said MEMA Director Mike Womack. "MEMA's primary concern is for the safety of all Mississippi residents," Womack said. "But with so many people living in low-lying areas, these residents need to understand that this housing may be susceptible to flooding in a situation like this." According to the National Weather Service since 1970 there have more than 600 deaths attributed to flooding from tropical weather. More than 60 percent of those deaths occurred from inland flooding. Gustav is forecasted to become a strong hurricane as it enters the Gulf of Mexico in the next day or two. The National Hurricane Center expects Gustav to make landfall on the Gulf Coast as early as Monday or Tuesday. For more information and updates visit or call MEMA's Public Information Line at 866-519-MEMA

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lagniappe Closed for 2 Weeks!

If you are trying to get in touch with Lagniappe staff members please note that we will be closed to teams and out of the office beginning 5 p.m. August 15th until September 8th. We will be out of the office for those 3 weeks- the first two weeks provide down time for the staff following the summer push of teams and building. The third week is for staff planning, training and spiritual focus. Please keep us in your prayers during that time. Please note that staff have been instructed to turn off cell phones, not check e-mail or work at all, so please understand if you don't get calls back or emails returned. It is a sign of a healthy staff resting and believing that the Kingdom of God will go on for 2 weeks without them, not of indifference toward your needs. NOTE: We will worship every Sunday during the break at 9:30 a.m. at the church, join us then!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—After the Cedar River crested June 13 at nearly 20 feet above flood stage, this city of over 120,000 feels deserted. An agrihub dominated by Quaker Oats and Cargill food processing facilities, Cedar Rapids in its downtown area saw floodwaters reach 12 feet above its worst flood on record, set in 1851. Nearly two months later, you cannot mail a letter, buy a bagel, check in at the Crowne Plaza, or check out a book at the city library.

In addition to the flood-damaged post office, the hotel, the library, and food outlets like Bruegger's are about 100 flood-damaged blocks containing department stores, theaters, and government and other offices. Many commercial properties are hollowed-out or boarded-up shells of their former selves following heavy rains and days of standing floodwater in June. Those that survive sit idle, stripped of wallboard, flooring, and furnishings. On empty streets the hum of utility pumps and the generators to run them continues day and night.

Waterlogged are businesses, bars, banks, city hall, the city jail, and dozens of neighborhoods—in all, city officials say, about 18,000 structures, including around 15,000 houses. In many areas flood survivors are racing a deadline set by city officials for debris removal later this month; after that, officials say, it will be too late to salvage buildings overrun by mold and too difficult to haul away flood wreckage with the approach of cold weather and snow.

The degree of the urban devastation—if not its size—brings to mind Hurricane Katrina's wreckage in New Orleans and other Gulf cities. And that's what got to Keri Norwood, who followed news of Iowa's extensive flooding via the internet from her home in Bay St. Louis, Miss., 1,000 miles away. "What I saw was very similar to the way houses looked in Bay St. Louis after Katrina. I thought, 'We have been given so much with volunteers and help. It's only appropriate that we should give back.'"

Norwood ran an ad in her local paper soliciting volunteers to help in the Midwest. In late July she and a dozen other Bay St. Louis residents drove north to begin mucking out houses and cleaning up in Cedar Rapids. The group is multi-denominational: Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, and others. Norwood, 28, is on staff at Lagniappe Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Bay St. Louis, a church just 40 minutes outside New Orleans that continues to be at the center of Gulf Coast rebuilding ("Dark to daylight," Aug. 26, 2006). Lagniappe currently has seven houses of its own under construction and is hosting this year about 200 volunteers a day as part of a cooperative arrangement with Habitat for Humanity—three years after Hurricane Katrina.

Haven't Gulf Coast residents seen enough flood-related cleanup? "Coming here is therapy," laughs Curt Moore, another team member and an ordained pastor who now coordinates relief activities through Lagniappe.

Said Norwood: "If there is anyone who understands the pain and emotion of losing your home, it's these volunteers." Three team members did have their Gulf Coast homes wiped out down to the foundation, and they moved into new homes only earlier this year. Bob Delcuze of Bay St. Louis lost his home of 40 years in Katrina, and with the help of volunteers moved into a newly completed—and elevated—home on the same site in February. He decided to come to Cedar Rapids to help with flood cleanup here because "I feel like I owe it to somebody," he said. The damage in Cedar Rapids, according to Delcuze, "is almost like a normal hurricane, not like Katrina, but if your house is flooded, once it gets to the ceiling it's all equal. The issues are the same—am I going to rebuild? Will anyone help?"

Members of the Lagniappe team also understand the red tape. Insurance claims can take months to process and buyouts can take years. June's flood-waters breached an earthen levee along the Cedar River, causing the most extensive damage in old neighborhoods abutting the riverfront. Yet many were outside the floodplain and not eligible for flood insurance. And until the city comes up with a plan to extend or rebuild the levee, houses in those areas are in limbo.

Altogether the Lagniappe team members "mucked out" three houses in under five days—removing plaster, damaged wall studs, carpeting, kitchen appliances, and cabinetry. Along the way they and other volunteer teams have found themselves also hauling out personal belongings and helping residents sort the sentimental from the largely unsalvageable: photo albums, Christmas ornaments, toys, and wedding dresses.

One of the houses Bay St. Louis residents cleared sits at 80 22nd Avenue SW in a 100-year-old, largely working-class neighborhood. Owner Leland Maynes, who does delivery and other work for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, lived there alone after his wife died 14 years ago. Many residents here bought their homes from first- and second-generation Czech immigrants, who came to Cedar Rapids in a wave beginning in the late 19th century to work in packinghouses or to set up businesses of their own. Maynes' two-story frame bungalow, like every other home that lines the street, is sooty with mold climbing up to its second-floor window. Foot tracks cross front porches still an inch deep in river silt. Sunflowers and other stray volunteers spring up in foot-high grass no one's thought to mow. At dusk 22nd Avenue is soundless and absolutely empty of people. Street lamps won't come on, as electricity to flooded neighborhoods is cut.

The floodwater came up seven feet into Maynes' main floor, he said, while some homes in the neighborhood saw water lines extend 2-3 feet into the second floor. Now gutted, the home sits like thousands of others, windows and doors propped open to the street, drying, waiting. The front door bears a yellow placard. Under a color-coded system instituted by the city, yellow means limited entry at one's own risk. As of late July over 4,000 structures had been issued yellow cards. Others on the street have purple cards, meaning they will be demolished, and a few have green cards indicating they are now safe for occupancy.

Maynes is living outside the city temporarily with a friend. "I am prepared to wait, " he said of his house, "but I might give it away." That kind of ambivalence is everywhere. "Will sell for $10,000," is spray-painted on one boarded-up house, but around the corner is a vacated automotive store with, "You loot I shoot."

And that's where the Lagniappe team comes in. They can speak to disaster-dazed residents from a future flood victims don't yet see. "My goal is that this is the beginning, for us and for them," said Norwood. Already she has assembled another team to return to Cedar Rapids in mid-October. They are prepared to continue cleanup but hoping that some skilled labor—and reconstruction—will be on the agenda, too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks Clyde!

This week marks the last week on staff for one of our contractors, Clyde Baker. Clyde resigned in the spring to pursue work with a mission in Belize. Clyde will be working with a mission school setting up a woodshop to teach students how to make and install custom cabinetry. NOTE: Clyde was a cabinet maker in Virginia Pre-K (before Katrina). The staff and interns gathered last night at the Mockingbird Cafe' for a celebration of Clyde's time with us at Lagniappe (and a little roasting as well). It must be said that Clyde has left a huge impression on the city, it's residents, the volunteers and on Lagniappe. He will be sorely missed, but undoubtedly back in the Bay in the distant future. If you would like more information about Clyde's new ministry in Belize please email him: Clyde is also raising monthly support so please consider him in your giving. Lagniappe is proud to be sponsoring Clyde in this new endeavor. Thank you Clyde...Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Lesson from Tater Tots

Last night was the last intern Bible study of the summer. We have been working through the book of Galatians, seeking to apply to gospel in very real and practical ways. During the discussion time Ashley Myhal gave the following application:
A lesson from tater tots
What can we learn from a tater tot? Yesterday, I went to dinner with some youth girls. We all ordered at Sonic and our food was delivered -hot, delicious popcorn chicken, sonic burger, onion rings, french fries, tater tots and sonic blasts. Yum! However, as soon as we passed the food around the car, two of the girls started to bicker over a stray tater tot. "It's mine!" "No, it was in my bag!" "But you got french fries!" I was mildly offended: after all, I had bought them dinner! They didn't have to pay for it, it was free! They had fries and onion rings! They even got Sonic ice cream! How could they argue over one, lone tater tot? Then I realized what a clear picture the Lord was giving me of what my own life looks like. I have been given awesome grace - free, unearned grace. I so selfishly grab for more - the tater tots of life. For some reason, I'm convinced that I won't be happy unless I have grace AND:grace AND that relationship; grace AND approval of my boss; grace ANDan easy life. I am essentially throwing my hot, delicious Sonic dinner on the ground - burger, fries, and a Sonic Blast, even! - and pouting because I am missing out on tater tots. What is wrong with me? I'm so grateful that through the gospel, I can look at those tatertots and not try to convince myself that they're not good - they are. Sonic tater tots are awesome. Friendships and approval are good things. However, I don't have to chase after them or fight for them. The Lord provides awesome things to me without me even asking. He gives according to His GREAT love, and what He knows that we need and what we don't need. I can trust Him with my life, completely. Funny how God can use Sonic tater tots to teach me about my sin and His awesomeness, huh?

Monday, August 11, 2008

just a few pictures

Just a few more days till we close; here are some pictures from last weeks teams. Thanks for coming ya'll!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Audience of One

What does it mean to have an audience of one? It's become a cheesy line we throw around in Christian culture to minimize self-consciousness. Today it became something more for me. Today I spoke with a team leader who has worked at Lagniappe in the past. He told me of an encounter with a gentleman who claimed he could play the guitar. The leader noticed that the man's guitar was missing some strings, as well as the chord that connected the guitar to the amp. An avid musician and lover of music himself, this leader bought the man new strings, tuned his guitar, and hooked it up to the amp with a new chord. As he and his students gathered around to hear the man play, they were surprised. The sounds coming from the guitar sounded nothing like what they expected. It was loud; it was discordant, and the students began to grumble. "I thought he said he could play," they laughed..."this isn't music." The leader stopped them. Pulling them aside he said, "you are not his audience. He plays for an audience of one. These sounds which sound so awful to you are making His creator smile. Whether he knows it or not, this man plays before God. You are just privileged to stand in the arena and watch." Suddenly the attitude changed. The students began to cheer. The discordant sounds became almost beautiful as they listened to them with the ears of the Father. This is what Paul means when he says, "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose was is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Cor. 1:27-28). This is why high school students can build houses in a week. This is why 19 year old college interns can have an incredible impact on our staff and the Bay St. Louis community. This is why sinful men can be pastors. This is why I-who am quick to run into the slavery of my own idolatry-can lead a Bible study about the freedom God offers us as His children. The beautiful part about this is that our lives are chaos. They are a mess...we turn the amp up as loud as we can, we "tune" the guitar all morning, and all we can make are discordant sounds. But that is not what God hears. And not only that, it is not what the world hears. Paul says that God chose the foolish things to "shame the wise." He does not say it just pleases God, but he actually says it affects others. Suddenly we can be friends with people, even though we know we will let them down. God might just use our failures to point our friends to His total sufficiency. We can be bold in our work, even when it is overwhelming-He promises to use the weak to shame the strong. We can be content when we are despised by the world; God promises to use the "low and despised to bring to nothing the things that are." God takes our chaos and makes it beautiful-not just for Himself but for the world. I hung up in tears, excited now "to boast all the more gladly in my weakness...for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 11:9b, 10b).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Kevin Costner, " Field of Dreams"

Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Iowa-Day5 Postscript

After having breakfast in Iowa City we drove around the campus of The University of Iowa. The flood waters are still high but not threatening. The buildings in this photo are of the some of the fraternity houses. There was over $240 million  in damages to the university.
An abandoned upper scale neighborhood. Arklie said that the community spent $2 million dollars to a private company to sandbag, gut, and remove debris. Looks a lot like the Coast
On the Coast we buy plywood to cover our windows and doors. In Iowa they pack sand. Apparently they didn't stack them high enough.
Removing sandbags. Tomorrow a volunteer group will come to this neighborhood to assist the removal of the sandbags.

Iowa-Day 5 The Long Ride Home

Self-Portrait Friday Morning
The team left Hope Church in North Liberty (20 min. South of Cedar Rapids where we were working) at 5am. I flew in and out of Orlando and won't leave until late Sunday evening. My plan is to worship at the host church and visit with the members here. Needless to say it is very quiet around the church. Arklie Hooten, Disaster Response/Short-Term Coordinator is still here and we went to breakfast this morning. Arklie has been here for 5 weeks setting up the program of relief. Please pray for him as he has not been home in that time. If you contribute to this ministry of the PCA please know that your donations are put to good use. I'm going to tell on him now-As I mentioned he hasn't been home in 5 weeks and desperately wants to see his family. Looking for tickets in such short notice the cost is quiet high, over a $1,000. Arklie said, " I couldn't justify spending that much of MNA's money for a ticket." Well things will turn out well because his wife Kat, son Grey, and a team from East Tennessee State arrive late Sunday so it should be a good week for Arklie. Please pray for more leadership to move to this area of need; site managers, project managers, case managers. Volunteers are still coming but the need is great.
Since I didn't do so earlier in the week let me introduce you to the team from Bay St. Louis/Waveland. Carol Wasielweski, LPC staffer with the perpetually perky smile. Carol was whereever there was a need and served with a smile. Plastic anyone?Driving from the worksite back to the church with particles of fecal matter on your clothes is not something you want to get on the upolstery, even if it is only a rental.Raw sewage backed up from the teatment plants and settled into basements and throughout houses; in and through furniture, carpet, walls,etc... I doubled over several times and Simon got sick once but for the most part it was not bad. Really. I wore a respirator, not a paper mask. Thankfully no one was sick due to adequate clothing and preparation. I don't suppose these are the things you want to advertise if you are recruiting for volunteer projects but it's good to know up front. Prior to the trip I asked Arklie if it was necessary to have the rubber boots. I bought them from Walmart and I'm sooooo glad I did. It was the best $15 I have ever spent. Walking in dark muddy waters with good traction is necessary plus you don't want dookie in your socks. Yesterday, just as we were about to stop working, Aaron started to remove kitchen cabinets at Louis's house. Taking wild swings with the 25 lb. pry bar he lost his footing on the slimy vinyl flooring and hit the floor. WHAM! Keri being the great team leader drove him to the hospital where it was confirmed that he broke his thumb clear in two. He is ok and still managed to be his cheerful self, laughing and smiling throughout the evening, even forgoing pain medication.
Aaron Davenport of BSL testing out the chair with the hole in it. "What's this?," he asked. Aaron is a very thoughtful and inquisitive young man. Yesterday he had a phone interview with Americorp and will begin working with them sometime this year.
Bob Delcuze is from BSL and lives one block north of the LPC facility. Bob is a member of Main St. Methodist Church and a member of NOMADS, a relief and mercy wing of the Methodist Church. Bob is 71 but he worked circles around all of the young people. Bob retired from Stenis where he was a Mechanical Engineer. Bob was the go-to guy if we had a question yet with all of his experience he humbly directed with great gentleness and humor. It was a joy to get to know him. He knew why there was a hole in the chair. I suppose that came from being a MS State grad. They teach you those things there you know!
Bill Currie, from BSL. Bill works at Stennis Space Center and is an AWESOME guy. I can't say enough about Bill. I think he was one of my favorite people on the trip (though it's both difficult and unfair to state such a thing. I guess it was because I spent a lot of time talking with him). He, like Bob, is wise beyond his years and is humble and fun to be around. We debriefed last night and the common statement was that we couldn't imagine another team being any better. I couldn't believe there were NO interpersonal problems, fussing, or bickering. There was only a common goal to serve. There were no egos. There was service to the community and service to one another. Bill is a member from Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church. The only reason I state that is because we truly had a representative picture of the body of Christ working is love and service. I was truly blown away.
Penny Foret and Arklie. Penny decided to come two weeks prior to the trip. She has such a kind and gentle spirit. I suppose that comes from owning and running a day care. She's just happy to be away from all those children. I know it's safe to say, and I speak for everyone, that we have all made wonderful new friends. We are already planning our next gather which will be a meal together on the Coast.
Victoria Romano from Milsaps. I guess I am the old guy who can now say, "Those young folk are amazing." Victoria always had a smile, was always working, and loves to talk politics. I am serious when I say this, but look for her to go places. She is a special young lady.
Keri Norwood, team leader. Keri did a precious job of leading the group. She was truly an AMAZING leader. Organized, humble, smart, and a little sassy. She was the perfect team leader. I know this was an encouragement for all of the long hours of planning. The Lord truly blessed our team by appointing her as our leader.
Steven Passman, Milsaps student and Long Beach resident. Steven came because Victoria invited him to come along. Another sharp dude. He was a great addition to the team. We even found out that I know his dad pretty well. It's a small world. Pictured below is the elusive Kathleen Monti. I never could get a photo of Kathleen without her mask or without her shyly moving away from the camera. Kathleen told us last night that this kind of trip was out of the ordinary for her but she saw the add in the paper and really wanted to come. She worked tirelessly everywhere, from shoveling debris to preparing the food she was such a servant. As with the rest of our new friends I look forward to seeing her again on the Coast.
Simon Davenport is Aaron's brother. Man these guys really love each other and were the hit of the party. Simon just became a Christian this last year and is so excited to talk about God's love displayed in Jesus Christ. Aaron is a drummer and plays in the marching band at Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He has lots of great questions, laughs a lot and truly loves life. He is is planning on taking this next year off to tour with a band and is hopeful that they will 'take off.' Simon stepped on a nail that went through his boot and had to go the hospital. He testified during the Wednesday night service about the sovereignty of God in bringing the nail so that he could spend time with Leland. Leland drove him to the hospital and it was there that they were able to connect in a deeper way.