So after my adventures getting to Shreveport, I spent a week there working and sweating and having fun. Some highlights ...
... I stayed with Mary C., a member of the Shreveport branch, who was so incredible welcoming. I felt bad that I didn't have more time to hang out and chat with her but we did a lot of chatting during the 20 or so waking minutes I spent with her at the beginning and end of each workday.
... the first night I got there we did some missionary work - visiting nursing homes in Shreveport. We split up to different places and I went to Harmony House. Most, but not all, of the people there are mentally ill in one way or another. I've seen enough mental illness not to be fazed by it, at least not much, but the high-schoolers that I was with were a little freaked out by the lady who proclaimed that she was Jesus. After that incident (five minutes into the trip), the big group of us split up into pairs and trios to knock on doors and pray with people. My little group was especially touched by two elderly people who prayed over us. Another memory I personally took away from the evening is of one particular guy whose door I felt moved to knock on - it was partially open and when I glanced in as we walked down the hallway, I saw him curled up on his bed just looking so lonely. "My heart went out to him" is such a cliche but that's the only way to say it. We went in and asked him if he wanted prayers for anything; he tried to talk a little but we couldn't understand anything he said so we just prayed the best we could.
... during the days I did a lot of throwing cement. (Or was it concrete? What is the difference? This was a major topic of discussion during the week.) The PoP business in Shreveport - Windows, Doors, & More - AKA WDMO, pronounced "Widmo" - needed to get ride of some cement in the back of their property. They got it broken up and then sent a lot of us over there during the week to pick up these big old chunks of cement and throw them into the truck to be taken to the dump. One afternoon we actually loaded the truck up with so much cement that it became un-drivable and someone had to unload some of that cement the next day. Sad but also super-cool that we worked that hard! Throwing cement was really hard work. Which is exactly what I'm looking for when I'm in Allendale. Lots of sweat and sore muscles = major satisfaction.
... some of the work down there did not involve major sweat and sore muscles, and was much less satisfying, at least for me. I spent two mornings working with camp. I'm not naturally a camp person and it was really hard. The girls didn't always pay attention or follow directions, and in some situations that was really understandable, especially for the littlest ones (like age 3), but at the same time, no matter how understandable it is, it still means chaos, and what do you do with that? And the other thing was that one morning two of the girls just randomly decided to pick on a third and I just couldn't get them to stop! What a terribly frustrating, helpless feeling. I ended up spending quite a while sitting with the picked-on girl on a rocking chair away from the other girls, helping her finish her craft, and hopefully helping her feel loved and valued. I came away from the whole camp experience really wanting to get better at working with kids in this type of environment, but unsure how to do that. Since getting back to work I've found out there's a good chance my job description will change drastically within the next few months and I will work with children and not adults. Bring it on.
... other work included digging a drainage ditch underneath one of our houses on Yale (by the way, when digging into Louisiana clay underneath a house, the claw of a hammer is more effective than a shovel), and drilling holes into the seats of the stools the campers made. The first day that I worked on drilling, the drill was not my friend, and I became extremely frustrated. So the next day when I was given a stack of 15 more seats to drill, I said a quick prayer, and had no problems. Praise the Lord :)
... what a great time getting to know the high-schoolers. I was impressed with the girls' openness when we talked about prayer one evening, and the guys' great leadership instincts, and how hard all of them worked.
... but I also hung out a lot with the grownups - Patti and Gerry D., Jack and Haidy B., Susan H., Bruce B. ... they all tended to gather at the same table on the porch of the big house for breakfast and lunch, and that was pretty much my favorite place to eat too. All of these people were super-funny and I had a great time with them.
... I also laughed a lot with Laura, Abby, and Gianna. Thursday night we played the best game of Catch Phrase EVER. And Laura made me laugh pretty much the entire week. One day when I called her old cell phone number, without knowing it was old, I ended up talking to her mom in Minnesota and was delighted to be able to tell her how much fun her daughters are.
... Friday night Nathan talked about friendship - friendship with purpose, lifelong friendship, etc. - and I've been thinking about friendship ever since. More thoughts on this later.
... I was happy to learn that the 17-hour drive from Shreveport to South Bend is a lot easier when you have a relief driver! And more fun too. I got to know Susan H. a lot better and she taught me some songs - a great way to keep both of us awake and entertained.
I would tell you more but this blog post is already awfully long, and also I'm blogging on my lunch break which is almost over and I haven't had time to eat. Please excuse me if anything above doesn't make sense, because I don't have time to read through it again either ;)