Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Galveston Mission on Sunday, February 15 by Pat Genereux

Sunday, February 15, 2009 ~
...attended the liturgy at Grace Church. Grace had some flooding. When I asked one or two parishioners about the size of their congregation, they were no longer sure of what size they were or are not fully aware of the exact number of parishioners. Apparently, a number of folks have not come back yet, and others haven't been to church much since Hurricane Ike.

Paul Wehner, the rector, has a very positive, can-do attitude even though for the time being he is working out of his secretary's living room. Needless to say, he is looking forward to getting back into their newly remodeled parish hall and getting the nave floor refinished. There is a lot yet for them to do, but having survived yet another hurricane (including the 1900 killer storm), they know what to do to get on with their life as a parish, and their mission and ministry...

Tales from Galveston continued... by Fr. Pat Genereux

Saturday, February 14th ~~
About midway through Saturday morning, a growing concern we all were having becomes what we believe to be reality, and that is, for all of everyone's efforts, this home may not be salvageable... We find several areas of wood rot, insect infestation and serious water damage; the bathroom floor and wall is literally ready to cave in. It is dangerous and I ask the Iowans not to work in the bathroom area. Dave and Tom aren't sure what to do. I call Maggie to see what sort of inspection was done. She tells me that it was just the initial inspection, and that a deeper, more thorough inspection is needed to determine the next steps. Our work is almost done. We decide, however, to finish what we started... we don't want to leave bits and pieces of wallboard hanging off the walls and ceilings, as it seems in a strange way to be disrespectful.

The owner wants us to remove the bathtub. It is cast iron & he has a salvage guy who will pay him for all the scrap metal. So, we do go back into the bathroom and it takes six of us to get the bathtub out through the back door, the shortest route through the house. We do this wondering if at some point we and the bathtub will fall through the rotting floors, but we make it!

Since we don't feel we can continue to work on the house until we get some official word by the city or other official, we call it a day and head back to the WTEC... but first, we clean up as much gutting debris in the house as we can and we clean up the front yard. If the house has to be taken down, then our work is most likely done, but we still want to leave things as 'tidy' as possible. This is more a metaphor than what is reality. We are disappointed, because we had hoped that we could have finished the gutting and perhaps even have had a small hand in the first steps in rehabbing. Dave & Tom, the site guys, think the house is salvageable, but we and they shall now have to wait and see..

We will move on to a new project on Monday, but the owners will continue to live with waiting and seeing what an inspector says, waiting and seeing about Armando's cancer and its treatment, waiting and seeing what will happen next in their lives... waiting and seeing just like their many other Galveston friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, just like the thousands of folks in Louisiana and Mississippi, in Kentucky and back home in Iowa.

On Saturday evening, we go to Seawall Drive. We eat, have a beer or two and watch the first of the Galveston Mardi Gras parades. This isn't New Orleans or Mobile, but the Galvestonians are bent on having a celebration. It isn't wild and the folks who catch beads give them to children and even to some of us shorter adults. Obviously, we are visitors and the locals smile, joke and talk with us. And then, for a few minutes, hurricanes, floods and lives changed forever are forgotten and drowned out by the raucous noisy high school bands, shouts for beads and recorded jazz music blaring from the colorful floats of the parade. There is a determination to party on!

There is a homeless guy living outside the back door, who adds yet another layer, another dimension to our experience here. We'd like to feed him, but when another group did it, it apparently caused some issues... as in his trying to move in. He seems to have enough money to eat at Micky D's (about four blocks from here) as well as chain smoke... and then there are the cats. Sue likes feeding them...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hearts & Hands Travel Log & Reflections by Fr. Pat Genereux

Wednesday, February 11th... We (my wife Sue & I) left Burlington at about 8:30 a.m. with Chuck Lane and Robert Adams, who came the night before. We loaded cars in the middle of a cold winter rain storm... what a great start! By the time we got to Osceola where we met Bill Trotter, the rain had stopped. We drove through the rest of Iowa, then on through Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma... & spent the night in Oklahoma City.

Thursday, February 12th... We left Oklahoma City about 8:30 a.m. and drove the rest of the way to Galveston. Somewhere in the middle of Texas, thing in the countryside started greening up. Spring is on its way... at least in this part of Texas. We arrived at the William Temple Episcopla Center (WTEC) at about 4:30 p.m. and after quickly unloading the car, I turned around and headed back to Houston to pick Alan up at the airport. Later that evening, we ate out at kin od a fast food seafood place called "The Spot" -- right on the Gulf, but as it was dark, we jut heard the waves. It was very mild and we loved being warm again. The rest of the party -- the three "Lukies" from Cedar Falls -- Dave Buck, Dick Wieck & Ken Cutts will arrive tomorrow night.

Friday & Saturday, February 13th & 14th... On Friday morning, we met with our site coordinators, Sam (a Texan), and Dave & Tom (two guys from Wisconsin), who shared some of the Hurricane Ike story with us and then took us to our work site. Our first task wa gutting the home of an older couple, who are not only dealing with being displaced by the hurricane, but are also dealing with the husband's cancer treatments and care... As we know from our experiences in Iowa, it is probably the rare family or individual who deals with just the effects of a particular disaster. Most are dealing with a multi-layered set of life issues.

It is warm & humid (for we Iowans). Bill is soaking wet and the rest of us are getting there. It is (as the team already knows from other work they have done, because thankfully most everyone has done this before, either at home, New Orleans, Mississippi or Central America) filthy, dirty work, but yet it is sacred work, a type of liturgy, as we enter into one of the most intimate parts of someone's life. So, we work with care even as we hack away at the remnants of their life. I am uneasy working too vigorously... for no matter how often one guts or clears out a disaster victim's home, you are adding new wounds to already wounded lives. It is like some necessary, but unwelcome surgical procedure. We know this pain is needed for future healing, but that doesn't make it easier.

When the 'owners' come around, you can see the pain & anxiety in their faces and in their eyes. Everyone defers to them when they are in the room you are working in. It is like being at a funeral and the family has arrived and conversation becomes muted as they approach the casket. So, we tone down our conversation. Sometimes, we work in silence... the only sound the clang of hammer on crow bar, the dull scraping of metal on wood as mod-infested sheet rock is removed and piles of debris begin to grow on the floor. Robert appears almost out of nowhere with a shovel and a wheel barrow and silently begins shoveling what is left of someone's bedroom into the wheel barrow. Then, he wheels it outside to be added to the small mountain of what is left of the houe, the owner's home. Sue talks with the wife and finds out that it was here they raised their children and some of that is what is in the pile out by the street. The wife is able to recover one of her cherished Christmas tree ornaments, part of a set she had been collecting over the years and she tells Sue, this is the only on left. I help the owner and a friend, who doesn't seem to know very much English, take down the ceiling fans... every piece of life that can be salvaged is...

More postings with news from Galveston coming soon...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Iowa Team in Galveston... returning home tomorrow!

Here's a team photo of the hardworking crew in Galveston, Texas.

Three hearty cheers to Diocese of Iowa Hurricane Ike recovery volunteers:
back row from left: Dick Wieck, Dave Buck, Bill Trotter
& front row from left: Robert Adams, Ken Cutts, Chuck Lane,
Sue Genereux, Alan Scarfe, Pat Genereux.
Traveling mercies to all and our thanks to you for being mission in the world.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hearts & Hands Project: Hurricane Ike Relief & Recovery Ministry -- A Diocese of Iowa Mission

Bishop Scarfe & Pat Genereux are in Galveston, Texas, leading a team of intrepid Iowans doing the good, hard work of storm recovery.

The photo above shows four of the crew on a welcome break: Bishop Scarfe, Bill Trotter (St. Martin's, Perry), Chuck Lane (Trinity, Waterloo) & Robert Adams (Christ Church, Cedar Rapids).

Pat Genereux reported on Valentine's Day: "...at William Temple Center after gutting a house on Saturday -- all are tired, but feel they've done good work." Earlier, Pat noted being physically, mentally & spiritually exhausted... but, gave thanks for all who had come from Iowa to work on the Hearts & Hands Project.

Your prayers are appreciated!

Note from Pat today: more quips & photos to follow. Stay tuned for more Iowa mission news.