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Today was our final day of service to the people of New Orleans through Camp Restore.

The group split up again and worked on projects for the morning hours. Eric and Joel stayed at Camp Restore and helped with some fix-it projects that have been waiting for just the right mechanically-minded person (and Joel) to come along. They scrapped parts in order to put together several functioning weed whackers, and they helped out as handy men around the camp. The rest of the group headed back for another day at the Community Garden at ARC to help Jafar and his workers with their projects there. We spent the morning hours pulling pesky weeds that had invaded the growth of the produce. It may seem like menial work, but, man, can you tell a difference after several hours! Jafar was very thankful for all of the help, and it was great to interact once again with the ARC workers.

We enjoyed lunch at a local seafood hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which provided an excellent break from the week of sack lunches (every day: a sandwich, Zapp’s chips, a piece of fruit and a cookie). One last stop, of course, at our favorite Sno-Ball shack, and we officially wrapped up our week at Camp Restore.

As we packed up our suitcases and cars and cleaned out the bunk rooms that were our home for the week, the Camp Restore staff borrowed the talents of the handy men in Saint John’s group one more time. What started out as a simple favor turned into a long request, but the guys helped load up some old stoves that Camp Restore is donating to another church in the area. It was a heavy-lifting project, but there is no doubt that those stoves will be put to good use, perhaps even to cook up southern treats for other visitors and servants to the city of New Orleans.

We had Friday evening and Saturday to spend some pleasure time on our own in the city, and we made every attempt to enjoy some of the sights and sounds of New Orleans. Southern food was a must, and we were treated to gumbo, a southern home-style breakfast at Mother’s Restaurant and a delectable brunch at Brenner’s featuring the famous bananas foster. We toured the French Quarter and enjoyed the many artists there. We saw more street performers and did some shopping on Royal Street. Then a streetcar ride took us to Audubon Park, full of live oak trees, beautiful flowers and a great walking path. It was nice to have a bit of time to enjoy the city from the tourist perspective. New Orleans is full of rich history, deep tradition and southern beauty.

All nine of us—Elise, Eric, Janet, Joel, Kimberly, Nelly, Sammi, Sue and Tim—would like to express our deep appreciation for all of Saint John’s support! We had a fantastic week serving the community of New Orleans. Thank you for sending us to help in this city full of great need.

Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in late August 2005. Many of us remember watching the unimaginable happen to a city in our own country, but who would have thought that almost eight years later this city would still be in dire need of assistance? There are numerous houses still boarded up with tarps on the roofs. Entire shopping centers sit empty and vacated. Hotels have been ransacked and deserted. Families continue to live in temporary housing, are working to replace belongings and hope to find a way to return to normalcy. It is eerie to think of being one of the citizens who experienced Hurricane Katrina first-hand, and the stories from the survivors really put life in perspective.

But there is an amazing sense of hope despite all of the destruction. A hope that families will return, houses will be rebuilt and the jazzy spunk that is New Orleans will return. We met many New Orleans citizens full of positive attitudes and great tenacity. It is heartwarming to experience, and it was a privilege to be able to serve this city. Through rebuilding a home, manning a book fair, cleaning horse stalls, installing an irrigation system, weeding, fixing multiple mechanical devices and cleaning, we made a small impact in multiple lives. And even more importantly, God worked through us to open and change our hearts forever as His servants.

We have all been graced with God’s blessings. How will we use them? There are so many opportunities! We are returning to Saint John’s full of ideas and God’s love to go out and serve more communities in need. Please join us in our upcoming efforts to continue to support God’s kingdom both locally and abroad! You never know how much one of these experiences will change your life and heart forever!

“Hesed” is a Hebrew word that means “kindness”, “mercy”, “loyalty”, “loving-kindness” or “steadfastness.” It’s the way God intends us to live together—a “love your neighbor as yourself”, active, selfless, sacrificial, caring-for-one-another brand of living contradictory to our fallen natures. The “Heseders” are continually looking to work together to share some small measure of God’s extraordinary love. Won’t you join us?