Day Two

Saturday 19 November 2005, 10:10 pm


I was really tired when I was posting last night, and a little distracted. There are actually two computers sitting here next to each other, and someone was playing games on the other. Mary was looking over my shoulder and "back seat editing" as I went along. And the keyboard is a straight keyboard, which I find difficult to type on when tired. (At home I use a split keyboard.) Anyway, the reason for the title "Field of Dreams" is because that is actually what they call the project ... "if you build it, they will come." (I guess this is a line from some famous movie :-) I believe the ball field is located approximately here.

Today was very similar to yesterday. Our job consists of stocking a "store" that is a food bank. They are constantly improving the entire process, but stocking shelves is pretty much a boring job no matter how much you try to improve it.

The Upper Room, used for devotions
Mary woke up with a sinus headache so she slept in and missed breakfast. She did come to devotions at 8:30 and we prayed for her. They put her at the processing table so she could learn the computer and not be on her feet all day. They are entering everyone into an Excel spreadsheet so they can more quickly verify people in the future. The people are not eligible for this food bank unless they are residents of Hancock County. After Thanksgiving, they will not be eligible unless they are residents of Bay St. Louis. So everyone must provide ID verifying their address. This can be difficult because so many people try to gain access when they are not really eligible. We must try to maintain a balance between showing compassion and not being taken advantage of. It is a tightrope. I'm glad I don't have that job.

I did get to help unload about ten pallets from a large truck today. A construction worker from Jackson, Mississippi used his day off to drive four hours each way to and from Jackson to deliver donations. Since this was much-needed material, we spend all afternoon moving these supplies from the supply tent into the food bank tent. It was hard work because the pallets had to be unloaded in one tent and the contents moved in smaller loads into the other tent, because there isn't room to move an entire pallet from one tent into the other. But the work is boring. I feel like I'm at a job and I have to "look busy" even thought I don't have to worry about getting fired. :-) But how many cans of tomato soup can one stack on a shelf without becoming bored?

Breakfast this morning was grits (a morning staple), pancakes, ham, and grapefruit. Lunch was a hamburger (yummy!), pork 'n' beans, and ... I can't remember. After the store closed at 5:00, a group of use went to downtown Bay St. Louis to a "block party" that turned out to be just an open art store that was hosting a potluck dinner. Since we didn't have a contribution for the potluck, we purloined a couple chicken wings then headed back to the Calvary Chapel tent again for a dinner of fish patties, rice, and cole slaw. The food has been wonderful and I am really grateful to Calvary Chapel volunteers for providing it.

We showed another moving tonight, "Herbie Fully Loaded" or something like that. Another group promised to pass out a free blanket to everyone who attended the also-free movie. I understand they had a large turnout. But a group of about ten of us went across the street to help Shirley clean up her house. She has become a kind of "mother" to the team here over the last couple of weeks and they wanted to show her some appreciation. We were tearing wood veneer off her walls for about three hours. In return, she let us use her shower and I got my first shower since leaving home.

What else? Today I found that one of the team members is the former Lori Mach (I hope I spelled her name correctly), who attended Holy Cross Lutheran Church at the same time I did, and who graduated from high school the same year as my younger sisters Susan and Carol. In addition, she later attended Westminster Presbyterian Church and was friends with Frank Mitchell at the same time that I lived with him in the infamous 12th Street House near San Jose Bible College. What a small world! Lori said she recognized me and we both puzzled over our histories until we figured it out. Lori is now married and she attends Calvary Chapel Gilroy. But her wonderful pastor Matt Valencia spoke in my church last Sunday instead of hers, neener neener!

We really appreciate your prayers for us. We really don't take anything for granted, and we don't expect that we can even stock shelves in a gospel-effective way without a lot of prayer behind it. As always when you are working in a close group of 15-20 people, there are differences of opinion, unintensionally hurt feelings, and true interpersonal conflict. But I'm finding that with pre-emptive prayer most of the situations resolve themselves in unanticipated ways.

Today I received emails from Kathleen Brandt, Brenda Boston, and Susan Coulter. Thanks to all of you for being mindful of us.

Tomorrow we will attend church at what I understand is a hand-clapping foot-stomping holy-rolling all-black church. I'm told we'll be "ready for lunch" after the workout. We're supposed to eat lunch at a Methodist church in Waveland where the steeple is all that is left of the building. But they serve lunch in the parking lot. Waveland was much harder hit than Bay St. Louis and they say it will be a real eye-opener for those of us who haven't been there yet. In the afternoon, I understand we might go to New Orleans, which is only about one hour away from here. The team just wants to see the French Quarter and stuff, but I've been to NO before on vacation and seen all that.

On Monday the current team will leave around noon, leaving only a skeleton crew including us to run the food bank all day. On Monday night the next team will arrive. Since Mary and I and one other gentlemen, Jim, got here a few days earlier, we will be the "old hands" and we will have to train the new people. I personally feel quite un-equipped to do this but we'll work it out.

In addition to the normal food bank hours on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday this week, we will serve some kind of Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, and most of the logistics are still being worked out. We don't know whether we will serve a large group here, a number of smaller groups all over town, a large group at another location, or some combination of the above. There are some senior citizens and shut-ins who may have Thanksgiving dinner delivered to them personally.

It was warmer today and there were a few problems with gnats. They don't seem to like me but others couldn't keep them away. One lady "shopping" in the food bank kept complaining to me about gnats, but I said they didn't like me, they must like her because she is sweeter than me. She laughed and said that I made her day. I talked to another lady who was happy to get a quilted blanket from the new supply of blankets delivered today. As I helped her bring stuff out to her car, I told her about the quilt I am making back home. She said I must keep it since it is my first quilt. We'll see! I would have donated it to the relief effort had I finished it in time.

Well, lights are out and I have to be up in seven hours ... hopefully there will even more interesting tidbits to share with you tomorrow! If there is something specific you'd like to ask or hear about please send me an email, and I'll try to answer.

Love to all, Mary and Mark

2005-katrina/20051119a