Blog Updates sent via Email

It is now possible to receive blog updates via email. Once a day, you will receive an single convenient email with all the updates from the previous 24 hours. No updates, no email. No spam, no ads, all blog and only blog.

To subscribe to this service, click the following link, enter the email address you want to use and you will get a confirmation email sent there. Confirm the email and you will be subscribed. There is an unsubscribe link included in every email.

Subscribe to Macalester-Plymouth Youth Mission News by Email

Friday, June 20, 2008


Smaller by Laura Purdie Salas

Life shrinks
Without a home to live in.

It shrivels until it

fits into a
torn grocery sack or a
holey old suitcase.

until it is itty bitty enough for you to
throw your socks, your comb, and
your dreams
into that sack
flat out fast
when Mama snaps,
"We got to move. Now!"

My life has melted so small--
Soon I expect to disappear completely.

Al and Bernice's House

We were able today to visit Spain St and see the completed house. They are "almost" moved
in. They are waiting for new furniture, although Al wanted to sleep on the floor, just to be in the house.


Today we visited a house that we had worked on last year. Exactly one year ago, I was pulling up floor boards and hauling them out to the trash. Many of the rooms had floors with holes in them and the rooms were almost unrecognizable. You could literally see the entire house from the front door because the only thing standing in the house were the studs. This year, we wanted to visit this house. The home of Al and Berniece. These people have the most beautiful spirits. Last year Al was incredibly hopeful even though his house had been almost completely washed away. When I stepped into their house (they are actually moving in this week) one year later, I was in amazement. Tears of joy are the only words that can describe the emotions running through that house. Al and Berniece were of course in high spirits as well as the whole group. The house looks absolutely beautiful, and these people deserve every bit of its beauty. Because this year I have been working on tiling, I took an extremely close look at the tiling job in that house. Although not many people just walking through the house would recognize the tiling, I can definitely tell that the tiles were done by volunteers. That house was definitely made out of love. After many photos with the homeowners and the house itself, the group left Spain Street extremely satisfied.

One more thing,
-Megan G.

Last Day in New Orleans

Today was the best day of the trip so far for me at least. First we started out the day by going to a park in St. Bernard's Parish , near(or maybe in) the lower 9th ward. This park is the only open public park down there so working on this meant a lot to us and the community. I worked mainly on putting mulch in the garden and weeding, and carrying huge wood planks to the dumpster. Then during our lunch break Anna and Elin snuk behind the car and grabbed squirt bottles and started squirting everyone, eventually we had an all out water bottle war. That was a great way to end the last day of work. On the ride back to the church Norm drove us around the lower 9th ward where the house literally got washed away, it was really hard to see the damage. But when we got back to the church we all started preparing for dinner and going to Al and Berniece's house. When we got to their house, it was amazing...all of the work we did actually paid off and the house looked like one million dollars . That was the best part of my trip most definitely. During this trip I felt a lot more attached to not just the houses but the people of the city I really did enjoy every day of this trip.
-Megan G.

Saving Soles

Today in the park work at Sidney Torres Community Park in Chalmette, Karen judged her boots to be too tight, too something, and she selected a pair from the huge pile that Parkway has accumulated in 2+ years of volunteer groups staying in the church.

Trouble was, at the park, the sole fell off. Completely. And the sole was lost.

Lost sole.

Later Karen was able to find it again, and she stuck in the back pocket of her jeans. "I lost my sole. I saved it. This is my saved sole." She thought it was pretty funny, and so did those of us who heard the story.

Had Tom Harm said it, particularly after six days of mostly lame lines and jokes, we would have groaned and Marit would have made him leave the property.

Last Day's Work

And like last year, we did a totally different project on the last day with the entire group. We helped work on a Community Park in St. Bernard Parish (where our houses were.) The
community Library/summer program had a band playing and some preschool groups visited.

Tomorrow we pack and head home. Happy to return, sad to leave so much behind.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

ICY HOT AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!111

no comment.

Forget Iraq. Rebuild New Orleans

That was the bumper sticker we saw in Jefferson Parish, where we are staying. On a GMC Denali.

It reflects the view of all of the folks we have met this week, the older affluent folks out here who have hosted us as well as all of the people we have met in the city and in St. Bernard Parish, where two groups are working on houses.

Those two houses lie in St. Bernard, across the the line from New Orleans and further down the Mississippi. The neighborhoods look a lot like those we worked in last year, same style and of the same era, except we know that St. Bernard was mostly white prior to the storm and New Orleans East was mostly African-American. The storm happened to both of them. In Chalmette, the Katrina storm surge blasted up the MRGo, a largely useless ship canal built in the 60s, and it overwhelmed the city. Water day one was up to 14 feet deep. Our construction manager said one building was judged habitable in the whole parish post Katrina. Where "Gabe and Babes" (plus Lee and Norm) have been working in Chalmette, today we saw the flood line, perhaps four inches below the ceiling. Today, maybe 4 in 10 houses in this neighbood are re-occupied. Next to ours on one side the house has been razed, the house other side is condemned, as is one across the street.

It's been explained. The people are willing, but the funds are not there. The Federal Housing program set up for rental housing has yet to issue a dime in loans."The Road Home", the State and Federal program that leads to grants for homeowners, is a bureaucratic mess. We met someone yesterday in McDonalds who saw our t-shirts, said thanks, and said that her application for Road Home funds went 2 years without action. She was unable to do a thing to her house, and the parish had to condemn it, and today it's a concrete slab on a lot available for purchase from the parish.

We passed a house yesterday, in which the owner had sprayed in large letters, "Don't Destroy this House! CALL DAVE!" With a phone number.

So. Forget Iraq. Rebuild New Orleans.

-- Lee

Last Day....

Today was our last day (Gabe and the Babes) working at Beth's house. The work was all very hard and tedious but also satisfying.I am really looking forward to going back to Al and Bernice's house tomorrow, that will be really fun to see all the additional work other people have put into it. Today we only had a half day of work so we could quickly go back to the church, shower, and head off the the IMAX theater to see Hurricane on the Bayou I thought it was really interesting,including the cheesy reenactments, but overall a good movie. Tomkorrow we will all work together to help fix up a park, put in a swingset hopefully and clean it up. I am really looking forward to tomorrow because what I think New Orleans really needs is a friendly environment that will hopefully attract the people come back. So far I have really enjoyed this trip and think New Orleans is still the coolest place to be throughout all the destruction.
-Megan G.

More Pictures...

Ive started a new flickr group where we can post pictures of the 2008 mission trip.

unfortunately, I haven't uploaded anything yet, but you are free to!

goto and sign in as:

Username: macplymt2008
Password: macmt2008

upload photos please!!

Play That Funky Music

First off I'd like to say that this trip has been pretty sweet. Coming back to New Orleans for a second time left me wondering how on earth this trip could match the last. After completing a good portion of it I'm glad to say it has :)

That being said, the whole reason I'm giving up my chill time to sit on a computer and type something is for reasons that no one expected. I, John Newsome, played and sang at "Snug Harbor", a famous jazz club on the outskirts of the French quarter.
Sitting at our work site, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and talking to a good group of 6 or 7 people, I mentioned the fact that I know how to play guitar. All of a sudden our site leader got all excited, and talked about a jazz club that our entire group should go to. Anyone who wanted to perform could get in free. After much arguing and a few black eyes (just kidding), we decided that me and Lee would go.
Walking into this place I did now know what to expect. I was told that I would be called to the stage. Suspense, anybody? We took a seat in the upper level and sipped on a cold delicious sprite as we watched the band play the blues. To put it bluntly, they were REALLY GOOD. I won't lie, I was feeling a little nervous. My last coffeeshop show drew 26 people, and I stopped counting at 100. Still, I was excited to go up there and do what I love.

"Is there a John in the house? A John in the house?" I stood up and walked to the stage. The band was all positive energy, and I knew right when I got up there that it was gonna be a fun time. Something just crept into me and I couldn't help but joke around with the audience a little before taking the guitar from the lead guitar player, "Detroit". "Take over for me, man" he said.
I went up and started playing a chord progression I had written last fall. The band joined in (making me sound better than I ever have before" and being in this confident state decided to sing a song I had written to these chords, called "When You Smile". The crowd was cheering and loving it. Afterwards I asked if I could do one more. This time I played a clever little song, but halfway through I forgot the words! I started making some up, and the crowd loved it. Leaving the stage I only wished I could have played an entire set. Like Lee said, "It'll be a long time before you play with a band this good again".

Not only have I gotten to rebuild New Orleans, but I've gotten to share my music. I think I can leave this week feeling complete.


The last day working at Beth's House

Today was our last day working on Beth's house on veronica street where we have been working all week. We have gotten many things done such as Drywalling, Mudding, corner beading, and sanding. We have gotten very emotionally attached to this house and were sad to leave. It's amazing to see the progress gabe and the babes have contributed to the house in such a little time.

We were very happy with the work we did. Us three plus Marit and Lee made an AMAZING team. By the end of the week we could've opened our own business we had drywalling down to a science. The room started off as a room with wooden studs... now its a living space with walls covered in mud. The grey stuff, not dirt.

Today we finished up all the last mudding, and then sanded... we hate sanding and we never want to do it again. Our poor arms were about to fall off, and even though we were wearing a suffocating mask and goggles our lungs were quickly being filled with dust. Again we repeat sanding is a not a fun process do not try it at home. However we still liked the feeling of accomplishment @ the end of the day. We had a half day today and after coming home and taking showers we went to see Hurricanes on the Bayou at the Imax theater here. Molly and Gabe think it a great movie. However, Caroline thought the movie could have been better presented (by focusing less on alligators and more on the hurricane.)

It has been a really fun trip so far, and we are looking forward to our last day working tomorrow, this time outside at a park.

Peace Out, Caroline, Molly and Gabe.

How I saved the day...

While we were working today we listened to the boombox we had brought with us to the job site. As Steve was mudding drywall overhead he knocked a putty knife off his ladder and severed the cord to our poor boombox. Luckily one of us was a skilled handyman, and while the adults said "oh well just leave it." Matt Dickinson said "NO!" He, with terrific poise and deft, easy, careless movements had the CD player re-wired and playing in a mere 10 minutes! His actions saved the day once again... from boredom.
-NOT Matt Dickinson

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

John Newsome Jamming in a Jazz club in New Orleans

Hopefully John will blog about the experience, but I had to put the photo up. Yes, he was jamming with a band on stage at a local club.


This year our devotions are quite different. More revealing about how we feel about our skills, ourselves, our memories of the Storm. The youth are clearly in charge and what they choose to say and read and ask has been quite memorable.

Other people have shared their own personal journeys, often very spiritual. Tonight the church folks made dinner for us. A woman stood up to tell us that when people in New Orleans see us, they see Jesus, because we are doing Jesus' work and it shines through.

So devotions come in all shapes and sizes, in all places and at all times. It's unexpected and wonderful-- however and whenever.....
I've been so astonished with how far the group at the Veronica Street house ("Gabe and the Babes;" for those that are confused, this nicknames comes from the fact that this work group consists of Norm, Lee, Gabe Street, and 10+ girlies) gets everyday with our drywalling work. It doesn't seem too significant when we're at it, but in just three days we have mudded, taped, corner beaded, etc every room in the house with the exception of the laundry room and maybe a closet or two. Everyone is so in their groove everyday its cool to be a part of (sorry if I've been too bossy, thats what I do). I'm disappointed that there are only two days left, and I'm sure GATB would agree.

-Elin Harm, "The Boss"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Orleans...

Here in New Orleans, it seems that not much changes year to year. The houses are still destroyed, the workload is still immense, and the people are still working to make a difference.

Yesterday we spent a portion of the morning at an orientation, which I'm not going to lie, was pretty boring, but it was just overwhelming to see how many people are STILL coming down to help, three years later. The room was packed with groups ranging from 2 people to 35 people (ours), and everybody that I could see was just excited to be getting out there and trying to do the best they could for all of the amazing people down here.

Not that we're here just for the big noble purposes...over at the Veronica House (where "Gabe and the Babes" are working), we spend a pretty significant amount of energy blasting Lil' Wayne and Rihanna...but always with our power tools in one hand, since any break that we take doesn't last long.

Anyways, there's a lot to say, but I think that most of it has been covered by everybody else. It's been a fun trip so far, and I can't wait for tomorrow morning so that we can start working again.

-Molly Coleman

Julie, if you read this, can you tell my Mom and Dad to? Thanks =)

Reflections thus far--Graham

I, as many people know, have an eerily good memory. However, I don’t’ remember it being quite this hot last year—even in the glory of Air Conditioning, a sweat is still being worked up. Other than the heat, though, a lot of things are still ultimately the same from last year. The work is hard, the culture is amazing, and showers continue to be a blessing.

I’ve been working in the Newport house, doing a big smorgasbord of different jobs. I’ve done a bit of sanding, held drywall once or twice, and some sweeping. Lots of sweeping. I spend most of my time, though, in a small little utility room, putting up insulation everywhere. On Monday, Karen, Steve and I put insulation up in the only wall without it. Today I worked alone on the ceiling. It’s not hard, really, just sort of repetitive. The air conditioning (Yes, you read that right) doesn’t really get to that room, and every move kicks up dust and fiberglass. I can’t stay in it for more than ten minutes or so at a time before I need a drink of water from breathing in the fiberglass. We’re doing more construction than destruction, which means that the room is filled with the sounds of electric drills, hammers, and scraping, rather than the sudden collapse of old drywall and insulation.

The French Quarter, as advertised, was really incredible. If you hear music, it’s being played live and on the rare occasion it’s not, somebody’s bound to be performing some sort of awesome dance to it. I did manage to do a bit of shopping, and will show off my wares when I return. Most of my money, it seems, is being reserved for fifty-cent sodas from the church’s vending machine. At the end of the day, after dinner and devotions, there’s really nothing better.
My group made dinner last night—pizza. Eighteen pizzas, to be exact. The Taco pizza went over very well. The brie/portabella/red pepper one… not so much. Alas.

Ultimately, this trip is amazing. Outside of working, the weather is relatively nice. Everybody’s working hard, and there is always some sort of job to do. I always think I’m about to fall asleep where I stand, but something gives me some kind of energy to run off and do something else.
Dinnertime, now. Auf Wiedersehen.

-Graham Barr

Monday, June 16, 2008


So, today megan molly and I felt a great sense of accomplishment because we dry walled a whole wall and a half by our selves. Although we got frustrated at times, we continued working hard and by the time we finished the wall and a half the whole room was done. Today was hot, our house wasn't air conditioned like the other so we were all sweating and i came home with a wet shirt and a dirty body only to come home to a small ant filled 5 minute shower.

I'm not going to lie this trip has been a bit disappointing because for one we didn't get to meet the come owner at the Veronica House. It would always be nice to see the reaction on the home owners face seeing everyone working on their house. Another reason I am really disappointed is because I feel like there is so much to be done here still! Its been almost three years since the hurricane hit and i don't see a very drastic change from last year. The neighborhoods around here are still very deserted, and not connected which makes me realize why people don't want to move back here.

Anyways me and megan wrote a rap today about our hero lil wayne. I am going to go to bed though because we had a long day and im tired.
- Caroline Brown


So, today one group went to a house on Newport Street. The house was surprisingly air conditioned, and there were mainly two rooms that needed tiling. Many people got a tutorial from the on site construction manager, and although today was a little bit slow, tomorrow will run quite smoothly. Now, many of the volunteers are pretty much professional tilers, a great new skill.


Mobile Loaves and Fishes

Our team delivered two big plastic tubs of toys and books to MLF today and we loaded them into the Canteen truck--along with nearly 200 sandwiches we had made at Trinity Episcopal Church (built in the 19th century for new Irish protestant immigrants), chips, oranges, cookies, bottled water, etc. A well-oiled machine, we had all the sandwiches done in/loaded in less than 90 minutes.

Today we set out to provide lunches to other other groups doing constructions work--in the Lower Ninth Ward, Center City and Gentilly. We drove through lots of very, very sad neighborhoods--so many houses still abandoned and still showing the slash marks spray-painted by the Search-and-Recover teams nearly 3 years ago. Some new housing, don't get me wrong, stuff is being done. But at this rate, it will be decades before the city is whole. Yet we have to be reminded that some of the houses were untouched by water and looked like this before the storm.

The last stop was the best. We had extra sandwiches and were able to give them to folks who lived in the neighborhood. Two 85-year old ladies shuffled out in their bedroom slippers. Then more men and women... They had obviously waited until the volunteers were fed and came up to the truck just hoping... We were Blessed so many times that we're certain to make it to heaven now! No one left without a sandwich or two or four. Many of our toys and books have already found a home--two men (a father and an uncle) spent more time choosing toys and took more kid-gifts with them than sandwiches.

It's good work. I'm looking forward to going back tomorrow.

First Time

This is my first time going on the mission trip, and I have had an amazing time. I really enjoyed putting up the dry wall on the house I am working on. Though the humidity has been incredibly bother some. I am part of the team known as "Lil' Wayne Soldiers of God". We thought it was appropriate, since Lil Wayne grew up in New Orleans. I am very hopeful and excited. I am extremely glad I went on this trip. I am also proud of the entire youth group.

-Gabe Street

Ramblings of a Twit.

There are many things that I'm okay with here in New Orleans, I can accept the fact that the minute I step outside (inside too in some cases) I will be drenched in sweat in under a minute, I can deal with walking two blocks to take a shower on an even hour of the day, I can even get used to monster bugs, Lizards (They're Green Anoles dad!), and Newts that moonlight as snakes showing up without a moment's notice. BUT! If you expect me to fill up on PB&J, boiled eggs, carrots, and Nutri-Grain bars for lunch during a work day then you have another thing coming!
Oh well. I suppose I can just eat a bug or something, they're big enough! today we saw a massive black grasshopper that was as big as my palm! (I have huge hands)
But heedless of all my food shortage woes life goes on vibrantly here in Nawlins, Loosiana. A visit to the French quarter yesterday is the height of the trip so far, we went to the same voodoo shop as last year and I got my dad his father's day present (I just hope he doesn't curse me!)
Apparently I have a reputation already with the Project Homecoming volunteers working with us. Someone probably told them about my berserk mutilation of a kind old couple's floor (don't worry we were taking it out anyway) or one of my other marginally interesting achievements.
Alright I've rambled long enough! Time for a good hot shower and then... Dinner!

All my love to my friends and oh I guess you too family,
-Matt D.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Breakdancing and Voodoo

So, after a day and a half, my body still hasn't acclimated itself to the ridiculously muggy New Orleans weather. The air is never this drippingly wet in St. Paul, and I've never been south of Chicago, so it was especially a shock for me. Come to think of it, this trip is a whole slew of new things for me, or at the very least a reunion so long past due that it may as well
be the first time. For example, today was the fist time in at least 8 years that I donned a pair of shorts, excluding swim trunks. Also, this was the first time I've been on a plane, 'cuz I don't count the time my parents took me to England when I was around 1 year old. I f you don't remember it, it doesn't count.
Anyway. So many different things down here! Little things are especially noticeable, like how instead of red and yellow, fire hydrants are silver here. Also, I've never seen mailboxes encased in little brick pillars before. And you never see salamanders wriggling in the water by the curb up north in the Land of the Cold Air. That thing was at least a foot long! It was black and cute and having a good old time wriggling around in the puddles. I wanted to take it home. But there was nothing to carry it in, so on we went. I notice that there are few Asian people here compared to Minnesota. Just an observation.
We went to do a bit of tourist-ing today in the French Quarter, and the first thing
I did was purchase a beignier. That not spelled correctly, but it's a french word anyway, so spell-check is no help. The important thing to know is that there was about half a pound of powdered sugar on each one. And that they were delicious. A little painful, seeing as they were really fresh, but a worthwhile experience. Next stop was a voodoo shop. That was a bit ironic, considering I'm here with a Christian group, but that didn't stop me from making a small purchase. Next up was a mask shop, but I didn't have enough time to make a selection. For another time, I suppose. By the way, there was a bit of a festival going on at this time. To do with seafood, I think. So there was lots of live music around every corner. As someone who nigh involuntarily starts dancing to any catchy beat, I didn't walk from place to place so much as groove and slide.
My highlight, and then I'll relinquish the computer, was the breakdancing performance. I can't really do justice to it in words, so I'll see about putting up some pictures. Bye!
- Malcolm

Tour of the 2007 Work Sites


After church today at a few places -- Parkway, Saint Louis Cathedral, First MegaBaptist -- we visited the properties we worked on last year. We planned a route that took us first to Grant Street in New Orleans East, further out to visit Carol and Rudolph, and finally back to Spain Street in Gentilly.

Back to Grant Street, back into a neighborhood with a lot of progress but still so very far to go to be a full and lively neighborhood. Lee led the group there without consulting a map -- so much was that place a part of his life and thoughts in the last year. Last year maybe half of our youth worked there and the rest worked on Spain. For those of us with experience at Grant it was fun to see the house occupied. It was disappointing not to meet the people.

Rudolph and Carol were at home, making a meal for father's day. We knocked and invited ourselves in and 33 out of the group of 35 trooped through their home, pointing out the places where we hung sheetrock and installed insulation. Back bedroom, master beroom, hall and closets. Norm and Steve could observe only the highest quality workmanship in our work, except for may a big crease in the ceiling. Rudolph and Carol are so grateful and gracious, they said thank you not fewer than a dozen times. We ended in prayer, led by Matt, and we said thank you for the opportunity.

Al and Bernice were also not at home. Their FEMA trailer is still in the yard, but the house is fully clad in new siding and even expanded a bit in the back. The kids who worked there last year were disappointed, no hugs, no sweet tea, but a took a lot of satisfaction out of seeing a complete project that they put so much into.

Tomorrow, to work.


Some Pictures from the French Quarter

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Just a quick note to let you know that everyone has arrived safe and sound (and hot) in New Orleans. All flights were on time and the large group had a great dinner here of Spaghetti while the 4 of us, Rachel, Kristin, Simon and I (Norm) ate at "Lenny's Subs" in the Memphis airport.

We are signed up to go to different churches tomorrow morning and will return in time for lunch. Then the plan is to visit the houses we worked on last year and hopefully see the people again.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Another Year, Many New Challenges

It is June 2008 and the senior high youth of Macalester Plymouth United Church (29 of them) are getting ready to travel to New Orleans again. We hope to visit our houses from last year and again work hard in the service of Jesus Christ for the people of New Orleans. It should be an eye-opening experience for the freshman, and perhaps the returning youth as well.

Friends and Relatives, this Blog has been set up so you can have a small view into what we are doing each day. Only members may add entries, however it is configured so that anyone may read and comment on the blog without editing or monitoring (just click on comment, enter your comment and then select Name/URL and put in a name.)