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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Many Thanks!

Many thanks are due now that this year's mission trip has come to a close.

John, Lee, Maggie, and Marsha: What a great adult team. Parents, your youthies were in great hands with this A team that worked with them not just on the job sites but during the off hours to make sure that the trip was educational, fun, and life changing.

Julia and Maddie: Strong leadership this year, absolutely amazing. They put significant time into the trip in the year leading up to it. One of the Camp Rhino people thought they were church staffers!

Mission Trip Committee: The youth on the committee were instrumental in making sure fund-raising efforts were successful and that things got planned for the trip.

Youth: As ever, the youth were hard workers and now they are bearers of the experiences shared with them by people who have been through extremely difficult times.

Congregation: For financial support, for prayers, for caring, for being interested, for doing mission work through this particular avenue.

Parents: Thanks for trusting us with your youth. Thanks for your work as parents that makes them such a pleasure to be with even when the weather is hot and work is frustrating.

The people of New Orleans and the staff of Camp Rhino and St. Bernard Project: for your mission work to the youth and adults by allowing the group to learn from you and to experience God speaking through you.

The bus drivers: for getting us there and back safely and listening to our music, movies, and general crowd noise.

I look forward to this year's mission trip service (September 22) when the youth will share what they experienced with the congregation. Until then...there's always the blog!



Monday, June 24, 2013

Missing Camera!!!!

A camera, black Canon without a case, was misplaced on the bus ride back to town.

If you know about this, or have it, call or send a text message to Lily at 651-925-7919, and she will see that it gets returned to rightful owner.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nearing Mason City, ETA still 12:30 PM

Donuts in Iowa City

Just stopped for the obligatory bus donuts, and we think we'll get back at or around 12:30.  Will update as we get closer.

Making Our Way

It's just before 6:00 and most of the bus is still asleep as we seem to have figured out how to make that work just in time not to need the skill anymore.

We just passed through Hannibal, MO, which puts us on track to arrive  in Saint Paul at about 12:30, but that will partially depend on how long any stops are, so check back for updates as the morning progresses.

Thank you for letting your youthies participate in this fabulous trip -- every one of them made it a better trip than it would have been without them, and we adults were blessed to spend the week watching them grow and learn and teach each other and us.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Prayer partners, communion... and leaving Memphis

We completed a wonderful and moving closing to the mission trip in Overton Park in Memphis. We are back on the road, and still thinking a noon arrival in Saint Paul.

Check back on Sunday morning for an update. And thank you, as always, for your prayers and support.


It's gonna be FANTASTIC!!

Or so Maggie has convinced us, about the bus ride. Bus just left French Quarter. On our way. With 21 youth.

Best estimate is noon Sunday in St Paul. We will update estimate as we go.


Friday, June 21, 2013

The Final Frontier

Here goes one last blog post,

Hey all, things are winding down here in the common room. Four people are playing Hearts, Erica's CD is playing in the TV, and the adults all look like they could use 12 hours of sleep. They deserve some hibernation, but I'm not sure that the bus tomorrow will allow it.

It has been a blast! This has been a very satisfying mission trip in that the progress was tangible, there was true need for our work, and everyone here is awesome. I have already begun to feel sadness that next year I won't be going on the mission trip. There has always been THE mission trip that starts off the summer. THE mission trip that lets me spend time and make friends with the other kids at Mac-Plymouth. THE mission trip that gives me the privilege to serve others and make a positive difference in the world. I'm going to miss it in a way that I could describe using every cliche I can think of. But I won't, because as simple as the idea of a mission trip is, it is not cheesy or shallow. A mission trip is a genuine, life-changing experience.

Today I haven't felt so hot. My stomach has felt off and has been cramping. It was fairly debilitating at the work site, much to my frustration, but since then has seemed to get a little better. I am hoping that a good nights sleep will allow my system to work itself out and I will be 100% for the trip home tomorrow. I am optimistic!

Well we are being called to bed, so I will say good night to everyone out there. Thank you for all of your support, encouragement, and love over the last four years. You guys are the best!

Henry B.
Hello back home in Saint Paul! Our week here in New Orleans has been not only amazing, but enlightening. This experience has opened my eyes; you really don't know what you have until you lose it.

All week, my construction group and I have been working on flooring and installing base-board for a woman named Gwen. Her home is located in New Orleans East and after the levee broke, her house was flooded about six feet and her family were stranded on their roof for four days, and she and her husband had to swim to safety.

Eight years prior to Katrina, Gwen still does not have a home of her own. On thursday she came to visit us to see the work we had accomplishEd in her home. She told us her story which made me realize how lucky i am with my life back in Minnesota; i have always had a home to go back to, and she has been moving around for eight years. Disasters really put our liVes in perspective, especially if you have survived them. After our week here, we will have all these memories from our experience, but we will eventually forget and they will become less prevalent in our thoughts.

Just to reminisce on a fantastic first mission trip, i want to make a special shout out "team A's" upstairs flooring crew. You really made our work at Gwen's house fun. From the infamous table saw, to our dance parties, learning to cope-physically anD mentally- and of course, finally celebrating the upstairs hallway being flush.

It was a great week and i honestly couldn't have asked for a better mission trip.

Love, erica craddock

Last day of work

Avery here!
Today was our final day of work. Unfortunately, our homeowner, Ms. Cassandra, never showed up so we couldn't meet her and learn her story. I would have liked to meet her so we could know who would be living their everyday lives in the rooms we built. The rooms were all painted this week, and it was incredible how much the bright colors helped change the house from a structure with no meaning to a house that someone would be living in for years to come. We also did a lot of the baseboard and trim around the house. Even this small detail made a big difference in how much better the rooms looked. Me and Maddy worked on the trim around the back door. At first, it was confusing because we had no idea what we were doing. Eventually, we figured it out and were able to piece it all together. It was hard to get the length just right, but when our site director came over to look at it she told us it was perfect and that we had done a great job. This was the biggest moment of satisfaction I felt all trip, since we made something from start to finish without really knowing how to start. I was sad to leave the house, since we will probably never return to see it again. I wish I could see it finished in person, but i know we made a lot of important progress in just the four days we were there. I'm glad that Ms. Cassandra will be able to move back to her real home sometime this sumer, since she has been waiting for so long. It will be nice to get back to Minnesota, but I will definitely miss New Orleans.
Bye for now,
Hi Parents
Marsha here. Each year on these trips I am touched by the hard work and good spirits of the youth.  Each one brings gifts and talents and together they make a difference.  And this year as in years past our host organizations are amazed by them. I have heard so many great comments about their hard work, generous spirits and engagement with issues.  Last night we had a long discussion about what we have experienced here in New Orleans.  We are coming back with many stories to share.  Se y'all soon. Marsha

Au Revoir New Orleans

Bonjour Minnesota!
    We have just returned from our last worship service with RHINO. Over the week we have listened to a few sermons from Durban Durban (our nickname for our keynote speaker, Andy Durban), and spiritual songs from the guest band. It's been a bit like Next Step last year, but a little less extreme. Tonight Jimmy, Henry, Paul and I sang "Prayer for the Children" to open the service.  I believe Maggie has a video.
  It's bittersweet to be leaving New Orleans; we all miss our families, our homes, our beds. But New Orleans still needs us. Being here has shown me that, even almost eight years later, so much help is still needed.  It has been an amazing experience, and very satisfying to see the work that the adult leaders, Maddy, and I put into this trip turned into an impactful, fulfilling mission trip. We worked hard, we played hard, we slept hard. What else could you ask for? I've had such a wonderful time with these wonderful people, and I can't wait to see you all soon!
Much love,
Julia Schafer
P.S- Simon is here with me, and he wants to say hi to his family. Also, shoutout to Lydia's cats. She misses you! Meow.

The little things

Hi everyone, Claire Donovan here :-)
Everyone knows how much fun we have every year doing mission work on the mission trip every year. Its always a LOT of work and we're exhausted by the end of the day. Although the main point of our trip every year is to do work and help others, we always make time to do typical teen things. We did a lot of those this week. Some of my favorite little things that happened this week were...
1. Swimming with everyone in the pool. We had a few awesome games of boys against girls pool basketball at the rec center by our dorms. Its the best way to cool off after a long day of work.
2. Yesterday, we met the cutest little dog I've ever seen, literally. He was grey and fluffy had his ears stuck out, his tongue was lolling and his little white teeth were smiling. He looked just like a happy koala and he sat in our laps and let us pet him as he licked up. He chased Jimmy in a circle hoping to get a bite of his sandwich.
3. Over the week I've aquired quite a collection of mardi gras beads. Right now my count is at 12, all colors of the rainbow. They're so shiny and I really don't want to let them out of my sight so they're next to me right now. 
5. I've liked hearing Xaver and Clem's accents this week. Its been cool having German and French teens on the trip with us.
6. Today Tom fell asleep on the couch during our free time. The couch in the middle of the lounge, surrounded by teens. You can probably guess what happened. Tom's unconcious body was transformed into the cereal king. This included putting a cereal bowl on his head, silverwear in his hands, cheerios on his lap, cards and ripped up paper thrown on him. He was pretty surprised when he woke up to all of us laughing.
7. I've played soooo many games of bananagrams (and we've made up so many words)
8. (Once again) the food has been AmAzInG, everything we've had is so good (looking forward to possibly bbq in Memphis tomorrrow night? EVen though its 9:30 and we had chicken fajitas a few hours ago, I could really go for another poboy right about now).
9. I've had a lot of time to catch up on my reading this week. I've been reading Stephen King's It and I've enjoyed discussing it and other books with the others on the trip. 
10. I've really enjoyed just spending time with everyone and getting to know everyone better. I've gotten to spend time with everyone, which has been great. We always get so close on the trip. 
Anyway, all in all its been a really fantastic trip. I'll see you all (y'all? I've been here long enough, I think I'm allowed to say that) later!!
Lots of love, 
Claire :-)

List of Strange Things

This week, Abram and I made a list of all the strange and random things we saw in New Orleans. They're the kinds of things you look at and are just confused.

1. We were driving through one of the richer neighborhoods of the city. There were a lot of mansions, and one of them had this enormous tree with a branch that stretched across the whole yard, so the homeowners had put a pillar under the branch to hold it up. It was strange, and also beautiful.
2. There are a lot of beads hanging from the trees and power lines.
3. We were driving in the bus, and we saw a power line with logs strung through it. It was really random- there's the power line, and it contains logs. I have no idea how they got there. Maybe they serve some purpose I'm not aware of.
4. Our bus is very large, and it had some trouble navigating the narrower streets. At one point, the top of our bus hit a tree branch. Only, when Abram looked back, he saw that we had not hit a tree branch. There was a sign hanging from the branch that said, "look out for tree branch." We hit the sign. Oh, the irony.
5. There were clouds shaped like a perfect heart one day. It was beautiful. After about five minutes it was gone.
6. So, Tom and I are vegetarians. We went to Mother's, a restaurant, one day, and ordered bean omelets. Because that has no meat in it, right? Wrong.
7. There was a cockroach in the bathroom, so I trapped it with a cup and a piece of paper and dropped it off our little third story balcony. It survived and happily scuttled away. What a survivor.
8. I kept track of how many I saw:
Cats: Sixteen
Lizards: Nine
Horses: Fifteen

I do love how many cats there are running around this city. 
It's been an awesome week!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The work continues, 7 1/4 inches at a time.

I remember coming here in the summer of 2007. It was about 22 months after the Storm, and it was still a raw disaster area. Refuse was piled on the streets, no street signs made getting to work sites very challenging, and we were still doing demolition work. The work was disorganized and the neighborhoods had very little life in them except for some FEMA trailers.

Six years have gone by. Thousands of families have come back home. There have been millions of hours of volunteer time and billions of dollars invested since Mac-Plymouth first came here.

With still so much to be done.

This week we were told that the city of New Orleans still has 35,000 abandoned properties. Where the B-plusses are working in Lower Nine there are three vacant lots to the south, another next door the other way and another across the street. Just three little concrete remain. Some lots are overgrown with weeds, with no one claiming title to the property.

Where we working in the back bedroom of Miss Carlmelita's house in Lower Nine,  the laminate flooring pieces are 47 inches long and 7 1/4 inches wide. We are not very skilled and the work does not go quickly, but when Simon installed a small strip it was the second room our little team had done, and Julia and Lian had already done maybe 30 percent of the living room.

Could not help thinking that the work goes forward 7 1/4 inches at a time. Piece by piece, in our houses and the ones other volunteers are building or renovating this week, the progress continues. Can't believe that the rebuilding has taken this long with miles further to go, but we need to be thankful for the many hands that have put the pieces together, 7 1/4 inches at a time.

Thanks for your support.


Talk About Perspective

This morning at our job site, two of our little groups continued to work on laying flooring.  We had hoped to finish up both the upstairs and downstairs halls so that we could begin the living room, but both groups ran into frustration after frustration and made almost no progress.  While I won't say that tempers were flaring, there certainly was a loss of energy and enthusiasm, and the collective mood was mighty low.

At about 11:45, the owner, Miss Gwen, came by to thank us for our work and tell us her Katrina story.  Four days sitting on her roof with her husband and son, as well as some neighbors that they had rescued from another house, some of those days the sun so hot that she said that it almost felt like her skin was cooking.  After no one came to rescue them, they swam to where they could walk, and walked to the airport where they were sent to San Antonio, Texas, leaving everyone they knew and the only life that they had ever known, everything about her life changing forever.  Her family eventually settled in Galvaston, where she lost everything again when Hurricane Ike hit that city.

There were five or six or seven more tragedies like that, including contractor fraud, multiple thefts of  construction  equipment, and a leg amputation.  With that background, what she really wanted to talk about was how God put the right people in her life to help her and how grateful she was that we were building God's house for her to live in.

Last night, our program leader suggested that the most important thing we could do this week would be to listen to people's stories.  What a privilege to do just that.

Simon's Second Expedition

I back everyone to blog for a second time! These past three days, my team has been working at the home of Ms. Carmelita. Ryan, Devin, Hannah, Lee and I spent our time flooring the master bedroom with wooden laminate, which is much harder the it might seem. Every floor piece is a different piece to a very large, intricate puzzle. It has to be exactly the right size and cannot be damaged at all. If it has one scrape or knick, it has to be removed and started over again. Today we finally finished the master bedroom due to my mastery of the chop, table, and jig-saw. A first I was nervous when using it, but eventually my skill developed into one of such a high degree that I have declared myself a grandmaster. Right near the end of our workday the owner of the home (whom we hadn't seen) came and brought us some delicious fried chicken, beans & rice, and cornbread. I forgot to mention that before the storm she owned and operated a soul food diner, which she hopes to rebuild in the years to come. She told us her very moving story of where she was during the storm that made us think. Tonight we are attending dinner at the home of one of the members of the St. Charles Ave Presbyterian Church, the church that is hosting us, and Camp Rhino. Because of that we have to put on nice clothes, which although feels nice, is very hot. I guess I  am going to sign off now, I am glad to have the chance to blog for you all, or as Danny, Jimmy, Paul and I would say, "I do declare this has been a mighty fine time" in a deep southern accent. See you all in Minnesota soon!


Hey y'all!  Its Lily Schafer.
Today was/is a wonderful day.  We got to the site around 7, and immediately set to work finishing flooring the hallway in Miss Gwen's house.  We only had a very thin stripe along the all left...but we didn't finish yet.  There was one piece that was tricky to cut around a doorway that just wouldn't flush (come together all of the way) for a majority of the time.  Harrison (a worker at RHINO) and I finally got it after something like 3 hours.  After that, we put a few more boards in before one that refused to flush again, and Erica and I gave up when Miss Gwen showed up.
Miss Gwen literally was the sweetest, funniest and most awesome lady i've ever met!  She gave us all hugs (while commenting about Maggie "lord you are short) before telling us an hour long story about her experience during and after Katrina.  She was trapped on her roof for four days with her husband, Charles, her son Ranell (who was eventually picked up by a helicopter.  "They kept shouting for me to come, but I told them to take my son.  He was finna have a nervous breakdown"), and some neighbors who they rescued from their roof.  They too were rescued on day two.  Charles and Gwen then jumped off of their roof, and swam/walked to an airport, where they waited another day before flying to San Antonio, Texas.  She stayed in Texas until loosing everything again during Hurricane Ike in 2008.  She took it as a sign to return home, where she struggled to try and rebuild her home.  Gwen, an amputee after being shot in the leg in a drive by in 1996, still remained optimistic until she got the call that people were coming to fix her house.  "I nearly fell outta my mamas chair I was so happy," she said.  Religion was also very important to her too.  She told me as we walked up the stairs that she was so happy that we were there fixing God's and her house.  "It was his house, and then it was mine," she said during her story.  Her story was inspirational, powerful, hilarious and wonderful.  It didn't feel like an hour, it felt like a few minutes.  We were all so entranced by her story.  It was a highlight of the trip.  Her hope was amazing.  She said when she saw the floor "lord, this is the most lovely floor I've ever seen."  She was beautiful, and I will never, EVER, forget her.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Sometimes I wonder if there isn't a die thrown every time a child is born, and that dice roll determines their fortune in life.
Something I've realized: I am lucky. I get good grades and my family is wonderful; no hurricane will strike my Minnesota home. My friends love me and every time I crave chocolate I have the money to go to Walgreens and buy some.
There's a song by Regina Spektor that frequently gets stuck in my head called Laughing With. It's  about perspective- "No one laughs at God in a hospital. No one laughs at God in a war. No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor... But God can be funny at a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke..." The lyrics can be interpreted in countless ways, but ultimately they make the point that it's easy to treat life lightly when everything is going well, but then a disaster strikes and nothing is funny anymore.
I struggle to find my place in the world because it doesn't seem fair to others that my life is so good. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but it seems to me that I'm pretty lucky compared to someone who lost their home to nature. So I volunteer and I go on mission trips in hopes that that will even the balance, steady the scale. Is that enough?
At 6:00 this morning we left for our worksites, and as we drove I saw an elderly woman sleeping under a thick green blanket beneath one of the large New Orleans bridges, and I thought immediately of my comfy bed at home underneath all the posters and pictures on my walls. Or my dorm room at Tulaine this week- my most serious complaint is that the AC is on a little bit too high. I complain about these things because the discomforts annoy me- how I was cold while I slept, or how getting up at 5:30 seemed utterly ridiculous when I first found out. And I think complaining is okay as long as you don't do it too much, but it's also true that many, many people have immensely more troubling things to complain about.
I'm not drawing any grand point here, this is just how I think. I believe that it's good to question my place in life, and do get this sense of injustice when I see people "less fortunate than me," a phrase I've heard many times.
This trip has made me think, and I love thinking. I've been quite happy this week; I have time to read, there are a lot of cats in this city (I've seen sixteen so far), and we've been helping people, which feels great.
Life is good.
-Lian Simmer


Hello everyone! Claire Donovan here. I don't like to blog much but I thought I would put up a quick post because we have a few minutes before dinner... The week has gone very well so far. We're learning a lot of things, from safety, Hurricane Katrina stories, to skills including carptentry and painting (all things we can carry on with us later in life. Everyone we've met has been very friendly and welcoming, which is nice. One of my favorite things about the trip so far is the FOOD.
I'm just gonna talk about it for a little bit. The first full day here, we went to Mother's. I had a shrimp poboy and iced tea with lots of hot sauce. It was AMAZING. We've also had red beans and rice, pasta with meatballs and redsauce, and all kinds of awesome desserts. (My favorite has been the banana pudding)
Anyway, hope you all are doing well.
Lots of love,
Claire Donovan <3 :-)

Bunte Farbkleckse

Hallo zusammen,
Nach mehreren Anfragen auch mal auf Deutsch zu bloggen, hab ich mich doch dazu ueberreden lassen.
Heute ist Mittwoch der 19. Juni und im Moment sitzen wir im Gemeinschaftsraum und geniessen unsere Freizeit, Nachdem wir heute vormittags fleissig gemalert und Boeden gelegt haben, wurde das schoene Wetter genutzt, um ein bisschen im Wasser zu planschen. Der Pool war zwar nicht der groesste, aber es reichte volkommen aus, um uns abzukuehlen. Wer nich schwimmen ging, blieb in unserer Unterkunft und hielt ein bisschen Siesta. Man merkt halt doch, dass wir 35 Grad Celsius im Schatten und 80% Luftfeuchtigkeit nicht gewoehnt sind und das an unseren Kraeften zerrt. Meine Gruppe hat heute so ziemlich ein ganzes Haus geweiselt, das waren so ca. 7 Raueme. Die Farben sind nur so durch die Luft geflogen. Dementsprechend sahen wir natuerlich dann auch aus: Die Haare weiss, das T-Shirt blau und die Schuhe haben auch ein paar Farbkleckse abbekommen. Die waren gruen und haben deswegen dann wenigstens zu meinen gruen-weissen Laufschuhen gepasst.
Ich bin auch grad am Waesche waschen. Nachdem gestern all meine Klamotten voll Staub waren vom Gipswaende schleifen, und dann heute noch die Farbe dazukam, blieben mir nur noch all meine durchgeschwitzten Klamotten vom Frisbee und Basketball spielen oder einfach vom herumlaufen. Wie gesagt: Es ist heiss in New Orleans.
Na gut ich werde mich jetzt auch in eine heisse Partie Bananagramm/Scrabble begeben und mein Glueck versuchen. 
Die naechsten Tage wird fleissig weiter gearbeitet und hoffentlich sehen wir auch mehr von der Stadt. Ich hab immer noch nicht Trompete gespielt, das ist immer noch auf der To-Do-List. 
Liebe Gruesse aus New Orleans
Xaver Brems
its Abram once again.

aside from the five-thirty wake up, today was generally very good.
after some initial complications with floor board cutting the floor of the soon-to-be dining room got underway pretty well, and is now almost completed! After my work on the floor was no longer required I was set to work chiseling out pieces of the walls so more flooring could be installed. Although strenuous enough to work up a good sweat, taking out the walls ended up being extremely enjoyable... and messy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hello! Today our eyes were opened to the reality that Katrina was to the people of New Orleans. We went on a second tour of the parts that were most damaged in the city from the hurricane. The Camp Rhino leader, Avery, led us on the tour and had us think about what it would be like to be in the different situations that people were in. Something that stood out to me was the situation students at Tulane were in at the time. She talked about how after just arriving in this new place, they were ask to leave and had to attend a different university for a year. I think that would be a difficult situation to be in and one of the many things that I never thought about before she mentioned them. I am excited for another day of work at Miss Cassandra's house with the SBP leader Emily. I hope we can make a difference in these people's lives and help rebuild hope in New Orleans.

Not many grocery stores, too many gunshot murders.  We learned about these realities on our tour of the city this evening.  And both are connected to the devastation after Katrina.  Many people left the city so businesses closed and have not re-opened.  Many families were broken up as they had to move around the country to find shelter.  There are many young teens in the city with no parents and no family support.   The hurricane damage is about more than floods and damaged homes.

We also saw the strength and resilience of the people of New Orleans.  Homes with flowers on their porches, neighbors helping each other.

We are working hard and learning a lot.  Our group sanding and primed at Ms. Cassandra's home.  After her house was flooded, it was remodeled and then some creeps broke into it.  It was remodeled again and again some creeps broke into it!  We want to help finish her home so that she can move in by July 15.
More later...Marsha

Welcome to NOLA

Hello friends, family, and adoring fans! I know it's been a bit of a delay, but my first blog post is finally here! Following a bus ride of limited comfort yet abundant laughter and fellowship, I ventured forth into the vibrant city of New Orleans. First conquered were the tourist traps, from French Quarter voodoo shops to the Café du Mond. The sugar crash from the beignets was felt throughout the youth group. Today marked our first day of work at the St. Bernard Project. Essentially, the project comprises a leading volunteer staff from Americorp who build/repair homes affected by Katrina utilizing private funding and the help of volunteers like us. I was in work group A, doing wooden flooring work for an elderly woman and amputee, Gwen, who has been through two hurricanes, two homes, two break-ins, and a drive-by shooting. I was tasked with sawing the wooden planks so as to fit them around doorways and against walls. I may have enjoyed those power saws a bit too much. Although the working conditions were hot, we remained indoors while we worked. For me, the first day of work proved to be quite satisfactory, as it was not only a bonding experience, but the work made me feel proud of myself as well.
Such pride appeared later this evening. After an afternoon of free time spent playing wiffle ball and throwing the disc (frisbee), and a delicious spaghetti dinner, we boarded the buses once again for a "prayer tour" of the city. On this brief trip we passed through the neighborhoods hardest hit by the 2005 disaster and the ensuing disarray, including the Central City and Lower Ninth Ward. These areas were flooded with up to 11 feet of water in the hurricane. The tour showed me that even today, nearly eight years after Katrina, these neighborhoods are still stricken with poverty, crime, and poor education. They lack grocery stores that carry fresh produce, and it is often easier for residents to access guns than wholesome food. From this description you may be thinking of New Orleans as a city barely coping. But firsthand, I see a city bouncing back. I am proud to be a part of turning the Big Easy into the City of Second Chances. I feel gratified to be a part of thousands of volunteers helping annually to make things right. I will continue to work this week on one of nearly 500 homes constructed by the St. Bernard Project. This is truly a full, fantastic mission trip experience. See y'all soon.
–Paul Ihlenfeldt

Work Day 1

Hey all!  Lily Schafer again!
Today we woke up at 5:30 in the morning, loaded the bus, and drove to the headquarters of St. Barnard, an organization founded after the storm that has helped restore almost 500 homes since then.  The organization also has partnerships in Joplin (where we went last year), New England (Sandy), and are working on setting up a partnership in Oklahoma following the tornado.
We then went to the work sites.  We were split into three groups, with my group (A) going to the home of Gwen M., a multiple hurricane survivor (Ike and Katrina) who was shot in a drive by and had to have her leg amputated.  She lost her job, and her home, brand new extensions and all, was bare.  Most of the outside work was done, so we started flooring the main hallway in the upstairs and one of the larger rooms on the first floor.  Henry, Paul, Erica and I worked on the second floor, with Paul and Erica sawing and Henry and I doing the flooring.  While appearing easy, it was really frustrating, because the pieces were so hard to make fit together well, and a lot of the pieces of wood had to be adjusted so they could fit around doors that lined the hallways.  We only got about three rows completely done, but it was a good start to a fantastic week.  I'm really excited to keep working with all of these guys.
We then took a break, filled with Bananagrams (which I apparently suck at.  Thanks Simon.), chilling with Paul, chatting, and playing trumpet with Xaver.  We then ate some dinner, and took another tour of the Katrina damage.  It was different then the first, in that Avery (not King) described the infastructure of New Orleans and how it changed due to the storm.
Overall, it was a great day.  My shirt fell of the balcony.  It was a struggle.  I'm excited to keep working tomorrow on the floors, and to keep hanging out with the group.
See y'all later!
     Lily Schafer

Houses where we are working....


Here is where we are working...

(click on the hyperlinks)

The A Team

The Reverend T. C. Ewald, III

The B-plusses

(Not) Helpful Hannah

Team C + +


Hey tout le monde,
Petite post du français ce matin réveillé à 5h20 par les adultes, petit-déjeuner et on file dans le bus pour aller dans lieu de travail. On y travaillera pendant 5 heures (jusqu'a 13h ) il fait hyper chaud environ 38 degrés, plus le ressenti d'humidité, qui ajoute quelques degrés en plus. Pour ma part j'ai travaillé pendant la plus part du temps avec Tom Abraham et Danny, c'était assez ennuyant on a du défaire un parquet entier et le remettre en place nous sommes loin d'avoir fini. Mais d'un côté c'était plutot convivial on a parlé pour la plus part du temps. De retour au campus un douche et un bon repos plus que mérité. Ce soir nous retournons a l'église pour manger et chanter tous ensemble.
Bonne soirée tout le monde et désolé pour le français, je trouvais ça plus amusant
Je porte des chaussure en chocolat
Clément GALAS avec les conseils avisés de Rayan

Hello from the Big Easy

Hello all!
 Today, after our two-day New Orleans vacation, we began our work! I was on team B, and we worked on the house belonging to ms. Carmelita.  Her home was right in front of one of the breaches in the levy where a barge was pushed through a neighborhood. We worked on laying laminate flooring, and I teamed up with Poppa Schafer to complete a butterfly wall patch. It was hot, but thankfully we were indoors and managed to avoid any sunburns. We have it pretty good on the Tulane campus- a dorm room for each pair of us, decent showers, and AIR-CONDITIONING. Livin' the good life. We've seen a lot of cool sights (Lydia was excited when we saw a voodoo shop), but we've also seen a lot of the ruin and destruction that is still so present in this city. All in all everyone is having a great time, I just played Jimmy in an epic Bananagrams grudge match, and we are about to walk to the church for dinner and a prayer tour. I'll keep you posted!
Much, much love,
Julia Schafer

Ms. Cassandra's House

Allison and Avery here!
We started work today. Our group (Team C) was at a woman named Cassandra's house. Before arriving, we were given a brief biography about the person. Cassandra is a good cook, and a loving family member whose house is the center meeting place of her large extended family. It was devastating to find out everything they had been through, including multiple break ins after they had lost everything in the storm.  We haven't met her yet, but are hopeful she will come to the house later in the week to see the great progress we're making!
Today was a messy workday. We began by doing some heavy lifting, carrying wood to the dumpster outside the front door. We then began sanding the walls and ceilings of the house. We all probably inhaled a pound of dust each, plus another three in our eyes and hair. By the end of the day we all had gray hair. The small rooms and hot lighting made it a little uncomfortable... But it was worth it to see the progress we already are making, even after just one day. A few of us also participated in the covering of the windows in preparation for the afternoon workers, who could texture the walls. 
After work, we all took necessary showers.


My first impressions of New Orleans have met all of the stereotypes that I had been anticipating. From jazz music playing throughout the entire city and the rice and beans and beingees, to the most wonderful (and only) voodoo shop I have ever been in. I do not care that others have already discussed the voodoo shop. It made such an impact that Claire and I now plan on becoming voodoo queens. (Totally kidding, we promise this mission trip is not hindering our spirituality). There was palm reading in the back, devilish masks covered the walls, and they were selling voodoo doll kits for a low price of 25 dollars. Did anyone notice how ironic it was that a church youth mission group went into a voodoo shop? I am in love with how all the plants here seem as if they are on the verge of taking over the entire city; there are roots crawling up the sides of many buildings and there are tree roots bursting through the sidewalks. Tropical plants are also so much lovelier than plants from the north, they're so colorful and wispy, and the ferns and thick-trunked trees remind me of ones I would see in a dinosaur picture book.

We just got back from our first day of work today. I was so happy to hear that we would be doing most of our work painting, flooring, and laminating, because I will be able to avoid a ridiculous farmers tan this week. I helped out with flooring today, which includes cutting the floor pieces with an electric saw and fitting them in like puzzle pieces. It was actually really fun, other than the fact that the house was like a sauna, and it's so satisfying when the floor pieces fit together just so. We've yet to meet the homeowner, but I really hope we meet the person that we get to help out.


Henry's first check-in


After a 20+ hour bus ride, some sight-seeing, and time to adjust to the climate (I'm pretty sure that the air is 49% water) we finally began doing what we came here to do today; we worked. After reviewing my high school transcript, SAT scores, extra-curricular activities, and several essays I was chosen for the prestigious Group A. We set to work on Gwen's house after a brief orientation detailing the history of the St. Bernard Project. A site director organized our efforts as we did some clean-up and then as we measured, remeasured, cut, and laid laminate flooring. I worked mostly upstairs first laying out the subfloor and then assembling the first lines of actual floor (the first few are always the hardest).

Afterwards we came back and a bunch of guys played wiffle ball and frisbee sans shirts. As I am writing there is a heated bananagrams game going on in the corner, steady snacking by the snack bags, and some relaxing novel reading in the semicircle of couches.

Hope all is well back in the 651!
Henry B.


The first batch of pictures are up.  Travel, exploring NOLA, first day of work
By abram

Today was the first day that we went to work in the houses. We were divided into three groups for this, and my group was assigned to repair the house of a woman named Gwen m. She moved to new orleans in 97 because she liked the culture, and worked as a school bus driver until Katrina. Her, her ex husband, and their son were stranded on the roof of their house for four days until they swam to the airport and were rescued by a helicopter. Later in life she lost her next home to hurricane Ike in Galveston, had her leg amputated after it was shot and infected in a drive by, and lost all the money she had for renovating her old home in new orleans to contractor fraud. For me it feels really nice to help this lady out by renovating, and helping get her back into her old home. The work we are doing here is difficult, but to me it is definitely worth it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Po Boys and Voodoo dolls (Jimmy's Blog)

Hey everybody
So far, it has been a simply amazing few days here in New Orleans! We all managed not to kill each other on the day long bus ride here, so that's a good start. Once we got here, we stopped in at Tulane, we relaxed in the college dorms, which so far are a big step up from the church floor some of us are used to sleeping on. After freshening up (the water pressure in the showers is fantastic this year!) we went over to the French Quarter and stopped at Mother's Cafe, where I helped my self to a delicious Fried Oyster po boy. We were pretty entertained after stopping in a Voodoo store where everything was conveniently priced over $30, and then came back to the dorms to play some banana grams and frisbee.
Today we went to Cafe Du Monde and helped ourselves to some French donuts that I can't spell the names of, and then went to get a behemoth of a pizza for lunch. Afterwords  we hung out and played apples to apples, and went to eat dinner with the folks at Camp Rhino. There are two other groups here with us from Michigan and Florida,and we were served some scrumptious beans and rice. After a nice worship service, we headed back to Tulane and settled down for the night after a quick swim at the college pool.
Although it kind of feels like a Turkish bath here, the sun has been out and I've gotten a nice farmers tan from just walking around. The music and food here have been simply astounding. We've also learned a lot about what happened in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina from watching a documentary, visiting a museum, and seeing the areas hit by the storm that are still being worked on almost eight years later, on a great tour led by Lee.
I'm having a great time so far, and I can't wait to begin work tomorrow!

A Blog Post For You to Read from Simon Brown.

Hello everyone!

This is Simon, just to update you on our time in New Orleans. In a word, hot. But more than just that, very humid. We've only been here two days so far and it's already getting to me. Luckily, the dorms room we're in are air conditioned and VERY comfortable. New Orleans has a different culture than St. Paul that is for sure, anywhere you go there are street performers, and voodoo shops, although it is very fascinating and nice, I cannot see myself living here. Tomorrow is our first day at work, I am on the B Team which is therefore clearly the coolest team, we are doing some sort of construction work, I'm not sure exactly what, but it should be fun. It is an early wake up call though, 5:30! Which is undoubtedly the earliest I've woken up in a long time; even for school I only had to wake up at 6:30. What is nice though is that we have free time from 1-6 every single day, where we can go running, or swim, or whatever it be. So far to pass my time I have been reading Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders which although is very interesting (Did you know that Charles Manson is only 5'2"??), has a very contradictory tone of what our objective here is. LILY! We walked into a room at the church which is hosting us, and what do we see? Rock service once again. Some of the same songs too! It's kinda traumatic. But in contrast to the previous mission trip, the showers are wonderful; warm, high water-pressure, and no fish smell. CAROLINE! We visited your previous work-sites today and the house is done, and looks fantastic! Since I am the only one with a sibling that worked on it, Paul took a picture of me in front of it for you to see, which should be uploaded to the blog sometime soon. It was great, on the trip down here, we watched Slumdog Millionaire, School of Rock (Which although I hate Jack Black was quite entertaining the second time around), and or course my personal favorite, The Dark Knight. The explosions were loud at 1 A.M but still very fun. Walking around the French Quarter, Paul and I recognize scenery from one of our favorite video games which is kinda cool. Since the last time I had been here was a long time ago, it was really cool going around it for a second time. I am bunking with Jimmy and Danny, which although has it's perks can get bad pretty quickly.The food at the church is really great. Tonight we had some good old fashion beans and rice, which was very good. In addition to the environment of New Orleans, Tulane University has a very beautiful campus, but I cannot see myself going to school here. I'm definitely missing my computer and friends at home, but it's good to get away from that kind of a lifestyle for awhile. I'll probably blog again later this week, but for now I should go.

Talk to you again later,
Love, Simon.

Lydias blog yall

    Hello parents,
Its only the second night in new orleans, we haven't even worked yet, and im exhausted. This city is awesome. The French quarter is one of the most amazing things, the buildings and shops look so antique and unique. I ate a baked ham po' boy which was the bomb. I also love the coffee this city has. Which is another thing, having a coffee addiction might be a problem this week for we're waking up before 6 all week, and children do not get coffee. Jesus take the wheel.
Im also still looking to get my palm read, or to discover some black magic or something.  

Till next time,
Lydia nelson

Devins blog

So today was an interesting day. Our bus was delayed by a taxi driver who somehow managed to hit it from behind for some reason. After that we got some really good beignets and then saw some of the devastating destruction left by the levee breaks. The good stuff was that we also saw the rebuilding process. I also learned today how bad I am at pool. I hit the eight ball in and also the cue ball multiple times. Overall, it was an extremely exciting day.                                                                                         Devin

St. Bernard Project - this is our work

It's going well!

Hello everyone! This is Ryan Peacock, I'm having lots of fun here in New Orleans. You wouldn't believe the humidity down here, air conditioning is a must. New Orleans is very different from St. Paul, you can see a distinct culture change, everything from the roads to buildings it's just not the same. We start work tomorrow, having to wake up at 5: 30 will certainly be a chore but we will make it through. Hope everyone is good back home, and we most certainly are here. Love you all, see you soon!

Ryan Peacock
This is Maggie.  We had a great start to the program and everyone is really looking forward to starting work tomorrow at Miss Gwen, Miss Carmalita, and Miss Cassandra's houses.  For the youthies, there might be a tiny bit of anxiety about the 5:30 am wake-up call, and for the adults there is definitely a LOT of anxiety about the lack of certainty of where the coffee will come from.

At the church

Walked to St Charles Presbyterian for launch of Camp Rhino. If House of Hope were upscale it would this place. Nice. Very Nice.

Folks obsessing about 5 AM wake up and  19 minute walk from Tulane to this place to be ready by 6.15.

More later.

Day one...

Hey everyone!  This is Lily Schafer.
New Orleans is awesome!  Today we ate breakfast at the famous cafe du mond in the French Quarter.  We ate the famous New Orleans beignets, which are basically pastries covered in mountains of powdered sugar. They were SO good!!!
Afterwards, we walked up to the river (which was gorgeous), and then went on a bus tour of the areas affected by the storm (hurricane Katrina).  We went to the lower 9th ward, which was one of the poorest areas of the city which was virtually wiped out by Katrina, the Industrial canal, which burst from the pressure of the storm and flooded everything, and the houses that the mission trip worked on in 2007 and 2008.  Eight years later, there are buildings that are still covered in debris and boarded up.  It was really shocking to see buildings still in that state of decay and destruction.  Whole areas remain empty, the only thing left standing was the foundations of the homes, overgrown with grass and moss.  It was really eyeopening, showing us that there was still so much work to be done to get New Orleans back on its feet.  We climbed one of the dikes that collapsed in the storm, and just seeing it and just how long it spanned and just how much damage its collapse had.
After the tour (lead by Lee/Dad), we went to go get lunch, but the restaurant wouldn't let kids in, so we carried pizza back to Tulane and ate there.  We then played games and hung out.  We are about to leave to go to the church for our first event with Rhino.  I'm really excited!  The other group just showed up as I type.  First full day was great!  I'm excited to get to work tomorrow morning (wake up at 5 woo hoo) and continue to have a great time with the group.  See you guys later!
Love, Lily

Early in the morning

It's 8:45 right now.
It's hard for people to get up this morning, because we still feel the lack of sleep from yesterday and Saturday. Besides that the heat is also unusual for us, Minnesotans.
After walking around in the French Quarter, we visited a museum about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
The museum showed us all how powerful and devastating nature can be and the impact on everyone in the city. We also watched a documentary about the August 2005 catastrophe and mistakes that have been made to prevent it, some of them hundreds of years ago with the founding of the city. The documentary focused on the failure of the levees, the failure of the superdome roof, and the collapsing of the Highway bridge.
Between the museum, the French Quarter, and the documentary, some of us used every free minute to throw the disc on every possible place, while others played card and board games at our dorm.
The plan for today is Breakfast at Cafe du mont, looking at the effects of Katrina and lunch at the collection of food trucks.
And I'm pretty sure we will find time to throw the disc.


Blog Information

Macply Parents and others;

A quick reminder or two about the blog -

Only the leaders and youth can make entries to the blog. Anyone else can add comments. To see the comments, you have to click on the link associated with an entry.  Trust me, the youth look at these comments all the time and are thrilled to have something from their families.

Secondly, the pictures link will remain black until photos are put there. So it may take some time before that will change. Sorry - I added the link before everyone left so it would be ready.

Work safe, work smart, work hard and have fun!

Norm (not there this year, and missing it.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good day

Lights out in a few minutes. We had a good day in the French Quarter and lunch at Mother's. Later the heat and lack of sleep took some of the starch out of us so we went back to Tulane, but not after following up on Erica's suggestion of frozen yogurt . Worst we have had so far is a skinned knee.

More tomorrow, and thanks.

A Full Day on Little Sleep

We made it to New Orleans in about 21 hours without seeming to hurry.  The trip was painless as the pros did all the driving, but also sleepless because the buses are mad for riding in not sleeping in. So we have 21 tired youth and 5 tired adults.  We were able to check into the dorms right away and we took showers and cleaned up and hit NOLA refreshed and ready to sightsee.  Turns out that the roads, which were built in the 18th century, are not conducive to tour bus travel.  We found that all the major arteries around Tulane had road construction that prevented us from turning onto or off of them when we needed to and the side streets caused us to go 5mph and turn repeatedly, and sometimes back up.  A 6 mile trip to the French Quarter took almost 40 minutes for the first 2 miles.

We did make it to Mothers for their fabulous po'boys and had lunch a 3pm.  Then of to the Louisiana State Museum for the Katrina and Beyond exhibit.  We had 45 minutes to to see it before the museum closed but we decided to go for it.  I think it was worth the time even though it was rushed.  Then we did a quick walk through the French Quarter up to Louis Armstrong Park and decided at 5pm to call it a day.  We were all exhausted.  We called fro the bus drivers to pick us up earlier than planned and during the wait we walked over to the St Louis #1 Cemetery but it was also closed.

The bus arrived to fetch us and we stopped fro FroYo, a mission trip tradition, and headed back to our dorm.  Free time until 9:30 when we will watch a Katrina Documentary and go to bed.  Late start tomorrow and more sightseeing before beginning the official Camp Rhino at 6pm Monday.

I feel really fortunate to be spending this time with a great bunch of youth and fellow adult leaders.


Happy Father's Day

The youth have been borrowing phones to call dads. If caller ID says missed call from "Tom Ewald" or "Lee Schafer" all is fine. And Happy Father's Day.

Made New Orleans

Arrived in New Orleans! Pulling into Tulane. Feasted on 5-dozen Dunkin donuts. All is well.

Julia Schafer

Dawn in Mississippi

Driver change just north of Jackson, Miss. Bus all awake. All is well.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

11 hours out, all is well

Lovely picnic, movies, and rocking down the highway through a gentle rain. Approaching St. Louis. ETA New Orleans 10 am.

More tomorrow. Thanks everybody.

Candid camara

First Driver Change

Waterloo, IA.  Watched "Slumdog Millionaire".  Snacks holding up well.

Left on Time!

Loaded, photo, left 1:07 p.m., great start!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Water Bottles: Size Matters!

Youthies, bring a 32-ounce water bottle. Big Nalgene or equivalent. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rhino’s “What to bring”

Suggested personal items:

  • Prescription and over the counter drugs
  • Contacts eyeglasses plus spares
  • Special first aid needs
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Towels
  • shower shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent/anti-itch ointment
  • Swimsuit
  • Wristwatch
  • Cash for snacks
  • Bible and journal
  • Betting (sheets, blankets or sleeping bag)
  • Appropriate clothing for dinner out

Work related items:

  • Work boots
  • Long pants or appropriate length shorts
  • Bandannas
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Water bottle (at least 32 oz.)

Contact Information For June Mission 2013 Trip

Your MPUC Adult Facilitator Contacts:  

Rev. Tom Ewald

Marsha Berry

Maggie Passmore

Lee Schafer 

John Schepers

Camp Rhino

St. Charles Ave Presbyterian Church
Avery Strada, RHINO
1545 State Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mission Trip Update, Part 2

Here's the link to the form each person is to fill out. Do not change any information in the pre-populated fields:

Please do ASAP.



Mission Trip Update May 12, 2013

As of 1:00pm Wednesday....

The picnic is still on for the Frawley's house at 6:00pm

We have not received the link you will need to fill out the last form, please check back later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Important Mission Trip Information

Hey Folks, important things to do....

Sunday, June 9: Come to 9:30am worship for the mission trip commissioning.We want all hands on deck for this to show appreciation for the congregation's support. Plus, you'll get to hear Adam Blons, our senior minister candidate, preach and  participate in the congregational vote.

Tuesday, June 11: Check back with the blog. There will be a link for you to follow to sign some more forms online. They are required to be able to work on the mission site.

Wednesday, June 12: Come to the pre-mission trip picnic at Maddy Frawley's house. Here are the details:
Address: 1780 Lincoln Ave
Time: 6 PM
Date: Wednesday, June 12th
Bring Lawn Chairs

Bushnell-Brown: Beverages
Craddock-Morrissey: Side dishes 
Nelson-Vento: Desserts

I believe Schafers are bringing buns and Donovans are bringing condiments.

In case of rain, we will have the picnic at church.

Contact Tom with any questions.