Traveling to New Orleans from Charlottesville on Amtrak's #19 Crescent provided some down time
before Mamie and my cooking schedule began. At Lynchburg the train needed new brake pads, but we
soon gained time to arrive 23 hours later in New Orleans. First Lady Jones and her mother took me to
the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) house where David Brubaker and Mamie and Clair Mellinger were settling in.
Sunday morning Mamie and I created our grocery list, and before noon Sam, Marta, Emma, Lucas
and Jacob Petersheim were ready to take the rest of us on a brief tour of the 9th Ward before worship at Christian Baptist Church (CBC). Brad Pitt and other popular names have provided newly built, modern-style
housing...but many folks still patiently wait. Waiting for schools so their students aren't bused for hours,
returning home at dark. Waiting, praying, singing, hoping to see the lights return to 9th Ward. Perhaps
New Orleans' priority is preparing to host the Super Bowl in 2013.
As the CBC pulpit filled with three visiting pastors, Sister Anita and a visiting musician led us in hand-clapping, praise-raised music including “I'm Blessed!”. Pastor Calhoun's teaching on Genesis 4 of Cain and Abel--respect and worship—as well as greetings from Pastor Webster and a testimony from a seasoned pastor who confirmed Pastor Calhoun's wife in ministry, filled our hearts. Jacob, age 8, claimed, “CBC does lots more singing and playing piano; many less people there than in our church.” His brother Lucas shared, “The church service was different then Park View--it felt like one small family.”
Sunday afternoon buffet at Louisiana Purchase Restaurant provided New Orleans cuisine and
fellowship with five CBC members. It's a tasty gumbo of African, French, Spanish, Italian and
German cultures, and the shrimp creole and chicken-sausage gumbo pleased our palates. Lucas
claimed “The spicy fried catfish was my favorite food!” He added “My favorite part of New Orleans is
the French Market...really good food...the powdered beignets.”
Mamie's description of the recent days include “The heat is memorable...we did the market
which is a zoo...but the whole city is a zoo! Bourbon Street is a little over the top...it seems everyone
has a cigarette and/or bottle in their hand--morning, noon and night." More precious memories include
presentations by the U.S. Forest Service that included a historical walking tour and some opera arias
from the Civil War era. The arias portray how the war affected the arts in the city, and are performed in
the U.S. Mint Museum.
After Mamie whipped up chocolate, cream-cheese iced cupcakes to celebrate Marta's birthday, we went
grocery shopping at Save-A-Lot and prepared several dishes for the work week.
Monday morning the Petersheims, Mamie and Clair, Dave and I headed to the church where windows
were scraped and washed, lights were hung, emergency exit signs were connected and more. Jacob
liked assembling the ceiling fan with his dad, Lucas and Clair. While working and perspiring this
morning, the song “I'm Blessed” became more real with the words “I woke up this morning with
my mind stayed on Jesus.” Many folks struggle with their minds, their losses, yet they get up each
morning realizing they are blessed! And we are blessed to be able to help renovate a building where
CBC will continue to sing and bless the new neighborhood with their voices of hope.
Mamie and I are extremely grateful for the MDS air-conditioned kitchen, supplied with every needed
appliance and a pantry filled with seasonings. Yes, I'm Blessed to be engaged in a project that we pray
will bring hope and healing to our 9th Ward neighbors. I'm Blessed.