Trip to New Orleans, LA
by Fr. Rick Andrews
I am pleased to share my recent mission trip to New Orleans January 11-16. With the blessing of Metropolitan Iakovos, I was honored to be invited by International Orthodox Christian Charities (www.iocc.org) to serve as the clergy leader on the Seminarian Home Build Team with Habitat for Humanity (www.habitat.org). The team included nine altogether including myself, IOCC USA rep Dan Christopulos, Fr. Mark Vair from Antiochian church in San Antonio Texas and six seminarians (3 from Holy Cross in Boston, and one each from St. Vladimir’s in New York, St. Tikhon’s near Scranton, Pennsylvania and St. Herman’s in Kodiak, Alaska).
IOCC USA has a long-standing relationship with Habitat’s St. Tammany West affiliate (www.habitatstw.org) outside New Orleans and our team worked on six new homes being built for working poor families. As in the past, several other IOCC teams will travel there this year to volunteer. We were housed in a dormitory room with bunk beds at Peace Lutheran Church in Slidell. Their outreach mission is to feed and house Habitat volunteer teams traveling from other parts of the country. They have been doing that ever since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Our daily routine included morning prayers, breakfast, make our lunch and drive 30 minutes to the site. We worked from 8am to 4pm with a lunch break. Under the guidance of four supervisors (employed by Habitat) we concentrated on putting up a vapor seal wrap on the exterior of the homes and then painting the ceiling and interior walls. We painted two entire homes in 2.5 days. After site cleanup each day, we returned to Peace Lutheran for showers, dinner (which our hosts made and served), evening prayers, and then an evening activity. We did have time to tour parts of downtown including the lower Ninth Ward (most damaged by flooding), the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street.
On site all week we worked with a small group of retirees who caravan across the country to work on home builds. We were accompanied on one day by fifteen high school students fulfilling one of their service projects. We also met the ceo, development director, and volunteer coordinator for Habitat St. Tammany West. It’s easy to make fast friends when you work, eat and sleep together. I enjoyed getting to know our other team members and the Habitat employees. I strongly encourage anyone to consider an IOCC Homebuild Mission Trip. There are usually at least one or two done in the Twin Cities in the summer. Perhaps our youth could participate as a group for a day. Like Peace Lutheran Church, I hope our parish can discern, determine and implement a niche ministry for our neighborhood and community. I am very thankful for the opportunity to serve in this manner. Thanks to IOCC for the invitation for an all-expenses paid mission trip!