Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mission Mississippi - Thursday

I am so grateful for all the people who supported me and my family while I had an almost two month long flare-up of Rheumatoid arthritis. I seem to be almost on the other side of it. I realized this when I woke up in a bunk bed in a Mississippi work camp at 6 AM after a day of landscaping... and I did not want to die.

"It's a new dawn. It's a new day. It's a new life for me. And I'm feeling good." Nina Simone

Not to say I wasn't sore. Lots of parts were weary, but I felt great considering the new bed, new schedule, new demands, and new weather. Yes, our luck had run out. Wednesday night it had started to rain and it was still going Thursday AM.

In spite of my newfound spryness, at breakfast it became clear that the tasks in the houses for the day were beyond my capabilities. I volunteered to stay and work on the grounds. In addition to the building crews, every day 4-6 people are needed to stay at the camp to cook, clean, repair, and bring order. I had met the king of the grounds, Mike, and he reminded me of some of my uncles and cousins. He had also uttered the quote of the week: Looking at your crew, you were the last one I would have guessed was the preacher. I decided to give it a try.

Grounds work is not the sexy Habitat for Humanity kind of stuff. Mostly we worked on fixing leaks, refurbishing yard tools, and organizing nails. I had an Americorps kid as my partner. He was a nice guy and much better with tools than I. We were getting along well until I realized I was old enough to be his mother. The highlight of the day was the use of big equipment. I didn't know I had a thing for big equipment. I do.

Thursday was also the day I had to sing for my supper, so to speak. As the clergy rep. of my group, I had volunteered to lead worship before dinner. I was not feeling calm about this. The worship on other days had been led by the camp director who is an Episcopal priest. She was delightful and had one of the best Southern accents ever distilled into sound, but it was a very different idea of worship. I had two choices - try to fit into the worship style of the camp, or let my flag fly. You know which I chose.

God bless those sweet Episcopalians. They loved it. They smiled. They clapped. They sang with abandon. They positively shivered with delight when I passed out my little take away gifts. And my UU crew acted the missionaries, later explaining UU belief, liturgy, and practice like pros. Should I ever become a travelling evangelist, the UU Mississippi work crew will be the apostles.

The day ended on a particularly high note. I would be remiss if I did not hail the food at this camp. They have a chef who corrals volunteers and food donations and creates some fantastic vittles. He's thinking about making a camp cookbook. This is the only camp I've been to where that sounds like a great idea. Thursday night was Muffaletta (excuse spelling - I'm guessing here) sandwich night. This meal caused a pastoral crisis as one of our group declared after his first Muffaletta that he may not be returning home.

1 comment:

ms. kitty said...

Alane, your stories are so thrilling and sobering at the same time. Thank you for taking your crew to Mississippi and telling the tale.