"I can't. I'll be on a mission trip to Mississippi."
These have to be some of the oddest words I have ever said as a UU minister. But last week I made them a reality. 8 members of my two beloved congregations and I went to Long Beach, Mississippi to be part of the re-building effort from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was a life-changing trip.
My crew arrived on Sunday but I couldn't come until Monday due to a standing Sunday AM commitment. (Excuses. Excuses.) The trip to the camp was uneventful and not particularly enlightening. Mississippi looks alot like central Florida. And an airport, a Chevron, and railroad crossings look the same most anywhere you go..
One instant eye-opener that I was indeed in the South: as soon as I stepped outside the terminal I was bumped by what appeared to be copulating lightning bugs in flight. Hey, Lovebugs! I'd forgotten all about them. I know virtually nothing about lovebugs except that they fly while having sex. (Ah, the jokes I am holding back at this moment!) We saw many of them during the week. It would appear that their in-flight navigation systems get all kerplooey while in the act, so they are forever landing on well-intentioned Katrina relief workers. I felt like I was the room of the "Get a room!" comments.
We got to the camp and it was, well you can see for yourself. It was sparse. Having made a career-hobby of ministering in church camps, however, it was some of the nicest digs I've seen in years. Great bathrooms, good food, nothing stinky - I loved it. My flock had spent the day installing insulation. They were in good cheer and I was in awe as these people I had previously seen handing out Sunday AM programs, singing in the choir, and working in committees described ladders, heat, staple guns, sweat, and the distinctive itch of fiberglass.
I began to nervously wonder: What on earth will a 6 ft tall, arthritic minister have to contribute?
And then came Tuesday.