Part I: Overview of the Bay St. Louis Trip

As promised, here is the first post about my trip to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and Lagniappe Church (pronounced LAN-yap). Apologies for the quality of the pictures – my copy of Photoshop isn’t working right now, so I did what I could with an inferior program. I’ll try to briefly touch on the overall trip in this post – kind of like a narrative. In subsequent posts, I’ll write in more detail about the work we did, the church and the town, and what I learned. But for now, here is an overarching narrative of the trip.We departed Virginia Beach in two vans – the 15 passenger church van (aptly named “Great White”) and a smaller minivan (dubbed “Silver Streak”). There were 12 of us in all – from left in this picture: Michael Nelson, David Woo, Rachel, Joanne Nelson, Katie, Kurt Nelson, Brittany Nelson, Amy Nelson, Mark Slavovsky, Claire Slavovsky, Eric, and me.It took us quite a while to get to our Saturday night lodgings – Greensville, Atlanta. With numerous stops, we got there in about 11 hours. We stayedon the floors of the locker rooms of Westminster PCA’s high school. The impressive church is below.We left Westminster church around 9:30 a.m. after our own little worship service (songs and devotional) and breakfast. We arrived in Bay St. Louis around 5:30 p.m., just in time for dinner. Mississippi is in the Central Time Zone, so that was 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time for those of you keeping track at home. This being my first trip down south since fifth grade, I was alert most of the way, taking in my surroundings. I noticed a vine-type plant that was taking over down there – which I learned to be kudzu – an imported Japanese plant with no means of controlling it. It will probably take over the world pretty soon.

I will discuss Lagniappe Church and the town of Bay St. Louis in more detail later, but for my present purposes, Lagniappe is a PCA church founded after Katrina. Its is located on the grounds of an old lumber yard – with the main building being an old warehouse with high ceilings, showers, the kitchen, and offices. There are also a row of air-conditioned bunkhouses on the grounds, where the volunteers stay. The main building, bunkhouse row, and inside one of the bunkhouses are pictured below.More about Lagniappe and their mission later.

We met our supervisor/foreman, Clyde Baker, Sunday night, a 50 or 60 something 30-year construction veteran with a mind to work, kind eyes, and more patience than I could ever hope to have. More details later about the actual work we did, but the overview is that we worked on a new house belonging to a Ms. Medrano (I don’t know if I spelled that correctly), a tiny Spanish woman who had lived in Spain, England, New Jersey, and Mississippi. She is currently living in a FEMA trailer while her house is being built. We got there when the outside of the house looked like this:Some of our team worked on the inside – finishing drywall, priming, and painting – while some of our team hung siding, framed windows, and put up Soffit. One of the four sides was about 2/3 of the way completed. After lots of hard work (not to mention frustrations and delays because of heavy rains), the outside of the house looked like this:We finished almost all the siding – three sides completely done, and more than 2/3 done the fourth side. Lots of work was done on the inside, too, with the drywall finished, the entire house primed, and at least one coat of paint everywhere but the bathroom. I worked on the siding when it wasn’t raining. It was a great time of working, sweating, getting rained on, and fellowshipping.

On Wednesday, Independence Day, we worked a half day and drove down to New Orleans for the evening. We walked around the French Quarter for a bit before eating at an authentic Creole restaurant, The Gumbo Shop. I had a Creole combo platter – complete with shrimp creole, jambalaya (my favourite), and crawfish ettouffee. Then, we walked down to the banks of the Mississippi River, which represented the farthest west I have ever been. We watched a great fireworks show over the river, got some ice cream, saw a guy in a shirt that said “Nonprophet” playing goblets (he played “Moonlight Sonata” and “Amazing Grace” by request), and went back to Lagniappe. It was a great time, though I’m not sure if I would ever consider vacationing in New Orleans. It smelled of day-old beer, urine, and sewage – and I have independent confirmation that it smelled like that before Katrina. Pictures of everything I just mentioned are below, in order of mention (as with all the pictures, click on them for a larger image)
On Saturday, Mark and I woke up at 6 a.m. and drove along Bay Blvd. to take pictures. I’ll post most of them in a future post about Lagniappe and Bay St. Louis, but it was sobering to see the destruction that Katrina caused that is still there almost two years later. The first picture is one of a church – all that is left of the original building is a severely damaged steeple. There is a greenhouse-looking enclosure to the left. The second picture might be one of the most moving depictions of the Gulf Coast spirit – a tattered American flag strung between the storm-ravaged frame of a house.In the limited interaction we had with Bay St. Louis residents, their hope and level of contentment was very humbling. They lost everything in Katrina two years ago, and most are living either in FEMA trailers or their own tents. Yet their hope for the future is till there, and is strong. These people are truly in need of all we can give them – prayers, funding, helping hands, hugs. Visit Pray for the Bay to do more. Mercy ministry isn’t an option for us – it’s a command from Christ.

More detailed, personal posts to come in the near future. To view more pictures, click here.

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