Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thoughts from the students

One of the most amazing parts of the trip for me was a conversation in the kids' room at the hotel we are at in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I wanted to hear a few of their thoughts about he experiences of the week. They talked and talked and talked. Clearly this week had a profound effect on all of them.

They talked about the bonding they had with one another, starting with the afternoon at City Museum in St. Louis on the way down and continuing through the week. They talked about the bonding and their new friendships with our colleagues from Cedar Hills UCC in Portland, who shared the week with us. They were happy about the good food they got during the week, about the experience of living in a couple of trailers at Back Bay Mission in Biloxi.

They were very appreciative of the stories they heard from the people they were helping in Biloxi -- at houses, at the meal program, in the service areas at Back Bay. They were very excited about being part of the worship service Wednesday night at Missionary Baptist Church in Biloxi, a traditional African-American congregation. They liked seeing the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, the various neighborhoods in New Orleans. The bad parts? Long car rides, one bad restaurant stop along the way, the heat.

They were struck by the contrast of huge casinos right across the street from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Biloxi. They wondered how many houses could have been built for the cost of the huge guitar sign outside the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino. One of them said they expected to see poverty in Biloxi, but once they met the actual people living in poverty -- living in a tent, struggling with disabilities. "I never thought about the stuff that made people poor," Austin said.

That's the kind of insight that these kids gained on this trip. I am so proud of them. They were easy to travel with, extraordinarily hard working, lots of fun and very thoughtful. Thanks to all who helped make this happen.

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