Youth Gathering Blog

citizens with the saints – 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering

Our hands. God’s work?

Posted on July 24, 2009 by Len Mason

Richmond, Va. Tom Powell (left) and Patrick Allen (right) were of different minds after their work project Friday.

Allen’s disappointment was obvious. His group had spent the day clearing litter and weeds from a neighborhood still recovering from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina four years ago.

The 18-year-old from Richmond., Va., had hoped to work on a project that would change someone’s life, such as repairing a home. Weeds, he said, will grow back.

“I’m the dissenting voice in my group,” said Allen, a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Richmond. “I didn’t think it was worth our time and effort. But I’m told that it will help even though it’s just cosmetic.”

Powell, 48, a youth leader, said the day contained an important lesson about community service.

“The youth today come here with high expectations to help the impoverished,” he said. “But those aren’t the only communities affected. God’s plan is for the work of the church to be done everywhere. In these times of reduced government services, this was an important outreach.”

The 29 people from the Richmond congregation teamed with about 50 people from other groups. They filled 20 trash bags while working along Jean Lafitte Parkway in Chalmette, the seat of St. Bernard Parish.

The parish is still heavily depopulated because of the hurricane. Government services for street upkeep have been cut significantly.

“I suspect we’re going to have a good discussion about this tonight with the youth,” Powell said. “It’s going to be the focus of our reflection time.”

9 Responses to 'Our hands. God’s work?'

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  1. Gaby said,

    on July 25th, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Weeds crush the good seeds/plants.
    Its NOT just weeds.
    Driving through the lower Ninth just about daily, it is an uplifting and energizing experience to see the lots clean, even if only for a limited time. It raises hope, gives us the strength to NOT give up, after all this time, and to continue to move forward.
    You have NO IDEA how much a CLEANED LOT, or one gutted house, one slab removed, affects us in our spirit to GO ON, to know that God is there.
    AND seeing all the orange when driving through to work, is giving me a bliss that lasts for days if not for weeks, maybe forever, an image to recall when my spirits get down.
    Orange Lutherans: you are an inspiration and a life changer. Its NOT just weeds.

  2. ELCA News said,

    on July 25th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Gaby, Thanks for your comments! I saw the site “before” and “after” the youth were there. Incredible difference. They did an amazing job. “Orange Lutherans.” I like that!

  3. Dawn said,

    on July 25th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Patrick will perhaps realize later that the most humble work we do is still important work. Helping to get those neighborhoods cleaned up helps those residents spend time on other work that needs to be done on their property. It also helps keep pests and rodent populations under control. Best of all, the residents’ spirits stay positive when they see improvement in how their neighborhoods look. Perhaps after the gathering, when he is back home, he can participate in local Habitat For Humanity projects, where he can do the construction work he hoped to do in N.O.

  4. ELCA News said,

    on July 25th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Dawn, Thanks for your comments and all the items you listed. I hadn’t thought about the pest and rodent population. The way residents feel about their neighborhood is critical in that area because it’s still mostly depopulated from the hurricane. Many fear others won’t return if the area is allowed to decay. I appreciated hearing your thoughts!

  5. Patrick_Allen said,

    on July 27th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Hello everyone, this is THE Patrick Allen interviewed for this blog, and I have some more thoughts on our service project.

    I came into this gathering with high expectations of our work because I knew that there was so much more yet to be done in the city. For the last two summers, our high school youth have gone down to New Orleans to work on the homes of those who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina. We’ve also been doing similar work in Petersburg, VA for as long as I can remember. I feel my expectations however high and lofty, were, well… to be expected. There are still those in N.O. who live in inadequate spaces like damaged and compromised houses and FEMA trailers. When I learned of what we had been assigned to do, I didn’t want to believe it, and when the work began, I was dreading every minute of it. There was a lot of disappointment and frustration from not just myself, but many of my peers, who also had the same amount of service experience as I did; on the other hand, I allowed it to dig in deep and nearly ruin my entire day. I wasn’t thinking straight until we got back to the hotel, when I began considering what each adult around me had been saying about our project. Now, I DO understand the importance of this type of mission work, and how it can positively affect those who live with the results everyday, ESPECIALLY so for the citizens of New Orleans. Also, I felt pretty selfish after processing it all; why should I have the more immediately fulfilling and gratifying type of work that I am used to? As far as volunteer work is concerned, I think I’ve been a little spoiled over the years, but extremely fortunate at the same time. This one day of service opened my eyes to the many different ways of how I can be expected to perform God’s work in our world, and that alone would’ve been enough to make my gathering experience. Because in the end, it’s His plan, not mine. God Bless.

  6. ELCA News said,

    on July 27th, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Patrick: Thank you for writing. You are one of the most compassionate people I met in New Orleans. Your heart for people and desire to ease their suffering was obvious. Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip. Blessings to you, Slash….

  7. Patrick_Allen said,

    on July 28th, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Slash: I can’t thank you enough for giving me the opportunity and to make my voice heard. Just listening to the words coming out of it in your blog helped me realize where I was wrong. Meeting you and talking with you at this gathering is something that I was honored to do, and has benefited me hugely. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the event for me. Thank you again, and God bless you.

    Patrick

  8. Patrick_Allen said,

    on July 28th, 2009 at 11:38 am

    (Grammar in that last one is a little tricky. Oops)


  9. on August 6th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    […] After I wrote about Patrick’s disappointment, people from New Orleans posted comments saying the effort had made a difference. They seemed to sense the sincerity of this young man in striving to serve others as Jesus commanded. […]

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