Some stories just need to be written down before they are forgotten. Here’s one such story.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, my friend Becky and I decided we wanted to help with the disaster relief efforts. We convinced our employers to let us go and called the YWAM base in Tyler TX to see if they could connect us with people working in the gulf as well as people to drive down with from our area. They connected us with a couple of guys from the Harrisburg area and a week or so later we met up with these guys (hence forth called J and T), hopped in their conversion van, and headed off to Gulfport Mississippi to meet up with a broad coalition of Christian groups already working there.

I didn’t plan on driving this van given that it wasn’t ours and that it was large, but midway through the night, J, who owned the van, said it was my turn to drive. Uh, ok. Biggest vehicle I’ve driven to date I’d say. For a real bonus we had some construction on the way so I got the privilege of driving an ox in a cattle shoot. Some how we made it. I guess Becky drove too, but I don’t recall.

The next morning, after driving through a storm of nasty windshield smearing bugs, we arrived at some sort of military base- Seabees I think- that was hosting us. We put sleeping bags on cots in a massive warehouse type building. There were showers and an eating area where we are some big ass meals. We were told that the meals, which were served out of specialized food trucks, were the same meals served to firefighters fighting forest fires. Understandably they have huge calorie needs… and probably salt needs. So we got big plates of delicious ribs and the like despite our relative lack of caloric needs.

I recall working at quite a variety of places- a home, a day care, a church, and the church’s surrounding neighborhood. We largely did clean up in yards and flooded buildings and put together some food and hygiene packages. Many of these details are murky. The church sticks out to me the most because of the pastor. She… well she was a SHE to begin with. Our still very young church plant at home believed women could be elders and pastors, and this was a new thing in my world, so meeting a woman pastor was just cool. If I recall, the church was in a predominantly poor area and the pastor wanted to set up the church to be a humanitarian hub where people could get food and clothes and such. Part of what we did there was help with that set up. I remember the pastors granddaughters being around a lot. After a kind of joint church service on Sunday we went out with her and her granddaughters and some members of our larger team to a restaurant and an older gentleman from Alaska who was volunteering paid for all of us.

We didn’t really think ahead to brings games or books for free time because we assumed we’d be working every waking hour… but we really had evenings free. We quickly discovered that J and T shared my and Becky’s love for the game Settlers… so we decided to MAKE a game. We used coffee stirrers and tooth picks and creamers and cardboard and cutting and coloring tools to makes a fully functional game. We were proud of ourselves… and I’m even prouder looking back. LOL oh to be 20 again. After that we played settlers when we were bored.

One day we were out working when we realized that one of the girls with us in our larger group was Danielle, the youngest sister from Out of Eden. (Out of Eden was a popular Christian hip hop group in the late 90’s and earlier 2000’s.) I tried to play it cool, obviously, but we also started hanging out with her. I think T especially liked hanging out with Danielle. She was interesting, famous (at least to some of us), and very cool. She described herself as a “socialite” which seemed to be code for ‘I hang out on the more high profile social scene in Nashville’. Danielle left Gulfport a few days before we did.

Right around the time Danielle left, Luke, my ‘not boyfriend’ (and now husband), arrived at the base with his YWAM team. I had known our time there may overlap from the beginning and was thrilled to see him. I don’t recall if we worked together much those few days, but I remember us sitting outside talking and catching up. I believe he was about to leave for Mozambique and I would be heading home to do my online courses and work at the YMCA. We didn’t know it at the time, but in just over two years we would be married.

We left Gulfport about 10 days after getting there. We hoped back in the conversion van, needing to get home to our jobs and other various commitments. (I had basically guilt tripped my job into letting off to go help, but it wasn’t an open ended thing.) I recall J in particular was eager to get home to his fiancée or girlfriend or whatever.

So it’s the middle of the night and we are driving up Interstate 59 toward Chattanooga. Everyone is asleep besides T, who was driving. When we wake up we discover that T had called Danielle in Nashville which was definitively NOT on our way, and decided to take us on a detour to see her… without bothering to ask us. So here we are outside a Waffle House in the middle of the night, all different levels of peeved with T, waiting for our semi-famous friend to come meet up with us and take us to wherever socialites eat breakfast. I barely recall a thing beyond a bunch of people eating fancy over priced breakfast sandwiches. After awhile we said our goodbyes and got back in the van and headed home. That detour cost us at least 6 hours. Sometime late that day, Becky and I arrived home in Pottstown to jump back in to our normal-ish lives.

Oh to be 20 again… Then again, 32 is great too.