I knew the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall that I would go to New Orleans to rebuild. What I did not know was how or when. Now that I am here in Louisiana I have constantly been shown that this is where I am meant to be.
I watched the storm from my hometown of Cupertino, California and was deeply affected by what I saw. The America of my dreams would never leave a whole city to drown, let alone to suffer in ruin after disaster. I knew I had to leave the comfort of suburbia and “make a difference” but did not know how. It was the summer before my second year of Junior College and I didn’t know what schools I would be applying to, let alone what I would be doing after graduating. When I graduated from the University of California in Santa Barbara this June I still had no plans but just knew life would lead me to NOLA.
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was constantly on my mind but I was stuck in California. The golden state is still home, and her rolling hills are still where my heart will forever be. But my Silicon Valley life was so far removed from the real America that the Lord was calling me to live in. Cupertino is the home of Apple and the iPod, a city where nerdy is in and the iPhone is king. Even modest homes there command million dollar price tags, and the only work that is celebrated are the white-collar jobs of the tech industry. I was well educated and well traveled, a child of an affluent community and upbringing. But it was not enough.
For many back home, my life was not enough: I did not make enough money to have the flashy gadgets and cars that mark success. Life was not enough for me because I had been given so much and needed to give back. I was lucky that the General Assembly was in neighboring San Jose, and I figured I would go in search of an opportunity to serve. I shaved my college beard and left the suburbs open to any non-profit work, but in my heart and prayers New Orleans was in the forefront. It was at GA that I met Rev. Jean Marie Peacock and Allie Henson and learned about Project Homecoming and the Presbytery of South Louisiana’s Young Adult Volunteer Program.
The YAV application was past due and I was leaving the country the next day; I put my future in God’s hands and prayed that it would all work out. From Internet cafes in Italy and Israel, I worked on my application and coordinated my letters of recommendation. When I got back to the States I worked at a summer camp for a week and finished up the application. I had a series of phone interviews the next week and the week after that I found myself on the road heading east.
The drive across the American Southwest was a strange segway from one life to the next. I took two friends with me in my fully packed Honda and snaked down the California coast and zigzagged east: we saw Santa Barbara, San Diego, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Dallas. New Orleans welcomed me promptly with a Hurricane. I had arrived.
Since Hurricane Gustav life has been fast and meaningful. My job as a Construction Assistant has been difficult at times, but it has been all that I wanted and more. I have been working on a home in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans; every day on the worksite has been a joy and a testament to God’s love and grace. The friendships I have made in the YAV program are meaningful and close. I have fallen in love with this city and it has been the setting of a renewed love affair with Christ. – Dec. 2008