By Karen Arseneau
Special to the Advocate
In the wee hours of June 21, some 10 members of Biloxi First United Methodist joined hands in prayer with their spouses and pastor, the Rev. Gary Thompson to ask God’s blessing n their trip to Wilmington, N.C., and to bless the work the team would be doing there with the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry.
The trip was at the invitation of Murrie Lee who is a member of Trinity UMC in Wilmington. Lee came to Biloxi First UMC 18 times over a two year period after Hurricane Katrina. He thought some of Biloxi First UMC’s members should be reunited with Wilmington-area volunteers who had come to Biloxi for disaster recovery work. The trip would also give the Mississippians an opportunity to work at repairing homes in Wilmington.
Biloxi FUMC hosted more than 3,000 disaster recovery volunteers during the first 26 months after Katrina. The state that sent the most volunteers was North Carolina, and the majority of those were from the Wilmington District. Biloxi First members believed they could not pass up an opportunity to say “thank you” to all those recovery workers.
Members of the Biloxi team were Karen Arseneau, Renae Breeland, Richard Breslin, Teri Carter, Katie Day, Ray and Mary Marshall, Barbara Saulters, Brad Shonk and Robin Thompson.
The team bunked in Trinity UMC’s Family Life Center. Showers in the “Rubber Ducky” trailer were provided by the MERCI organization, and they say they were well fed. The team was also treated to a traditional Carolina “pig-pulling” cookout and a pot-luck supper attended by nearly 100 North Carolina volunteers. One night the team made a traditional Gulf Coast dinner for the Wilmington volunteers that included Cajun barbecued shrimp and red beans and rice. They also gave each of their volunteers Mardi Gras beads.
The Mississippi group was divided into two work parties. One rehabbed the exterior of a house belonging to a widow, and the other group refurbished the interior of a mobile home belonging to a middle aged woman on a fixed income. Both projects were completed on Friday. Even the dogs Lucy, Houston and Austin, who accompanied the team, visited an assisted living center near the church.
The team members said they were blessed to finally be on the giving end of helping others. However, they said the best experience was the empowerment by the Holy Spirit to complete the work which needed to be done and the strengthening of ties with their Lord and Savior and with fellow members on the Mission Team.