Friday, March 24, 2006


This isn't the greatest of pictures. It's overexposed and the subject is out of focus. But, I took this picture with my camera phone while doing missions work for Hurricane Katrina relief in Gulfport, MS. And, it doesn't need to be perfect to tell a story. There's well over 1000 words to this picture.

The story behind this picture is one filled with God's love for his children and the hope He fills us with. To me, this picture is all the proof I need to know God exists, is real, and loves us.

On the last day we'd be working in Gulfport, we were assigned to clean up just one yard. The house was maybe 3/4 of a mile from the Gulf of Mexico and maybe a mile or so from the port in Gulfport. You could see both from the house.

When Katrina crashed the shore, the waves were strong and powerful enough to overturn a barge at the port and dump its contents in this yard. This particular barge was filled with pork bellies. Not the kind you'd find in Congress, mind you, actual bellies of pork. By the time we arrived for clean up, they had been sitting in the sun, through the elements, for nearly eight weeks. You cannot possibly imagine how rank and foul the smell was.

We were at least thankful that the pork bellies were wrapped in plastic. Some packages also contained chicken. Well, curdled and liquefied remnants of chicken. Apparently, chicken rots faster than pork bellies. Most of the plastic was in tact, so the rotten meat almost cooked itself while sitting in the sun. The plastic made the work less queasy - we just had to pick them up by the plastic. I cannot imagine being able to get through this job without the plastic. Some of the packages were solid, yet squished in your hand. Not a pleasant feeling.

Besides pork bellies, mountains of fallen trees, wood, leaves and pine needles had risen in the yard. Our job was to clean up this mess. We arrived at 8am with everyone wearing face masks to avoid the rotten stench. The masks certainly did help, but the putrid stink still made it to our nostrils.

We made good headway by lunchtime. Two piles of debris were forming: one for the wood, one for the pork bellies. The people who worked at the church we stayed at could smell the rotten pork bellies when we got back for lunch.

By 2pm, the sun had warmed the air enough to make wearing the breathing mask heavy, hot and cumbersome. By that time, we were used to the smell enough as to not really notice it. Most did away with the masks. After a job well done, we returned to the church for showers and dinner. Many people threw away their clothes. More than a few burned them.

To say the least, this yard was a horrible mess. How can you find God in such a stank, rotten area of decay? Well, that's where the picture comes in.

You see, in the middle of the yard was this one bush that was thriving, seemingly untouched and unharmed by Katrina's wraith. And, for the entire day, three of these beautiful butterflies flew around the bush. You couldn't get from the debris to the pile without passing the bush. Twenty or so people walked back and forth passing the butterflies each time. Yet, they didn't fly away. It was a beacon for the good work God was doing in Gulfport. Despite the horrendous stench and over all feeling that the literal bowels of hell were scattered throughout the yard, there was God shining through.

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