Groups repair Gulf Coast homes

David and Susan Rowe stood near a large pile of construction trash late Friday.

BY HEATHER MOYER | GULFPORT, Miss. | October 24, 2006

"We want the people of Mississippi to know that this wasn't brought on by God."

—David Rowe

David and Susan Rowe stood near a large pile of construction trash late Friday after a hard day of work.

"That pile wasn't there two days ago," said Susan Rowe, pointing at the pile and its contents of floor tiles, rotted beams and drywall.

The Rowes and 10 others from First Presbyterian Church in Hickory, N.C., are nearing the end of a week of hurricane relief in Gulfport. They are bolstered by the work they see being done, but also saddened by the state in which some residents' homes remain.

"This woman was just living in one room of her house because of the destruction," said David, nodding toward the house the team spent two days in doing demolition work. "She's now in a (Federal Emergency Management Agency) trailer and was waiting for this."

The inside of the house is now gutted down to the floor joists and wall studs. The Rowes said they were proud of their First Presbyterian Church for not flinching at the amount of work to be done. "They're a great crew and now this woman is on the road to recovery," said David, adding that another team with rebuild skills from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) would be in the following week to finish the home.

This week's crew isn't the first sent to the Gulf Coast from Hickory's First Presbyterian Church. In February, a team spent time helping install the sewer and shower systems at the PDA Volunteer Village in Orange Grove. The Volunteer Villages around the Gulf Coast house hundreds of volunteers during their mission trips spent helping residents rebuild or repair homes.

The church's youth group team also spent time in New Orleans over the summer.

The Rowes said their church is very mission-minded and does so because it's part of their faith. They also want the people of the Gulf Coast to remember something.

"We want the people of Mississippi to know that this wasn't brought on by God," said David. "God loves them. We care for them, and so does God."

The Rowes added that the mission of recovery after Hurricane Katrina has now fallen upon the faith groups and volunteers - and First Presbyterian Church will return again to contribute.

Volunteer groups like the one from Hickory aren't just assisting with rebuilds, either. Many times volunteer groups talk with and listen to the survivors' stories as they work near each other. The Rowes said that is one of the best parts of the work.

"The homeowners really open up to us," said Susan. "They need to talk, and we need to hear it and listen to it."

Those stories and experiences are then brought back to the home church to be shared with others. Susan noted that they sometimes feel bad because it's as if the volunteer teams get more out of the work trips than they are able to give.

David nodded. "When I come home from these things, I am reminded that I don't have the right to complain about anything."

They also hope to inspire other friends and church members to make the journey to the coast as well.

"We'll be back, that's for sure," said David. "It's worth it. These people lost so much. We want them to know that God is still here. We don't want people to give up the faith. This place will be rebuilt."

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