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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mississippi Mission Trip 11 May 6-12, 2007

by my daughter Leigh Lindsay

The good news is that we found New Orleans and the Gulf region much improved; the bad news is there is still much work to be done.

As we landed in New Orleans we noticed immediately that there were many fewer blue tarps on rooftops, a sign of re-building. We also noticed leaves on the trees. Last year the trees were struggling to produce some scruffy leaves, this year everything was green and lush looking. The French Quarter was hopping! Restaurants and bars were open; music of every type projected onto the streets, and throngs of college students walked around carry in Hurricanes or the bright green drink in a long, tall plastic glass.

Fourteen of us spent the next week in Long Beach, Mississippi at Camp Coast Care. Even CCC was looking up! The long awaited move out of the Coast Episcopal School gym and into the adjacent brand new facility had just been completed two weeks prior. The new volunteer space was hardly luxurious but a definite improvement with more bathrooms and a larger kitchen. The “dorm” contained rows of bunk beds with milk crates as nightstands but the place was clean and air-conditioned.

Similar to last year our group participated in a variety of projects. Many of us spent time at the Thomas house nailing up sheet rock, then mudding and taping to make the walls smooth. Robert, the grandfather of the family was there working along side of us. He was a wiry man, very friendly and grateful. My favorite memory of my day there involved a trip with Mary Beth to the Porta Potty a couple of blocks away. As we took turns using to facilities a heavy set black woman walked across the street, asked us where we were from, and gave us both huge hugs and thanks for not forgetting the people of the Gulf. She beckoned her friend over for more hugs and thanks. Mary Beth and I knew we were doing the right thing.

Another project involved building a deck and steps on a house that was up on the now required stilts. This house was one of only 2 or 3 actual houses on this street not far from the beach. Mostly there were trailers and the broken remains of small houses and sheds. This was a neighborhood that was not in great shape before the storm and Katrina did nothing to improve it. We did however! We (under the leadership of Claudio) built a beautiful deck, front steps, and a side landing and steps. The owner, Daniel came around a few times and gave his approval. We loved seeing his sense of whimsy in his choice of bright blue and purple paint for the bedrooms. Yellow paint was to go up next in the living room. At least now he had a way to enter his home without having to climb up the scaffolding.

A third “project” involved remaining at Camp and helping to maintain the facility. With many volunteers coming and going each week much effort needs to be put into cleaning the dorm, the bathrooms and the kitchen. In addition, although there was a paid cook volunteers were needed to assist with the prep of three meals a day. Our group assisted admirably in the cleaning and especially the cooking.

In spite of working hard, often outside in the mid-May Southern heat, it was not all work. It seems that working hard all day lends itself to having a good time in the evenings. Our group did a brisk business at the local liquor store and at the nearby Mexican restaurant that had only been opened since Easter. We made good use of the fire pit behind the CCC building, enjoying cool evenings talking about our days and our lives. We met and got to know some of the staff and other volunteers from South Carolina, California, and even Canada.

During our stay a man from Toronto named Peter and his dog Buddy were at camp. Peter was the truck driver who made the very first delivery of donated goods to Camp Coast Care shortly after the storm. We enjoyed watching the documentary of that trip made by Doug (also there during the week) for Canadian Public TV called, “Long Haul, Big Heart.” It was very special to meet Peter and Doug and share their memories and experiences.

We were glad to see a major improvement in the area since last year. More stores and restaurants were open, more homes had been rebuilt, and the people generally seemed upbeat and moving forward. There were beautiful “new” homes built overlooking the beach and right next to empty slabs. The small amount we did to help the people of this area is at its greatest when combined with the volunteer efforts of hundreds of others both before and after us. Lots of small steps will add up to rebuild the homes and lives of people in the Mississippi Gulf.

-Leigh Lindsay


Blogger Not Your Usual Missionary Position said...


Thank you for your loving care of our birth state of MS. We are Kenny and oonagh Ryan-King, now in the Republic of Panama. I met RWC, the man I'd have asked God to be my brother in my "perfect" Family of Origin that only children get to magically ask for and magically receive--that's magical whether or not the other person receives or not. It's an only child ting. That might feel odd to hear of a grand-parent.

I never knew but one of my grandparents and that was a horrible grandmother with only a few horrible mememories. Nothing traumatic; she was just mean; and I got wee bits of the nasties but was pretty much protected by my parents except for the times I'd sneak off with my cousins to get to know the "wicked witch." My parents were old enough to be grandparents so I am a strange person. Just ask RWC; he'll agree!

But my husband Kenny grew up in a little town called Lexington that separates the Delta from the Hills. He then lived in GreenWOOD and then Jackson area.

I was born in Kosciusko, the center point geographicall of MS. It is also the birthplace of Oprah Winfrey and James Meredith.

Take the time to go over to Ocean Springs and get to know the story of Walter Anderson and Shearwater Pottery.

My first marriage was in Pass Christian's Trinity Church by a wee elf of a retired priest, whose name I just forgot, Shit! Something like Dury. This was 1978. Last name Hardin or Harden. Hear the Trinity stories and know that once the land of The Pass was second only in value to Wall Street area, NYC. AND the "world's largest insane asylum." THAT is true; I have stories of a giant crucifix on a trailer, said to be on the property of the male lover of a deadened Mafia hit man in N.O. and the RC Church, St Paul's was known as Jesus Christ, SuperSlide as SuperStar and the 1st waterslide came to the Gulf Coast about the same time! and was said to be "hurricane proof" rebuilt after Camille. Yep, I was on the Gulf Coast during parts of Camille, got out just before the true horrors began but was just north enough to feel more than I ever wanted to experience!

If you find yourself in need of spiritual care and comfort of great depth, the Jesuit retreat center is awesome. Grand Coteau, LA.

AND then, of course, you MUST make the pilgrimage to Natchez and Vicksburg. And find a companion who can sit in quiet and go visit the ruins of Windsor and hear the ghosts in our haunted land of pain. For MS IS a haunted land. I was born a few years (1953) after the death of Emmitt Till and was not even ten when James Meredith entered Ole Miss and federal troops were once again on MS soil. Those were horrible times but two years ago, when my mother died, and I returned for her Episcopal funeral (she never was confirmed) in Kosciusko, I saw MORE Confederate battle flags than I'd seen OFF a football field on lawns, tshirts, and pickup trucks. My liturgy professor says the "symbols will carry on by the people where they can thrive." He was talking about the True Eucharist found in many more coffee hours than at the Table. I was in CA in 1996 when I discovered that "coffee hour" was not a euphemism for wine, champagne, and mimosas for in MS we ALWAYS had alcohol at the coffee hours.

I was confirmed during the mid 1970's; the first woman priest was a YANKEE from NEW YORK in 1979--Molly McBride--yes, the wife of the 60 Minutes Scandalous, Jerry McBride. Buddy Stallings of Staten Island can tell you all about it; he was there; it's why he left via San Francisco and Via Media and Rosa Lee Harden at Holy Innocents (she and Buddy, St James, Jackson MS). Duncan Grey 3 has turned MS into a veritable backwater AGAIN with his heterosexism and homophobia. It is painful. Ed Bacon came to All Saints Pasadena CA via the deanship in Jackson, St Andrews. Yes, we all a small family, always one person removed from another, as I am to you.

BEWARE: MS will and CAN get in your blood. She will haunt you with her Beauty; there IS no place more gorgeous and more horrible than MS. See it NOW before her rare Beauty disappears into just another place of endless strip malls. A martyr of Memphis is buried in the churchyard of Chapel of the Cross in Madison, just north of Jxn;yes, COTC was a plantation private chapel. She also has a ghost of lost love and a duel.

Go to the Cathedral and hear the wondrous music of John Paul; email him first to be sure he's playing and Duncan 3's not preaching! and tell John hello from "oona Lisa Ryan." He knows me as Lisa, long story. He's originally from the birthplace of "A French Lieutenant's Woman"--Lime/Lyme? Regis, England. (spellling? sorry, Ann) and has been at the Cathedral almost as long as I can remember. And the first love of my life was his roommate, Tommy Goodman. If you EVER have time, go to Auburn AL and see the Rural Studio of Sambo Mockbee--at least look it up on the internet and see some of MS's finest, most glorious, who died just after 9-11 and whose plans for a Twin Towers memory space are awesome. Sambo was a good friend of T. G. another gifted but livinng MS person. And collect McCarty MS Mud pottery. It is gorgeous. Bring your g-dad and Ann and yourself some of its beautiful plates or animals. They are in Marigold, a little town outside another little Delta down of Shelby, near Delta State at Morehead, where the Southern Crosses the Yellow Dog, two railroads. Read Will Campbells's story about Duncan GrAy 2 and the Episcopal Church, "And Also WIth You." Read Willie Morris's "North Toward Home," "My Dog Skip," "My Cat, Spit McGee," "New York Days" where he will tell you what a "yellow dog Democrat" is (atrocious grammar but I write in trance) and do not edit emails. bad oonie), and "The Courting of Marcus Dupree." Take the time and go to Oxford and visit Faulkner's grave and Rowan Oak. Go to the Ole Miss conversatory and The Grove. Learn the Ole Miss cheer: hoddie toddy, godamighty. who the hell are we, Yeah! flim-flam, bim bam. Ole Miss, by damn."

Visit Miss Eudora's home and re-read her. Re-read her authors there in MS and you will begin to understand some of our divine madness, best expressed by Barry Hannah.

Jackson has one of THE BEST independent bookstores ON THE PLANET, Lemmuria.

If you'd like to say more about the madness of MS to one of her native daughters, who left because MS was choking her just as the kudzu chases out the lives of trees.

Go north on "the longest,skinniest national park, the Natchez Trace, stop at every point that looks interesting. Don't stop at a rest station unless there are vans and car fulls of people, day or night. Pee under a tree first; those areas are not safe anymore. AND DON"T SPEED.

Go to the MS Craftspeople's/Craftman's Guild at Smith Wills Stadium, home of the Jxn Mets-baseball, and at the Visitor's Center at Ridgeland, a safe bano during open hours. THe works of the hands of MS artisans are awesome.

Try to make time to go visit the Choctaw reservation. You can get there by train as the casino there allowed a private rail to be opened to get there and back. See the cathedral of Indian gaming and laugh out loud at the irony and pain. Try NOT to visit the first five days of a month as those days the casinos will cash your welfare checks to gaming's evils and allure. But hear the story of the Choctaw Nation's revival.If you go in late summer, catch the Indian Fair, The Choctaw Indian Fair at the Neshoba County Fair--sorta the New Hampshire of the US South. WOW. You might be able to hear and see the living Thad Cochran (puke). If you're an angler, pick off his toupee with a rod n reel or hire some good Democrat kid to do it for me; it's one of my few unlived dreams! The Fair is an institution; people have owned cabins there for generations; hear THEIR stories.

Since The Coast is a different place than the interior of MS, you might not hear Neshobah Co Fair stories there; but if you meet anyone from mid MS and northward, surely they can tell you, especially if they are 50 or older.

The Yacht Club at Pass Christian is the birthplace of yachting in the US South; birthplace of the New Orleans Southern Yacht Club. Ask where Lucians' family is; someone will know. Tell them Guy Carnathan asked about them. If you meet any of the Dr Taylor family from "The Pass," tell them hello from Guy and Lisa. He is my exhusband, Guy, that is. Tell the Taylors family hello.

As I said, please feel free to write us.


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