Sharing Pearlington

A subsidiary Blog of our Main Blog, located at and presenting words and images of Pearlington. Sharing the series: "Focus On..." * "Back Home Again" * "A Volunteer's Tale" and other human interest stories.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Volunteer's Tale - Jane Els

I’m going back to Pearlington, Mississippi.

I’ve been telling people for a long time to "just go." On our last trip to Pearlington I told my husband, Beaven, that it was such good physical exercise we needed to find a way to keep it up. Then Jon wrote about the power of just one person to make a difference. I noticed my calendar is empty for the next couple of months. This alone is an incredible and rare situation. So I decided to "just go." I’m leaving tomorrow morning.

From what I’ve seen in Pearlington, the goal to have the town up and running by the 2nd anniversary of the storm is do-able. I’d like to be part of that effort.

I started going to the Gulf Coast in March this year. My church is part of a cluster of nine Presbyterian churches in Dallas that work together on trips like this so it was real easy to hook up with the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. We went to Luling and Houma, Louisiana to help set up their camps in March. Then in October and December later that year we went to Pearlington. After our first trip to Pearlington we were hooked.

The town is small enough and the job is big enough that we knew volunteers could make a difference. The town is also poor enough that volunteers are the only ones who will make it happen; there’s no money to pay for the labor. Plus we fell in love with the people. I came home and wrote several postings to my blog explaining why we went, what we found there and how it felt. Once you’ve met ladies like Shirley Thompson and her mother, Miss Annie, your heart will belong to Pearlington. After you’ve met a character like Dallas Trammel you will never forget the town. My stories are all on my blog:

When I got home after the last trip I started surfing the web and found Canada Jon’s blog and website. It kept me connected to the town and the people I met there. Then Texas had bad weather for a week and I found myself restless. And then Jon posted his entry on what a difference one person can make. I started thinking about just going by myself. I remembered a comment a friend made about why she was going to Louisiana to help with the hurricane recovery; "I have the time, the money and the energy to go. It would be a shame, no—it would be a sin, not to go."

I have the world’s most understanding husband. He encouraged me to just go ahead and go. He told me that he would hold down the fort; make sure our granddaughters stay spoiled and keep our dogs and cats happy. So, I leave in the morning.

I have no idea how long I will stay. I might last only a week and get homesick and I reserve the right to run back home with my head held high, knowing I gave it everything I had. I also might stay a couple of months and Beaven has even researched airfares to New Orleans. I do have some idea of where I’ll stay but that’s about all I know for sure. I don’t know what I’ll be doing. And I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. To me, that’s the exciting adventure that faith takes you. I leave those details in God’s hands. I am open to what God wants to use me for and for whatever God wants to show me. I hope I’ll be able to see clearly enough to write about it when I get home.

In the meantime, somebody remind Beaven to water the plants.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

That House in Pearlington: Part II

Much thanks to Danielle and all for their great articles. I wish I would have been there when they were at the house.

My wife and I purchased the house in 1995, had done a lot of improvements on it, and ran a small plant business called Gardner's Greenhouse. She did the planting, growing, etc and I did the leg work. She passed in 2003, and I kept the business going until the storm.

I was in the house when Katrina hit and the water went from my feet to over my head in about twenty minutes. I knocked out the window over the back door, swam out with three dogs out one at a time, and spent two days on my deck, which had broken lose until the water went down. There was a cat left in the house that somehow survived and we all are presently in Dallas. I do go down every couple of weeks and have just about gotten everything worth saving and brought it back to Dallas for refurbishing.

I plan to start working on the getting the rest of the junk out and see what can be done with the house after the holidays. The house itself is sound, but needless to say the inside is pretty trashed and will need extensive repair. I doubt in my lifetime it will happen, but I can try. The lady that sent me the article, also has a 100 year old house there and working on is as time permits.

There is a great deal of history in the area, and unfortunately I lost my books on the area which were rare and limited additions. The country's largest sawmill was located there at one time and during the Civil War solders camped there. Wonder how they survived the "Bugs"? When I was sown a couple of weeks ago, they ate me up.

We do appreciate and thank all the volunteers who have come to the area and there is no way we can repay your kindness. Everybody have a Merry Christmas and a Fun New Year and I'll be looking forward to meeting you one of these days should you pass our way again.

Above and below are pictures of my refugees.

With Love and Many Thanks Again,
Tony Gardner
Dallas, TX

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

That House: Danielle Larsen, 16

The first time I saw it I knew it would live in my mind forever. The house was yellow, a soft yellow with white trim. The front yard was covered in large oak trees, with branches reaching in every direction inviting your gaze toward the house. This house seemed just like home to me. It was an older home, built around the early 1900’s or the late 1800’s. It was gorgeous. A fence surrounded the whole house, with an elaborate iron gate. Out of all of the destruction in Pearlington, Mississippi this house caught my attention, like a diamond in the rough.

It was our last day in Pearlington after a week of painting, cleaning, dry walling, taping and floating. The scorching heat reminded us that it was early October. I asked my Dad if we could go and explore the house, the one that was constantly picture in my mind. So Melissa, my Dad and I hopped out of the car and stepped over the fence. Since Hurricane Katrina, the bugs have been worse than ever. We stepped outside and were eaten alive by swarms of them. They were even worse when we stood by the house to take pictures. It appeared that no one had come back to the house since the storm and we were their first meal.

While looking at the house, I remembered the first time I had seen it. My initial glimpse was during my second trip to Pearlington in late May. As we drove to the Distribution Center I saw it on the right and did a double take, but in a flash we had turned the corner and it was gone. I remembered how the house just captured my heart. I became attached to it for some unknown reason. We began walking through the yard and stepped over the trees lying across the ground. To our left was a toppled light pole and an over-turned bench. When I saw these I thought of all the memories this place held before the storm.

As I took my first step on the porch I thought of the people that once filled this house. Then I said out loud and half to myself, “Wow, this house must have been tough to leave, with all of their belongings still inside, not to mention it’s just beautiful.”

We walked down the olive green hall looking into each room and staring in awe at the remains of a family’s life. Each room was white and boasted it’s own fireplace. Each wall contained a watermark roughly a foot from the lofty 12-foot ceiling. There were papers scattered over the floor, which was also covered in a layer of mud. As we looked harder we spotted pictures of their life before the storm, pictures from a life they left behind. All their furniture was scattered and strewn everywhere. And at the end of the hall was an elaborate grandfather clock leaning in the corner; its face was splattered with mud and stopped at exactly 7:44.

We explored this house like the “it” in hide and seek. We had no idea what we were looking for, but we were looking for something. It was an eerie feeling walking through the halls, but exciting at the same time. We touched nothing; removed nothing.

Although it was just a house, it taught me what the people of Pearlington had to come back to after the storm, or in this case, left behind. This house is my connection to Pearlington. I always remember this house when I think about Pearlington and wonder when I will get to go back and see it and potentially figure out as much as I can about it. It beckons me to not forget the people in Pearlington and draws me back to see what, if anything, has changed.

Danielle is a volunteer with The BRICK Layers of Alabama.

[Let's help her out. If you can identify the owners of this home, please contact me and I will forward the name to Danielle. Thanks. - ED.]

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale : Hitchcock Foursquare

Dear Saints:

The SMELLS have changed! As we say goodbye to our friends and co-laborers in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I reflect on the fact that the smells have changed. I still remember the first days on the coast when all a person could smell was the stench of death and rotten sea mud. There was also the stench of HOPELESSNESS and despair as people were trying to figure out how to get started rebuilding their lives. I still remember Rick, Darren, Andrew, myself and a few other brothers as we stood in awe of the destruction and the stench in the air. But I also remember the fragrance of life as we began to see the hope and the hands of our lord Jesus Christ and the prayers of his saints being offered up in the midst of all the destruction.

As we have spent this past year helping people dig their lives out, we have smelled other things like the SWEAT of believers working hard and praying hard. To many, that may not smell good but to God it is a sweet fragrance of sowing life unto life. We have enjoyed the fragrance of brothers and sisters who have dropped denomination walls and stood shoulder to shoulder under the banner of the love of Jesus our Lord and who have became HIS visible body to those that could not see HIM because of religious AND ethnic walls. How will they know we are HIS disciples? By our love one for another! THAT’S A SWEET SMELL!

I was even thinking of teams who have come to do relief work but find themselves out of their comfort zone and under tremendous pressure. When relationships have been strained to the point of breaking, the Holy Spirit has shown up in power and grace and has changed the "odor" from the stench of hurt and misunderstanding to the fragrance of peace and joy in relationships made whole.

Probably one of the greatest smells has been to walk into God’’s Katrina Kitchen in Pass Christian MS or First Missionary Baptist in Pearlington MS when teams have been working all day and workers are swapping stories, laughing, and loving. No one worried about race or religious differences –– it was just the pure innocent love of Jesus. I think the revelation of Jesus’’ words come alive when he said "If two or more would gather in my name I would be in the midst of them". A room (or tent) full of believers eating and loving - it just doesn’t get any better than that! The fragrance makes you want to stay all day.

As for me, I am back on deck at the local church I pastor and back to work in the community where I live. God has already opened the doors in the new Galveston County jail for me and others to minister to almost 12,000 inmates every Monday night. And, on a personal note, I am definitely enjoying being a grandfather. I really am enjoying being re-focused on the new season in which God has called our church.

My prayers are the same for all you who have moved into new seasons - that God will help you to QUICKLY CONNECT to your new season. We must redeem the time because the days are evil!
THANKS so much to all you soldiers of the cross who have labored and are continuing to labor in these relief efforts. Thanks so much to TERRY & CYNTHIA OWENS, LANCE BURTON, STEVE & ELAINE BARLOW and TRACE WALDING. I want to thank "ALL" my friends at GOD’S KATRINA KITCHEN as well as RICK WALTH & his daughter SABRINA WALTH who run the Bay St. Louis relief camp. Lastly, I want to thank my wife PATTY and daughter LIZ as well as GLEN BURRIS, LISA PENWORTHY, ADAM DAVIDSON, my Supervisor TONY KRISHACK and our District Administrator ANNE SOMMER for their support.

THANKS to all of you for your love and help this past year. PLEASE REMEMBER TO PRAY FOR THOSE THAT ARE CONTINUING ON IN THE FIGHT to restore the MS Gulf Coast. The work is not done yet.

Pastor John Elliott
Hitchcock Foursquare

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale: Wendy Frost

I returned Friday from an altogether short visit to Pearlington. My "group" just ended up being my myself and my fifteen yr old daughter Mary. We stocked shelf's, and minded the "store". We also did the LEAP home deliveries and that was really rewarding.

Unfortunately I got sick on Wednesday and we ended up leaving and not doing as much as I would have liked, but I will return!! My heart is in Pearlington.

My daughter made an interesting observation. She asked if Pearlington had ever really been a "town". Did it have houses, stores and schools? I assured her that it had indeed, and if you look hard you can still see reminders. The vacant spaces between the trees, the stone and dusty drives that lead to the aluminum boxes our people now call home and the school gym now known as the "Pearl-mart". She said that it looked like an overgrown campground, and the people were on a never-ending camping trip. So sad, yet true.

Except for the bright bits of light as churches and individuals work to rebuild Pearlington, one house at a time. One house at a time, one good deed at a time, we will get it done. The Lord isn't finished with us yet, and neither are the people of Pearlington!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale: Joel Adams

Joel Adams is a local boy, born and raised in Pearlington. He has been a volunteer at the Resource Center for the past three months. He is willing to stay here as long as it takes. He keeps busy taking work orders from the locals. After inputting the data into the computer, he also makes himself available to the other volunteers for any of their needs.

Joel is recuperating from injuries received from a car accident one month prior to Katrina. He was released from the hospital just in time to evacuate the storm. Suffering from a broken hip, broken knee and dislocated jaw, he was set back three months on getting back on with his life.

Katrina changed the course of his life, like it did for so many others. He has graduated from living in his van, to his "mobile condo" (FEMA trailer). His house was demolished and he has nothing in the works yet for rebuilding.

He wouldn't give up living here though, connected to his "neighbors, not by blood, but by something greater."

Thank you, Joel, for all you do.

Written by Nancy Semple, Ontario, Canada - on the ground in Pearlington

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale - Jake Earle

I work for the Charleston Water System, the utility that supplies water and sewer service to Charleston South Carolina. When Hurricane Katrina struck August 29, it was apparent this was a natural disaster of unprecedented magnitude in the US. I was anxious to do something. I literally paced the floor at times wondering what I could do. I checked into volunteering with the Red Cross, learning that you must sign up for training courses that filled up quickly. At that time, I hadn’t learned of my own church denomination’s Disaster Response teams, but they require advance training. I resolved to go ahead and sign up for training, and waited impatiently.

After the storm, I was anxious to go and render assistance in some way. I contacted the Red Cross, learning that they had a waiting list for their required training program. So I resolved to sign up, and wait. Shortly thereafter, my employer sent out a call for volunteers to go and assess drinking water needs in affected areas. I made sure I was at the front of that line. I became leader of one of four 2-man teams that assessed the Mississippi coast, and areas surrounding New Orleans.

The next 10 days were one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I made it into Bay St. Louis on September 16. One or two residents there wondered how they were doing "out there in Pearlington", so we made our way to them the next day. The Charles B. Murphy School was in the initial stages of being transformed into the relief center by the people from Florida Hazmat, and we discovered and planned the recovery of the school’’s well. From our assessments on this trip Water Missions International planned the well-recovery program.

I made a second trip as a Charleston Water employee to help get the well-recovery program started. Then I made 4 more trips as a private citizen, taking week long "vacations" to build storage sheds, repair wells, help families with insurance claims, and whatever else I could do. My time was pretty much split between Pearlington, and Lakeshore/Waveland/Bay St. Louis. I met Jean Larroux, originally from Bay St. Louis, but living in Memphis at the time, where he was a pastor at a Presbyterian church, and have had some involvement in his move back to Bay St. Louis to start Lagniappe Presbyterian Church.

John "Jake " Earle
Mt. Pleasant, SC

This is the barest abbreviation of Jake Earle's story, which is a fascinating history of many elements of the early recovery that most of us never saw or even heard about. Check the whole story at: . I have added Jake's name - and a link to his full story - on the main Pearlington Blog. If ever a man deserved to be a part of C.O.D.R.A., it's Jake. He holds a place of honor among the volunteers of Pearlington. - Jon