Final Reflections on Camp Victor

Crew #4

It was quite a week working with this awesome crew of folks. We spent three days of sunshine and 1/2 day of a rainy downpour roofing together.

There was an amazing synergy from the first day. Extremely gifted listeners, workers, and all around great people. We experienced some very real frustrations in our work…and ultimately for me the frustration boils down to the tension between mercy and justice.

Most mission work means that God’s people engage of acts of mercy. We experience God’s grace in many ways, and participating in acts of mercy are certainly a means of grace. In fact, Methodists actively link our sacrament of communion and, “the grace received at the table with acts of mercy toward neighbor and stranger.”

However, an oft quoted verse in ministry is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Justice and mercy are inextricably linked. However, in my experience mercy is mostly easy: feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are cold, put a roof on someone’s house who needs one and can’t afford it.

But, justice is much, much harder. It means asking the question, “why?” Why is this person hungry,cold, or homeless? Do they need education?Legal working papers? Treatment for mental illness? Training to cope with basic life skills to accommodate a learning disability or physical disability?

When my crew traveled to Waveland/Bay St. Louis, MS I encountered injustice. Neighborhoods where people were still living in their FEMA trailer, or preparing to move into a MEMA cottage because the FEMA trailers produce lethal levels of formaldehyde. People unable to rebuild their homes because they did not live in a “flood zone” and were therefore not able to purchase flood insurance…so they are in court with insurance companies to prove that the wind damage from the hurricane happened before the flood damage. All the while paying their mortgage on a home that doesn’t exist.

All these are typical red tape encountered with large companies who might be losing lots of money…but the real frustration of my experience in Waveland was the disorganization of the relief organization we were working with. Over 20 people from Camp Victor had come to help rebuild or repair homes in a neighborhood that looked like the storm had hit less than a year ago…but only 5 were able to help actually work on a home. The rest of us were unable to get significant work assignments and spent a little while moving supplies at the headquarters.

The relief organization in that neighborhood was headed by one woman and a few volunteers…she has been working there for the past two years. Is she burnt out? under resourced? overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work still to be done?

Whatever the reason, it was utterly frustrating to see the willing workers, the supplies available at hand…and the inability to really make a difference in that neighborhood. That is what I see as a matter of injustice…people still in need and the inability to meet their needs.

At the end of the day I try to reflect upon my time and give my frustrations to God. So, while I still contemplate the question of justice God has given me peace through the same verse that calls us to do justice…

Micah 6:8 (The Message)

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

We spent our time trying to be fair and just to our neighbors in Mississippi…but sometimes I do take myself too seriously, so thanks be to God that we’re only called to take God seriously!

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