Dear Friends, brother, Sisters....

My name is Helena Rijoly - Matakupan. I received scholarship from International Peacemaking Program of Hatford Seminary and is currently studying there. This is my Blog of during 1 week voluntary mission trip to Biloxi, MS with Volunteer group from 1st Church of Simsbury. Our group had been coming down to Biloxi since 4 years ago after the Hurricane Katrina hit the areas.

Hope you enjoy the writings. Please feel free to leave comments on the entry but please do not post disrespectful comments.

You can start by looking at the archive and start with the first entry in 31 January 2009. Or you can do what ever you like to read it.

God Bless you all!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Some Information

I find out that there are people who didn't know of what happen in Biloxi and New Orleans. They are not aware of The Katrina. so for those of you who needed more information.

Please click on this link


I went down to Biloxi with First Church of Simsbury group and joined the Back Bay Mission for Huricanne Katrina relief.. here's a little something for us to learn.

February 7... flying home

T'was a mixed feeling.
I love it there. I love the people and of course the weather.
I enjoyed the togetherness of our group.
I learn a big lesson from each of the person in my group.
From this 1 week I learn about creating peace with others on the basis of God's love.
I see myself in the struggle of these "internally displaced people"... uprooted from their identity... yet slowly find courage to keep going.

I witness the transformation of the words i read in the bible in faith practice.

I went home with a a feeling of being flooded with blessings.
Not because I have more than they have.
But because I was allowed to cross my comfort zone and peek out from their window into my world. Sometimes i can see myself in their world. For I am one of them struggling.

We are one as God wants us to be one.

The snow in cold connecticut welcome us home. But my heart is warmed
By friendship and a little lump of blister in my hand.

Thank You....

February 6 …. Ahhhhhhh the last day…

Not much to be done today. We work very fast that we were ahead of the schedule.

This morning I woke up and determined to go to the beach once again before going back to chilly Connecticut.

We get to the beach just in time for the sun to rise. It was a beautiful sight.
The birds flew on the water and approaching us for we were throwing bread crumbs to them. Their wings and white body gleaming in gold color of the sunrise with low tide waters slowly lapping the shore.

So peaceful…. Hard to think that this peacefulness once raged and swept all away.

We finished work at Mrs. Pluff by lunch time.
It was a mixed feeling to know that we’re leaving this house.
The house that I stepped on with not knowing what to do and not sure whether I can do it, now I left it with sense of pride that my hand had touched it’s nook and cranny.
Forever will my fingerprints left there as I walk away with a piece of my heart behind in that house.

We went to Katrina’s Memorial. I was feeling a bit disgusted to see how arrogant the casino stood tall adorned with all it’s trinkets. I think of the ‘ordinary” people I met these few days. And can’t help but to sigh….

We end the week of working with a devotion night as I can say. Where we pray and sing the chanting of “Doa Bapa Kami”. Jonathan led us in washing rituals where we take turn washed each other’s hand.

Jacky got to wash my hand. And I wash Jim’s hand. We were constantly reminded of Jesus washing the feet of it’s disciples. And in a way it is a “sending them out”.
Not just an example of servant leadership but an inheritance and sharing of spirit and faith. Jacky had been someone I look up to in Voluntary work. I shared the craziness of idealism and creativity. In my time I will walk his footstep to contribute a little piece of me to my motherland, Ambon-Indonesia.

I started my week work with an unsure opinion on Jim, The Big Man. But I ended with an assurance that he IS the big man. A man with a BIG heart. I trace a cross to his hands with a prayer that those hands will continue to bring miracles to everything he touched.

February 5 … Today and one more day to go…

The house look clean and bright now.
We cannot see any white mud spot here and there. We put the primary yesterday and everything looked gorgeous.
Today is more painting day.
Mrs. Pluff requested the house to be China White….
Jim and Sue were in charged to pop-corn the ceiling.
I was puzzled actually when they mention pop-corn…
So Jim was holding a oddly looking sprayer and it actually sprayed small lumps-like paint to the ceiling … ah… that’s pop-corn.

I was lucky to find a moment with Mrs.Pluff.
She had a moment of overwhelming emotion.
Somehow she asked me to help her and be with her.
I consider myself blessed to be with her in her most fragile moment
When faith and fragility melt in one.
I witness a refusal to give up and a strong need of a moment of release of anguish.

I am reading my own line of my paper.
I was taking a course “Reading the New Testament from the Eyes of the Oppressed”
I wrote in my final paper… “In troubled and oppressed times, the Bible, becomes more than just a reading text… more than just a book… It’s a text of HOPE”.
That is what I discover in Biloxi…
In the chamber of Main Street Baptist Church and in the face of Mrs. Pluff.

February 4… First base Coat at Mrs. Pluff

Poverty -I

Lot of hunger and having no food is poverty,
Not having spare cloth to take bath is poverty,
Needing a shelter but not having one is poverty,
Child's sick but can not buy treatment, is poverty,
Fainting child dreaming a mouthful of rice is poverty
Searching warmth in cold flesh in winter nights, is poverty,
Sitting with umbrella on wetting bed in showering night, is poverty,
Thoughtful mother, two mouthful of rice and three children, is poverty,
An ill, deserted mother selling her child wishing it will survive, is poverty.
A defeated and desponded mother poisoning and killing her child is poverty

The house was taking shape and looked nicer and nicer.
Mrs. Pluff came everytime with food. Today she brought food for us.
The Burger Burger!!
A little like Subway sandwich but very delicious indeed.
The lunch gave a way to a more chatty atmosphere
We find ourselves eat side by side, talking and taking pictures of each other.

I am sure Mrs. Pluff is very pleased with the progress of the house.
You can see that twinkle in her eyes.
I am pleased too. To think that this is my first time really constructing house.

I think of the poem above and I know Mrs. Pluff and so many other people like her needed a shelter but they don’t have one.
Yesterday at the soup kitchen I also meet many people who met those categories above.
Then I think of MDG’s… I hope more people will come down face to face with these people. Rolled their sleeve and get to work to help them.
I pray those people in the legislative and in the government will allow their hearts to hear the cry of these people and for a moment let these voices win over politics.
Is it just a dream?

Will the government continue to be a slave to corrupted system and oppose themselves to people and relief organization?
Will the humanitarian organization and relief network get caught in “savior syndrome” and worse caught up in project oriented?

And Will I and you sit in our cozy living room with a nice warm air from the radiator in winter?

Lend a hand… one day at a time… one person to one person…
We cannot make ALL the difference but we CAN save THIS tiny starfish

February 3...A looong story day

I did Loaves and Fishes today.
Loaves and Fishes is a soup Kitchen ministry to feed the homeless.
It is my first time doing this job and I am glad Sara was with me
I was half glad that I got to go to the Soup Kitchen because the work of the day was Sanding. And I hate the sound of sanding. The teeth gritting –screeching-awful sound.
Unbearable for me.

The shoup Kitchen of Loaves and Fishes didn’t have much to do when Sara and I arrived. They basically finished cooking. So Sara and I got the task to clean the fridge, all the countertop and serving tops with disinfectant. Then we got to serve the lines of people waiting for their tray.

I was expecting chaos. But I find them very politely waiting in line and move politely to have us handing on out their shared. They joyously said “thank you”, “God Bless Y’all”.
They yummied their food on the way to the table which made the food extra delicious in my eyes. It was macaronis and beef and sausage cooked in tomato sauce, with Salad, Left-over beef stew, Peach and saltines crackers. Yumm yummm… I am also amazed that it was actually a delicious and decent food. From my experience they will feed these people a not so good food.

Some of these people are demanding for they’re familiar with the soup kitchen and they see it as their ‘home’. So they asked for more of these and more of that. Others come shyly and ask politely sometimes with voice so low I cannot hear, to have a little bit more of the meat or extra saltine crackers.

It broke my heart that day to see a Hispanic family of 7; a mother, father, and 5 kids. Two of these kids come with their mother. They are litlle boy and little girl. All the kids wanted was a plate of peaches. So after casting a pleading look to our supervisor and got an approval nod, we gave a tray with only peaches to them.

I got to talk with the volunteers there who helped me to talk to them because they cannot speak English. I found out that they adopted the other 3 kids. So from the 5 kids, 2 are their own and the other 3 were orphaned. Their family was washed away and they were separated. I was so touched that they took these kids under their wings when they were also homeless.

How many of us will think twice and even hundred times to take a child or help someone else in need right now? We say, I need to watch my spending this month. Or million other excuses we will come up with. But I kept on thinking of this family. How great their hearts are. May God help them. For I know they are not off God;s caring.

I am thankful for organization like Loaves and Fishes. They’ve done a remarkable job. God continue to bless them too.

I didn’t came back to Mrs. Pluff’s house after working at the soup kitchen. Sara and I returned to our trailer house. So After a quick late lunch, sara and I decided to clean up the trailer common areas, put fruits and cookies for the other crew so when they come home tired they will find something that cheer them up.
So Sara vacummed and I take care of the dishes and straighted up everything.
I was so happy that they are happy to come home weary and find thing a little nicer.

We have afternoon meeting with Sherry. They Manager (??) of Back Bay Mission who shared about their work, vision and mission. I really appreciate all they have done. I also have my opinion that they were caught in a provider-target structure with the people they helped (the Katrina victims and homeless people). I would like to suggest a more inclusive and community based and participation like. Thus back bay didn’t have to shoulder everything. Community will be mobilized and will eventually carried out the outreach in broader scale. But apart from that, I gave them gratitude for all their willingness to serve, compassion and faithfulness to keep on going.

Back at our trailer home we had a delicious dinner of casserole. Kudos to Tina, Sue and Margo!!!

One other things, Sara and I work along side with Holly and Hanna.
I am happy because we are able to strike conversations and work together.

I led the vesper that night and shared my reflection yesterday about the smelly fishermen.
I was so glad that it was well received and we all shared the same feeling and have the same awareness that this is our “JIHAD” our struggle with ourselves to be in peace with others as it walks hand in hand with our mission in Biloxi as an act faith to serve the Lord.

More down…. 1 hard one to go

February 2, Discovering God on the first day of Work

12 smelly fishermen

This morning when Diann pray before we launched ourselves on our 1st day at work with back bay mission, she pray so that we may find GOD in our work and in the people we meet today.

Soon after the prayer, a sexist comment was uttered in the meeting room as we debriefing with other groups of volunteers. We were annoyed of course. And that pretty much destroyed the “god” we want to see in them today.

Anyway, we were doing the sharing after diner (and Bananagram game) and Diann ask us to read from Mark 1:16-20 about Jesus calling the first disciples. They were fishermen and JESUS just basically took them from their nature and skill to be HIS disciple who will minister, preach, lead, reach out and guided many people.

I did mention that I don’t think I meet GOD today.
Then Diann shared the jokes.
People were welcoming Jesus.
Then in the story one of them said
“Ooh forget bout Jesus for one second. What about the 12 smelly fishermen He has with him”.

I thought the story was both hilarious and eye opener.

Then I thought… A-ha!! I did met the 12 smelly fishermen today.
They were so smelly, they bug me all day.
I remember doing my prayer…
I was thinking of all the things I should have and find when I want to find GOD.
Sometimes we just want to find GOD so much we forgot to welcome and also acknowledge HIS disciples-smelly-fishermen.

Hmmm…. I was wrong. I did meet GOD…. I did meet Jesus today
Jesus always walks around with the 12 fishermen.
So if I did find these smelly fishermen. HE must also be there… (under cover maybe??)

Other things that happen today,
1. we had a chilling lunch at the park in front of Mrs. Pluffs house. The wind was so chilling. They lied. It suppose to be warm. Hiks.
2. Sara injured her thumb with Mudding Blade. it was bleeding when I saw her. But she was very strong to bear the pain. Even come with no Twitch face.
3. We played bananagram too and I won several times. I think I know how it works now.

February 1.... Sunday Halleluya

OK it’s Sunday and Jonathan (our Pastor) herd us all to main Street Baptist Church for Sunday service. 2 things that stand out from this church; sea of marvelous hats and groovy Men’s Choir.

The Black American really do have great taste of fashion. We sat there felt very much under-dressed and bare among those beautiful hats. One lady walks in with a beautiful fluffy bouncy white fur hats with complimentary big bows like Aretha franklin hats on Obama’s Innaguration. My my.... I wanted that hats and I know I am not the only one after that hats. I saw Diann elbow Jonathan for same reaction.

We were later swept away by the magnificent voice and ‘bouncy’ groove of the choir selection songs. They have AWESOME voice and they don’t even look like they have to work hard and strained their neck muscle to produce those voice. God really gifted these people angelic voice no one could ever replicate. It is theirs…

We had an awesome local southern food at Aunt Jenny’s kitchen. I have shrimp, sweet potatoes and cole slaw. Absolutelly magnificent. The restaurant was very nice. I like it. It was a wooden building with a deck-like feeling. Our table was overlooking the lake or the bay. Absolutely gorgeous. It was sad to learn that this restaurant was also drawn with water that rise from the bay up to their place.

Another wonderful surprise was the pastor of Main Street Baptist Church was also lunched there.

We later took care of grocery. Diann, Tina, Sue and Me went for grocery shopping.
I have never shopped that many items in one go. We had to use 2 carts and split up to tackle the list. It was somewhat fun. It was my first encounter with Tina and Sue. I like them both. Guess what I learned this and that about shopping for food in America. I appreciate this trip for I am not very much familiar with food in America in terms of brand and efficiency. So I will have to thank both Tina and sue.

Upon returning back we have welcoming notes from Sandy, the long time volunteer there. I think she’s the Back Bay Mission volunteer coordinators but I am not sure. The meeting was held at our neighbor trailer. I was not sure. But I got the feeling of how cold and unfriendly they are when we step into their trailer. God forgive me but I do feel kinda unwelcoming atmosphere.

Back to our trailer, I soon dicover that Tina is somewhat our “chief chef”… I didn’t expect this. Frankly I thought Tina is a rich woman with thousands of maid in her house thus she doesn’t have to cook or worse don’t know how to cook. He he he he… She will laugh at me if she read this. I helped in my wonderful ability in the kitchen: chopping.

Sue also introduce me to a new game similar to Scrabble called Bananagram.
I need to get the hang of how to play that. The game got me hooked for it instantly raking my brain to find the word arrangement. I think I can do it. I just need to get the knack of it.


I will now begin to post my diary entry I made during 1 week trip to Biloxi, Mississippi. I cannnot upload it to Blogspot during my stay there due to a internet connection problem with my computer.

I would like to Thank
First Church of Simsbury Group
Rev. Jonathan Morgan
Diann Bailey
Jim and Sue Trimble (Did I spell it right... or Rotten banana?)
Tina Osbourne
Dick (Awww Dick I just realized, I don't know your last name)
Margo (Also Margo... I don't know your last name)
And to Papa Jack

For an unforgetable week and for welcoming me into the group.

So I will post day by day entries...

To my work crew... I decided not to edit anything. so we can walk though development of our days from my point of view.

Friday, January 30, 2009

One day before take off

I am blogging from Diann Bailey's house from Ben's room. Thanks Diann, Todd, Ben and Nate to have us over.
I am nervous for my first experience if going on Volunteer mission in US.
Also nervous of whether I am able to do the work assigned to me.... I shall try!

Anyway, a brief news on me in preparation of this mission.
I have a swollen gum problem, presumably my wisdom tooth.
I was in pain 3 days ago with it. yesterday it went down because I gurgle with Hydrogen peroxide but the pain still there. Today, I said to myself If It didn't stop hurting then I'm going to call it off.
I don't want to do that. i have been waiting excitedly to go.
So my tooth can wait. Dear Lord, help me to go through this week well.

OK... the mission i am going to is called Back Bay Mission to Biloxi, Mississippi.
It's a volunteer program to build houses for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
I am going with First Church of Simsbury Voluntary mission team.

Diann is having us stayed at her house to make it easier for our early morning flight from Hartford's Bradley Airport to Mississippi.

I carried 3 piece of bag (???... Don't ask).
I have 1 small (really it is small) suitcase with all my clothes,
a backpack with blanket, sleeping bag, towels, working shoes etc
and another bag for my books computers and other important stuffs.
So I don't think I over packed at all.

I would also thank Hartford Seminary generous Visit America fund that help to defray the cost.

Now it is 11.13pm. Almost midnight. I need to get a good rest for our travel tomorow.

I hope I can keep my daily blog to shre what i see, learn, feel and envision in this marvelous opportunity.