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The Yats are driving home. We couldn't keep up with the big forearmed

Midwestern women on the sandbag line. But we held our own.

Our levee, the Sny, the world's largest, is in tact at this point. The

biggest threats to it in the days ahead will be rain and muskrats. It

was muskrats that took out the levee in Missouri on Wednesday night.

Let me conclude our first relief trip to America's heartland with a

final round of dissimilar and similar. Dissimilar first.

The level of organisation and communication between state and local

goverment, along with charitable agencies, is astounding. Local

organisers spent considerable time with us on Friday morning reviewing

their disaster reponse manual - knowing full well that being from New

Orleans we've never seen such a document before. They promised to

send to us on CD ROM. We'd pass along a copy to "Our Mayor" if we knew

his Plano, TX mailing address.

Local (volunteer) organisers have traveled the country learning best

practises - while not disparaging their hosts. They've drilled the

plan for two years making adjustments here and there based on what was

learned in trial runs. And they're already thinking up additional

tweaks and improvements for future events. In short, they're well

prepared and it shows. The entire experience reeked of Midwestern

orderliness, calm and efficiency. Just like "Our Mayor" when trying to

figure out where to drop $1,000 at lunch.

Now to the similar. The spirit of the American people is this nation's

engine and glue. We worked along side of people from a myriad of

backgrounds. Stoic farmers, convicts, retirees, children, Mennonites

and Yats all pulling together to save the homes, businesses and farms

of people they don't even know.

As was and in the case post Katrina, church groups were among the

first in (and the last to leave). In these parts the Mennonites are

hugely respected. But I, too, know them well from personal experiences

in Africa (where we lived prior to becoming Yats) and NOLA. Don't let

their pacifism fool you. They're tough as nails. There's an expression

here: "How is copper wire made? Two Mennonite boys fighting over a

penny." They - like the best of religious groups - don't seek the

media limelight or have any need for self-promotion. They simply come

as needed, often times at great personal sacrifice - to put their

heads down and serve. As someone quipped after Katrina, "we should put

the Southern Baptists in charge of FEMA."

What was accomplished during our albeit too brief time here?

Personally we were able to take our minds off our problems back home

in NOLA and help others in their time of need. Others who've been so

good to us. Often times reaching out to help someone else who's

suffering and struggling is the best form of therapy.

On a corporate level the folks here were blown away by New Orleanians

coming to their aid. We dispelled some of the sentiment that New

Orleanians are all just "takers" and "gimmes."

The local media was all over us so by Friday we'd achieved minor

celebrity status. We went along with it knowing that "good will

ambassador" was part of our job description. People here embraced and

thanked us warmly and profusely.

As one old man told me on the way out, with his southern illinois'

farmer Vulcan death grip handshake, "We're damn glad you people from

New Orleans came here to help us."

We're glad too. Damn glad. And we'll be back..

To help: look for future trips to southern Illinois on Annunciation's

website: www.annunciationbroadmoor.org or call the church at

504-895-8697. You can also use Annunciation's Pay Pal account on the

website to make a donation. Or send a cheque made out to Free Churh of

the Annunciation, with "Quincy" in the memo line, 4512 S. Derbigny,

New Orleans, LA 70125. One hundred percent of all gifts will be passed

on to displaced/severely impacted people in the flood zone.

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