Here is the latest letter from Biloxi. The group will be heading back to Chattanooga Saturday where they will spend the night at our house. It sounds like they accomplished a lot. They learned some interesting history of the United Church of Christ in Mississippi and how the Biloxi Mission has evolved. It will be good to hear their stories in more detail on their return visit Saturday night.
"Good Wednesday evening (a day late because of internet connection problems),Another full day in Biloxi is complete and we've added a variety of new activities and experiences.We all began our day at our project sites. Betsey, Lisa, Joe and Sue finished the insulation project at Lucious' home. At the same time, Mary, Mike and George completed the installation of the dry wall in one bedroom and started the installation in the living room. Eddie completed his installation of the dryer vent.Terry and Hal were at a new job site where they installed extensions of some rotted floor joists to correct a problem with a sagging floor.
We all quit work for the day at 2:30 to 3:00 and returned to Biloxi from Gulfport to get cleaned up in time for a 4:00 PM meeting with Shari Prestemon, the Executive Director of the BBM. Shari gave a talk about the history of the BBM, its ministry before Hurricane Katrina and how the focus of its ministry has changed as a result of Katrina. For example, the BBM has become a strong advocate for affordable housing and, in cooperation with other groups, is working to build new affordable housing stock.
The story of the UCC churches in Mississippi provides an interesting example of the cost of discipleship. There were three all white UCC churches in the Biloxi area in the 50's and 60's when the civil rights movement swept through the south. At the urging of the national church, the local church leadership and some members took up the civil rights issue. Needless to say, the issue split the congregations. The rift weakened them to the point where all three had disbanded by 1974.
After the end of the meeting with Shari, George Connor presented Shari a check from MCC for the sum of $6,500 while Mary, Hal and Lisa looked on. Most of that money had been raised in the past year and a half in the M&M coin collection effort and in recent weeks in the Bundles for Biloxi Campaign. It also included a $750.00 contribution from the MCC Outreach Committee. George also presented a separate check for $350.00 from EMC made available through a matching gifts program at EMC.
This evening we attended the Wednesday evening worship service at the First Missionary Baptist Church, the African American church at which Don Morgan, the BBM project Coordinator, is associate pastor. Don is an ordained UCC pastor. Needless to say, the service was quite a contrast to our traditional New England congregational service. We did get to sing the *Matsithi to the congregation.Our late evening has seen some people off to bed while others have been playing Yahtzee.Tomorrow we'll have another short day on the job sites so that we can travel to New Orleans and see the conditions there."
The Biloxi Crew
* Hal refers to singing "the Masithi" at the worship service they attended. This is a South African amen that our church at home in Massachusetts sings after the benediction. It is sung in very close harmony and usually ACapella. The tune is very melodic and the men in the congregation start it off by themselves. There is a verse in Swahili and one in English. We have sung it for at least 10 years, I think.
I actually found the music for it on the website below. Those of you who read music might be interested.
Have a great day everyone.