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.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale - Amlin U.M.C.

41 of us went to Pearlington from three churches here in Central Ohio. We had an excellent time of fellowship with each other and with the proud residents of Pearlington MS.

My work crew worked on Charles Acker's house and I am happy to say we hung insulation in 90% of the house (the bathroom still needs framing and plumbing). In addition to the insulation we hung 90% of the drywall and it is really shaping up. One of the crews got his roof put on and we all pitched in to cleanup and straighten up. I could not have spent 5 days doing anything more rewarding than working for this man.

On Friday our little crew of eight was out of work at Mr. Charles' house, so we dug down deep and pulled up enough strength to get another assignment. "Mrs. Linda is hanging sheet rock" is all we needed to hear. Off we ran to 4th Ave. and Mrs. Linda's house. We had such little time to help but were determined to get something done. We helped clean up and straighten up some joint compound, filled in screw holes etc... Some of us just straightened up in general and we felt so bad we couldn't get much more done.

Apologizing to Mrs. Linda we got to see how God really works. She told us that she woke up that morning and raised her hands to Jesus and said "I cannot go on, I cannot work in there another minute, please help me!" A short while later the PRC called and said there was a work crew ready to head to her house. We didn't get much physical work done but by the time we left Mrs. Linda was telling us what color she was going to paint the kitchen.

Our logo for this mission trip said "More than just a hand", quite appropriate in this case.

Jason Kent
Amlin United Methodist Church

Jason is from a small town outside of Columbus, OH - check out their web site at

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Keeping on "Keeping On" - Part III

By Jennifer Johnson

So many things look different since my first visit to Pearlington, when trees still blocked the streets and everything was brown. Brown with mud, brown due to loss of vegetation. Now you can see new roofs, new construction, new sheet rock and new paint. The brown is slowly being replaced by green. New growth, a little grass. Many are moving back into their homes. The community is coming together like never before to rebuild. And yet, some things remain the same. There are still some houses that haven’t been touched. Still piles of debris on the side of the road.

There is still so much to do.

So keep coming to Pearlington. Keep encouraging others to participate. But in the business of your preparations, don’t forget to take the time to be still and know that He is God. Don’t forget to take the time to ask Him what is His will for your involvement.

And if you listen very carefully, you will hear Him whisper:

"Keep on keeping on."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Keeping on "Keeping On" - Part II

By Jennifer Johnson

Coming to Pearlington doesn’t seem like mission work. It’s more like coming home.

Harry and Nancy Bell were one of the first families to show us this. It was my birthday in November when I first met them. They treated me to the most amazing shrimp boil and birthday cake I have ever had....and they did it all from their FEMA trailers. Once Harry and Nancy moved back into their house, if you went to visit, you’d better not knock. You’d better know that you just come on in, like family. And you better be hungry, because there was always food around and it was going to be offered to you, and you’d better say yes.

This past week, we had to lay Harry’s body to rest. It was one of the hardest things to do because it was like losing one of my own family members. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Harry’s soul is celebrating in heaven and that one day I will be there with him. And I’d better not knock. I’d better just walk right in. And I know there will be plenty of food offered to me and that I’d better say yes.

Then there are the Ladner’s. If I could choose an additional set of grandparents for my children, it would be tough to choose from those that I have met in Pearlington. George and Margaret would be at the top of the list. We share in their excitement as they watch their new home being built. And when one of them isn’t feeling well, we hurt with them just as their children do. When I met their daughter Claudia and her family for the first time this weekend, it was as if we had known each other all of our lives.

All of the residents make us feel like this. We laugh with them. We cry with them. We celebrate with them. I guess that sleeping on someone’s concrete slab with exposed 2 x 4s all around you; eating jambalaya or red beans and rice surrounded with half finished construction projects has created a special bond that just can’t be beat.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Keeping on 'Keeping On'

Jennifer Johnson, of the BRICK Layers of Alabama, is a great woman and a great writer. She writes, often, for the same reasons I do: to share, to inspire, to teach and learn and to understand.

I have received a letter from her today - three letters, really; one about God, one about Family, one about Pearlington. Within these letters you can hear the echo of your own thoughts and feelings. It is the echo of Faith in action, in walking the talk.

I would like to share all three with you over the next three days. We could not stand what was going on, so now we stand for what’s right. Dedication from many people like Jennifer Johnson has made all the difference. She is wise as she is determined. She loves Pearlington and its people....unconditionally.

And we all love her.

If you’ve been to Pearlington once, twice, or ten times, there is a distinct feeling that you can’t deny. It feels like coming home. And God is the co-pilot.

I don’t think that I can accurately describe to you how I feel God’s presence as we plan for each trip and as we work in Pearlington. Warren Tidwell knows. He described his and his father’s first drive into Pearlington to deliver George and Margaret’s doors and windows as "magical."

There are so many tales to tell from the last ten months, but some of the most obvious signs happened this past week. In my lifetime I have been a member of two different churches – Willowbrook Baptist and Latham Methodist, both from Huntsville, Alabama. While sitting in Café du Monde last Wednesday sipping coffee and eating beignets with my Willowbrook friends, I looked at the table right next to us. The man sitting at the table looked so familiar that I had to ask him where he was from. As I approached the table, I began to recognize more faces. It turns out that the youth group from Latham was doing mission work in Slidell and had chosen that day to come to New Orleans, to eat at Café du Monde, to sit at the table next to us. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

I have been on mission trips to two places this summer, Alaska and Pearlington. While in Alaska we worked at camp Laverne Griffin. There was one other group working there, a small group from Florida. They were delightful. Our groups bonded instantly. While we were still at Laverne Griffin, a group of four ladies walked in. I was curious about one lady wearing a New Orleans t-shirt, so I asked her. This group of ladies runs the Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans. They invited us to park at their facility when we visited New Orleans. So last Wednesday, we were reunited with these ladies that I had met in Alaska and parked in their parking lot.

A while later, walking down the streets of New Orleans, a group had on "FBI" shirts. I was trying to read what FBI stood for: ‘First Baptist I....’ I didn’t get to the last word before I saw the face.
"You look so familiar. Where do I know you from?" My daughter Meg jumped in. "Yeah, I’ve seen you were the group at Laverne Griffin!" It was true. They were the group from Florida on a mission trip in New Orleans.

I’ve stopped believing in coincidences. In one day on the streets of New Orleans while doing His work, God placed us with the only two groups that we had met while doing His work at Laverne Griffin camp in Alaska - a continent away.

It is one way that God says to me: "Keep living in My will. Keep doing My work."

"Keep on keeping on."

Friday, July 21, 2006

What a Difference a Day Makes: Chestnut Grove Baptist Church

The Chestnut Grove Gang

Contractor Kenny Williams and others from the Chestnut Grove Baptist Church in Earlysville, VA realized something had to be done to help the people of the coast affected by Katrina. A fifth-generation builder, Kenny’s Great-great-grandfather has 19 sons - all in construction. Knowing he had a church filled with caring people, Kenny made contact with another church in Georgia who planned to come to Pearlington.

In the week I was there myself, I watched their miracle unfold. It was quite astounding and typical of what a small and dedicated group, with at least one skilled construction leader, can accomplish even in that short a period of time. Each of them worked exceptionally hard; always pleasant and good-natured, always ready to serve (and to be served....dinner).

I chose three projects on which they worked. On a tour with Charlie Holmes of CBF the weekend they arrived, I photographed the state of the constructions of the three homes. Returning the following Friday, I was struck by how much got done and took more photos.

I present one of them below; before and after:

The Bazor Home....

Kenny says, "We enjoyed it all a lot and a lot got done. We want to let the people of Pearlington know that there’s a lot of people out there who care. I think we’ll be back."

We hope so, too. Cheers for Chestnut Grove. They really know how to ‘git ‘er done!’

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale: Wendy Frost, RN

I've read your mission statement and I fully support it, count me in.

I was the Red Cross rebel and got my wrists slapped for doing something that wasn't in my job description, if you can believe that. As I said in my blog, my assigned job was Staff Health, but my duty was doing outreach in Pearlington. When I got there no one was going out into the community, and the shelter was a joint effort between the Red Cross and another group. Dr. Marsha was in the free clinic and when I asked her what I could do to help she told me: "See all this stuff piled up under the awning? It needs to go out there to the people. There are people still too depressed, too sick and too old to come in for help."

So that is what I did every afternoon. I loaded up that Red Cross van and drove the streets of Pearlington handing out supplies. I assessed people and made referrals to the clinic, providing transportation if necessary. I gave out Gatorade like it was water and work gloves and masks. When I visited the other distribution centers in the morning and the workers in the warehouse if I saw something the people in Pearlington needed, I would beg or borrow and hand deliver it that afternoon. I worked out trades that would have made Radar and Klinger proud. In those days you wouldn't believe what you could get for a case of Depends!

Larry and Beth Randall know me, I got them a portable shower and treated Miss Teetee's infected bites on her ankles because she wouldn't go to the clinic. Sam and Lyn Bailey are also friends. I acquired a screen tent for Sam so he could have some relief from the relentless biting black flies.
I made friends with a Mississippi Gaming Commission agent while he was volunteering down there and with my slide show we were able to adopt five families for Christmas and help them with Easter. You just tell them "Nurse Wendy" said hi, they'll remember.

And I'll never forget. Please include me in C.O.D.R.A. and I hope to meet you someday,

I'm sure it will be in our second home - Pearlington.

Wendy Frost

Wendy has now joined C.O.D.R.A. - check out her blog and her slide show!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Back Home Again: The Taylor Family

It’s getting close to the one-year mark of being homeless.

Homeless. That is not a word I thought we would ever be. It’s not just a physical state, but a mental and emotional state, as well; feelings of hopelessness, fear, sadness and worry that can rip a family apart.

But thanks to God, old friends, new friends and others who helped, we are back home again. The feeling of peacefulness is returning and I smile as we are once again able to sit down together for dinner, while sharing the day’s events. We laugh and act silly over things we had come to take for granted, like not having to climb over the toilet in the FEMA trailer to get in the shower. And when you got there, you had better wet yourself down quickly, turn off the water, soap up and then just as quickly rinse off - all before those seven little gallons run out.

The feelings of comfort, safety and privacy once again fill our home. But, as we reach the final completion, I hate to see our extended family move on. I thank them all, as they not only helped us stretch our funds, worked with us physically until we were all ready to drop, but so much more. They supported us when we felt we couldn’t go on, or so stressed we couldn’t even think.

They became part of our family, from the smallest pre-schooler helping scrape the floor to the eldest, passing nails as needed. This home was built with love.
My heart goes out to all the many others in Pearlington. I know how they feel as they face the long, hard journey of rebuilding their lives and homes. As always, I’ll pray, help where and who I can and open my doors to as many children as Holly brings home.

And I will do so until they are all safely back in their own homes.

Love and many thanks to all,
Sue, Ben and Holly "The Librarian" Taylor
Tatnall Avenue,
Pearlington, MS

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Real Story of Chas. B. Murphy

Hi Jon. I enjoyed the posting about Larry Randall. Thank heaven for individuals who, even amidst their own adversity, have stepped up to the service of others.

I do want to correct one detail. Charles B. Murphy School was built on (I think) 16th Section Land. It was named for Charles B. Murphy, not because he donated the land - he didn't - but because he had dedicated his life to serving his community, first as a County supervisor, and, later, as a school board member, finally serving as that school board's president.

Charles Murphy was my grandfather and father of Margaret Ladner, whose home is being rebuilt in Pearlington by volunteers. He was not a weathly man in the sense that he had a lot of land and money, but he was wealthy in the sense that he had vision. He had the vision to know that education was the key to a better life and to a thriving community. He had the vision to know the value of working together to achieve a common good. He had compassion for others and a desire to rebuild and re-establish his community.

As I think about him now, I am struck by the thought that many residents of
Pearlington have, in a sense, come full circle. In the 1960s, the
communities of Logtown and Napolean were dismantled. The land was taken by the government for what is now known as Stennis Space Center (The Test Site).

Everyone was forced to either sell their land to the government (or give them a perpetual lease)...and leave. It was very traumatic for those who had lived in their homes for generations (many of them being born right there in those homes). Yet...what happens, happens...and these people found themselves as Pearlington does now...bravely making the most of it, grieving what was lost...but looking to the future and wanting to make it bright and better. My grandfather had that same pioneering spirit that I see in the residents of Pearlington today...the desire to survive, and the desire to rebuild his community. The desire on the deepest of levels to reach out to others and to not go down with the storm life has sent their way....but to rebuild and make even better.

I salute all those in Pearlington who have that same selflessness and desire
to survive, help others survive, and promote the common good. I think I
have, all my life, taken that for granted. It is so visible and bright and
beautiful now.

God bless,
Claudia Ladner Park

Claudia is the daughter of George and Margaret Ladner of Pearlington. Thanks, Claudia, for your information and beautiful writing.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A Volunteer's Tale: "Canada Jon" White and Marian Rose Killoran

The night before last I wrote what is posted below. Intensely personal, I hesitated to share it publicly, so I read it to my wife Marian over the phone at our usual early calling time yesterday morning.

During the day, I was chatting with Charlie Holmes, of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and he spoke very eloquently and "coincidentally," about his own wife Lois and their abiding love and support of each other.

I returned "home" last night after a jam-packed day and received the second letter - posted below, under mine - from my wife.

I decided to post them both. I hope more of our volunteers’ spouses and partners will do the same:

By Jon White
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

"This is my fifth trip to Pearlington. So far I have spent 71 of the past 315 days since the storm on the ground in Pearlington. I calculate that I have spent the equivalent of an additional 1100 hours (46 days) in my office in Canada, doing what I can do on behalf of Pearlington. I have spent the equivalent of another 336 hours (14 days) creating and posting the blogs. That’s 131 days - more than 41% of my life since Katrina made landfall.

It has been a labor of love for me, but what for my wife Marian? I waited all my life for her and we celebrated our sixth anniversary just before I left on this latest trip. How has it been for her? How is it for all the partners and spouses of those of us who have dedicated this portion of our lives to Pearlington?

Marian is the rock against which this particular crazy Canadian crashes. She loves me unconditionally, inspires and honors me in every way a woman can honor a man. She has never complained, never criticized nor been resentful, even though I, more than anyone, know the price she pays. I can only imagine what she coped with when I called in September and told her I had to stay another few days. She already had been on the phone, rearranging my very busy client schedule. She knows me all too well. Then again in late October, when I came for a week and stayed for a month.

What of Marian, when I cannot sleep; worried about Pearlington, its people and its volunteers? What of my wife, when I am hurt by careless words, crying with frustration or angry with a system that in some ways has failed the very people it swore to protect?

What of Marian and ALL the spouses, partners, parents and children of volunteers who, each in their own way, are also Dancing with Katrina?

Let's ask them.

Ask them to send me their thoughts and feelings. They, too, are making a remarkable contribution to the recovery of Pearlington. Show them this letter and invite them to speak their truth. They deserve to be heard. I will post their words on the blog.

And Marian - my Rosie - thank you for all you do to make this possible for me. I know you believe in me - even on the days I struggle to believe in myself. I miss you and sleep poorly without you by my side. I know you know this is a thing I must do. I know you wouldn’t want it any other way for me. On behalf of the people of Pearlington, Mississippi, thank you for supporting this Dance. Your contribution is no less than my own and I am proud to be your man.

I will fly home to you soon. I promise.

Your husband,
Crazy "Canada Jon"
By Marian Rose Killoran
Thursday, July 6, 2006

"I am the wife of someone whose dedication to Pearlington, Mississippi, some days seems all consuming. During our coffee time each morning, I am often on the listening end of something that is transpiring in Pearlington that needs my husband's help or direction or guidance. I notice his restless nights when storms (of many kinds) are on the horizon of the recovery of this little town in Katrina's wake. I observe the single-mindedness of his work on the computer and the phone to gather resources (human and otherwise) to assist in this recovery. I thank God I am not witness to the thoughts that must be firing constantly in his head around solutions and conversations and fund-raising and applications.

And yet, what if I was to "put my foot down" and insist that it all stop? What if I decided that Jon is needed more at home, more attentive to me and to our life together? What if I counted those volunteer hours and calculated the amount of money he could have been making instead?

I can tell you "what if." A part of Jon would die if he agreed to stop being a part of Pearlington. In fact, I could not stop him from doing this work if I tried! One of Jon's gifts is to see the big picture - to put the puzzle together ahead of others; to see it all working again as it should. Who else but Jon to be helping coordinate the efforts of all the amazing volunteers from several countries?

I watch Jon work tirelessly. I hear about his ideas, his stories, his successes, his challenges. I support him when he is weary when things go wrong, people die, communication fails. I observe his ability to take a break, breathe through it and go back with a new perspective and a solution. All of this is witnessing Jon living. Because without this kind of work, Jon will wither. With it, he expands, grows and lights up. How is that not good for me?

I know that some lost their lives in Pearlington, Mississippi on August 29, 2005.

A week later, Jon White came alive.

Blessings, my love,

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Back Home Again: Pam Kirkland & Mike Aultman

You will never know how it feels until you walk in our shoes, or unless you were here in the early aftermath of Katrina. To turn in your driveway with excitement, wondering how bad it is going to be. And then you see it was worse than you could have imagined.

There was nothing there. I may only have been a renter, but for the last five years, this was home. Mike and I have worked hard and we managed to have everything I possibly ever wanted or needed. And I love my home and my life. Then in one night, Katrina took away everything I had to my name in a few short hours. My home, which to some might not have been much, but it was mine, and with it, my job which I loved dearly. You will never know until you have been there what it is like to turn in that driveway and there be nothing there. Nothing but mud - and a lot of it.

The first thing you think of is what are you going to do. We were still saying that months later. Then, by the grace of God one day, I was in the Pearl*Mart. Susie Sharp, our landlady, and I were having a conversation about rebuilding her house, as we were digging through some used clothing. We wanted to use them as work clothes, because the mud wouldn't wash off what regular clothes we had, so in the end you had to discard most of them. Pearl*Mart was the cheapest place to "shop" for work clothes....

As we were talking, this real nice, friendly man and his wife offered to come look at Susie's house. That wonderful man and his wife became my Guardian Angels. After we got to know each other, he asked me one day what was I going to do now, and I just said that I don't know. How do you get something when you don't have anything?

But he showed me. By the love of God and the good people of this world pulling together, you can do a lot more than you think. Jim and Susie Merritt (my Guardian Angels) went back to Beaufort, SC and started talking to some friends and church members. A few weeks later he called and told me he thought with my little savings and the material and money they had raised, that he thought he could build me a house. He said maybe a two-bedroom. I told him all I really needed was four walls a little bigger than that FEMA camper. I was not asking for much.

True to her generous nature, Susie Sharp gave us some land to put it on. One day soon after, down that once muddy driveway that Katrina created, I watched as my pre-fabricated walls coming down the road on a trailer. In a matter of a few weeks I already had more than I could ever ask for. I have a one bedroom beautiful home.

I am a few weeks away from escaping the FEMA camper and moving in. But it would have never been possible without the land from my best friend Susie Sharp from and my Guardian Angels, Jim and Susie Merritt, who put it all together.

Even better than the house, is to see how people from all over the world come to help people they don't even know. Thank God for these beautiful and wonderful people. None of the recovery would have happened and none of us would have been able to get our lives back, if it had not been for the volunteers that come to Pearlington to help as many as they can. I thank God for all of you and for what you have done, in all the ways you could, for Mike and I and our house.
It's funny how you can grow to love someone that you have never met until they come get in the dirt and sweat with you. You laugh together and mash fingers together and it starts out a job for the day but ends up as a good day with new friends. Thanks to everyone who help us and a special thanks to Charlie Holmes and Canada Jon with all their help in rounding up materials and things.

Charlie has been a good thing for Pearlington. I hope everyone appreciates him for all he has done for the people of Pearlington. Thank you, volunteers, for all you have done.

And if you come to the Volunteer Reunion in August, you will get to see my beautiful house that God and his Helpers built.

With love and gratitude,
Pam Kirkland and Mike Aultman

Note: A wonderful group of volunteers from Chestnut Grove Baptist Church in Earlyville, VA is currently siding Pam and Mike’s new home. They are pictured below, enjoying a Fourth of July feast at Susie's house, prepared by Pam. Pam and Mike are on the far left, rear and Susie is crouching down, right front.

A Personal note from Canada Jon: Pam and Mike deserve a place to call home. They have supported Susie through the tragedies that came for her and have been kind, generous and loving to me, as I stay on Susie's property and do my work in Pearlington.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Joye of Gardening

During the week of June 3-9, I was privileged to visit and work in Pearlington. A group of 55 from Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky brought several skilled construction crews along with others with willing hearts and hands. Because it was National Garden Week, I had inquired about sending a team to do landscaping and gardening and was so excited when that idea was accepted wholeheartedly. That week was given the emphasis of "Bloom in June." The Garden Clubs and the Master Gardeners of our city, along with other friends and gardeners, had donated to a fund to provide us the means to purchase trees, flowers, shrubs, and supplies to plant in community areas and homes there. We brought with us small garden tools, gardening books, garden notebooks and cards, 60 of our church cookbooks, and bags of goodies we had called "Calvary Cares Kits" - full of toys and other special treats for children and adults. We were also able to purchase locally things such as watering cans, garden hoses, and pots of blooming flowers - all to give away.

Our stay at the Recovery Center provided us the opportunity to get to know other team members better and was enhanced by the wonderful cooking team that accompanied us. They provided us with delicious food throughout our stay. It was such an exciting time!

Our garden team consisted of 12 members. Throughout our stay, we worked to provide small "pockets" of beauty so the people there could find a soothing place for their eyes to rest - an oasis type spot. We recognized that before the storm, this had been a beautiful place to live. Our prayer is that it will be again soon. We were able to plant shrubs and flowers at a few homes. Hopefully we can return and continue our gardening for others in town. I suppose before we arrived, I had envisioned making more of a visible difference. I was so discouraged on the Thursday before we were to leave, as I looked around to see how much more needs to be done. My heart was broken. I only pray that those who follow us will pick up where we had to leave off and that the trees and plants we placed there –especially those at the Fire Station and the Recovery Center - will stand as constant reminders of our visit. More than anything else, we wanted Pearlington to know how often we have prayed for them and how much we care about them.

In Pearlington we met lovely, gracious people who have the same needs as we do – a comfortable, safe home, surrounded by loving family and friends. I was allowed the privilege of meeting some of the people whose stories I had read on this website. I had thought about and prepared for my visit for so many weeks, speaking to clubs and organizations to solicit funds, and then the time there just seemed to fly by! As a group, we are humbled at what we have seen and heard and are amazed at the strength, resiliency, and determination of the people we met. We only hope we made a difference.

My prayer for you comes from Isaiah 58: 11-12

"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations: you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."

God Bless You, Pearlington. I have fallen in love with your land and your people.

My life will be forever changed.

Joye Smith
Lexington, KY