Reflections from VIM Team 59 to Biloxi, Mississippi
December 28, 2007-January 4, 2008
“Renee’s Dream Team”
There is so much to share, and not enough time or space! The things I wish to share the most are
these: 1. The crisis is not over for the people of the Gulf Coast! While life has moved on for most of
us in this country, Hurricane Katrina’s destruction is an everyday reality that people must deal with.
Suicide and domestic violence rates have gone up, people are still living in trailers, boarded-up
houses and empty lots fill the landscape. 2. Every little bit we can do makes a difference. Whether
we were tearing out the ceiling, throwing out ruined items from the house, or picking up garbage on
the lawn, it all made a huge difference to our homeowner Renee. Don’t think you don’t have skills
that can be used! 3. The presence of volunteers brings hope for the people of the Gulf Coast. Just
being there makes a difference, and even strangers would say thank you to us for coming to help.
Our team not only gutted Renee’s home and began the preparations for its renovating, but some of
us also staked out a vacant lot for a new home. There are so many different skills we used and
Below are some additional reflections from our team, which Renee named her “Dream Team.”
Please consider volunteering for a VIM Team, or donating funds to enable someone else to go.
And remember these words of Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with
great love.” The small things that we do as Volunteers in Mission make a great impact on the lives
of those we touch. What a blessing for us, that we can be a blessing for others!
-Rev. Martha E. Vink
If you've heard about an opportunity to travel with a mission team to the Gulf Coast and thought,
"there can't really be much left to do down there", think again. The need is enormous and ongoing,
but many are not aware of its extent. Clearly, we were not. And if you've thought, "what could I
possibly have to offer? I'm not a contractor or electrician", think again as well. Our team of 13 was
comprised of only one "professional" construction-type, along with teachers, child care providers,
registered nurses, ordained clergy and a variety of other vocations. Six of the 13 members were
retirees; we ranged in age from 24 to 82 years young, and all of us had a valuable role on a very
It was very difficult sorting through Ms. Renee's life-goods, and deciding whether to toss or save
them for her. Much was ruined, but her keepsakes were hers, and we needed to be thoughtful and
respectful as we carefully wrapped and boxed them for her later perusal, letting her make the final
God assembled our Team wonderfully well. Every person had a significant job(s) to do which they
were able to do remarkably well. Everyone was special.
-Rev. Hal Vink
I did things I had never done before or even thought about - just took for granted or paid someone
to do repairs on my house (take down trim, sheet rock, ceiling, floors, cart it all to the dumpster,
pull nails out of 2 x 4 's , etc). I saw things I had never seen before or truthfully imagined - or
understood the magnitude of (the devastation of Katrina all along the coast from Biloxi to New
Orleans). All of that combined with meeting the people of this area - has transformed me.
Everyone we met was thankful and felt blessed that we had come to help - (two and a half years
later!) No one was bitter. No one was angry. They had lived through a terrible ordeal - they were
the survivors! Certainly their lives had been transformed. We all left a part of ourselves in Biloxi -
and we all took Renee and the people of Biloxi back with us - snuggled in our hearts forever.
“Nature abhors a vacuum,” my dad used to say. Miss Renee’s house has been emptied of its
contents and its inside walls stripped to the studs. The next step is to get rid of the health hazards
which could be living in the structure (like mold). What is the metaphor of this house for my life? I
look forward to the lessons I learn as I ponder my week in Biloxi.
-Mary Lou H.
What began as a mere thought of helping someone devastated by Katrina and neglected by others
for more than two years, evolved into one of the most powerful spiritual weeks of my life. Not only
did I connect personally with "Miss Renee", a victim and survivor of Katrina, I gained a deeper and
closer relationship with several of my church family members (MTMUMC and Nichols). Lastly, I
experienced a personal epiphany which I pray will lead me to more joyful and truthful relationship
with my spouse. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Most impressive was the total destruction of homes and businesses from Biloxi to New Orleans-all
long the Gulf beaches. We'd seen it all on TV and read about it, but until you see it with your own
eyes it is difficult to comprehend it all. Also, the faith Renee showed to us was impressive.
What a spiritual and physical experience! I was overwhelmed by the steadfast faith of the
survivors. We worked hard and had a joyful time doing it. God Bless Martha (Rev. Vink) for her
outstanding leadership of our team.
I have always wanted to do something more than just send money to devastated areas and I got
my chance to physically work and help make a difference with one special survivor, Renee. Hearing
her story of survival bobbing in the water with her daughter and young grandchildren is something
that sounds like it's out of a movie. Meeting her and hearing her story and the story of others is
overwhelming…The tears flowing down Renee's cheeks during the final blessing of her home is
fixed in my memory.
Seeing the devastation almost two and one half years after Katrina is unbelievable--I really felt like I
was not in America. There is so much that still needs to be done, lives and homes need to be
rebuilt. Please continue to pray for these people and continue to support them with our resources
Going to Biloxi and working with "Dream Team 59" is something that I will never forget. I will be
The trim, walls, ceilings, insulation, flooring were
all removed. Then we replaced some of the rotted
studs and plugged gaps, leaving it ready for the
next group to replace with new walls, ceilings,
flooring and insulation.
Untouched for two years!
THE DREAM TEAM !