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When asked to write a personal memoir of St. Paul's second mission to New Orleans, I assumed that it would be easy to assemble a few hundred words into an accurate depiction of my experience.
But as I took the time to piece together all the tiny events that, when viewed collectively, made a breathtaking whole, I realized how unexpected my time spent in the bayou was.
Before embarking on this mission trip, I imagined returning home in similar fashion to Moses' descent from Mount Sinai. I would radiate with the unselfishness of my work after donating my time and effort without any form of repayment.
But God works best through surprises and my experience in his service was no exception. I found in my personal reflection that the trip had indeed changed me, but the change was not a transformation into an incorruptible saint.
Instead, I returned with my eyes widened and my heart emboldened by the many people I encountered.
Rather than the world-weary victims I had expected to encounter, I met dozens of brave men and women who had the audacity to believe that they could rebuild their former lives.
The power of the hope that was welded into their hearts enhanced my work a hundredfold.
Each family made me a part of their effort and brought me into their lives by allowing me to share in their burdens.
I became a partner in their struggle, rather than the heaven-sent savior I had originally envisioned.
The genuine people who brought our group into their future homes gave us just as much as we gave them; they provided a truly human experience of hardship that will remain etched into my heart and mind throughout my life.
Kast was one of more than 20 people affiliated with the mission group at St. Paul Catholic Church who volunteered a week of their summer to serve the people of New Orleans. A second reflection, by Lauren Goffinet, will appear in an upcoming issue of The News.