March 4/5, 2017
by Laurie Knueven

Early Saturday morning I arrived on campus to complete silence. As I rushed to put my luggage in the van and hide some things in the stow-and-go, so students would not see them, I couldn’t help but take a deep breath in (and then out) and notice the beauty that surrounded me. Ah, the silent beauty of a completely quiet campus. Usually, campus is full of students and cars zipping in and out so the silence is a rarity. I stopped in my tracks and just stood there, taking it all in, it was a moment that seemed to last and then quickly ended as the first car pulled up with a student and then another and then another. Soon our group of fifteen had arrived and seemed eager to leave. So many things were running through my head at this time. I asked myself: Did I have everything? Was I prepared for this? Did I lock my door to my apartment? I hoped that I had packed my pajamas. Then I stopped myself from worrying and told myself that anything I forgot could be bought there.  After a wonderful prayer and sendoff from Sr. Ann Carmen and Sr. Barb, we loaded up the vans and were officially on the road.

Fast forward 665 miles and about 12 hours. We arrived in Fultondale, AL just north of Birmingham where we could spend the night and rest. Much needed rest. The students throughout the day were wonderful, understanding of our needs for breaks and kept us alert at all times. We danced to music in the cars, watched a movie, and talked. It is here that I really get to know the students, in a simple place like the car. It is by far one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Sunday morning I met several students who wanted to attend Mass with me. The trip to the church was extremely eye opening and one I will never forget. We left the NICE hotel that we stayed at and headed into Birmingham to find the church. The GPS took us down a road, not far from the hotel where we stayed. When we turned down this road I noticed all the trash on the side of the road. At first I was shocked, then a student said maybe a garbage truck was in an accident (yes, there was that much trash) but I think it is just left there. I mean there was furniture, bags of trash, trash outside of bags just everywhere. My heart sank. Then we entered the city limits of Birmingham and my eyes were even more shocked. Many of the houses stood empty, the windows out and they were falling apart. Isolated houses remained, cars in the driveway telling me that this neighborhood was someone’s home. How could this be? How could someone live like this in the United States? And again, my heart sank and I became angry. When we arrived at the place Siri (my iphone gps) took us to, we were at a boarded up old church and again, my heart sank. I didn’t know what to do. The students clearly really wanted to go to Mass and here I was taking them into a neighborhood that was run down and almost scary. I stopped the car and turned around to talk to them, telling them that we are here to live out the Gospel and that God would be ok with us missing Mass. I could see the disappointment in their eyes, really I could. Dwayne, our trusty copilot and faculty member on the trip, told me to try the next street. So I looked at the address on the website again and at the street sign and noticed that it didn’t exactly match (who knew there would be multiple 27th streets). So I put the address in again and it took us to another street. While driving we passed about four Baptist churches and finally, we found Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a small church nestled into a neighborhood. We were welcomed with open arms and immediately I knew I needed this as much as the students wanted to be there. During Mass I thought, no matter where I go to Mass it is always the same and that once again, I was home.

We traveled four more hours today, finally arriving at Grace United Methodist Church, our home for the week. Once again, we were greeted with open arms and wonderful hospitality. We settled in and enjoyed an amazing dinner that Ms. Sarah prepared for us: beef tips, rice, green beans, rolls and veggies plus… dessert! We are going to eat well here!!!

Reflection tonight was to draw a home.  I always have to think about what I’m going to draw… even though I already know this is our reflection. I drew my family, my home with them and my home at LU – my home for the last 10 years or so. There is so much to think about and be thankful for in my life.  Tomorrow we begin our service, helping in some way to create a home for someone else. I look forward to meeting families who have received a Habitat home already and working with the students. Now, I will rest my eyes and hopefully get a good night’s sleep.

2 responses to “Habitat 2017 – On the Road

  1. We miss all of you. It is a bit more quiet here but there are some trusty souls who do our little bit here and there. Thanks for the sharing. It is always good to take time and think … to look around … to realize how and where other people live. Blessings to you, Laurie and to everyone trying to be open to each day as it comes.

  2. Enjoy “traveling” with you via the blog. Know that God is very present to you all and loves to surround you with goodness!! Prayers for a wondrous experience!

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