A group of 12 youth and six adults from Rehoboth Christian Reformed Church in Bowmanville, Ontario, spent the week working at the Long House and a Flipping for Families property on Massachusetts Avenue.
Their tasks included painting, tiling, packing clothes, tearing out drywall, cleaning bricks, cooking and helping some local residents move.
Chaperon Karen Schroor said the Canadian youth go on several mission trips a year and love to work.
“We have to force them to take breaks. People here keep telling us, ‘We’re on Southern time. Slow down a bit,’” Schroor said.
The group chose to drive to Alabama rather than fly. After two days on the road, they arrived in Birmingham last Saturday.
They were housed at Westwood Baptist Church on Forestdale Blvd. and reported each day to the disaster relief center at Free Will Baptist Church.
The group was directed to Cordova by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) and Christian Service Mission.
Schroor said although most of the youth were seeing the American South for the first time, almost all of the leaders were in Grand Bay several years ago helping coastal residents recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
“Some of the men said they came back for more of the best catfish they have ever had,” Schroor said.
The teens immersed themselves in Southern culture while they were here.
They tried to adopt local accents and dined on grits, biscuits and gravy and barbecue while simultaneously treating their hosts to lasagna and Shepherd’s Pie.
Shortly after getting settled in Birmingham, they took a tour of the Civil Rights Institute.
“In Canada, we’re not taught much about the civil rights movement. The kids seemed very sympathetic toward what had gone on in the South,” Schroor said.
Schroor added that the teens were also touched by the devastation they had seen and stories they heard on their latest mission trip. She extended the group’s prayers to the people of Cordova.
In an odd twist of fate, Canada experienced a tornado outbreak this week while the youth group was helping storm survivors in the States. One person in Goderich, Ontario was killed.
“We don’t usually experience things like that. It was certainly difficult seeing what had happened here and knowing what was going on back home,” Schroor said.