Heading to the Big Easy (a shameless cry for help/opportunity to play a part!).

Hi friends,

As many of you know I’m currently a seminary student at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto where I’m working towards my M.Div (Master of Divinity). I just wanted to take a chance to let you know of a great opportunity I have. From February 13-20 I’ll be heading down to New Orleans with a group of students during our reading week to work on a home. As you’re aware hurricane Katrina left the city of New Orleans devastated. Now, over four years later, not much has changed.

We’ll be heading to the lower 9th ward, a neighbourhood where most streets are still empty because people cannot afford to rebuild their homes. This is not the poorest area of New Orleans but it is a neighbourhood where simply owning a house was significant. These are families who have no extra finances. Post-Katrina, most of their homes sit gutted, empty and rotting because of the overwhelming cost of rebuilding.

Let’s be honest, the government has failed the people in a big way. As a result many organizations have been trying to pull the weight when it comes to rebuilding New Orleans. While there we will be working alongside the Episcopal Diocese Disaster Relief Fund who focus on those most in need of help, those who have been turned away by other organizations. Last year a group of our students worked on the interior tiling of a home owned by an 85-year-old woman who had custody of three of her grandchildren and was herself unemployed.

Some may ask, “but what’s the point?” I believe that any life-giving act, any act of beauty and restoration is itself an in-breaking of God’s kingdom here on earth. God’s redemptive action in our world is not something that we simply sit back and observe. Rather, it is something that we are invited to participate in each and everyday. Therefore, something as simple as dry-walling someones home at no cost so they are able to move back in with their family becomes a deeply redemptive and transformative action.

This year our team consists of ten people, most of whom are university students. So far, we have raised about half of what we need to go through various fundraisers and we’re really believing that the rest will come in. This letter is not meant to convince you to give money to a cause. Rather, I believe that most of you are generous folks who realize the importance of work like this and would be willing to give without even being asked. Here then, I’d like to present you with an opportunity to do so. No amount is too small and anything you feel you’re able to give would be a gift greatly treasured.

If you are able to give financially you can make a tax deductible donation. Simply make your cheque out to “Wycliffe College” and put “New Orleans Trip 2010” (this is important!) in the memo-line. Wycliffe will then mail you a tax receipt. All cheques can be mailed to: Wycliffe College University of Toronto, 5 Hoskin Dr. Toronto, ON M5S 1H7.

Also, be an advocate for us in prayer. Come alongside our team as we pray for the people of New Orleans that they might find joy in the midst of their circumstances. Pray for our team that we may be taught, challenged and uplifted by our experiences with the people of New Orleans.

If there is anything else you’d like to know please ask me! I would love to talk with you more about what I am going to be doing and why it is important to me.

Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. I look forward to talking to you about my adventure to the Big Easy!

For the people of New Orleans,

Jonathan Turtle.

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