For eight days, a group of strangers shared the same house, the same bus, the same bathrooms and the same desire to help. August 1-8, 2006 was my first missions trip through my PF youth group. My youth group goes on mission trips to the Dominican Republic every other year, and 2006 happened to fall in between those years. Watching the horror stories on TV of Katrina and seeing all the destruction she left behind, my friends and I decided that we wanted to go on a missions trip to New Orleans during our break year. And because we fundraise our own money to go on these trips, doing three missions trips in a row was a difficult task for most of us - but, we did it! Getting out of that airport into the muggy 90 degree heat, looking around, New Orleans looked normal to me. The bridges were intact, the roofs were on the houses, the houses were upright and colorful and cars traveled the nicely paved roads. Surprised at how good New Orleans actually looked at first glance, I wondered what we would be spending our week doing. Getting used to the higher elevated part of town, when we took our tour to the 9th ward and other parts of town, I was once again shocked. Not only had that part of the city not looked as I expected it would, it looked so much worse. Houses were flattened, belongings were scattered and the land was so quiet, an eerie shiver came over us all. With the rest of our week, through Careforce International, the 25 of us completely gutted three houses. We broke records and set new ones. Our first house we gutted in under four hours! Our second house was a very large one story house to wealthy people. Going down the road with gorgous houses after seeing what the lower and middle class housing looked like, we all wondered what we were doing there. After meeting the owners of the house and hearing their story we learned that devistation does not descriminate. Devistation can happen any time, place and to any status or race. Our third house was a two story house where the water line had gone up over twenty five feet! And with what little the family had left, they gave it all to us. For breaks and lunch a gentleman opened up his warehouse to us and the home owner brought us loads of gaterade - always giving. Before we left he asked us to take something from the house, anything we wanted to remember how grateful he was. Hesitant at first, we grabbed a bag that was saved from the flood waters. Inside, we each took a mardi gras necklace - the best way for us to remember New Orleans and our experience there. We had left tools, clothes, blankets and money behind before our few days were up. But most importantly, we left behind our sweat. Meaningful work to help others, just like ourselves. Boarding that plane to go back home, I was once again shocked. Just 25 of us had changed New Orleans. One house, one family, one smile at a time.