Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Camp Love Mission Blog: The Most Interesting Man in the World!

Today began our work in earnest. We survived the long drive from Atlanta to Mississippi, the hour-long delay while a hero in a small blue pick-up truck fixed our tire, and the early morning wake-up call.

Teresa and Teri have taken on the work of hospitality and hunger management, and fed the two crews at Camp Love with heaps of biscuits, gravy and sausage. After loading up, the team headed to our worksite at the home of Jerry, the most interesting man in the world.

Jerry’s home was destroyed by a tornado in the aftermath of Katrina, as his home is inland. One day his house was there, and one day it wasn’t. Everything he owned disappeared in the storm along with the house. It was a complete loss.

Since 2005, he has been living in a trailer on his property, next to where his new house is being built. It’s a lovely 2 bedroom, 1 bath home that has been constructed from the ground up by the willing hands of countless volunteers over the last 4 years. Unfortunately, it’s still not complete and our task is to paint the ceiling (the most fun part of a house to paint), finish the sanding in the bathroom and begin installing the laminate floor.

This job, straightforward and simple was tackled with vigor upon our arrival. Jerry held court in the middle of his future living room and began regaling us with stories about his children and family. Maybe the first indicator that Jerry, a humble man in a humble setting, was more than we realized was his extensive garden.

As we approached the house, he pointed out his green soybeans and peas. Rabbits had gotten into the soybeans and he fashioned an old wire fence into a teepee of protection for his beloved beans. Apparently, in these parts, you can only get brown soybeans. But, Jerry saves his seeds, not wanting to mess with the seedless hybrids, and plant them later. He wasn’t just pragmatic; he was philosophical about his garden. By the end of the day, he’d pointed out his squash, pear trees, kumquats, banana trees tzatsumi oranges, figs, passion fruit and lemongrass. Yes. Lemongrass.

He showed us how to pick, peel, prepare and chop the lemongrass and instructed us to eat it in Asian or Greek foods. He showed us his chickens told us stories of the other forms of meat he likes to eat, which includes the aforementioned rabbits, snapping turtles and the occasional animal that happens to meet its demise through vehicular causes.

Jerry’s stories ranged from the good folksy advice that your mama might tell you (”always crack an egg in a bowl before you add it to your ingredients”) to the absurd (”bottled water will kill you!”). He made wild claims about his own family’s involvement in the space program, and swears that Larry the Cable Guy stole his catch phrase (”‘Get ‘er done!’ I spread that around the whole country and he stole it from me! That was the best idea I’ve ever had!”). He observed that “Childbirth is harder on women than it is other people.” (True.)

He told a long story about inventing ice fishing (keep in mind: we are in southern Mississippi), and it ended with a hilarious punchline about a Master Baiter.

He is a Japanese Cherokee, or maybe Filipino.

He says that he knows who killed Kennedy.

(Of course he does.)

And frankly, he might be right.

Jerry is that wonderful sort of person that demonstrates the delicate balance between sanity and insanity. His crazy stories and the effortless way he told them implies a keen understanding of his audience. And though he offered some brutal suggestions for Ross’s coyote problem, his gentle soul could never do it. He never spanked his kids, and he has no respect for the unnecessary things in life.

He is a simple man with simple needs. He doesn’t even need a grocery store, since he literally lives off the land (and, when necessary, the road). He loves his family and must be an excellent and creative cook. He shares all he has, and is a gracious recipient of this humble service. His life would make a great documentary.

And for this week, we will listen to Jerry’s brilliantly nutty stories and we’ll seek to find the truth. We will be touched and surprised and return laden with lemongrass and homespun wisdom.

And we will all be woven into a fabric of this beautiful story that God continues to tell in us and through us.

Amen and Amen.


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