It’s now been about two weeks since I said bon voyage to six fellow Emory interns as they headed off to exotic, remote places where they can’t drink the water, must pour on the DEET, and wonder what mystery meat they’re having for dinner. Almost by necessity, my life must be a bit more boring than theirs. I’m pretty sure that there won’t be any ox carts blocking the road as I walk to my Metro stop and I’m almost positive that my chilly office is the opposite worry of those in the field.
My scope of work has me stationed in Arlington, Virginia, for a month at IRD’s headquarters and then heading to Gulfport, Mississippi, for a month to work in the field. I have the unique opportunity of seeing what it looks like to backstop a project at HQ and work with it in the field.
Though IRD started as an explicitly “international” organization, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it made the decision to apply what it had learned on the international scene to this domestic disaster. It has been actively involved along the Gulf Coast since Katrina. The harsh reality is that though New Orleans is recovering relatively quickly from the devastating floods, the less developed areas along the coast are taking more time. Since infrastructure and money were lacking before the flooding, it has taken much longer to rebuild. This has led IRD to establish itself as a long-term developer along the Gulf Coast, working with vocational programs, rebuilding and repairing housing, and conducting case management, among other things. In addition to Katrina relief, IRD is currently considering the best way to respond to the recent oil spill crisis, which will dramatically affect the economy along the Gulf Coast. My assignments have had me engaging with each Gulfport project, locating documents and performing a kind of internal audit. This has allowed me to see the full spectrum of each project and to understand both the history and the present workings, at least on paper.
I would expect an experience like this to fundamentally rock my notions about ministry, missions, or even development work, but frankly, this hasn’t happened yet. Instead, it has highlighted the importance of good communication and well-organized documentation for projects. My experience has not been one of adventure, but one of learning and expectation. In a sense, I have seen Gulfport on paper, but now must wait a couple more weeks before I see all these projects in action…and actually see what development work looks like in the field.