Meaningful, life-enhancing work is the best kind of work there is. In fact, it’s the only work that interests some of us. Perhaps it’s the only kind of work that yields long term rewards. This is the kind of work I witnessed in Lake Providence, Louisiana earlier this month.
Lake Providence is small and located in a beautiful spot along the Mississippi River, near Arkansas and Mississippi. Last week, it was sunny and warm, mostly. Spring flowers were everywhere, and if you know me at all, you know this thrilled me! Just before we had arrived, the town had received 6 inches of rain in a single day, and many residential yards and roads were flooded. It did not seem to be much of a problem for anyone, though. No one there has basements, and they seem to be generally prepared for lots of water.
So, why did 20 or so people from Colorado spend a week in Lake Providence creating a huge mural on the side of an old building? Well, it’s a long story, so I’ll just hit a few points in this little post. Bottom line is that we have found some people we love there. These folks have had a sometimes difficult and discouraging history, being identified by Time Magazine as the “poorest place in America” in 1994, and having that label quoted again and again since then. It has also picked up the label “most unequal place in America,” though I’d be hard pressed to single out this town from all the other racially tense communities in the South.
Sometimes people seem satisfied to live with the negative aspects of their lives, but when they are ready to move on, to move toward positive change, they benefit from the support of others. I have many close relatives in the deep South, and am quite familiar with the “issues” that exist there. Yet, what I saw last week gave me renewed hope that some folks are ready to do the hard work of participating in a paradigm shift.
While working on the mural, we were treated like royalty in Lake Providence. The locals, black and white alike, cheered us on, fed us, showed us the beauty of their town, fed us some more, engaged us in conversation and laughter, and then fed us again! We ate at local restaurants, including a favorite among us called “My Dream Eatery,” which actually catered several meals for us as we worked.
As small as L.P. is, in a way it’s expanding its horizons as the world around it shrinks. Ease of technology and travel has made it possible for a true relationship to develop between some citizens of Loveland, Colorado and this little town far away. The pastor of my church, Jonathan Wiggins, was once employed by Providence Church in L.P., where his father in law, Don Boyett, is pastor.
During the past couple of years, Pastor Wiggins and Pastor Boyett have fostered new friendships between the members of their two churches. Quite a few folks have taken plane rides across the country- in both directions – to further those relationships. But it doesn’t stop there. Other people are reaching out from this pool of friends and including people from other churches and organizations from both Lake Providence and northern Colorado.
The mural is called “Destiny Words.” It was inspired by a project using “value words” by painting positive words on parking spaces in another town, which was followed by a decrease in crime and other positive trends. When Aubrey Grieser, from Colorado and now living in Lake Providence, heard about this project, she arrived at the idea of this mural. The mural speaks words of positive change and a new identity over the town of Lake Providence. (Aubrey is the director of Love Your Community – The Delta/Lake Providence, which can be found on Facebook.)
But, what’s “in it” for me? Each of the artists and family members went to L.P. on our own time, and our own “dime.” We raised support, and some of you readers helped me do this by purchasing paintings. Some of us have the type of work that does not pay when we are not on the job, so it cost us in this way, also. But the opportunity to be involved in something that can steer history in a positive direction, something we believe God is doing, is worth every cent and every minute. And who can put a price on a friend?
I have the feeling that this is really just the beginning of what we’ll see in Lake Providence, and in this friendship. A larger group from Resurrection Fellowship will be going to Lake Providence this summer for the second annual dance camp with the kids of L.P.
If you want to read more about the relationship between Loveland and Lake Providence, here’s an article for you (just click here!) Also, here is a website created for the mural, and on-going activity that springs from the project (click here).