Three weeks prior to the hurricane, my hubby, Everett, and I planned a day trip to Houston. We had no idea that Harvey would beat us there by one week. Once the news rolled in we considered delaying the trip, but we knew we could have a new purpose. There was work to be done.
We only had half a day to give. So, we wanted to make it count.
After prayer and a few phone calls we found ourselves connected with a church right in the middle of the crisis. I put my red boots on. Passed masks to my kids and got to work.
The church we linked up with was amazing! They became a shelter in the storm even when they were still at risk of flooding. While the waters were still rising one member of the church paddled out in a canoe to rescue the neighbors and bring them to dry land. The sanctuary in that church became what it was meant to be. It was a refuge. And it became a hub/home base for those who’s homes were destroyed and those who wanted help.
There were many hands on deck the day we arrived. People from the community were showing up. Tools and supplies were being donated. One man arrived with a truck full of shop-vacs just because he heard there was a need.
The homes in the neighborhood surrounding the church were 2 to 14 feet underwater before the flood receded. Not one house in that area was spared. The water did not stop at the door step of the rich and privileged. The devastation was indiscriminate. Everyone lost nearly everything.
The walls, furniture, cabinets (and contents) were all saturated. Just about every possession had to be dragged to the street. Even the drywall had to be pulled off the walls and the insulation removed. These homes were stripped down to the bare bones.
The homeowners were devastated. As is typical in grief, everyone responded in their own way.
I spoke with one devastated woman at the edge of her yard, lined with just about everything she owned. She was stuck in a loop of anger and sadness. Her words were aggressive one second and she had tears rolling down her face the next.
Another man was simply in shock. He hardly had words and he couldn’t make the hard decisions of what to keep and what to move to the curb. He had been struggling alone for four days. If his things had remained in his house, mold would have been inevitable, but facts were just not computing for him. He was overwhelmed in the worst way. Fortunately, he finally welcomed the volunteers in.
After helping that gentle man for just a few hours, I saw him join us at the church for a meal. His fog seemed to be lifting…a little. As he talked with neighbors I even noticed him chuckle a time or two. When we returned to his home after lunch he was more decisive and in forward motion. Our team was no longer leading him. We were assisting.
My family and I could not stay another day because we had commitments back home. We got on the road before the sun rose the following morning. As I drove I was personally flooded… with emotion (yeah, yeah, I see the pun).
There was still so much to do. One day was not enough. The need was immeasurable and I wanted to do so much more!
But all we can ever do is what we can with what we have. We know our offering was no more than a widow’s mite in comparison to the great need, but we hope it was a blessing to those we met. It was certainly a blessing to us to see the community coming together and working in tandem with a tiny local church being a shelter through the storm.
“Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame…Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled.”
Luke 14:21 & 23