Relief, Recovery and Restoration from Hurricane Harvey
“They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’
He will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.’” Matthew 25:44-45
San Antonio has flipped this verse on its head in the past weeks since Hurricane Harvey knocked our San Antonio’s door, but did not come in. Shaking our heads in disbelief, grateful to be spared flooding and damage, San Antonians have jumped to help our neighbors in Houston, the Gulf and South Texas. It seems every business, school or church has taken a collection, gathered donations of non-perishable goods and gift cards, or rounded up volunteers to begin the process of cleaning and restoring those to our east and south.
I was one of thousands who felt compelled to do something. I wanted to be the hands and feet of Jesus with my own personal hands and feet. Thankfully, my young adult sons felt the same. The 18-year-old and I spent a Saturday afternoon sorting and packing goods into several tractor-trailers at a warehouse organized by Keller Williams Realty. Employees creatively used social media to recruit volunteers and solicit donations. A cheer rang out among the workers as we watched the last trailer of cargo leave and surveyed the floor empty where once it had been full.
The next weekend, I traveled to Houston, where I was able to witness the end result of similarly donated goods. Southwire Company collected items at its headquarters in Georgia, eventually filling 12 18-wheelers in its trip west across IH 10. Once they arrived at Crosspoint Church in hard-hit Bellaire, volunteers from the community, including employees of J.D. Martin and my 20-year-old, unpacked and organized mountains of diapers, wipes, formula, cleaning supplies, food, hygiene products and the most precious of all commodities, water.
People desperate for what we had to offer waited for hours in a line snaking miles, beginning at 6 a.m. We counted 3,000 cars the first day. We gave up counting the second – just kept passing out supplies until there was nothing left.
I felt the weight of the reality of Jesus’ words about helping others as I recognized the presence of the Holy Spirit magnifying every gift.
It wasn’t just all about the goods, however needed they may be. Many people are overwhelmed by the physical tasks of cleaning debris, and tearing out sodden interiors and building materials. Just a few blocks away from the Baptist church where we were busily distributing donations, citizens were salvaging whatever they could of their houses. It was humbling and sad to see pile after pile of furniture and dry wall, cabinets and flooring irreparably ruined by flood. The smell of mold and decay hung heavily in the air.
Teams from Samaritan’s Purse were in Houston to provide manpower almost immediately I drove by one of their semi-trucks parked in a church parking lot near Katy on IH 10.
Church Unlimited San Antonio felt especially compelled to help because its main campus is headquartered in Corpus Christi, with satellite branches throughout South Texas. Volunteers “literally gridded the cities of Rockport, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas,” Pastor Bil Cornelius said. “We said, ‘Let’s go help get people get through the debris and help them rebuild their lives.’”
The Rio Texas Chapter of the United Methodist Church sent early response teams – volunteers who have completed its disaster relief training – to the Coastal Bend within days. Community Bible Church partnering with Faith Outreach Center and My Church, opened its sanctuary for Red Cross Volunteer training.
“This is the time that the body of Christ has a unique opportunity to create an optic that the whole world can see,” said Pastor Charles E. Flowers of the Faith Outreach Center. “All over the city, we’re coming together to be released to help serve the suffering. I know many of you have been looking for an opportunity to do that.”
Pastor John Valenzuela of My Church echoed, “We’re all asking our congregations to go get your friends and come in and be the army we are called to be. Let’s go invade this area with the love of Jesus and show what we can do when we all become one.”
Pastor Ed Newton of CBC said, “It is tragedy that brings us together and allows us to understand we can do more together than apart. It is the capital C church.”
And anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name, just because you belong to me, will surely be rewarded. Mark 9:41