On August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas and inundated the southeastern part of the state with 54 inches of rain over the course of three days. The waters rose so quickly that several reservoirs had to be released, which increased the flooding in some areas. Many homes were devastated. Some had four or more feet of water inside!
As is the case with many floods, special care had to be taken during the recovery process. Everything that came in touch with the flood water had to be thrown away because, as soon as the waters receded, mold began to grow which causes further damage and poses serious health risks. It’s because of this situation that disaster relief is essential as soon as possible after such a disaster.
The recovery team of 12 from our church responded to help and arrived in Vidor, Texas — just 90 minutes east of Houston — on November 5. We sensed that God could use us to accomplish several purposes.
One purpose was to come alongside the homeowners who needed assistance and encouragement in the recovery from the Harvey flood waters. At first glance upon arrival, life seemed to be back to normal in this small community. However, some homes were still in desperate need of cleanup before rebuilding could be done, and that’s where we were able to help. As we traveled to the place we served, we passed areas in which cleanup had already been done (as evidenced by the piles of damaged belongings at the curbs).
When we arrived at a house that needed assistance, we met the homeowner or a close relative who would instruct us as to what needed to be done. Immediately we felt sorrow for what had happened to these people. There was time to hear their story of how they endured the storm and, in some cases, how they were rescued by boat as the flood waters rose. We took the opportunity to pray for and with these people and asked that God would meet their physical and spiritual needs. Then our team sprang into action.
A second purpose was to work well as a team. Our team leader did a good job of telling us what was needed in terms of individual tasks. Most of the time we saw what needed to to be done and immediately got to work. Several homeowners commented that they were surprised that 12 people could work together and seem to have “fun” in doing unpleasant tasks. At times, we looked like ants, each busily going about our work. At other times, we worked in pairs or in small groups to accomplish a bigger task. It was amazing how easily we worked together without grumbling and complaining (Philippians 2:14).
A third purpose was to learn from the people we were helping. I’m sure we were all challenged to consider how much we are attached to the material things we own. We recognized that any of us could pass through a natural disaster and lose “everything” we have. How would that affect us? Would we be devastated and find our faith in a good God shaken? To what extent do our possessions “own” or control us? Seeing several families react to the challenge of losing most of what they had in their house caused us to evaluate our lives. My hope is that everyone on our team move closer to embracing Paul’s perspective that being content with what God provides, whether little or in abundance, is necessary to please Him. When we’re content with what we have, it’s possible to be generous even with little because our trust is not in ourselves but in the God who cares for us and can provide all we need.
Our final and greatest purpose was to share God’s love with people in need. As we listened to each homeowner’s story, we could sense the hurt this disaster had caused in their life. We could honestly say that God cared for them and we were part of the way He showed it. We also shared with two home owners that a relationship with Jesus is more important than any physical belongings. Could it be that God uses difficult times to draw people to himself? Absolutely! When everything is going well and we live in abundance, we sense little need for God. However, when disaster strikes and things don’t go as we hope, that’s when people often call out to Him.
Please pray for the homeowner, Sharon, and her two children, Sherman and Elaine, that the words we spoke to them would result in a new beginning with Jesus. Thanks for praying for our recovery team, too, that we would make adjustments in our lives to reflect our trust in Jesus rather than in physical things.
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Dan Green and Nancy moved back to the US after missionary service in Brazil with Encompass World Partners for 15 years. They were involved in evangelism, church planting, and leadership training. Dan grew up on a farm in Indiana, while Nancy comes from northeast Ohio. Dan studied at Purdue University (Agronomy), OSU (Soil Chemistry), and Columbia Graduate School of Bible and Missions. They have four children and six grandchildren. Dan enjoys gardening, camping, and international travel.