Houston, Texas was overthrown by hurricane Harvey from August 17th through September 3rd of 2017.
This natural disaster swept through social media and had caught everyone’s attention. Support was sent and prayers were offered by the nation and by the world. However, within a matter of a short few weeks the media had moved on and so had the rest of the world it seemed.
For Houston it was a different matter entirely. While the media stopped covering things in the news, and the rest of America moved on with their lives, the people of Houston were trying to recover but hitting more road blocks than ever. Even now, six months later, only about half of the people affected by this monster of a storm have even been able to move back into their homes.
Over the Lorain County Community College’s 2018 spring break a group from the college decided to go to Houston to serve the community there. The on-campus group called the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) was able to partner with groups from the Ohio State University, Ohio State University Marion, Shippensburg University, and Anne Arundel Community College all of whom have the CCO on their campuses.
They partnered with a church in Houston, Missio Dei, and were able to serve alongside them in their relief efforts. I was able to go on this trip and it was an amazing opportunity. This church was a great example of what a church can look like and be for a community. They are open to everyone and are helping people rebuild their lives as well as their homes.
Missio Dei hosts new groups from all over the United States almost every week. Their program is called “Resurrect Houston” and they are focused on the biblical principal of caring well for the all that God has created. They are passionate about caring for people as well as the earth and what they have been given.
Our group mainly served the neighborhood of Edgebrook which is in the Houston area.
I don’t think that people here in Ohio or around the country understand the devastation that has continued in Texas. When talking to other Texans they said that even they didn’t know how bad it truly still is. One man that I was talking to was so grateful for the work we were doing and when we were telling him about all that we had seen, he was truly shocked.
When all of the college groups arrived, the church pulled out cots and air mattresses for everyone. In order to cut down on the costs we all split up into two different rooms and slept at the church. There were 38 people there in all.
Throughout the week, many different jobs were done. Some helped out at the church and others went into the community to help them.
Back at the church, a few people stayed to help them get some stuff done so the pastor would be free to help work in the community with the other group.
We organized their shed, tore down a large fence, dug out a pothole so it could be filled, cleaned bathrooms, and other monotonous tasks. These things may have seemed simple or unnecessary for us to fly from Ohio for, but it enabled others to be in the community and do some great work.
In the community, people screwed in sheet rock, mudded walls, painted, cleaned up trash, put down sod, and listened to people’s stories. They were able to encourage and help people.
Near the end of the week, we asked the people whom we had been helping to join us in the park. We played soccer, football, and even tag with some of the younger children. It was really inspiring to see this community come together.
Hearing people’s stories was heart breaking.
In Texas it rains a lot. The street is usually lower than the houses. The people of Houston are used to it raining and even flooding the streets quite often. By the time even that happens there is no getting out of your homes to somewhere else. You are stuck without an escape. And some of them were completely marooned. Many of them had to be rescued by boats from their front door with water and sewage up to their knees or higher.
Until who have seen the damage that amount of water can do, it is hard to understand what these people have gone through. The mold and sewage reeked and was nasty by the time the water drained and they were able to start working on their homes. Some even slept on moldy beds because they had nowhere else to go.
One older woman that I talked to was all alone when the storm hit. Her phone got all wet and she had no way to contact her son or any other family. She had to wait for someone to come and help her. She was alone and frightened. Eventually a small raft floated up and was able to pick her up and take her to safety. The church has been able to help her fix all of the damage, and our group was able to be a part of that.
Right after the water drained, the streets looked like war zones. Trash was everywhere. People had stacks up to 12 feet high lining the streets. Soaked or damaged drywall, appliances, cupboards, beds, etc. People’s lives were torn from them. In some of the neighborhoods where poverty was already bad, this only worsened the problem.
What I took away from this trip was that yes, these disasters happen, but there is tragedy in everyone’s life. Everyone has bad things happen. And we can look at our own lives and be grateful for what we have. But we can also get out into our own communities and be the change that we wish to see in the world.
I don’t have to go somewhere else to see tragedy.
If I were to get back from an opportunity like this and simply go back to living my life, I would be betraying the people that I was able to serve in Houston. By going back to my form of “normal” and only worrying about myself, I show a great sense of apathy as well as ignorance and selfishness.
It is hypocritical to help people somewhere else but to ignore those who live right around us. I also learned that the church, when functioning properly, is able to do this within their community and it is beautiful.
It can be really easy to become cynical or to see the problems as too big to even try helping. But if we all pitched in we could actually make a difference.
A movement always starts with one person seeing the difference they can make and actually going for it. Other people will join you. Start by being the change. You never know where it could lead.
The CCO is an on-campus ministry with the vision of “transforming college students to transform the world.” The CCO has groups on more than 140 Campuses across the United States.