This year marks six years that my family has been in mission with Adore Ministries. It is also the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. After our first year on the ground at the mission building the ministry, Harvey bulldozed in and shut everything down.
After my family evacuated (everything ended up being fine for our house, barely missing flooding, water reached the front doorstep and stopped) I was notified that my mission, Shrine of the True Cross, was under four feet of water. My pastor’s rectory had flooded because it was along Dickinson Bayou. He made his way to the parish office. It flooded. Then he made his way to the roof and our Knights of Columbus had to come by in a boat to get him down. We had nowhere to do ministry. I was told that my mission was now full-time hurricane clean up.
Eventually our youth ministry started back up. Our school was taken in by another school in a neighboring town and the church it was connected to allow us to use the facilities for religious ed and youth ministry. We held youth group in the school library until summer. It took us another year to get back on our church campus.
I learned a lot during that time, and suffered a lot (Harvey, loss of a grandmother, Santa Fe High School shooting, loss of a friend to cancer, etc.) But I wanted to share two things I took from that time that still resonate with me today and have truly changed me.
1. I'm sure you have all heard/read Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope." But it is so important to realize when God is saying these things. He is telling his people about this future of hope while they are in exile! In the midst of such terror it is hard to think about a hopeful future. But what does he tell them to do? "Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens and eat their fruits. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. There you must increase in number, not decrease. Promote the welfare of the city to which I had exiled you; pray for it to the Lord for upon its welfare depends your own." - Jeremiah 29:5-7. In the midst of tragedy, God tells them to continue to live and promote life and keep on keepin' on. And we can't do that alone! This scripture resonated with me through the duration of post Hurricane Harvey.
2. The week after Thanksgiving we had a mission trip group from Hinkley High School in Aurora, CO. I was told a story by one of the teachers about how, when they drove into town, one of the students said, "Why are we here? Everything looks fine." But by that time all of the trash for the most part had been picked up. Everyone’s belongings, along with their flooring, drywall, etc., that had been thrown out onto the street had been taken away. It wasn't until she entered a home and saw all of the walls torn down and all of the mold still left behind that she said, "Oh, I get it." Tragedies like hurricanes make getting out of our comfort zones and entering into others' houses and lives easy. Shoot, I could tear out a whole house of walls and never talk to the owner. But God does work through us in these times, and we see real love and care for our neighbor. It opens up the opportunity to step into the houses of others' hearts and see how they are really doing on the inside. But honestly, that does not impress me. I know as humans we are good. What I grew to believe, and still do, is that what would impress me is that the stepping out and into each other’s lives continues after all of the sheet rock, furniture, carpet, tile, and belongings are replaced and everyone moves back into their homes. We continue caring for and reaching out to our neighbors. Instead of just a wave, we walk over and ask how each other is doing and really mean it. When our neighbor loses their job, instead of saying, “Well cowboy up,” we say "Hey, how about y'all come over for dinner."
I met a young adult recently who is on the core team at one of our missions. He moved here from India a few years ago. I asked him what he missed most. His answer was that in the apartment he lived in, everyone knew everyone. People’s doors were left open so people could say hi when they came home or as people walked by. But now, here in Houston, doors are closed, there’s no intimacy among the tenants. My family and I just moved. We’ve been in our townhouse for a couple months now. It’s been busy with work, moving and unpacking and getting settled, and school starting for our girls. But I still have those lessons from Harvey. I’m looking forward to meeting our neighbors.
To see a video of Post-Harvey Hope at the Shrine of the True Cross, click here.