DISTRICT DISASTER RESPONSE TEAM RETURNS FROM TEXAS
When the immediate danger is over, the media tends to move on to the next news-making story. Hurricane Harvey administered its wrath on the Gulf Coast in August of 2017. Five months later there are still hundreds of homes that were flooded, cleared out and now awaiting rebuilding.
As our team toured the Beaumont and Lumberton areas, house after house was just a shell - nothing but bare studs, windows and the outside walls. The flood line could be seen on the brick and siding. Trash lined the curbs awaiting refuse trucks to haul it away. Throughout the neighborhood, sounds of saws and hammers echoed. Campers filled the front yards, housing the survivors while they continue to rebuild their homes.
The area received record amounts of rain - over 50 inches in a few days' time. The houses in the Rose Hill neighborhood had water to the eaves. Every inch of drywall, insulation and flooring - from floor to ceiling - had to be removed. And then the waiting began. Waiting for insurance checks (if the homeowners had flood insurance), waiting for assistance, waiting for supplies. And many are still waiting.
Texas Recovers, a ministry of the Texas Annual Conference, provides the case workers to contact survivors in need. Through grant money given to them by UMCOR, three regional relief centers were opened to provide support to survivors. They then coordinate the teams who express an interest in assisting in recovery work. The Beaumont relief center has helped many families and currently has 18 active cases. Many contacts have been made and 13 teams have worked over 10,000 hours since December. Survivors who need assistance complete an application and are assisted based on their needs.
Our team helped two families - a widow and a gentleman receiving disability assistance for a work injury. Both had amazing attitudes considering they had lost everything. That impressed us about everyone we spoke with - and everyone we spoke with had endured damage. They were so appreciative and impressed that people from Ohio were willing to take time out of their busy schedules to drive two days to Texas to spend a few days helping them.
During our evening devotions, most of the comments centered around the smiles on people’s faces. We talked about God Sightings and every day each of us found something to thank God for. We were thankful for the Body of Christ in the area – many other organizations from different religious affiliations – present to help. We thanked God for having a hand in everything – from the mundane tasks, from protecting us from injury, from the caring attitude of everyone. Hugs and tears from each of the survivors made our day, and our prayers for them will impact their lives for many days to come.
When approached about serving on a disaster recovery team, the first question is usually, “how much will it cost me?” Because of UMCOR grants, there was no cost to the team other than for food, incidentals and boarding on the way to and from the site. We ate well, we had comfortable sleeping arrangements and the insulation, sheetrock & equipment was provided for the survivors’ homes.
How can you help? Coordinating a team was easy and the relief centers can place a team based on the experience and skills of the members. You can pray for the efforts in Texas and other areas affected. You can continue to make donations to UMCOR. You can take a team.
Beaumont predicts 5 – 10 years before every home is restored. The Texas Conference’s Center for Missional Excellence is in it the long haul. They will work side-by-side with survivors until they are back on their feet.