Harvey's Houston-Area Aftermath
I don't know what's going lately, but these past few weeks have been replete with what seems to be a series of calamities. We have witnessed everything from a rise in racial tensions to life-threatening weather and natural catastrophes: from race clashes in Charleston, South Carolina, raging fires in Montana, hurricanes in Texas (Harvey) and Florida (Irma), to one of the strongest earthquakes in Mexico in recent history. This past week I was supposed to be in San Francisco to put my lawyer hat on, but that was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma in Florida (the witness was coming from Miami and had to evacuate his family).
As fate would have it, just as my trip to California cancelled, my father-in-law (Jair Castillo), missionary and founder of Vida Nueva Ministries in Piedras Negras, Mexico asked if I'd be willing to join a volunteer team to help flood victims of hurricane Harvey in the Houston area. Since Harvey struck, I've had a calling to help so I jumped at the opportunity. Our small team arrived early Monday morning to join some long-time friends of Vida Nueva from Crossroads Church (Dallas) to volunteer with the host church in Houston (New Hope Church). From the minute we arrived I was impressed with New Hope's disaster-relief efforts, one would think this type of work was their primary focus! Not only did they have what seemed like an endless list of flood-victim families in need, they had a trove of tools and supplies to help outfit the volunteers for the flood clean-up effort. Within about 30 minutes, our Vida Nueva team was assigned to a home in Friendswood, Texas, just south of Houston. The floods in this area left thousands of families and businesses displaced. According the Friendswood Police Department, an estimated 3,000 homes were flooded during the storm.
The sights and smells of the flooded neighborhoods were overwhelming. That Monday, we helped the Owens family, a family that had lived in their home for decades. Like most flood victims, they lost everything. Except for being able to salvage a few personal items here and there, their house was condemned by the county. Our small Vida Nueva team was tasked with helping the Owens clean up their small guest house to give them a place to live temporarily while they figure out what to do next. The flood waters rose to about 5 feet in the house, and as a result, we had to completely gut out the interior. The "mucking" operation (as it is called in the disaster relief sector) took us about 6 hours, but we got it done and left the guest house ready to restored. That night our Vida Nueva team slept like rocks - tired, yet gratified that we had helped the Owens. Our new friends at New Hope Church were gracious enough to open their entire Friendswood campus (its huge!) to us for the night. They provided us with food, warm showers, and cots.
The next day, we were tasked to help out the Spiller family in Angleton, Texas (further south of Houston). Just when I thought Friendswood got it bad, most of Angleton area was still under water. After several hours of mucking and demolishing the flood-damaged portions of the Spiller's home, we finally left it ready to be rehabilitated.
While our physical bodies were tired and sore, our spiritual beings were filled. Words cannot express the happiness we brought to the Owen and Spiller families as they were able to get a small step closer to normality. This photo blog captures some of the images and drone footage from our short volunteer trip to Harvey. My sincere hope is that we were as much of a blessing to the families we helped as they were to us.
Please take a moment to give back to organizations like New Hope Church by sending some much-needed funds. I witnessed first hand how they use donations: they put it to good use by purchasing tools, materials, food and clothes for flood victims and getting the word out to volunteer groups like Vida Nueva Ministries.