You may think “What difference can I make only working a day and a half?” My answer is “a huge difference!” Not only a physical, work type difference but also an emotional, humanitarian difference. Just having so many strangers showing up willing to help in any way they can, shows the people of Houston that we love them and that God loves them. This past weekend I had the honor of helping lead a mission team to Houston. We were there to assist in the clean-up of the neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Harvey. The amount of work our group of six accomplished in a day and a half is truly amazing.
The area we were working in was affected by the ‘controlled release’ from a nearby levy. If the water had not been released, the levy was likely to fail and flood many more homes. Officials were faced with the tough decision to flood certain areas or face a much more widespread flood if the levy broke. According to the people who were there when it happened, the water level in their street rose from ankle high to chest high in a matter of minutes. We were told by a woman who had been there volunteering for almost two weeks that she saw a wooden fence that had human claw marks on it. Someone had tried to grab on as they were swept away by the water’s current. Another woman who had lived on one of the streets where we were working died when she fell out of a boat and was pulled under the water.
You can’t fully understand the emotional impact until you are there experiencing the smells, the mold, the extensive damage, and talking to the homeowners who have lost most of their possessions. Just imagine standing by while a team of 25 strangers rip out everything four feet and below from your home. You have just lost your furniture, your food, your pictures, and your clothes. While working in these homes we were required to wear masks and gloves, and for good reason. It has been three weeks since the hurricane hit and many of these homes have been sitting untouched since then. With the hot and humid weather, the mold has quickly spread.
Even though there has been so much sadness and grief in the Houston area these past weeks, there is also hope and good happening as well. Thousands of people from all over the country have given up their time, and will continue to do so, to help a stranger. While working, people driving through the neighborhood would stop, roll down their window, and thank us for being there to help. When we went out to grab bagels before work on Saturday, people stopped to thank us for being there to help. People from a nearby church made lunches for the workers and were handing them out house by house. One sweet lady with the most beautiful heart and smile offered to lend her restroom to all the sweaty workers.
Samaritan’s purse is the organization we worked with this week, and I truly enjoyed working with them and would do so again in the future. They really care about doing the work correctly and doing right by the homeowner. After the work was done on each house, we presented a Bible to the homeowner which had been signed by all the volunteers. Everyone would gather in a circle, hold hands, and someone would say an encouraging prayer. This was especially touching as most of these people said they had lost their old bible to the flood.
If you are considering volunteering for a mission trip, I strongly encourage you to do it. You will work hard, you will be put outside your comfort zone, and you will meet some of the most caring people in this world. I guarantee it will be worth your time.
Raeleen Gile, Team Leader