A team of 7 people from 2 St. Luke’s campuses drove more than 1,100 miles in 3 days to help 2 families save somewhere around $18,000 each as they begin to rebuild their homes in Houston after hurricane Harvey made landfall in late August this year.
Along with my family of faith, I had the unique opportunity to lead a team to help people who have felt tremendous loss, devastating destruction, and for some, deflating isolation. The news cameras have come and gone, the water has receded, and these families are left with a huge amount of work to get back to “normal” again.
Our team collaborated with Samaritan’s Purse, a nationwide disaster relief and humanitarian organization, to get mobilized directly to homes needing to be stripped out and sprayed for mold– a process called “mud-out.”
While the work itself was demanding, time consuming, and dirty, it was also extremely rewarding. I thought I had an idea of what to expect on the trip, but still I was surprised at the experience I had. Here are a few of the things I learned:
- I expected not to be able to relate to the homeowners we would encounter in Houston. After all, I didn’t know what it would be like to lose all of my belongings in a natural disaster. But I was wrong. God revealed ways to connect with homeowners on a deeply spiritual level– through talking with them, praying with them, or simply listening to their stories. I learned so much about the human condition in Houston. I learned that we can all on some level, in different ways, understand tragic loss.
- I expected that everyone would be sad. I thought the mood would be consistently somber, quiet, or mournful. But that’s not what happened. While there were certainly moments to grow still, most of the weekend was action-packed and filled with joy. Joy for being able to help someone in need, joy for the work that God was doing in the lives of the homeowners and in the lives of each volunteer. The experience was filled with positivity even in the midst of a terrible disaster.
- I expected that we wouldn’t make a huge difference. I was WAY wrong on this one. It was only a short weekend trip, but in that short time we started one project and fully completed one mud-out in Houston. As a team we cut out wet dry wall, pulled contaminated insulation, cleaned up debris, sprayed a mold remediator, and any other necessary projects to create safe homes for hurricane victims. When our team finished Miss Wanda’s house, we presented her with a Bible signed by everyone who worked on her home as a reminder that she is not alone, she is loved, and she is a child of God.
One of my expectations was actually accurate. I expected to get to know my teammates and become closer friends with them through serving together. Even in just one weekend, that was certainly true. I can’t remember the last time I was able to have such important theological discussion AND have some of the best belly laughs I have in a long time!
Overall, the trip was a blessing to everyone involved. To the entire mission team from St. Luke’s, to the Samaritan’s Purse organizers who have been recruiting volunteers, to the homeowners, to the neighbors who received some of our “flood buckets” that the Congregational Care team made, and especially to me.
If you haven’t signed up for a trip, I hope you will consider answering the call to go and help!
Beth Armstrong, Team Leader