It's been a whole year since Hurricane Harvey swept through coastal Texas and dumped its waters on Houston. To say the hurricane was catastrophic is an understatement. Entire communities were under water. Thousands of people were displaced from their homes. The news aired report after report of the storm. If they weren't covering press conferences from the mayor and other local officials, they were showing rescue attempts carrying on all over the city. Police, first responders, volunteers, and countless others worked around the clock to make sure those trapped were rescued; those displaced had shelter; those injured had medical attention.
Helpers Among Us
There's no denying Hurricane Harvey was devastating. Many people lost everything and for months, the trash and debris along the side of the roads was a reminder of the devastation this city had experienced. But, those first rays of sunshine after days of rain brought a glimmer of hope. For disasters, though terrible, often bring out the best in humanity. In these times, we put aside our differences and we work with a common goal in mind. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the words of beloved Fred Rogers hit home: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
It was a Tuesday and as the water began to recede, those who had escaped the worst of it put on their boots, gloves, and masks and got to work. The staff and churches of Union Baptist Association were no exception. Many UBA churches served as shelters in the days during and immediately following Hurricane Harvey's destruction. They collected supplies of all types: construction materials, food, and clothing. Volunteers began mucking out homes and church buildings that flooded—tearing out soaked carpets and sheetrock, clearing debris, and setting up fans to dry the places out. Others offered to do laundry and cook meals for those affected. In the months following, UBA churches began hosting disaster relief teams from other parts of the country.
Practicing What We Preach
For Chinese Baptist Church,** Hurricane Harvey presented an opportunity to respond and minister to their community—both church members and strangers asking for help. In a time of desperate need, the church was able to put into practice what its leaders and members have been teaching, training, and learning. In addition to helping clean out affected homes, Chinese Baptist Church helped people move to other homes. They loaned cars to those who had lost theirs. They collected and distributed donations, including gift cards and Christmas gifts. They held a meeting to offer information on FEMA and how to get assistance.
In addition, Chinese Baptist Church had the opportunity to host World Changers teams from all participating churches across the United States. For two weeks, Chinese Baptist Church provided meals, lodging, and volunteers to help World Changers teams. These teams worked specifically in neighborhoods like Kashmere Gardens, Memorial, Bellaire, and Dickinson. They cleaned out homes, replaced damaged drywall and floors, painted and assisted with other construction projects such as replacing a deck. They interacted with residents of those communities through prayer and other service projects.
Over the last year, UBA has partnered with organizations such as Send Relief, Shalom Builders, Texas Baptists and others to serve with relief efforts. Hurricane Harvey served to unite churches in Houston and across the country for the sake of neighbor love. Churches united under their common bond: the blood of Jesus Christ. They have been able to share that hope with their neighbors in tangible ways.
Rememer, We’re Better Together
Slowly but surely, rebuilding has begun and many people have been able to move back into their homes. But the work is not done. As we pass the year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, it will be easy to forget the needs that still need to be met. But many people are still not back in their homes and many will not be able to go back. Many homes need specialized repairs that cannot be completed by volunteer teams. And many are still reeling from the pain of losing everything. There are still opportunities for prayer and service to these communities. As we seek to meet tangible needs, let us not forget to share the message of hope from which we work—that of Jesus Christ.
Additionally, it is important not to forget in times of calm what we have learned in times of disaster. We are better together than we are apart. Churches in the same neighborhoods are not competitors but partners in the gospel for the good of the community. Lord willing, another disaster like Hurricane Harvey will not happen again—at least for a long time. But let us not squander the lessons it taught us. Churches are bonded through salvation in Jesus Christ, and together, we can share that message of hope in all circumstances.
**Special thanks to Robert Liu, Oleg Nyu, and Larry Joe for contributing information about Chinese Baptist Church’s work for this article.