“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said; ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”-Acts 20:35*
We sat around the table and discussed our options. We had gift cards, cleaning supplies, water, and snacks to give to those who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We needed to find a place where thirteen people, including children from age’s two to nine, could safely make a difference. We selected LaGrange, Texas which is a short distance from my mom’s in Brenham, Texas.
Why LaGrange? It is over a hundred miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and was not a direct hit in the hurricane’s path. This is why Harvey was such a catastrophic event. From where it made initial landfall at Rockport, Texas the flooding and wind damage ravaged the coast, almost three hundred miles, all the way to Beaumont and as far inland as LaGrange. Record amounts of rainfall, up to thirty inches, raised river levels to all-time highs and became the secondary disaster to the actual hurricane. LaGrange sits alongside the Colorado River, which came out of its banks ten to twelve feet. This little town of 4600 saw many of its community members lose everything.
We packed up and headed out on a Sunday morning in three vehicles. As we drove the back roads, life appeared to proceed at a normal pace. We pulled in LaGrange and found a volunteer station off the main street. We divided up and some family took the donated items to a church, while the rest of us decided to go to a trailer park. As we turned the corner, I felt sickened as to what waited for us. We slowly evacuated the sanctuary of our comfy cars and stood in front of mangled metal, wood, furniture, clothing, and the emptiness of bare slabs where mobile homes once stood. For a brief moment I stood completely overwhelmed, how could we help with cold drinks and snacks? “Start by walking” whispered in my ear. And we did.
We met Patty, who stood in front of a concrete slab. Tears rolling down her face as she mumbled to herself. Her entire trailer had been swept fifty yards away into a ravine. For the past week, she had been sleeping in her car with what few items she saved. She was waiting for her son whom she would move in with and formulate a plan for her future. We were able to give her some gift cards, a couple of starter kits for a kitchen and bathroom created by a dear friend who had survived Hurricane Katrina, some hugs, and prayers.
I could see how this mission trip registered with my family’s spirit in what they had witnessed and their determination to do more to lend a hand. We drove to another neighborhood which came to close proximity to the Colorado River. We parked and walked around from house to house offering gift cards, cold drinks, and snacks. My granddaughter and nieces walked up to strangers and offered them a cold beverage. This experience taught a valuable lesson for the girls to witness such loss and offer compassion to people in need.
The human spirit and fortitude radiated in this community. Makeshift dining tables were set up in front yards, under trees for shade, and the families were taking a break and eating together. Talking, laughing, and resting to fuel up and face their problems head-on. A gentle reminder that material possessions can be replaced; people and relationships can’t.
Our last stop was the church where some of us had taken donations earlier. We offered to stock up their coolers with cold drinks for the volunteers who were assisting at ground zero. A twinge of guilt hit me as I would head back to an air-conditioned home with no worries about storm damage. How many people in how many towns, cities, and suburbs, were doing the same cleanup efforts as this little town?
I admired their determination to dig out of the destruction and chaos and start over. I saw resilience and I sensed hope.
Later we reflected and shared our experiences with one another. We were reminded our family is extremely blessed for what we have and our ability to come together to help others in need. We were able to demonstrate a valuable lesson to the younger family members on how to put aside our wants and desires to serve others.
This year has been highly active with natural disasters and there is still an opportunity to help others who have been affected by hurricanes, storms, and fires in the United States. Please continue to pray for the families who face loss and ask God what can you do to bless others.
*The Holy Bible, New International Version Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society