I’ve always been in awe of the way God works.
August 25, 2017 with Harvey staring Texas down as one huge storm brewing in the Gulf, I sat on the beach in awe of how incredibly still everything was. We had spent the day preparing by waiting in long lines for sand bags, locating important documents, and stocking up on necessities like bottled water. We topped off the gas tank and headed to South Padre Island to take in what Harvey looked like just a few hundred miles out. Meteorologists predicted we would have bad weather, but nothing like what they said Corpus Christi would get. But still we went to sit and look this gigantic storm in the face from our tiny little island.
Harvey brought the Rio Grande Valley nothing except a little drizzle, some wind, and a freak out about gas. As we watched our brothers and sisters just 90 miles north of us get wiped out from this nasty storm, our hearts began to ache.
It’s crazy how it sometimes takes a disaster to bring people together. Or at least that’s how God uses it. Through a connection we had in Victoria, my church found itself sending a team just a few short days post-Harvey to work. We had one goal in mind: help those who needed help and point them to Jesus. And we did just that! God continually opened doors for our little team to make an impact in the Victoria community and before we knew it, He also opened a huge door for us to make an impact in Rockport.
A new dear friend of mine, Pastor Tom Wagstaff, and his wife, Rita, live in one of the many communities that had a direct impact from the eye of Harvey. God did His thing and watched over their house and their belongings and majorly protected it. They did suffer some minor damage, but they still had their house standing in one piece. Part of their roof needed to be tarped and Pastor Wagstaff had been on a mission all day to get that roof tarped. And yet, time after time, phone call after phone call, he came up empty handed. When I was asked to reach out to Pastor Wagstaff, I talked to a man who sounded defeated. You could hear it in his voice that he was ready to give up. When we showed up at his house with able-bodied men who could climb on his roof, put a tarp on it, and make sure everything else was sturdy, life returned to his eyes.
One of the first conversations he and I had was about how he had lost hope. “No one would help,” he said. “I was ready to give up all hope. Until you called.”
I’ve come to learn hope is an incredible feeling. As someone who works for the church, I have the privilege of teaching people what hope is really all about. But that day, as I stood on the porch with Pastor Wagstaff and Rita, God taught me a new way to view hope.
Hope is 8 pallets of water outside a wind destroyed gym to a town who had no supplies. Hope is tons of fans blowing down the halls and into the sheetrock. Hope is helping a stressed secretary make phone calls to shut-ins to check in on them. Hope is hundreds of electric company trucks working in the neighborhood. Hope is neon orange shirts showing up to move limbs and help take them off your roof. Hope is getting your favorite chair unstuck from under the tree and it still being usable. Hope is random strangers stopping to help drag limbs from the backyard. Hope is showing up with lumber, nails, hammers, and tarps to cover your roof. Hope is pulling wet insulation out of the attic. Hope is holding hands with a stranger as they watch their wet, moldy memories burn away. Hope is helping move a refrigerator down a flight of stairs to the garage to salvage it after the roof blew off your house in the storm. Hope is tearful hugs. Hope is sharing memories. Hope is your husband agreeing to go to church for the first time in years because strangers came to help you move trees. Hope is celebrating the return of electricity. Hope heartfelt prayers with strangers and sharing the Gospel.
HOPE IS JESUS!
As I’ve been processing what God is doing through the destruction of Harvey, I can’t help but see how He is constantly using His people to bring hope to those who desperately need it.
Harvey is three weeks gone and his destruction still remains. Normal is a long way off and the congregation of Peace Lutheran in Rockport is beginning to settle into what they are calling a new normal- a normal that moves beyond the church walls. A normal that embraces what God has put before them. A normal that involves hosting teams, proving for their community, and bringing hope.
An incredible thing happened during Harvey. Everything around Peace Lutheran was destroyed. Roofs gone. Buildings flattened. Huge trees uprooted. But the church building itself sustained nothing more than a few shingles gone. God made all the trees fall away from the building and He kept the water from being driven inside. What these people have come to notice is that they are in an incredible place to be the Church in their community. And what a beautiful journey and story it will be!
As you consider how to help one of the many communities impacted by Harvey, may God use you to bring HOPE! Whether that be through prayers, financial contributions, supply donations, or through volunteer hours, my prayer is that it isn’t about you and what your doing. My prayer is that it’s about Jesus and what He is doing to bring hope to His people.
By Kayla Brock
Director of Christian Education
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Harlingen