On the eve of August 25th, my wife, niece, nephew and great-nephew were sitting against a wall in the hallway of my home waiting for Hurricane Harvey to pass over us. It was an eerie experience. I was glued to my weather app. At one point, I knew we were in the eye of the storm. It was an uneasy sort of calm. But, I continued praying for safety of my family and our region.
After the hurricane passed over, we called to check on our family and friends. It was difficult to get through, but my son, Geoffrey, who is working toward his Master’s in Divinity at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California was a great source of help. Like many of you, our calls wouldn’t reach others inside of Victoria, but we could get text messages. We charged our phones in the car and went to get gas as soon as possible.
On our way into town on Sunday morning after the storm, we stopped at a gas station with lines down the street. As I walked in to pay, I saw a lady from our church at the cash register. She saw me and immediately began to sob. She said she didn’t know what she was going to do. Her kids were at home alone with a hole in the roof while she had to come in to work. With so much damage to her home, she was overcome with anxiety. I prayed for her and left knowing we all had to figure out a way to help our neighbors.
On Sunday afternoon after we held our morning services with no electricity in our Connection Center, our Community Life Pastor, Mark Longoria was in the parking lot when a representative from Convoy of Hope drove up. He said they found us on Google Maps because of our large parking lot and location and wanted to know if we could host them. We spoke with them and gave a resounding, “Yes!” Immediately, God was answering prayers. Later that same day, Samaritan’s Purse, Heart to Heart International and Billy Graham Disaster Response Chaplains filled our parking lot. We quickly put together a Facebook Live social media post sharing what was going on here in Victoria and all of South Texas.
From that day on, our parking lot was turned into a haven, an emergency hub for our community. We were still without electricity, so the organizations helping had to remain self-sustaining until we received power later that week on Thursday afternoon.
Over the course of the three weeks following the hurricane, using our parking lot, local volunteers along with Convoy of Hope sent 5 million pounds of food, ice, water, and cleaning supplies from Victoria to 220,000 people in 55 communities along the Texas coast. To me that demonstrates the heart of the Victoria region – people caring not just in words but in works.
Heart to Heart International provided tetanus shots and other minor medical attention to our citizens over the first week and a half.
Red Cross provided meals for volunteers serving in our parking lot. Baptist men and a host of other organizations worked and fed those needing help as well.
Over the course of two full months, volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse completed over 900 work orders mucking out homes, clearing debris, and loving on the homeowners.
Billy Graham Disaster Response Teams provided Post-Disaster Counseling and Discipleship Training as well as served over 400 families throughout Victoria and surrounding counties.
Churches from all over the nation came to our rescue to help with our initial needs as well as our long-term needs serving with us and these organizations.
We are so grateful to be able to partner with these organizations who came to our city just in time and stayed committed to meeting the needs here. They were extremely organized and produced amazing results.
The events of the last few months of the year have been completely unexpected.
1. We did not expect a category 4 storm. But God knew.
2. We did not know when we built our NextGen building that it would be the very place that would house thousands of volunteers from all over the country before one game was played or service was held. But God had a plan.
3. We did not know how we could help our community, while we were still in need, but God was already in action.
He knew long ago that Hurricane Harvey would come. But, He also prepared a way to provide resources of every kind for us through and after the storm.
And although the big white tent and trucks that covered our parking lot from Convoy of Hope have moved on to help others across the country in need, and Samaritan’s Purse has unplugged from our parking lot and closed out over 900 work orders, the memories created throughout Hope Over Harvey remain. We have a stronger love for our community and gratitude for every person and organization who gave of their time and treasure.
The lasting memory is not just a campaign called Hope Over Harvey, but it is the lasting legacy of endurance, comradery, and the love that will live on to impact future generations.
This Christmas, as I look back at the months of rebuilding from
Hurricane Harvey, I’m so grateful for God’s provision that He sent us in the aftermath!