Last weekend, a group of volunteers from our community traveled to Houston to assist in relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey. One team member, Shay Grabowski, shares a about the experience in this blog. If you would like to know more about opportunities to help in Houston, Click Here
This weekend, a group us from Vox went to Houston to partner with Ecclesia Houston, a sister church of ours in Houston. Hurricane Harvey devastated many families across Houston, and Ecclesia has stepped into caring for families as they rebuild their lives. Once Ecclesia put the call out, volunteer teams and resources have poured in from across the nation. We had a team of 7 drive over from Austin for the weekend to meet up with more Vox folks in Houston.
We got there, and the families we met were very kind and seemed numb. We first met Ed and Barbara, an older couple who had lived in their beautiful home since 1981. They had 2 hours’ notice to get out, and lost many of their most valuable things. They seemed stunned. We had a team of 13 from Vox gather (from Austin and who were in Houston) to help where was needed. We pulled out drywall in their home and helped Barbara clear her garden. The garden may seem less significant, but for someone who has lost everything, holding space for what provides solace was incredibly meaningful. Next, we met Matt. Matt is a young Middle Eastern father with a young family. He and his wife evacuated their 4-month-old and 3-year-old girls before the hurricane came in. While their family is safe, they lost everything. We scraped floors, scrubbed wood, and removed tile, working around their wooden crib which survived the storm. On Sunday, we met Prisma and Porfidio, a family who had lost the most. A multigenerational Mexican family – grandparents, kids, and 2-year-old twins – survived Hurricane Harvey by floating on their mattress. The water rose to the level of the mattress and then receded. The family lives on a small urban farm, and their animals are their livelihood. Throughout the day Sunday, we washed their wet/moldy laundry, pulled out ruined furniture, cleaned and sorted. They hadn’t yet had help and were in an increasingly desperate situation.
The physical parts of our work were important; pulling out moldy couches, cleaning children’s toys, etc, though it became apparent that the most important aspect of our work with the families was holding space for them… standing with them, face to face, and show that we are with them. Faces of solidarity and support would probably be what I’d need most in the situation. Harvey struck families at all socioeconomic levels. It was particularly impacting to witness the loss experienced across the spectrum the city, and it was surreal to see piles and piles of trash that formerly made up pieces of people’s lives – memories, photos, baby furniture from children’s births, etc.
Houstonians are holding up well. It was incredible to see how everyone is putting one foot in front of the other. We feel led to alongside our neighbors in Houston in this hard time for the longterm. Please be in prayer for these families and for the city of Houston, and consider supporting through volunteering or donating towards Vox’s efforts in the Harvey fund. It is evident that Ecclesia is truly living what it means to love your neighbor and carry each others’ burdens. This weekend was an honor for each of us.
-Shay, Whitney, Steven, and Team
[Photo Credit: Shay Grabowski]