So when I heard word about Harvey strengthening and its projected pathway last week, I felt flooded with fear for my family and friends along the coast and surrounding inland areas. Unable to help as I had in the past, I wondered what would happen to my dad’s shrimp boats—would they survive the ten plus feet of storm surge predicted for that area, or how the house would fare—would there be substantial damage, and most importantly my family—were they all going to be out of harm’s way? Instead of helplessness, I felt overcome by guilt in my inability to be helpful. I find myself still trying to process through all of these thoughts and emotions stirred by the hurricane. In the hours and days following Harvey’s landfall, I kept in contact with various family members. Thankfully, everyone has been well and sustained minimal property damage—which cannot be said for everyone in the area. In the time that followed as I watched videos online of the destruction throughout the region and heard reports of the ongoing storm, my stomach churned and sank. Places I had known—where many memories had been made years ago—devastated. Communities closed—for perhaps months. People completely displaced from homes and work. Disaster compounded by record rainfall and historic flooding. I’m pierced by the news of those who died either trying to escape the rising waters or help others. In spite of the good news I’ve received from loved ones, the past week has left me with both a hole in my heart and knot in my gut, as I watch from nearly a thousand miles away and wait for more bad news.
Not new to hurricanes, I know full well what will happen. As the storm moves out and waters subside, people will return, clean-up will commence, and life will slowly but surely come back to the area—as it does time and time again. Yet, still I wonder what this particular hurricane will mean—for those who loss everything, for those without insurance or means to replace what is gone, for those who have lost family or pets, for those whose jobs are not immediately recoverable, for those who will continue to suffer from the mental and emotional stress brought on and left by the storm. Structures will be rebuilt and systems reestablished; but in its wake remain pain, suffering, and hardship. Only with time and extensive care do these wounds begin to heal, and unfortunately in some cases they never do.
That being said, I give thanks to God for those who have answered the call to go and help in search and rescue, those who are assisting in serving the needs of others and volunteering at shelters, those who have opened their hearts, homes, and wallets to go the extra mile in caring for neighbor. There is hope in the love and service shown by those working in and around the region. Homes, vehicles, and possessions are gone for many; but not all is lost. Despair and hope have a way of going hand-in-hand. The pain of what is lost is not gone, yet there is hope in the hand outreached pulling the frightened mother and child from the waist-high water onto a boat to safety. In the makeshift shelters housing those with nowhere to go, in the clothing and necessities donated and delivered, in the warm meal served out of the weather—in all these places hope is shining forth, breaking past the dark storm clouds, and illuminating through the murky flood waters. Hope is felt in the presence of Jesus among God’s people. I pray that Christ fill us not just with the words to pray amidst this devastating disaster, but that by the power of the Holy Spirit we might be empowered and moved—being Christ for one another in helping to rebuild and relieve those affected by the storm. If you can go and assist firsthand, please do so. If you can make a donation to support the ongoing work, please do so. If you can spread the word about what good is being done in the midst of disaster and tragedy, please do so. May we, through love and service, become beacons of hope for those hurting, helpless, and homeless following Hurricane Harvey. As a coastal Texan watching the storm from afar, I pray God works in and through this disaster to bring about goodness and new life. I pray God works through us to be the hands of Christ in extending hospitality to those in need and assisting with clean-up and rebuilding. I pray God’s Spirit hovers over these waters, that chaos might eventually be transformed into order. Right now, as I wrestle with my absence from that place, I pray. God, open my eyes, ears, heart, and hands. Christ, work your healing and wholeness amongst the people of south Texas. Come Holy Spirit, come. Amen.