One year ago, Southeast Texas was in the midst of the fourth day of the deluge caused by Hurricane Harvey. The storm, which made landfall on Aug. 25, had stalled out southeast of Houston and was dropping unprecedented amounts of rain. By the time the storm moved out of the state on Aug. 31, an estimated 1 million households had sustained damage to their homes and millions of people had been traumatized.
During the past year, communities across Southeast Texas have been working for recovery, aided by hundreds of thousands of volunteers and millions of dollars in cash and material donations. Week of Compassion saw a dramatic increase in support and giving. Because of your generosity, Week of Compassion was able during the period of early relief to provide solidarity grants to 241 affected Disciples families and 25 Disciples congregations. Week of Compassion staff have provided, and continue to provide, pastoral support for clergy in the area, including collaborating with National Benevolent Association and The Pension Fund to offer clergy mental and spiritual health retreats. We have also been coordinating with local partners to begin the long process of assisting affected families who do not have the resources to recover on their own.
A study published last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation indicates that 1 in 5 residents in affected counties had severe damage to their homes. Among those who reported damage to their homes, "41 percent say it has been restored to a livable condition but not the same as it was before Harvey." Additionally, "one in six (15 percent) of those residents who experienced home damage say their home was still in an unlivable condition" at the time of the study, 10 months after the storm. In some of the hardest hit areas, that share rises to 25 percent.
The needs are great and there is significant work ahead, and Week of Compassion is committed for the long-haul. Week of Compassion will continue to walk alongside the people of Southeast Texas, assisting as many people as possible in making their homes livable again and promoting healthy, resilient communities.
Cypress Creek Christian Church
On the 1 year anniversary of the storm, the Forum--a fellowship hall and alternative worship space, which had been filled with 2 feet of water during Harvey--was the site of a wedding and the following day the location of a worship service marking the anniversary of the storm. Through dance, prayer, personal stories, and song, the community named their continued struggles and rejoiced in how far they have come. During one personal testimony of evacuation, loss, and recovery, a member of the church said, "There is a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. I know, because I've seen it." Of the two dozen families at Cypress Creek CC who had significant damage to their homes, all have either moved to new homes or moved back in, though a handful still have repairs to complete.
Members of the dance classes hosted at the church, which will begin again this fall, offered a prayer in movement during the anniversary service at Cypress Creek Christian Church, held in the repaired Form building. Video courtesy of CCCC.
"We're alive and well, by prayer and dollars!" said Norma Lowry, Director of the Community Center at Cypress Creek Christian Church, who has been managing the building repairs since Harvey caused severe flooding across the church campus. She went on to say that they still have challenges ahead with significant repairs to complete on the community center building. Beyond cleanup and remediation, they have not even begun repairs on the sanctuary. "Early on," said Senior Pastor, Rev. Bruce Frogge, "I preached that we would rebuild with others in mind first, which is why we prioritized the offices used by the Interface-Samaritan Counseling Center. Our community needed them, and they have since provided many many hours of free counseling to people affected by the floods." In addition to those areas, the staff offices, youth and children's wings, chapel, and forum building (a combination fellowship hall and worship area) are now repaired and back in full use.
First Christian Church, Texas City
Rev. Danielle Cox and members from FCC Texas City marked the anniversary by volunteering with Galveston County Recovers to do home assessments for people still in need of assistance around the county. Galveston County Recovers, where Rev. Cox serves on the communication committee, is a local group of non-profit organizations, faith communities, and government partners who work together to coordinate recovery efforts. Week of Compassion and Disciples Volunteering have been partnering with Galveston County Recovers to provide home repairs for some of the most vulnerable survivors of Harvey. Since last fall, FCC Texas City has hosted a Disciples Mission Station, where volunteers have repaired damage at the church building and at homes in the surrounding areas. Well over 300 volunteers at the Mission Station, contributing roughly 10,000 hours of labor, have helped 18 families return home. Though the schedule was full through the summer, very few volunteers have registered for the fall. To find out more, visit: www.discipleshomemissions.org/servants-needed.
TX City Mission Station
Steve Huston helps welcome and lead mission groups as a long-term volunteer at the Disciples Mission Station in Texas City.
Restoring Places of Worship
Of the twenty-two Disciples churches who reported damage, most have completed or are near completing repairs. First Christian Church, Port Arthur, which had the most severe flooding among the affected congregations, continues to make progress, though extensive work remains. They have hosted many volunteers, who have worked both at the church and in the community. Bethany Christian Church in Corpus Christi is similarly still in the process of fixing interior damage, having completed a full roof replacement and repairs to exterior damage. Iglesia Cristiana El Redentor in Houston has repaired their fellowship hall and sanctuary, but four classrooms are at various stages of completion.