Returning Home After Harvey


Last month, I led a team of Fellowship volunteers to my hometown of Beaumont, TX to engage in Harvey relief efforts in partnership with First Baptist Church Beaumont. Harvey hit Beaumont with major flooding, and my parents’ home, the house I grew up in, was flooded as well. It was such a privilege to return home with a group of Fellowship and El Shaddai friends to serve in the community that meant so much to me. Below are my original updates during our trip:

On the first day, while our team started working on a house of a retired couple that was flooded during Harvey, I visited my parents for the first time since Hurricane Harvey, and they took me to see our house. To give you perspective, First Baptist Church Beaumont has sent a number of disaster relief teams to our neighborhood. The entire neighborhood was under water after Harvey. When I arrived, it was surreal to see debris piles still by the side of the road. All of the houses in the area were cleared out. Some appeared to have been abandoned. The city hadn’t picked up any flooded refrigerators on the sides of the road, so those were in front of every house. The neighbor across the street had spray-painted on their fridge: “You loot, we shoot” in front of their yard. It was a wild scene in some respects.

My parents are in the process of renovating the house with contractors. It was surreal to go inside the home I grew up in and see just a shell. What was once a living room or my own room, full of memories, had become an empty space.

However, what could have been a fairly sad moment was actually a time of hope for me. I’m thankful to God for this. I was reminded of when our house was being built when I was very young, and how it was the beginning of what led to some great memories, and I knew then that it can definitely be happen again after our house is restored. It will eventually be a home again.

We drove around the neighborhood and saw a lot of great need, lots of debris still at this point, and people figuring out how to restore their lives. I also got to see my old kindergarten teacher in the neighborhood and reconnect with her, which was a sweet moment.

My parents and I in our house
My parents and I in our house
Standing in my room
Standing in my room
The inside of our living room
The inside of our living room
My parents and I in our house
Debris still on our street

After saying goodbye to my parents after lunch, I rejoined the team. They had been working hard all morning. This neighborhood was very similar to mine. Every house was flooded. Inside this house, the team was in full work mode, installing drywall to every wall in the house. Though only a few of us have any experience installing drywall, we all pitched in and got the hang of it after a while. It’s no easy task.

The homeowner, George, was there most of the time, so we got to have good conversations with him. He’s a trooper, remaining positive in a very difficult and overwhelming time. He was very appreciative and thankful for the help. He talked about how going through something like this makes him trust more in God. It turned out he knows some friends of my parents. It’s a small world. We worked until the late afternoon when it was time to return to the church for dinner. We would eventually finish installing drywall to his entire home.

James and David measuring sheetrock
James and David measuring sheetrock
Working inside George's home
Working inside George’s home

While eating a home-cooked dinner of jambalaya and green beans provided by a family at the church, we discussed our impressions and thoughts as a team so far. We all commented on how overwhelming the need is here. Every single house in this one neighborhood was flooded, and this is one of so many neighborhoods in this area dealing with the same issues. There is so much to do in terms of restoring a flooded house, and most of the people who were flooded do not have flood insurance, so they have to figure out how to find a way to afford it on their own. We could all feel the heaviness of how much left there is to do in so many neighborhoods in this area, and we’ve only made one small (really small) dent.

Later in the trip, we worked on a second house, which belonged to Josh and his family, who are members of FBC Beaumont. Like George’s home, their house was flooded and gutted out entirely on the inside. Throughout the day we were able to install sheetrock on most of the ceiling, many walls, and insulation to almost the entire house. For me, it was fun to try something new in installing insulation, which I’d never done before (it can also be fairly itchy, but caking yourself in baby powder helps). Josh was also working alongside us the majority of the time, which was cool. During the day, we were able to meet his wife and young daughters, as well as his parents, who dropped by for a visit. We also met the video guy for FBC Beaumont, who videoed us while we were working. Josh surprised us for lunch by ordering some catered Chickfila which was delivered by the area marketing director straight to the house—it was much appreciated. She shared herself the appreciation she had for teams coming to Beaumont to help this community recover.

James, Jarrod, and Augustin installing drywall to the ceiling in Josh's home
James, Jarrod, and Augustin installing drywall to the ceiling in Josh’s home
James, William, and Jarrod working on Josh's home
James, William, and Jarrod working on Josh’s home

After a hard day’s work, Josh and his family invited us to dinner at a local restaurant for the evening.  After showering off the fiberglass, baby powder, sweat, and dirt that made us filthy, we met Josh and his family at a local place in downtown Beaumont. It was really cool to have dinner with Josh and his family. They shared stories about their experience with the flood, showed us photos of the neighborhood underwater, and a video of what the inside of their house looked like from the aftermath. During our dinner, the restaurant owner, who knows Josh and his family, dropped by to talk with us. He thanked us for our time and shared how God has really worked on his own heart in getting over the pride of asking for and receiving help from others in the flood recovery process and prayed over us. He also talked about how the most impactful way to help is coming down and helping in person in the community and really appreciated our team doing so, which was meaningful for us to hear. At the end of the meal, Josh and his family paid for our meal as a way to say thank you.

The team standing next to a flood meter in the area.  The blue line was the water level from Harvey.
The team standing next to a flood meter in the area.  The blue line was the water level from Harvey.
The first Fellowship Harvey relief team - David, Bobby, Ryan, James, Agustin, Josh (Local Homeowner), Derek, Jarrod, William
The first Fellowship Harvey relief team - David, Bobby, Ryan, James, Agustin, Josh (Local Homeowner), Derek, Jarrod, William

We’re so grateful for the relationships we made on this trip and the opportunities we had to connect personally with locals in the community and hear their stories, listen well, and encourage them. It was very meaningful for me to have a team from Fellowship come to my hometown, show them around and take them to cool places and see them all care so much for these people and this community. It’s something to see the body of Christ unleashed and engaged in serving together, even as strangers in different parts of the country becoming friends through a common love and purpose. At the end of the trip, we found ourselves talking about the continued great need for help in Beaumont’s neighborhoods and the long journey ahead. We all talked about how it was going to be hard to leave on Sunday to go back to Nashville. We talked about how it would be great to continue sending teams to this area. In retrospect, was great to see community formed in our own team and see how God could use us, with our own diverse backgrounds, as we came willing and ready to serve.

Please continue to pray for everyone affected by Harvey—in Beaumont and beyond; the impact of this storm is so far-reaching. If you have any questions about Fellowship’s disaster relief efforts or future relief trips, please reach out to me ( ).