After the Hurricane: Rebuilding Hope in Texas
How you can help your neighbors
Bible engagement isn’t just about reading a passage each day or even reflecting on a Scripture text. It’s also about letting God’s Word change and motivate us. When we see others in tragic circumstances, the Bible expects us to help them. We asked a new friend from Houston to report on the situation there, and to help us know how to respond biblically—and effectively.
It was amazing to see. Houstonians took the blow to the face and came out even stronger. It is said that true character comes out in moments of crisis and what we saw in Houston was brotherhood, sisterhood. In the face of disaster we have seen the church come to life and embrace, quite literally, the role of “Repairer of Broken Walls” and “Restorer of Streets with Dwellings” (Isaiah 58:12 NIV).
Most Houstonians knew there was a disastrous flood coming. They heard the warnings on the news and from the mayor, but they decided to stay in town. Why would they do something so counterintuitive? Because Houstonians are tough, independent, hard-working people.
Houston is one of the most diverse cities in America. Every day people work, go to school, and hang out with those of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and philosophies. That can be hard sometimes but Houstonians are better people for working out those differences with one another. Houston is made up largely of entrepreneurs and professionals who work hard for their money. I think that is why Houstonians decided to listen to Mayor Turner’s advice and ride out the storm, rather than attempting to get 6.5 million people out of the city at once.
And yes, there was disaster. Friends of mine were stuck in their attic, many with water damage, under mandatory evacuation. My family was stuck in our house for six days due to enormous flooding. Those are just the people that I know personally. Ultimately at least 350,000 people have been displaced and the death toll is already above 30. This isn’t even to speak of the economic and mental toll this takes on a city that experiences such tragedy.
Yet what is most noteworthy is what happened during all of this. Neighbors rescued neighbors. Shelters had to turn away donations and volunteers because they were overwhelmed. For a time our nation’s tensions were set aside: no one was pointing race-fingers and no one was above or beneath anyone else. Churches started talking with one another about ways to coordinate efforts. Competing businesses started sharing resources. Gallery Furniture opened their doors to allow people to sleep on their warehouse of beds. People got their boats and headed out to rescue fellow Houstonians.
So, you are probably wondering what you can do right now. As a local leader in Houston, here are my thoughts:
1. What Not to Send
Do not send clothing. All the shelters in Houston and all the donation sites stopped receiving clothes by the end of the first day. Houstonians stepped up to the plate—and maybe overboard a little bit. The clothing donations have gotten to a place where they are in the way.
2. What to Send
Do send toiletries, diapers, formula, blankets, towels, and medical supplies such as over-the-counter medicine, bandages, unopened vitamins. Also, mosquito repellant would be really nice. Consider ordering free Bibles for those who lost theirs in the flood by emailing American Bible Society or making a donation.
3. If You Send a Team
Before you send or bring a team please check with local efforts such as Texas Baptist Men or Unite the Church to find out what is already happening. Bring as many skilled labors as you can.
Consider staying in a hotel when you come instead of on a church floor. I know it is more expensive, but just think of the storm’s hit on Houston’s economy. Any way you can help inject new life into that system would be amazing.
4. Consider Not Sending a Team
Also, consider not sending or bringing a team at all. Instead of spending money on bringing a team, would you consider sending that money to help fund local people who might have lost a job, or at least lost wages, to serve as cleanup crews? Once again you are fueling an economy, and as we know one of the fastest ways to help transform a city is by creating jobs.
I know prayer can be seen as a last resort at times, but we need prayer. Many people have experienced tremendous loss and many are still struggling to make sense of it all. Pray for our churches as they engage those who do not yet know Jesus. Pray for city leaders as they continue the tiresome work of managing volunteers and the tremendous volume of requests for help. Pray for the continued unity of the body of Christ.
As someone who is impacted by this tragedy, and walking through the aftermath alongside my Houston neighbors: Thank you. May we all take heart in knowing that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” ( Romans 5:3b-5 NIV).
Download this booklet to help people suffering loss and devastation find biblical hope
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
Help us share God's Word where needed most.
Connect with our Bible engagement blog for leaders and receive a Bible-reading Habit Guide for your community.