On the evening of Sunday, August 27, as Hurricane Harvey was in the midst of wrecking havoc in southeast Texas, some of our missionaries began to discuss what our city of Houston was going through and asked the simple question "What are we going to do?" If anything, we knew we would need people and funds so we started soliciting our friends and close networks for volunteers and donations. We had no idea what the Lord had in store for us, but we wanted to be ready to serve however and wherever he led us before the rain stopped falling. God has been alive and actively working in our neighborhoods and in us since that day, and we are overjoyed to give you a glimpse into all that He has done!
The Greatest of These
Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Coastal Plains of Texas on August 25 with a strong storm surge, unrelenting winds, and punishing rain that caused devastation and chaos for hundreds of thousands. This was a storm that caused what meteorologist called a 800-year flood in Houston. While the loss of life was relatively minimal compared to other natural disasters that have struck the United States, the impact on property and livelihood is some of the worst ever experienced! And While Harvey was causing such destruction, another storyline began to appear: Love of Neighbor.
The people of Texas put aside race, creed, color, nationality and every other barrier that the world would like to construct to stop us from loving our neighbor. People got into their oversized trucks and boats to pick up complete strangers. The world watched as a new narrative began in Houston. Funny enough, it was something Adore Ministries has been practicing for years. It is the philosophy of the 10-foot radius. 10-foot radius is the idea that the needs of those closest to you (in your 10-foot radius) are more important than your own. But this love of neighbor did not end when the rain stopped and water started receding. As the storm moved out of Houston, love came in stronger than ever.
I watched my sister, Emily, setup the Project Starfish relief page at www.adoreministries.com/harvey on my couch as the rain still fell. Not long after, the donations and volunteers came in full force. Once Adore was set up to collect donations and send volunteers from St. Albert of Trapani, I immediately received a text from a friend asking me to join them there because there was a lot to do. That communication changed everything for me.
I jumped in my car and headed to the “Project Starfish” headquarters where I was sent out and immediately saw some awful situations. I called my friend Ennie to complain about a house that I went to remove furniture and carpet from. I walked in and could smell the flood and mold through my mask; however, the homeowners were not ready to accept the help I wanted to offer. I called and told Ennie, “We can’t help them, they don’t want to do what we are telling them they should do. I think I made a mistake attempting to help.” Ennie replied,
“Ok, if you can’t love them, just tell me and I will send someone who can.”
I was floored. This is not about making it right or returning things to how they were before. It is about love. I finally understood how to help, and it was not about the tasks being done, but the attitude and love that we had while doing it.
Every day for three weeks after the rain stopped in Houston volunteers showed up to love their neighbor. We had people come to “shop” at our free store for much needed supplies. We had volunteers tear out sheetrock and carpet and move furniture. We had people who donated thousands of dollars to serve those in need. We had thousands (I’m not exaggerating) of people from all over the US come together to love their neighbor near or far using whatever gifts they had to give. We are now busy buying furniture for families still sleeping on wet mattresses they picked up off their neighbor’s garbage pile. We are still busy finding temporary housing for families with nowhere to go while their house is restored. We are still looking to meet the transportation needs of families with no way to get from their home to the store or church or school. We are still looking for ways to help, but most importantly we are still loving our neighbor and we are not stopping anytime soon.
If you would like to join us in these relief efforts please visit www.adoreminitries.com/harvey or if you are interested in partnering with us year round to support our full-time missions and missionaries, please visit www.adoreministries.com/support.
Hurricane Harvey has devastated the Coast of Texas, put the fourth largest city in the United States under water, and has caused billions of dollars in damage that will take years to rebuild. But Hurricane Harvey has also given us an opportunity to provide the love that we desperately needed, it has brought people together at a time when the media said there was only division and tension, and it has converted many hearts to be more like Christ, including my own.
A First Hand Account From The Fifth Ward
For those from the area, the Fifth Ward has a certain connotation to it. It is perceived as poverty stricken and dangerous. However, Adore Ministries has served the needs of this community for over six years, and has seen incredible fruit from our mission in the heart of the neighborhood. When the storm hit, we knew it was one of the first places we needed to go and help.
Illysa Gonzalez grew up in the Fifth Ward and encountered Jesus Christ through Adore Ministries and our outreach at Resurrection Catholic Church. She grew to become a leader to her peers, sharing the love of God and excelling in school. Just a few weeks ago, she stepped on to the campus of Sam Houston State University (the first of her family to attend a four year college) elated about the opportunity in front of her. But that emotion waned quickly as Hurricane Harvey approached. “It was my first time away from my family, and my first time away from them during a storm. I remember thinking, ‘College is supposed to be a fun and memorable experience, especially the first week!’ And oh was it memorable! But not in the way I would have wanted to remember my first week. I recall lying in my dorm not being able to go anywhere, looking through my social media and seeing all my friends and family back home having to evacuate because their houses started to flood. All I wanted to do was go back home.”
Ilyssa watched helplessly as the events of the day unfolded. Her uncle and his children unable to be evacuated from their home. Family members in neck deep water. She tried alerting the authorities to the plight of their situation, “I tried everything to get them help and let me tell you being 82 miles away, it wasn’t easy. I called every number there was and they all denied help because he was not the one calling, it made me very upset.”
Eventually her uncle and his two young children were evacuated, but the suffering and devastation had just begun. “Once it was time to reconstruct any damage that had occurred I began looking for different ways that I could help others in need back home. I saw a post from Brittany Barraza (a missionary with Adore) saying to contact her if we knew anyone that needed help rebuilding, it was like a sign from God for me. I got in contact with her letting her know that both my uncle’s and best friend’s house got flooded. She told me to give her their info, and somebody from Adore Ministries would contact them. Sure enough they did. The following day my best friend told me that Adore volunteers helped them a lot and even gave them a $200 gift card! It meant so much to not only her family but to me as well. I knew that no matter how far away I am from my family, my Adore family will always be there to help mine when I can’t.”
Adore Ministries has been blessed to know people like Ilyssa and her wonderful family. It is the faith and strength of our neighbors that inspires us to serve in places that other may have forgotten. And to see people like Ilyssa developing into a person of deep faith and action leads us to stand in awe of the goodness of the Lord.
The Recovery Effort Continues
After the waters recede the crews come in and get to work immediately
Drywall. Carpet. Kitchens. Insulation. Furniture. If you drive through any Houston neighborhood the that had any amount of water damage inside homes the images are the same. From million dollar homes to apartment complexes, the flood water did not discriminate and the work has one goal: prevent mold spores from accumulating.
Just recently (over two weeks after the storm passed!) many in West Houston were allowed to return to their homes, and the work that has been ongoing in many neighborhoods just now begins for these people, many of whom have not seen their homes since they were evacuated by boats. So, Adore Ministries continues to activate volunteers and receive countless donations of cleaning supplies, clothes, gift cards, food, and money.
Our team has been featured on a myriad of national news outlets, podcasts, and much more. We’d like to invite you to follow along with our relief effort at adoreministries.com/harvey and listen to some of the stories we’ve gotten to share on “Among the Lilies” with Cameron Fradd, “Catching Foxes,” Jennifer Fulweiler, Relevant Radio, and more!
And if you think you have some time to give to the relief effort, check out the webpage noted above. If you cannot give any time right now, but would like to send financial support to Adore and our efforts on the frontline of recovery, visit adoreministries.com/harvey. Thanks for coming alongside our team in whatever capacity you are able!