The Houston Mission was an amazing experience. My husband and I joined four other members of St. John’s along with a couple from Westminster Presbyterian, and eight members from Paoli Presbyterian on this trip. From June 23 to July 1, we ate, slept, worked, laughed and prayed together in a hot and humid Houston. We were fortunate to stay in a home owned by First Presbyterian Church, a large and welcoming church. The home had 16 blow-up air mattresses for us to sleep on but most importantly it was air conditioned. We arrived hungry Saturday afternoon to a house stocked with lunch food. Church members also provided us with three dinners. We were privileged to worship with them on Sunday and meet and thank the congregation for their kindness.
The team accomplished a lot in a week. We worked in two teams at two houses, each home coordinated by an on-the-ground partner who would check in on us throughout the day.
At Lenard’s home we worked with Attack Poverty: Friends of Northside. Attack Poverty is global organization that serves locally, adopting pockets of poverty. These locations are long-term commitments that require collaborative efforts with local organizations, churches, and residents. Lenard’s home had been damaged by flooding and the drywall had been removed to the four-foot level. Before beginning, two paneled walls had to be demolished and all walls had to be disinfected with mold killer. Insulation was installed in exterior walls and the entire house and garage was drywalled, taped, spackled and ready for primer.
At the Ruth Street House, we were partnered with Agape Development. Agape is a neighborhood-focused ministry that works to transform neighborhoods by preparing Christ-following, independent community leaders. This home had been damaged by a roof leak that became so much more during the sustained winds and rain of Harvey. Here the team removed flooring in the kitchen, entry, and laundry room down to the joists, replaced the sub-flooring, tiled, replaced the back door, and repaired a damaged bedroom ceiling.
Both homes were not in good condition before Harvey. It was always a surprise when a wall or floorboard was removed as to what one might find, what might need to be removed or repaired before work could continue.
The homeowners had been living with other family members since Harvey and were very appreciative of our work. One homeowner stopped by daily with Gatorade for us and to sweep up the mess we created. The other homeowner stopped by on the last day with lunch for the team and individual thank you cards. As Annie, the Friends of Northside project leader, said in her thank you letter “Lenard and his wife are thrilled for the work that was done and are so very appreciative for the assistance they received. The work isn’t finished but thanks to you all, they are one step closer on the road to recovery from Harvey.”
The July trip to Houston was cancelled but a trip has been planned for October when it is cooler in Texas. The Houston Mission trips in March, April, and June brought together 46 people from eight area churches. It was a successful partnership. Through our work we demonstrated to these homeowners and their neighbors that they weren’t forgotten nine months after Harvey. Working together, we made a measurable difference in their lives and demonstrated God’s love in action. I think the October trip will also be a success.
We were blessed to have been able to make this trip to Houston and partner with First Presbyterian Church, Attack Poverty, Agape Development, and with you. The days were long and hot, and we were dirty, sweaty, and exhausted in the evening. But there was joy and satisfaction in seeing a job completed and the homeowners faces and words of appreciation.
There was also the personal journey and blessings each of us found working together and getting to know one another. I was able to re-center, re-focus (at least for a while) as to what is truly important in life. It changes your perspective. The people whose homes we were working on, didn’t have a lot of what we take for granted. Thank you to the Presbytery of Donegal Engaging Our Mission Committee giving St. John’s this opportunity.