We made one left turn, and everything changed.
Driving around some parts of Houston, nobody would guess anything happened. Streets are clean, the lunch rush is strong at local restaurants, and office parking lots are full.
But turn into the Bear Creek neighborhood on the west side (among many other areas), and you’ve turned into a different world.
Bear Creek feels like a war zone. The contents of every house are piled in mounds on the streets. The smells of mold and mildew hang thick in the air. Signage warns looters – though there is little to steal.
The lives of residents are in full display in the mounds of trash. Tables where families gathered to eat just a month ago. Soccer balls and baby toys. Nearly everything they own is waiting for trash pickup, and what is left is being cleared out by volunteers.
Lance Lamparter, Josiah Julin and I made the four hour drive to Houston to find the best opportunities for 121 to be involved in the relief efforts.
We not only saw devastated neighborhoods, but church buildings that were completely wiped out. This church parking lot in Dickinson was filled with the entire contents of the building -- all ruined.
Amidst the devastation, there were very encouraging signs. There has been an outpouring of love through donations and volunteer help. Thousands of meals have been delivered and local churches have coordinated efforts and showed the compassion of Christ to their communities.
Many houses are already cleaned out, and the long process of rebuilding has started in some areas. This is a house in the 5th Ward, a materially poor neighborhood where people who were just surviving were hit hard:
There is so much work to be done – months and months of rebuilding – but we met volunteers from churches in Oregon, Illinois, and Mexico who are hard at work in this neglected and overlooked area.
Most churches have found alternative ways to gather in worship. Pastors remarked how it was much simpler, very basic, and beautiful to see hearts cry out to God together.
The hope and joy of Christ wasn’t seen any more clearly than on the face of Pastor Ty Bo (yes, like Tae Bo a la Billy Blanks!) and his wife Kim. Pastor Ty leads a Cambodian church that was completely flooded, but in the months it will take to rebuild, they are meeting outside in a tent. Kim remarked that the church is still full of joy, and with the Houston weather it feels like church in Cambodia!
There is so much to be done. And God will use His people and show Himself faithful. The only question for each of us is, what part will we play?
There are opportunities to head to South Texas now, and in the coming weeks there will be more teams going. Everyone is needed, regardless of skill level!