Hurricane Harvey Relief
We recently sent a Global Ministry Team to Texas to work alongside local churches and ReachGlobal Crisis Response. Here are a few thoughts from team member Jeremy Byler:
I had the privilege of serving as part of our recent Hurricane Harvey Relief Team to Corpus Christi, Texas. Our team of six from Hershey Free joined teams from other churches all over the country for a week of service in order to support and amplify the efforts of the fabulous ReachGlobal Crisis Response staff who will continue to live and work full-time in the Corpus Christi region for at least the next two to five years (as well as their local church partner, Bayshore Bible Church, who hosts the ongoing operations). During the trip, I was struck by a couple observations that were transformational in my life:
“The work is not the work.”
Working alongside ReachGlobal Crisis Response, I was struck by their stated and demonstrated emphasis on relationships over physical work alone. Sure, our team was able to get a lot of physical work done gutting several houses down to the studs and removing the mold that had grown in the months since the hurricane, but our priority was building relationships with the homeowners we worked with and their families and communities; we spent time listening to their stories, working side-by-side, sharing meals and conversation together, and praying together. We also prioritized going out into the neighborhoods surrounding the homes we worked in and praying for the communities and with individuals we came across. One common thing that we heard when listening to people in the Corpus Christi region is that they feel abandoned because many relief efforts have quickly moved further northeast to Houston based on media attention and advertising; as such, many have been working on their own to try to rebuild for the last several months since the storm. One individual said that “[this] was the first night I didn’t have to cry myself to sleep [since the storm]” when describing her gratitude for the work ReachGlobal is doing to help her; another homeowner said, “Before this, it felt like the end … now it feels like the beginning,” when surveying her gutted house at the end of our week there. The full-time ReachGlobal Crisis Response staff is doing an incredible job maintaining these relationships with various homeowners in ongoing ways, building bonds of trust, providing free volunteer labor, and helping to connect people to the local church community.
There is something undeniably supernatural about a unified body of believers working together for God’s glory.
One really encouraging aspect of the short-term trip was the dynamic of multi-generational teams from all over the country coming together, living together, worshiping together, going out into the community together, and serving one another. We were separated by accents, and generations, and stories, and life-stages, but these superficial things were far superseded by our common purpose to glorify God and to love our neighbors. Throughout the entire week, we got to know each other, serve each other and the local church community, spontaneously sing songs together, pray for one another, and step outside of our comfort zones alongside one another … we truly got to partner with and be the Church at Corpus Christi; it was a real encouragement to see glimpses of what the diverse yet unified body of Christ looks like even in unfamiliar settings, and it brought to mind images like those described in Acts 2:42-47.
God is actively engaged in redemptive work.
Throughout the week, we saw God working in amazing ways even in the midst of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. I am convinced that God sovereignly orchestrated details of the trip on every scale, ranging from the persons he gathered together to go, the homeowners he arranged for us to befriend, the opportunities he brought about for building relationship, and even the weather itself! For example, there was a dramatic shift in the weather starting on Wednesday morning, from sunny and 90 degrees to rainy and 60 degrees; Wednesday also happened to be the day that our team “discovered” a large bee hive in the ceiling of the house we were working on … if the crowbar had broken through the drywall about two inches to the left or if the colder temperature had not put the hundreds of bees into a sedated state, we might have a very different (much more painful) story to tell you, but no one (and no bee) was harmed during this trip!
I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to go to Corpus Christi; I got to build deeper relationships with other members of the Hershey Free community, with other like-minded members of Christ’s church from all over the country, and with homeowners and families from Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, and Ingleside, Texas, who I will never forget.
I encourage you to prayerfully consider joining one of Hershey Free’s upcoming Hurricane Harvey Relief Teams. There is no requirement for previous construction or demolition experience (although it is certainly welcome), and you will be trained and equipped for whatever tasks you may be asked to complete; just go with hearts and bodies that are willing to be flexible and a desire above all to love God and love our neighbors. Would you also continue to pray with me for those whose families have been so drastically and dramatically impacted by the recent storms? May God be glorified even in the midst of the devastation, and may he gather more of his flock to himself even through these experiences; may we be faithful ambassadors of Christ even as doors for evangelism open through crisis situations all across the globe.
If you would like to learn about upcoming opportunities to serve with a hurricane relief team from Hershey Free Church, click here to let us know of your interest.